By: Ayatollah Ibrahim Amini
Earning a family’s living is an obligatory deed of men and women aren’t Islamically (as per Islamic shari’ah) responsible for this act. However, women should also have a job at home. In Islam, idleness is discredited and reproached.
Imam Ja'far Sadiq (AS) said: “Almighty God hates too much sleep and too much rest.” (Usul-e-Kafi, vol. 5, p. 86)
“Too much sleep wastes and ruins both one’s worldly life and the religion (the life in the world Hereafter).” (Ibid.)
“Sayyida Fatimat-az-Zahra (SA) also used to work at home.” (Ibid., p. 86)
Anyone in need or not, should have a job. He should not waste his life by not doing anything, but he should work and offer his share in building a better life. If necessary, he should spend his earnings on his family and himself, but if not needed then he should donate his earnings from work to those who need his help. Idleness is tedious and more often than not, causes mental and psychological disorders, as well as moral corruption.
The best job for married woman is to take care of the house, e.g., housekeeping, child-care, etc. are the best jobs that women can do. A talented and hardworking housewife can turn her house into a heavenly place for her child and husband; and this is a valuable and worthwhile job.
The Prophet (SAW) said: “A woman’s jihad is when she attends to her husband and takes care of him well.” (Biharul-Anwar, vol. 103, p. 247)
Umm-e Salama asked the Prophet (SAW): “How much reward is there for a woman’s housework?” He replied: “Any woman who, in the way of improving the order of the house, takes something from somewhere and places it somewhere else, would enjoy Allah(SWT)’s Grace, and whoever attracts Allah(SWT)’s Blessings, would not be tormented by Allah(SWT)’s anger.”
She also asked the Prophet: “O Messenger of Allah (SWT)! May my parents be sacrificed for you, please state other rewards for women.”
He (SAW) said: “When a woman becomes pregnant, Allah (SWT) rewards her as much as He would to someone who goes for Jihad with all his wealth and life. Then when she delivers her baby, a call would reach her stating that ‘all your sins are forgiven; start a new life again.’ Each time she feeds her baby with her milk, Allah (SWT) gives her reward equal to that of freeing a slave for each feeding.” (Biharul-Anwar, vol. 103, p. 247)
Even if housewives aren’t busy with their housework, they should find something else to do. They can read books, conduct research on something useful and add to their knowledge and skills. They can write articles, and even books. They can engage in drawing, painting, tailoring, knitting, sewing and so forth. As a result they can help their families economically as well as contributing to their society by making their achievements available to the public. Bearing in mind that working prevents the development of many mental disorders.
Imam Ali (AS) said: “Allah (SWT) likes a pious man who is honestly engaged in doing work.” (Usul-e-Kafi, vol. 5, p. 113)
While some women work at home, there are others who prefer an outside job. This preference may be either for economical or other reasons. In this case, the best jobs are cultural occupations or nursing. Nurseries are also suitable places where women can serve as nurses and doctors. Such jobs are agreeable to the female nature; and also there would rarely if at all, be the need for them to mix with or come across the men who aren’t Mahram (near relatives with whom marriage is prohibited, e.g., uncle).
The followings are recommendations to those women who intend to or who are working outside their homes:
a) Consult your husband before taking up a job. It is your husband’s right to grant or refuse you permission to work outside. Starting to work without your husband’s permission will be detrimental to the serenity and living atmosphere of your family. Husbands are also advised not to be adamantly negative with regard to their wives’ working outside the house, unless the job concerned is considered unsuitable for them.
b) Women should observe proper Islamic dress (hijab) when they aren’t at home.
Prestige and dignity doesn’t come with what you wear, but what you do and how well you do it. Be and act as a dignified Muslim woman. Maintain your self-respect, and don’t hurt your husband’s feelings; save your adornments and your beautiful dresses for him at home.
c) Women should be aware that although they are working outside the house, they are still expected by their husbands and children to attend to such activities as, house-keeping, cooking, washing, and so forth. This can be done by cooperation within the family. An outside job should not pave the way for upsetting the whole family!
Husbands are also advised to help their wives with regard to house-keeping. They should not expect their wives to work both outside and inside the house on their own. Such an expectation is neither lawful nor fair. Men and women should share the housework.
d) If a wife, who is working outside has a child, then she should leave the child in a nursery or with someone trusted and kind. It is neither right nor wise to leave children at home on their own, since many children become fearful or helpless when they have to confront dangerous situations.
e) If a wife feels that, in addition, to the above work and responsibilities, she should undertake another job, then she should definitely come to an understanding with her husband and take up a job with his permission.
In any case, while outside her home, she must certainly observe Islamic dress (hijab).