Nov 16, 2011

Yes, Women Can Work (Part 1)

by Khadeejah Islam

“Is education like M.B.B.S. (or MD) allowed for females where they examine naked males? Should a woman be permitted to practice medicine when there are so many males who can do that job, and when the woman will have to work from 9 A.M. to 4 P.M.? Will such a woman be able to give time to the family? Should we allow our women (Muslim women) to go out and expose themselves to the society?”

I was taken aback when a brother posted this question at a forum, not because it questioned working women, but because it implied a certain misconception of the definition of work. The idea that Muslim women should not work is still plaguing a large section of the Muslim Ummah. Therefore, I decided to explore this topic and illustrate the following points:

The permissibility of women working outside the home in the views of Islamic scholars.

The actual definition of work and how it relates to productivity both at home and outside the home.

The need to be productive and hence, working.

Similarities between house-wife and “working” women and how they both work.

Areas where women can lend their productivity.

How to encourage productivity of women.

The permissibility of women working outside the home in the views of Islamic scholars

“If a woman has professional skills which not every woman possesses, and which are needed by other woman and society as a whole, then it is permissible for her to practice her profession outside the home, so long as she adheres to the conditions prescribed by sharee’ah and has the permission of her legal guardian. It is permissible for a female doctor to open a clinic outside her home for the treatment of women and children. Such clinics make it easy for sick women to come to a female doctor; hence they no longer have to uncover their ‘awrah before a male doctor when they need treatment. In principle, men should be treated by male doctors and nurses, and women by female doctors and nurses. There should be no mixing of the sexes in medical treatment, except when it is necessary and as long as there is no fear of temptation.” [1].

“There is no decree in Islam which forbids woman from seeking employment whenever there is a necessity for it, especially in positions which fit her nature and in which society needs her most. Examples of these professions are nursing, teaching (especially for children), and medicine. Moreover, there is no restriction on benefiting from woman's exceptional talent in any field.” [2]

“In a truly Islamic society, there must be women physicians, women nurses, women teachers.” [3].

“The Quranic verse: ‘remain at your homes…’ (Quran 33:33) has been misinterpreted by many, and so has the right of stewardship or Qawama. In many instances we see men objecting to women's participation in Da'wah and thus preventing them from fulfilling their role toward their fellow Muslims and to the larger society in general.” [4].

“Even if a doctor does not treat women except in cases of necessity, he must learn how to treat both sexes, because a woman may not be able to find a female doctor in a certain specialty or in a certain city. Hence there is nothing wrong with the doctor studying drawings that show the human body, whether they are of men or women.” [5].

The actual definition of work and how it relates to productivity both at home and outside the home

What crosses your mind when you think of a Muslim working woman? A scantily-clad, arrogant woman who has no consideration for her family? This is where we make the mistake. We think of working women as defined by the media of secular countries. We do not think of them according to the Islamic standards. We do not imagine a pious Muslimah working diligently outside her home and balancing family duties as well.

The word ‘work’ has eleven different meanings. It is defined as an “employment, occupation, etc., especially as means of earning money.” [6]. It is also defined as an “application of effort to a purpose.” [7].

The latter definition is worth noting. It does not specify the purpose and it does not mention the earning of money as a reason why one would choose to apply one’s effort (or to work). Therefore, a Muslim woman can apply her efforts to any purpose, both at home and outside her home. When a Muslimah tends to an ailing relative, she is indeed working. When a Muslimah rears her children in the best of manners, she is considered to be working as well. When a Muslimah volunteers for a beneficial cause, she is working.

In conclusion, it does not matter if the task undertaken is a paid one or not, and if it is done at home or not, as long as the woman is being productive, she is working. In that case, every woman is a working woman. This should put a lot of misconceptions at rest.

To be continued insha’Allah…In the mean time please leave your views on this article in comments section. We would love to hear your feedback! Thank you.

[2] The Status of Women in Islam, Dr. Jamal Badawi.
[4] Women in Da'wah, 'Abdul Latif M. Al-Hassan and Sumayyah Bint Joan.
[6] Oxford Compact Dictionary and Thesaurus (edited by Julia Elliott), page-890.
[7] Oxford Compact Dictionary and Thesaurus (edited by Julia Elliott), page-890.


JAK for this article. 

I understand that this is a pressing issue for many Muslim families, and a practical one at that.

 Yet my attention focuses on the women who have no choice but to work in order to seek provisions for themselves and their families. What about the women who are widowed, divorced, father-less, who do not have a mahram in their lives. Working is not a choice, rather, a responsibility, a necessity. 

 In my community, in the U.S., I see many Muslim women who are diligent employees, as well as compassionate mothers. May Allah (SWT) bless these mothers immensely. (Say Ameen). 

Seeing situations like these really humbles me, and reminds me to be thankful for my blessings. Alhamdulillah ya Rabbul Alameen.

Verily, mankind is forgetful. And I speak for myself, before I do, anyone else. 

Excellent observation! Agree with you completely. Please share this article with others if you like and encourage Muslim women to work for the society.

Wa iyyaki!
Agree with you completely. Please share this article with others if you like.

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