Living as a Muslim woman in any country, be it Canada, the USA, England, or Australia, you might need to find a job. Either you are single or married, graduate or undergraduate, a mother or a wife, having a job might be necessary for you.
However, the moment you decide to go for a job, fear and anxiety rush into your mind; “What if they do not hire me because of my Hijab?”; “Do I have to find somewhere with Muslim personnel?” or even “ What if they disrespect me in front of other colleagues? What shall I do?”
Well, here we are going to discuss some of the issues and matters related to employed or to-be-employed Muslim Women.
As a Muslim woman, you are free to take any job you want, be it a designer, a manager, a teacher, etc. but before choosing that job, you need to consider a few points.
You have faith in whatever you do, and you need to follow the Commands of Allah to be the person He wants. So, never give something greater away for the sake of something lesser. Allah has promised to help us if we believe in Him with all our hearts, and he will not leave us alone.
“Indeed, those who have said, "Our Lord is Allah " and then remained on a right course - the angels will descend upon them, [saying], "Do not fear and do not grieve but receive good tidings of Paradise, which you were promised.” Quran (41:30)
You may choose to work for many reasons, be it financial problems or your interest in a particular career or simply to express yourself somehow to the world. Whatever the reason, you shouldn’t hurt yourself with the job you choose to take, either mentally or physically. You might be even hurting your family (your kids and your husband) or even your parents. The first priority is family, and will always be. So, try to choose a job that does not harm you nor your family. Imam Sajjad (AS) states that each of our organs has a right. For instance, it’s your ear’s right to hear what is good for you in this world and the afterlife and it’s your eyes’ right to see good things and be closed from anything that Allah has wanted us not to see ( scenes of torture, eroticism, slaughter, intercourse, etc.,) . As your body has a right, so does your family. Remember to preserve theirs before choosing any careers.
Imagine you have chosen to be a volleyball coach. You have already done surgery on your knee, and your doctor has told you to take good care of it. Both logic and Islam say that being a coach hurts your knee, and that can’t be a suitable job for you.
Men and women work together in most workplaces, and that is a fact. There Is a thing that each Muslim woman needs to keep in mind, and that is to be cautious of those relationships and does not let them take the form of irregular man-woman interactions. They need to be neither cold and disrespectful nor arouse emotional or sexual attractions . Allah tells us how to control that:
“Tell the faithful men to cast down their looks and to guard their private parts. That is more decent for them. Allah is indeed well aware of what they do. And tell the faithful women to cast down their looks and to guard their private parts, and not to display their charms, beyond what is [acceptably] visible, and let them draw their scarfs over their bosoms …” Quran (24: 30-31).
“O wives of the Prophet, you are not like anyone among women. If you fear Allah, then do not be soft in speech [to men], lest he in whose heart is disease should covet, but speak with appropriate speech.” Quran (33:32)
As far as we all know, we are only allowed to take off our hijab in front of other women or men who are among the Mahram men of our family. So, you may be allowed to take off your hijab only if you are working with other women or Mahram men of your family. Some may want to make others gradually accept their chosen faith. But, the fact is that you are a Muslim, and you need others to welcome you, respect, and value your talents and hard efforts. So, let others see who you are and the reality of your Faith. That would bring you more of a trust and confidence.
Careers and professions play an essential role in our everyday lives, and at times, they are even hard to live without. At the same time, women are active members of each achieving society. Islam neither forbids them from social activities nor limits them to stay at home and do daily chores. It just asks them to be careful and watchful about their own health, safety, and femininity and also beware of what happens in their interactions and communications.
- Peiravi, Ali (1992) the Treatise on Rights by Imam Sajjad (AS)
- Nikzad, Abbas (2005) Practical Women Studies, Vol 25
In recent years, the scarf or Hijab in Islam that Muslim women wear on their heads to cover the hair has engaged many governments and has been among the headlines around the world. Since then, Hijab and covering the hair has been banned in certain government buildings, schools, and public services in some countries.
So the question is: what is that strong incentive that makes Muslim women even more resolute to maintain their belief in Hijab, despite all these controversies and conflicts?
According to most of the Islamic jurists, Muslim women are required to wear the clothing that covers their hair and entire body except the face and the hands, from the wrist to the fingers, in the presence of non-Mahrams or small boys whose consciousness of sex has developed or the evidence of sexual urge is noticed on them . So, in the circumstances where non-Mahrams are not likely to be present, there is no need for Muslim women to wear Hijab in Islam.
In Surah Nur, women are ordered to “not expose their adornment except that which [necessarily] appears” (24:31). In a narration from Imam Sadiq (AS) and some other Islamic narrations , the hair is known to be an adornment for a woman, then, it is obligatory (Wajib) to cover it. The very first reason to veil the hair is, therefore, the commitment to the ruling on Hijab in Islam.
However, it should be noted that there has always been a natural tendency in human beings, especially in women, which made them not expose their body. This originates from an inner sense of modesty and decency which is stronger in women. Hence, the Islamic dress code is in complete accordance with the human nature.
It is evident that the beauties of a woman’s appearance, hair and body have always been appealing to men, and even women; that is why they usually appear on the advertisements to attract more customers for companies. On the other hand, women tend naturally to show their beauties and to get admiration. Men might be therefore easily appealed by the appearance of non-Mahram women, and this can eventually lead to a forbidden (Haram) gaze [i].
Committing a first forbidden (Haram) gaze and then consecutive ones affect both who looks (man) and who is looked at (woman). The one, who looks, remains thoughtful for a while by what he has seen and this may even last for days and weeks and lead even to some lustful thoughts. Also, one who has received a forbidden (Haram) gaze won’t be at ease and might feel her privacy invaded. So, both sides will be under some sort of stress and anxiety.
Since the two sides are both affected by a forbidden (Haram) gaze, women and men are equally required to take part to avoid such looks. To this kind of gaze and its consequent mental pressures, Islam orders women to cover their hair, and more generally their body. This is, in fact, the strategy to remove the external causes of sinful looks which concern women.
For the men’s part, they should participate by controlling their eyes. Forbidden (Haram) gaze is such that brings about one after the other. So, men are commanded not to follow the first unintended look by the second one; in other words, they should put an inner barrier to such looks.
Islam has encouraged women to appear in the society modestly and with dignity. This is, however, something inherent in every woman. The more simply a woman is dressed and is dignified, the more she will be respected by men and will be protected from the harmful gaze. The after effects of a forbidden (Haram) gaze are not limited to the unpleasant feeling that it brings about.
Women who do not wear Hijab, including the ones who do not cover their hair, are more susceptible to such annoying looks at any time and anywhere, and this consequently makes them feel more “unsecured” in the society. Even in some cases, this might end in some sorts of sexual abuse which is a crime in every society.
Moreover, the Hijab of a body is the basis for other types of Hijab that are commanded in Islam and which have the same aim in the society. It means to invite the humans to modesty and dignity in order to guarantee a normal and equilibrated society. These kinds of Hijab offer a reference on how one should look at non-Mahrams, the way of talking with them and the behavior in their presence [ii]:
Hijab of the eyes, recognized as controlling the glance, which mainly concerns men (as discussed above);
Hijab of talking when dealing with non-Mahrams, which concerns both women and men. It is about using a serious tone of voice, caring about the words exchanged, considering the human identity of the other person other than his/ her gender, and just focusing on the subject and the purpose of the discussion. Otherwise, the goal of the conversation, either scientific, formal, social or working, won’t be achieved;
Hijab of the behavior that implies being decent and modest towards the opposite gender, in a way that the person with the lust in the heart cannot dare to violate one’s privacy (especially women’s privacy).
Another social effect of Hijab manifests itself in the family, as the basic unit of the society. In Islamic teachings, great importance has been given to the family as an influential institution of the society. Forming a family (through marriage) is known to be so dear to God as no other establishment . Muslims are advised to satisfy some natural needs such as emotional and sexual ones, as well as beauty seeking desire only and only within the framework of the family.
This allows a regulated enjoyment of the beauties a woman has, accompanied with the commitment, which respects the principles of women’s rights. Besides, disobeying the Islamic ruling on Hijab in the society and exposing men to the feminine beauties in the streets, which would be tempting for them, is undesirable from the Islamic point of view. This makes the foundation of the family vulnerable and equally affects the relationship between the spouses.
Unlike previous religions, Hijab does not present a monastic attitude in Islam. Hijab in Islam follows certain social and individual purposes and helps one to live a better life. The Quran invites Muslim women to wear Hijab in order to be recognized as Muslims in the society and prevent being abused (33:59).
This becomes however suspended in case of distress and constriction . The majority of Muslim women choose to wear Hijab to obey God and to be recognized by their intellect and minds rather than their physical appearance. They often believe that Hijab liberates them from the need to conform to unrealistic stereotypes and images dictated by the media .
They do not consider Hijab in Islam as a symbol of oppression but as a sign of Islamic consciousness. That is why they view it as a right and not a burden.
[i] See “The Islamic Etiquette of Looking” for more info.
[ii] See the article “Hijab: the Real Meaning” for more details.
- A. Aroussi Howayzi, "Tafsir Noor al-Thaqalayn", vol. 3/589, T. 105.
- H. Al-Ameli, “Wassail Al-Shia”, vol. 20, p.59.
- M. B. Majlesi, “Bihar al-Anwar”, vol. 103, p. 222.
- R. Mugehi, “Family religious precepts”, p.38
- Hijab in Islam
Some people who are not well acquainted with the true Islamic teachings think that Islam has not provided for all Muslims equal social rights. And on account of the fact that Islam has made some distinctions between men's and women’s rights they conclude that the same distinctions are made in their social rights. As a result, the picture of women in Islam to them is usually the stereotype of an oppressed, inferior figure and bereft of any right.
Islam is the religion of equality and gender is not a standard for the preference of one over another. In fact, Islam has not only taught the equality of all humans before God but also promoted it in the social sphere. Consequently, in the Islamic social system men and women are granted equal rights and there is no difference between them about their gender.
But, the point is that “equality” does not mean the “similarity” of their rights, since men and women are not identical to one another in many respects . Therefore, we can deduce, although through comparing their rights a kind of disparity appears at the individual level, both of them privileges equal rights on the social scale.
The concept of women’s equal social rights is practically extended in all aspects of social life, and meanwhile, the “equality” does not reflect the meaning of “sameness.” Instead, it means that their social rights are equated in the matters related to self-worth and individual value to those of men.
Women are given a free hand to choose the occupation they want. But they have to note that their occupations should neither be incompatible with their physical and spiritual characteristics  nor in conflict with their duties towards their families.
This is why Islam has absolved them from providing for the family in the first place so that they become able to take care of their household as best as possible . However, they are entitled to receive a fair wage by their works either outside the house from their employers or inside the house from their husbands if they ask for it .
There is no restriction on women traveling alone if it is not inconsistent with the interests of their families. And regarding their social presence, it is a women’s right to be protected from men’s malicious eyes, whose obligation is casting his eyes down towards them .
In the Islamic social system, an equal emphasis is given to women for benefiting from social security systems and social services . Also, women’s right in benefiting from Islamic legal and juridical systems is equally safeguarded.
Many stories from the early period of Islamic history deal with women who referred their disputes to the Prophet (PBUH&HP) in the same way as men sought his judgment . Moreover, not only they share the right of election and the nomination to political offices with men but also can access the highest levels of political authority due to the Islamic laws, provided that it is not inconsistent with their physical and spiritual capacities and their responsibilities towards their families .
This right is so much important that Prophet Muhammad (PBUH&HP) once commanded that even slaved girls should be educated  and in one famous narration he considered seeking knowledge an essential task for both sexes .
In the light of the above facts, we can conclude that the idea of inferiority of the social status of women in Islam to men is void and baseless. However, as it was mentioned earlier, men's and women’s social rights are “equal” and not “similar” due to great differences between their characteristics.
That is why the social obligations of women in Islam are narrower than those of men; as Islam has exempted them from the burden of providing maintenance for the family  and even some religious practices.
- Mutahhari, Murtadha, The Rights of Women in Islam.
- Amini, Ibrahim, An Introduction to the Rights and Duties of Women in Islam.
- Penny, Sue, Islam, p.39.
- Lois, Beck, Women in Iran from 1800 to the Islamic Republic, pp. 165-166.
- Muhammad Javad, Bahonar, Islam and Women’s Rights.
- Universal Islamic Declaration of Human Rights; this article is available at https://www.whyislam.org.
- Johnson, Andy, Religion and Men’s violence against Women, pp. 322-325.
- Mahmudi, Hassan, Issues in Women’s rights: A Practitioner’s Resource Book, p. 47.
- Nasir, Jamal, The Statue of Women Under Islamic Law and Modern Islamic Legislation, p. 15.
- social rights
- Cornell, Vincent, Voices of Islam: Voices of life: family, home, and society, p. 85.