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Part II: Islam’s Legislation Regarding Woman’s Work

بسم الله الرحمن الرحيم

Legislation in Islam is derived from the fixed sources of Quran and Sunnah. To decide the legislation of the issue of the working woman, one must return to these sources. Women working in public are generally and specifically permitted as long it is within the limits of the legislation found in the Quran and Sunnah. While in Islam it is maintained that the basic and fundamental role of the woman in Islam is in the home, fulfilling her duty as a wife and a mother. These duties and responsibilities require time and effort as being the primary responsibility of the woman. However, the woman's primary role as mother and housewife does not mean she is confined to this role and prevented from pursuing other activities. Rather this means that Allah swt created man and woman with different roles and responsibilities in life, thus women were created so that man may live with her in harmony and tranquility and have children with her. Allah swt says:
وَاللَّهُ جَعَلَ لَكُمْ مِنْ أَنْفُسِكُمْ أَزْوَاجًا وَجَعَلَ لَكُمْ مِنْ أَزْوَاجِكُمْ بَنِينَ وَحَفَدَةً وَرَزَقَكُمْ مِنَ الطَّيِّبَاتِ أَفَبِالْبَاطِلِ يُؤْمِنُونَ وَبِنِعْمَةِ اللَّهِ هُمْ يَكْفُرُونَ

{And Allah has made for you mates (and companions) of your nature, and made for you, out of them, sons and daughters and grandchildren, and for you sustenance of the best: will They then believe In vain things, and be for Allah.s favours?} [An- Nahl: 72]

The husband is the one who bears the responsibility of seeking a livelihood to provide for his family. As Allah swt said:

الرِّجَالُ قَوَّامُونَ عَلَى النِّسَاءِ بِمَا فَضَّلَ اللَّهُ بَعْضَهُمْ عَلَى بَعْضٍ وَبِمَا أَنْفَقُوا مِنْ أَمْوَالِهِمْ

{Men are the protectors and maintainers of women, because Allah has given the one more (strength) than the other, and because They support them from their means}. [Al-Nisa: 34]

Evidences stating the permissibility of a female working:

From the Quran:

1. Regarding Prophet Musa (as):

وَلَمَّا وَرَدَ مَاءَ مَدْيَنَ وَجَدَ عَلَيْهِ أُمَّةً مِنَ النَّاسِ يَسْقُونَ وَوَجَدَ مِنْ دُونِهِمُ امْرَأتَيْنِ تَذُودَانِ قَالَ مَا خَطْبُكُمَا قَالَتَا لَا نَسْقِي حَتَّى يُصْدِرَ الرِّعَاءُ وَأَبُونَا شَيْخٌ كَبِيرٌ (23) فَسَقَى لَهُمَا ثُمَّ تَوَلَّى إِلَى الظِّلِّ فَقَالَ رَبِّ إِنِّي لِمَا أَنْزَلْتَ إِلَيَّ مِنْ خَيْرٍ فَقِيرٌ (24)

{ And when He arrived at the watering (place) In Madyan, He found there a group of men watering (Their flocks), and besides them He found two women who were keeping back (Their flocks). He said: "What is the matter with you?" They said: "We cannot water (Our flocks) until the shepherds take back (Their flocks): and Our father is a very old man." So He watered (Their flocks) for them; then He turned back to the shade, and said:"O My Lord! truly am I In (desperate) need of any good that Thou dost send me!" [Al-Qissas: 23-4]

These two ayat explained the daughters’ need to work because their elderly father was unable to carry out his work. It was revealed in the ayah that the women should avoid mixing with other men and commit to modesty and dignity.
2. In Surat Al-Baqara:

فَلَا جُنَاحَ عَلَيْهِمَا وَإِنْ أَرَدْتُمْ أَنْ تَسْتَرْضِعُوا أَوْلَادَكُمْ فَلَا جُنَاحَ عَلَيْكُمْ إِذَا سَلَّمْتُمْ مَا آَتَيْتُمْ بِالْمَعْرُوفِ وَاتَّقُوا اللَّهَ وَاعْلَمُوا أَنَّ اللَّهَ بِمَا تَعْمَلُونَ بَصِيرٌ

There is no blame on them. if ye decide on a foster-mother for your offspring, there is no blame on you, provided ye pay (the mother) what ye offered, on equitable terms. but fear Allah and know that Allah sees well what ye do}. Ayah 233

It is permissible for a woman to breastfeed another infant in exchange for a wage. The infant’s guardian may provide a wage for the woman nursing the infant, which may take place in either the woman’s home or the infant’s home. This situation originates from the woman’s natural maternal character.

Evidences from the Sunnah:

1. It is narrated that Asmaa bint Abu Bakr (ra) said: Zubair married me and his wealth is in the land and he does not own anything prosperous. So I used feed his horse, draw water… and knead dough. But I did not perfect the baking of the bread hence my sincere Ansar neighbors used to bake the bread for me. I carry the straw on my head from Zubair’s land from a far distance. I came across the Prophet pbuh who saw me carrying the load. He prompted his camel to lower itself to carry me on his camel. I was too shy to ride because there were men with him and I remembered Zubair’s jealousy for he was the most jealous of men. The Prophet realized my shyness and left me. Later on, Abu Bakr sent a servant to free me from the burden of tending to Zubair’s horse.

2. As narrated by Jabir bin Abd-alqal: My maternal aunt divorced and wanted to harvest her palm trees. A man forbade her; therefore she went to the Prophet (pbuh). He said, yes harvest your palm trees, be that you give charity or perform a good deed.

3. As narrated by Ra’ita, the wife of Abdallah bin Masoud was a woman possessing a skill; she used to sell her hand-crafted goods to earn to support her husband, child, and herself. She complained to her husband that her work prevented her from doing good deeds or charity. Her husband replied, By Allah that is what He loves. She went to the Prophet pbuh and explained her situation that her husband is unable to work so she provides for her family and this work prevents her from giving charity. The Prophet pbuh told her to spend upon your family and she will be rewarded by Allah swt.

These hadeeths confirm the permissibility of a woman earning a wage or simply helping her husband. Also, for the woman to work outside of her home if the head of household is absent, unable or elderly. The Prophet pbuh agreed as Asmaa bint Abu Bakr (ra) used carry the straw and obtain water. He also permitted the working of Jabir’s aunt to benefit herself and others through charity. Abdullah bin Masoud’s wife received the reward in her financially supporting her husband as the reward of sadaqa.

Allah swt created the woman who encompasses both a private and public role in life. The private as mentioned above being a mother and wife. The public role, being a dawah carrier and seeking appropriate knowledge necessary for her life. There is no specific prohibition against a woman a job whatever her reason. This is due to the general import of the Legislator's speech and the absence of prohibitions specific to women. Again it needs to be stressed that her line of work or profession is within the parameters of halal and without any forbidden action as outlined in the Quran and Sunnah. This will be discussed in detail in the third part of this series.

Manal Bader
Bayt Almaqdes


Anonymous said…

jazakumallah kheir for this excellence series. i was wondering if part 3 will be put up soon?

wa aleikum salam
Anonymous said…
Would Not the Dalil from the Moosa AS come under Shara Man Qablana?

Also as I heard that a incident where Ayyub AS was asked to whip the wife with the grass to fulfill his vow of lashing her.

Would not these incidents fall under "Shara Man Qablana".?

Since Yusuf AS participation is rejected in Kufr System for a dalil being it is "Shara Man Qablana", even if that was the case.

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