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MUSLIM WOMEN WORKING IN THE MIDST OF STRANGE MEN



By
Ibn Abdillah As-sudaisiy Al-Iloori

We allow women to work in the midst of strange men. We put metal objects by magnets and expect them not to attract one another. It will be difficult if not even impossible. Women can actually work in environments where their religion (especially their chastity) will not be in danger or compromised and where their duties as home makers would not be jeopardized. Several verses were revealed in the Qur'an and several hadiths were reported to restrict the movement of women in order to protect them against the evils that would spring from free mixing with the opposite sex. 

The bulk of the job of women are at home. They are the best in training and nurturing of the children. They should have sound and qualitative education  (Islamic and mundane) and pass same to the children from one generation to another. The women of the time of our salaf were like this. They used to stay at home, except in cases of necessity. And they trained the best generations of people. Most of the scholars were nurtured by their mothers. Many mothers today are only concerned with sallah clothes, birthdays and school assignments. Probably, that is why when you visit northern Nigeria today, most of the people at the market are men. You can hardly find their women outside. But in our place here, women seek to compete with men in worldly achievements which usually affect their spiritual status. They speed beyond limitations. The concept of feminism and gender equality has permeated our environment.

If women are thrown out without some important purposes to serve, the home must suffer. And that is what is happening to us these days. Many homes have been spiritually damaged due to the fact that both parents (father and mother) spend most of their time outside the home. Working tirelessly to be able to good care of the family is the responsibility of men as imposed by Q4:16. Even if a woman must work and assist her husband (which is not mandatory), it should be in the midst of women alone or at home where even if men are to patronize her, it will be beneath her veil and in the presence of her mahram. 

On a more serious note, our women should now begin to focus more on professions where we need women as a matter of religious urgency. We need more women in nursing and medicine, especially gynecology. The case of subjecting our women to male doctors during childbirth and some lesser medical check up troubles the mind. Giving strange men free access to our women at places of work is dangerous. It may be rampant, but it is not ideal. We look helpless. But we need to tell ourselves the bitter truth. It is one of the reasons why zina is prevalent in our society. When you go to schools and public officess, you will see male and female staff dating one another. This is a reality, except we want to deceive ourselves. 

We should be very careful not to use little benefit we would get from our worldly affairs to destroy the most important affairs (of the hereafter). Free mixing is dangerous. Even if our women dress in full hijab and wear niqab, it is still dangerous because the minds are created with evil inclinations and can be corrupted no matter how religious one is. The voice of a woman can cause problem to men who have weak mind, and evil starts from there. But if we can block the means to the evil of zina, it is better than being too confident. 

Someone can be wearing full hijab, but if she is not protected and screened from the evil of free mixing, she can fall into zina. No one is perfect. Allah's aid is sought. Allaah told the wives of the Prophet صلى الله عليه وسلم in a verse in Suratul Ahzaab. Contrary to some misinterpretations, the verse is not only applicable to wives of the Prophet alone, all believing women are expected to emulate the women of the best generations. Allaah says:

وَقَرْنَ فِي بُيُوتِكُنَّ وَلَا تَبَرَّجْنَ تَبَرُّجَ الْجَاهِلِيَّةِ الْأُولَىٰ ۖ وَأَقِمْنَ الصَّلَاةَ وَآتِينَ الزَّكَاةَ وَأَطِعْنَ اللَّهَ وَرَسُولَهُ ۚ إِنَّمَا يُرِيدُ اللَّهُ لِيُذْهِبَ عَنْكُمُ الرِّجْسَ أَهْلَ الْبَيْتِ وَيُطَهِّرَكُمْ تَطْهِيرًا)

And abide in your houses and do not display yourselves as [was] the display of the former times of ignorance. And establish prayer and give zakah and obey Allah and His Messenger. Allah intends only to remove from you the impurity [of sin], O people of the [Prophet's] household, and to purify you with [extensive] purification. [Surat Al-Ahzab 33]

This is the verse establishing the fact that the general rule is for women to stay at home to dperform their duties, except in cases of necessity. The case of a widow or divorcee who has nothing to eat may consistitute necessity depending on the circumstance of each case. After all, they will have to feed themselves and perhaps their children and some other dependants. But they should still fear Allaah and be conscious of the general rule. However, there are some women who have no reason to insist in working in the midst of strange men, yet they would insist. Even if their husband decides to pay them, they would still insist on working. The desire to be independent of their husband has engulfed their thought and there is nothing you can say to stop them. Allah's aid is sought. 

Some women don't want to be patient at all. They are always complaining. They don't care to disobey Allaah and their husband just to achieve some worldly things. You will see women having landed properties and building houses without the knowledge of their husbands. This doesn't mean women can't work and own properties, but it must be done legitimately and in ways by which their purpose of creation will not be jeopardized. The situation whereby any kind of man will be able to speak and relate freely with mature and married Muslim women is haram in the shar'iah and this takes precedence over and above any worldly career a woman might wish to pursue. 

Our women are not like any other women. They are honoured and reserved. So, they shouldn't follow the ways of feminists who know nothing about the dictates of Allaah and His Messenger صلى الله عليه وسلم. Allaah says to the wives of the Messenger:

يا نِسَاءَ النَّبِيِّ لَسْتُنَّ كَأَحَدٍ مِّنَ النِّسَاءِ ۚ إِنِ اتَّقَيْتُنَّ فَلَا تَخْضَعْنَ بِالْقَوْلِ فَيَطْمَعَ الَّذِي فِي قَلْبِهِ مَرَضٌ وَقُلْنَ قَوْلًا مَّعْرُوفًا

O wives of the Prophet, you are not like anyone among women. If you fear Allah, then do not be soft in speech [to men], lest he in whose heart is disease should covet, but speak with appropriate speech. [Q33:32]

Women shouldn't talk freely in the presence of strange men, except where it is necessary to do so. A woman might not have the intention of "frying" or dressing her voice to draw attention of the opposite sex, but  her natural voice might still put men with disease in their heart into trouble. Allaah says:

Then do not be soft in speech [to men], lest he in whose heart is disease should covet (Q33:32)

May Allaah guide us aright.

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