Answered by Ustadha Shazia Ahmad
Many women desire to go to work as if it is their duty and prepare more for it than for marriage & motherhood. Their parents are ignorant too. This is causing great harm to the ummah. Isn’t it better to restrict them to focus on their duties assigned by Allah (which must be best for them) for the betterment of our society? We don’t have to follow the disbelieving women as they started to work en masse in the last decades, which caused the collapse of families in the West.
Thank you for your question. Your question requires a long essay and much face-to-face discussion. I will just give you an overview.
How does Allah speak about marriage in His book? Allah says,
“And of His signs is that He created for you wives from yourselves that you might find tranquility in them, and He set between you love and affection. In this, are signs for people who reflect.” [Qur’an, 30:21]
And He refers to marriage as “a solemn covenant”[Qur’an, 4:21]
And He often mentions kindness in marriage: He says to the husbands, “Live with them in kindness, [4:19], and, “Give them their dowry in kindness, [4:25] And in the case of separation, “Keep them honorably, or release them in kindness, [2:229] Allah Most High also warns husbands, “House them in your own homes, according to your means. And do not harass them so as to make life intolerable for them. [65:6]
A wife’s piety is mentioned as well, “So virtuous women are humbly obedient, guarding in absence what Allah would have them guard.” [Qur’an, 4:34]
And the most beautiful metaphor is used for a married couple, “They are a garment for you, and you are a garment for them. [Qur’an, 2:187]
Marriage is meant to be wrapped up in goodness, excellence, mutual understanding, protection, support, and love. This is evident from the prophetic marriages as an example for us.
A woman has an obligation to her husband, children, and home first. It is mandatory that she does her best to obey her husband, be good to him, give wholesome food to the family, maintain cleanliness, provide a loving environment, and steadfastness in the religion at home. She will be asked about her obligations on the Day of Judgment in the same way a man will be asked if he provided for his family and treated them well. There is no altering these obligations unless a couple agrees to switch roles. These obligations are not archaic but rather are timeless and true guidance.
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Equality with excellence
Should a woman work? She can if she wants. Should a man cook and clean? He can if he wants. Will Allah punish this role reversal? No, as long as both spouses happily accept it. Can a woman manage a job along with cooking and cleaning and tending to the children? It is possible but difficult, some do it well, and some don’t. Can a man handle a job and cooking and cleaning and tending to the children? It is possible but difficult. Some do it well, and some don’t.
Neither gender should get burnt out in the name of equality. Should man and wife split everything evenly down the middle? Or should they distribute the labor? That’s for each family to decide, and they should love, help, and support each other through thick and thin. The Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) told us to act with excellence in everything we do. If we all apply this, every home will run smoothly, and each individual will be supported, and nothing will be impossible.
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Both parties should prepare themselves by taking courses on marriage, learning about their rights and obligations and entering into their marital contracts with the right mindset, discussing their careers beforehand, and picking up related skills before marriage. Both roles are highly valued, neither can be done without. Any marriage that doesn’t have both roles fulfilled is wanting.
Staying home is just as important as working outside the home; it is not a pity, belittling, or underrated, and should not be played down or embarrassing. The best women on Earth, our ladies Khadijah, `A’isha, Fatima, Asiyah, Maryam, all played drastically different roles, but they were virtuous women whom Allah loved. A failing ummah starts with a failing home, and we must make our homes for Allah and His Messenger, however we do it.
Many parents in the West and East have their children study and develop their careers for different reasons. Some want them to be financially independent, etc. Most women are already working when they start to consider marriage, to the delight of their parents. There is nothing wrong with this, and their careers can serve them well, as long as a girl and her suitor agree on how they will live.
It would be foolish not to discuss it beforehand. I have seen men put in their written marriage contracts that their wives must only work part-time during pregnancy and while the children are young, and many women have accepted this. I respect any couple that has the wisdom and courage to anticipate these issues.
The more important point here is that women get an education. This is far more valuable than working. Refining the mind, understanding logic, studying history, learning to write well, or really, studying anything, is the best way to develop skills, discipline, and a deeper understanding of the world around you. The Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) said, “Seeking knowledge is a duty upon every Muslim […],“ and “Ask Allah for beneficial knowledge and seek refuge with Allah from the knowledge that is of no benefit.“ [Ibn Majah]
The most honest outlook I got is from a teenager that I recently spoke to. She said that she believes a man should work and help out at home and that a woman should also work and help at home. She also believed that hiring a nanny would fill all the gaps in managing the home. When I asked her what one should do if they can’t afford a nanny, then she admitted that one parent should stay home more than the other, saying, “probably the mother.”
Finally, don’t criticize, and don’t worry about others, and raise your daughters as you see fit. But be prepared to answer to Allah when He asks you whether you fulfilled your obligations, and taught your children the same, and hope for His limitless mercy. May Allah guide us all, and may He give you the best of this world and the next.
[Ustadha] Shazia Ahmad
Checked and Approved by Shaykh Faraz Rabbani
Ustadha Shazia Ahmad lived in Damascus, Syria, for two years, where she studied aqidah, fiqh, tajweed, Tafseer, and Arabic. She then attended the University of Texas at Austin, where she completed her Master’s in Arabic. Afterward, she moved to Amman, Jordan, where she studied fiqh, Arabic, and other sciences. She recently moved back to Mississauga, Canada, where she lives with her family.