Question: Is a woman obligated to cook for the household? If yes, why? In today’s society, women are getting jobs, but they are still required to cook for everyone. I wanted to know if this is just a cultural norm.
Thank you for your important question. I understand that it is frustrating for working women to come home and find that a long list of chores still needs to be done. I pray that I can offer a bit of clarity.
It says the following in the Reliance of the Traveller,
A Wife’s Marital Obligations in the Shafi’i School
“45.1 (Abu Ishaq Shirazi:) A woman is not obliged to serve her husband by baking, grinding flour, cooking, washing, or any other kind of service, because the marriage contract entails, for her part, only that she let him enjoy her sexually, and she is not obligated to do other than that. (A: Rather, it is considered sunna in our school for the wife to do the housework, and the husband (who is obliged to support her) to earn the living since this is how the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) divided the work between Fatima and ‘Ali.” (Allah be pleased with them) [al-Muhadhdhab fi Fiqh al-Imam al-Shafi’i]
Each person, according to their gender and phase in life has obligations and priorities. A child is expected to help his parents, but he or she primarily focuses on education. A man is expected to support his wife and children, and even his parents, if they need it. His obligations can even extend beyond that to grandparents and sisters, if necessary. This is from Islam and not culture.
A woman is not obliged to work, but rather, she is expected to take care of her husband, children, and home. This is from the sunnah in our school, and it is considered obligatory in the Hanafi school. In traditional societies, a woman is honored and admired for her efficiency, cooking skills, and cleanliness in the home. You will find that these womanly duties, when done well, contribute to the safety, security, love, and emotional stability of a Muslim household. Do not undermine them for they are important things that affect the whole family.
What if there is no Time after Work?
If a man comes to me and asks me if he still needs to work when he cooked and cleaned all day, I will give him this answer: Yes, busying yourself with household chores does not free you from the responsibility of providing for your family. My answer is likewise to a lady who works. You should still do the chores and ask the family to help you, even if you were busy with work.
Communicate and Compromise
Any couple that wants to have a successful marriage should have a discussion when a woman starts working or a man stops working. They should clearly delineate whose roles are what and agree on them. As long as two people agree on their roles in the home, the Shari’a is happy to stay out of it. Only when problems arise, the Shari’a will be the standard that the couple is held to.
My personal advice to a working woman is the following:
-Follow Jordan Page’s advice on Youtube on how to run a household well and save money while you have it (This means freezing meals, using the crockpot, etc.)
-Plan meals and prep them so that they are simple and nutritious and most of the work can be done on the weekends
-Ask your family to always help you with laundry and cleaning and distribute chores to each member
-Ask Allah to put barakah in your time and skills to efficiently accomplish everything in your day (and still make time for exercise and worship!)
May Allah reward you and give you the best in 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 Masters 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.