Muslim Women Working: I found this interesting

Bismillahir Rahmānir Raheem.

The ‘stricter-than-Muhammad (SAW)’ mentality, which seems to plague some adherences to Islam. I want to know more. For example: Muslim women, and work? Inter-gender (non-Mahram) interactions? The rights of the parents, and of the husband, and/or the wife? Requirements for female modesty? I seek the truths of these things, and in the spirit of what Muhammad (SAW) taught. For example, an email from the Al-Maghrib Institute:

It is simply inaccurate to depict the Medinan society of the Prophet  ﷺ as one where the men worked and the women were exclusively supported by them. 


Al-Rabī‘ bint Mu‘awwadh and al-Ḥawlā’ used to make perfumes in Madīnah and sell them. (Ibn Sa‘d in al-Ṭabaqāt and Ibn Ḥajar in al-Iṣābah respectively)

The Prophet’s wife Zaynab used to sew and embroider things for sale and give from her earnings in charity. (Muslim) 

The Prophet ﷺ entered the date farm of Umm Bishr al-Anṣāriyyah. (Muslim) 

Umm Sulayṭ used to make leather water skins. (al-Bukhāri) 

Umm Shurayk used to own and run a guesthouse. (Ibn ‘Abdul-Barr in Alistī‘āb) 

The Prophet’s ﷺ minbar was made by a woman’s carpentry business. (Muslim) 

Ibn Mas‘ūd’s wife used to work and support him. (Aḥmad)

Jābir narrates,

“My aunt was divorced and she wanted to go out to collect the dates from her farm. A man told her to go back to her home. She went to the Prophet ﷺ and he said, ‘No, go collect your dates. Perhaps you may give in charity or do something good with them.’” (Muslim)

 [I also want to learn more about Khadijah (RA) as a director of trade, Insha Allah]

There are important guidelines however that any sister must be careful to abide by:

  1. The work must be permissible in its nature.
  2. It will not cause fitnah in her religion. [A former colleague of mine, for example had quit a job she had (well-paid, respectable, Masha Allah) because it interfered with her ability to pray on time.]
  3. It does not conflict with the rights of others like the husband and children.
  4. The permission of the walī.

*End email, complete with my ‘[asides]’*

This religion: the rights of your Creator, and the rights of those who have rights over you. Personal health is important too. Trying to sleep well, eat well, and all the rest. If a job, even if it is ‘super shiny’ and such, interferes with these sacred rights… as Muslims, we do believe in carrying out our responsibilities with (intended) excellence, and yet… the rights of an organisation/corporation over you are far smaller in comparison to those other ones.

It is not that women cannot partake in economic work. It is not, either, that they ‘must’, and that their worth is somehow contingent on having a 9-5 across the weekdays. We do not invent the rules; we do not exaggerate them either. We are not the rule-makers. Interesting stuff, Masha Allah.


With Salaam, Sadia, 2021.

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