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Are women allowed to have a career according to Islam?

When facing this question, I start thinking what makes people have such a question in mind, while there are millions of Muslim women working all over the world in different positions. Are all these Muslim women doing something forbidden (Haram), or are there other points that bring such questions into one’s mind?Some points that may make the issue of “women’s employment” a challenge for people may be as follows:

  • Women have to observe the Islamic dress code (Hijab)
  • Women should keep their modesty and chastity in front of the opposite sex
  • Women should not be in a place with the opposite sex, where no one else can enter.

working, men, women, modesty, Islam

The issue of Islamic dress code (Hijab)

All the above mentioned issues are equal for men and women, except the issue of Islamic dress code (Hijab); it is not that men should not observe the Islamic dress code (Hijab), but it is the limits of this dress code that differs in men and women. The limits of Hijab and modesty and the etiquette of looking for both men and women are clarified in the holy Quran: “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 …”  (24: 30-31).

As you can see, the difference appears in covering, where women should cover their beauties that are attractive for men. Displaying these beauties will have a negative impact in the atmosphere of the work place, as well as negative consequences for women. Therefore, Islamic rules about the Islamic dress code (Hijab) are not there to separate men and women, but to make their relationship harmless and therefore the society a safe place for all.

Should Muslim women stay at home?

Another verse that some jurists use to explain that women should not work outside the house is: “Stay in your houses and do not flaunt your finery like the former [days of pagan] ignorance…” (33:33). The most important point about this verse, is that it was revealed about the household of the prophet (PBUH), and not all Muslim women. While at the same time the main point of this verse is not that women are prisoners at home, but it is emphasizing the value of women as humans who have the same material and spiritual talents as men. But women naturally enjoy looking beautiful, and their exhibition of their beauties is far more than men. Considering other verses that guide women on how to appear in the society, we can conclude that Allah is guiding women to reach their main goal of life, rather than spending time on worthless tasks such as beautifying themselves and displaying it in the society; something that has been a culture at the time of pagans, and that we can still see these days in the society.

All the investments and advertisements on products that are beauty related and make men and women consume so much money and time using these products, is meant to make them busy with worthless material things and keep them away from reaching their main goal of life.

Fourteen centuries ago, Islam entitled women to some of the rights that feminists have been fighting for in ages. Rights such as: Having an assertion or defense in the court as a claimant or defendant by using legal ways, equivalence before the law, a fair judgment, immunity of property, preservation of honor, the right to marry and establish a family, privacy and immunity of life, guarantee of livelihood, etc. There is even a verse in the holy Quran that shows the importance of women’s financial independence: “To men belongs a share of what they have earned, and to women a share of what they have earned…” (4:32)

Role model for Muslim women

In Chapter (Surah) al-Qassas it is nicely described how prophet Shuaib’s daughters had to work, as their father was an old man. Their etiquette and modesty while working among a group of men could be a great example for all women [i].

Muslim, women, working, society, Islam, job

Business and commerce 

At the time of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) there were many women who used to work in the market to earn money for their living. Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) not only encouraged them for their job, but also taught them the right Islamic rules of business and commerce.

The most significant example, is the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) himself who used to trade for Lady Khadijah (AS).

Vital roles in society

In Islamic jurisprudence it is said that women should preferably go to classes with female teachers. They should be visited by a female doctor in case of an illness. How possibly could this happen if women do not work outside as teachers, doctors, nurses, dentists, etc.?

Should Muslim women work in the society or not?

Putting aside all the concepts that justify working is not forbidden (Haram) for women, it is good to keep in mind that “Allah does not task any soul beyond its capacity…” (2:286).

It is narrated from Imam Ali (AS) “Do not give a woman responsibilities that are over her tolerance, this is better for her condition, as the woman is a fragrant flower, not a chambermaid” [1].

Women should keep in mind that if there is no necessity (either financial, social or spiritual) for them to work outside the house, their first and most important task is to nurture their children and manage the house in a way that it becomes a place of comfort and long-term benefit for all family members. But if for any reasons a woman finds it a duty on herself to work outside the house, then she must ensure that her home and children are properly cared for. She may ask for her husband’s assistance in this case.

Conclusion

The Islamic view point about women’s employment and working outside the house, is not negative. Women have never been forbidden to work outside the house, or choose the career that they enjoy in life. The point of Islam about women’s career is that it should not interfere the tasks that men are not capable of fulfilling; like giving abundant love and affection to their husband and children. Also, according to Islam, women are not responsible for all the house work; rather they are free to do the tasks they are talented or interested in as well as the household chores. In fact,  Multitasking is a female skill!

There are many women who have husband and children, but they keep achieving social success! “Social success” is a poison in our era. We should be wary of the negative impacts of this term and find the true definition of success in the eyes of God. Islam asks everyone to logically find their priorities and act accordingly.

 

Notes:

[i] (28: 23- 28)

References:

[1] Usul al-Kafi, vol. 5, p. 510

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