By Shariffa Carlo
"The French Economic Philosopher, Jules Simon said, Women have started to work in Textile factories and printing presses etc... The government is employing them in factories, where they can earn a few francs. But on the other hand, this has totally destroyed the bases of family life. Yes, the husband may benefit from his wife's earnings, but apart from that, his earnings have decreased because now he is competing with her for work." (The Muslim Woman, Dr. Muhammad Ali Al Hashimi, p. 446)
The famous English Writer, Anna Ward said, "I wish that our country was like the lands of the Muslims, where modesty, chastity and purity are like a garment...it is a source of shame for England that we make our daughters examples of promiscuity by mixing so much with men. Why do we not try to persue that which makes a girl do work which agrees with her natural temperament, by staying at home, and leaving men's work to men, to keep their honor safe?" (The Muslim Woman, Dr. Muhammad Ali Al Hashimi, p. 447).
On a personal level, while I know that many women will not admit it, but the actions of the Western woman speak volumes. They really do believe that it is better for a woman to stay home than to work. Notice that women with husbands in the upper income level rarely work, especially if she has children. My sister in law and my brother have been married for over ten years. She refuses, to this day, to have children because my brother can not afford to fully support her and her children in the style to which they have become accustomed, unless she also works. She refuses to be a working mother and is constantly pointing out her sister who is more successful because she was able to leave her job when she became pregnant.
All this proves one basic point, that since Islam is the religion of Allah, and No one Knows better than Allah how to safeguard the dignity, honor and success of the woman, the way he has chosen for us is the best, and we have the West to thank for proving this to us.
The role of the woman is balanced but fair. She has been removed from the burden of supporting herself. This responsibility was given to the men in her life, her father and her brothers and even on the government, if the other two are not available. If she does not want to work, she does not have to. She is free to spend her time raising her children and tending to her family, social and religious life. However, if she wants to work, she is not forbidden to do so. She is encouraged to educate herself and to know her Lord, so that she can educate her children. She is discouraged from leaving her children without guidance and example. She is given the most honorable and important job in the universe, she is encouraged to be a mother.
I once had a conversation with some non-Muslims. I gave them an example: Suppose you were an alien visitor. You come to this society and view a family unit. You notice that one of them is completely cared for. The second person goes out every morning bright and early to spend the day working and earning money. This person may have a job that is intellectually stimulating, but often it is a job that requires strong physical labor. This tired worker returns to his home with offerings of food, clothing and shelter for this other mate, who has spent her time in her home, cleaning, cooking, playing with and educating children, maybe taking a break for shopping or going to the park (because her duties give her the time and luxury of doing so). Normally, the full salary of the worker goes towards maintaining this mate who stays home. Now, looking to this, which do you think is the superior one? Which is the queen and which is the servant? While we know that cooking, cleaning and caring for and educating children is a difficult job, in the long run, it is miles easier than working on the outside. We have more leisurely time, and the rewards go beyond monetary compensation. Most women, who have the choice, would never give up staying at home for going out to work.
During the Gulf War, a Western reporter interviewed a Saudi woman. The reporter, trying to make her feel inferior, asked her, "Doesn't it bother you that you are not able to go and get a job as a waitress, if you wanted to?" This woman, may Allah bless her, answered, "Are you joking? I am a woman with maids and servants, why would I want to lower myself to such a task." Think about it, the job of waitress is a glorified servant. No woman actually aspires to it, most are forced to do it because there is nothing better for them. And, many of these waitresses are nothing more than cheap entertainment for men. When questioned about not being able to drive, Saudi women point out that having a driver is a luxury that most Westerners aspire to, why is it a humiliation only for Muslim women? In the same vein, the Western woman hopes for the ability to be a stay-at-home mother. It is a status symbol, yet they try to make us feel inferior for making that choice the most common and preferred one. The West loves to make us feel inferior due to our choices, yet given the same choices, they look to reach what we have. Allah keep us from following their example and make us an example for them.
Western society has made the stay at home mother so ashamed of her role in society that a movement was actually needed to make the housewife feel more fulfilled. It became necessary to have a media campaign that educated American women about the fact that being a mother was just as valid a choice for a woman as being a working member of society. Think about it. I have read articles that say that the American woman was fooled into thinking she could have it all. Magazine after magazine talks about the failure of "quality time" with children. Children do not need quality time, they need a physical presence that will guide and mold them, and that presence is not a babysitter who really does not care about the values she instills.
We are told by Allah to save ourselves and our family from a fire that is fueled by men and stones (66:6). How are we going to do that if we allow someone else to raise them? How are we going to educate our children by giving them to strangers? We have a great responsibility that we will be questioned about. We should not allow the failure of the West to change us from our basic nature. In Feminist literature, the woman's language is defined as nurturing. Feminist philosophers state that a woman's style is nurturing. Allah created us in a fashion that makes us the perfect nurturer, so why do we reject that nature in search of some illusive goal of accomplishment?
While a woman has been granted the right to leave her home for her needs, (Sahih Bukhari, Volume 6, Book 60, Number 318), Rasool Allah told us that the best place for us is at home. There, we are free from fitnah and harassment. Look to the women of the West, the capital of women workers. They are constantly complaining that they are underpaid, overworked, they have the home duties still as well as the duties and demands of their jobs. They are over-worked and over stressed. Their families have suffered as they have. Too many of their children are promiscuous, addicted and morally bankrupt. They have so little respect for each other that many of the parents end up in nursing homes the minute they get old. Those who don't, end up fending for themselves late into their elderly years, years that should be spent enjoying the fruits of their labor, children who love, honor and respect them while caring for their every need. This is Islam. We raise our children with the values of wanting to take care of us later. My teacher once told a lady who came to him for advice that she needs to instill better values in her kids, that they should help her now that they are older. He said, if we are raising children with no sense of responsibility, it is better to raise sheep, at least you can benefit from their meat.
Our children are our responsibility. Our husbands are our leaders as well as our partners. Our parents are our trust. We can not neglect any of these duties in the search for fulfillment. If we follow our fitrah (basic nature) we will find fulfillment in these tasks. The woman can work. The woman can be a doctor or lawyer or engineer. She has the mental capacity to do so and the physical abilities. However, she is better suited to be a mother, a wife, a daughter. She does not have to go out and sell her services, and if necessity does not force her to, she shouldn't.
Narrated 'Abdullah: Allah's Apostle said, "Everyone of you is a guardian and is responsible for his charges. The ruler who has authority over people, is a guardian and is responsible for them, a man is a guardian of his family and is responsible for them; a woman is a guardian of her husband's house and children and is responsible for them; a slave ('Abu) is a guardian of his master's property and is responsible for it; so all of you are guardians and are responsible for your charges." Volume 3, Book 46, Number 730.
Our responsibility is our husband's home and children, which are also our home and children. The rights of Allah come first. So, we must tend to this responsibility before any other. The man is responsible for us financially, even if he has to work two or more jobs to fulfill this task. If the woman wants to help him, she may, but she can not neglect her duties to do so. Allah will question her about her home and children, she will not be asked about her personal fulfillment or her maintenance of her family (unless there is no one else to do it). The woman must do her best to be a great wife and mother. This is number one. After this, there is permissibility.
No one claims that a woman can not do many jobs, but the reality exists that while a man can be the nurturer in a home, no one is better suited for this than the woman. She has been benefited by hormones which make her more patient, a temperament that makes her more nurturing, and a gentleness that makes her a better mother. There exist the aberrant Susan Smiths of the world who harm their children, but the reality is that when we hear about such horrible crimes, we are shocked because it is not normal. We know how mothers are with their children, from the human to the bird who will peck the hair off anyone who dares to harm her children. Allah gave us an honorable duty and the tools to fulfil it. Alhamdulillah for the blessings of Allah.