By Mr. Naseem
Sh. Islahi is the editor of “Zikra” a monthly Islamic magazine issues from Rampur, India, and author of “Everyday Fiqh” along with many other popular Islamic books and literature.
Q. If there is a difference of opinion between my parents and wife, whose opinion should I adhere to?
A. You should listen to the one whose opinion is based on the Qur’an and Sunnah. But since your question reflects the uneasy relationship between your parents and wife, I would like to elaborate upon my answer so that the problem can be taken care of in a true Islamic fashion. Your parents have certain rights. They have raised you with immense love and care and expect that you obey them. Your wife, too, has certain rights under the Sharia. One way for you to deal with the above problem is to give both of them their rights and thereby absolve your self of responsibility even if the uneasiness between them continues. The other is to analyze the problem and deal with it in a very tactful manner so that no one feels offended. If you can find a formula that is satisfying to both, it will be much better and more commendable in the eyes of Allah (swt).
Q. What is your opinion on women’s employment? Is it okay for women to work if they can fulfill their duties as mother and wife at the same time?
A. In the Islamic way of life, earning a living is a man’s responsibility, and taking care of the husband and children is a wife’s responsibility. It is a man’s duty to financially support his wife, so that she can devote her energies and time to her family. Allah says in Surah an-Nisa Ayah 34.
Men are providers of women, because Allah has given some people precedence over others, and because men spend their wealth on them (women).
On the other hand, men are urged to earn for their families and there is a severe warning if they fail to do so. Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) has said:
It is enough for a man to become a sinner if he fails the people for whose livelihood, he is responsible.
Similarly, the Prophet (pbuh) also explained the responsibility of a woman:
And a woman is responsible for the home of her husband, and she will be accountable for it. Her responsibilities include not just the domestic chores, but also raising children.
Now the question whether it is Islamically permissible for a woman to work, it should be understood that everything which is not prohibited by the Qur’an or the Sunnah is permissible. A woman is the co-owner of the family property and if she makes an effort to enhance the family wealth, it is perfectly all right. She can also acquire all kinds of education in accordance with the Islamic guidance. As far as acquiring Islamic education is concerned, it is her duty to do so. At times, working may be important for a woman due to financial and academic needs, and Islam does not prohibit this. However, if her work causes a violation of Islamic restrictions, such work is not permissible. If she works in an Islamic school, or is a physician specializing in women’s problems, she is doing a useful service to the society, and it is religiously rewarding. If a woman is intellectually and academically gifted, she can become a member of a legislature. She can also perform social work for women. In short, she should be able to utilize all her abilities in a way prescribed by Islam. However, the ideal role for women is to take care of the home, and for men to earn a living for the family.
Q. While Islam has given many rights to women, it also has degraded them as a wife. For instance, it has allowed men to impose on them three rivals (wives). Moreover, a wife is not only under the control of her husband, but she also suffers in case of a difference of opinion between her and her in-laws. Why?
A. Your complaint is based on the facts that men are allowed to have four wives and that they have been asked to be obedient to their parents because of which they often listen to their parents overruling their wives. First thing first. For women to · tolerate other wives of their husband is far better and easy than tolerating their mistresses and lovers. To prevent men from illicit relationship, Islam has allowed men to marry four wives. But not anyone who wants to marry four wives can do so. There are many severe conditions attached to polygamy which only a few men can fulfill. While Islam makes this allowance to satisfy men’s sexual urge in a legitimate manner, it also makes them responsible for the consequences of such relationship, including supporting those other wives, their children, and treating all wives equally. If we think carefully, we will find that the Islamic law protects women by preventing their husbands from going to prostitutes or having mistresses. Some may think that the West, which bars men from marrying more than one woman, is more protective of women’s rights. They are wrong. While the West disallows men to be bigamous, it has no laws to prevent them from having illicit sex. The only remedy for women in the West is to expose their husband’s infidelity in a court of law and seek a divorce on its basis. This solution may be okay for a childless woman, but those with children have to pay a dear emotional, economic, and psychological price.
In reference to your second question, I would like to guess that you do not have a son yet, or if you do, he has not yet been married. Right now, you are looking at it from the point of view of a daughter-in-law. When you bring home your own daughter in-law, you will realize the sanity of the Islamic laws about parents’ rights versus wives’ rights. Perhaps then you will yourself wish for the same rights that other parents expect from their married children.