بسم الله الرحمن الرحيم
The Family is the Original Occupation of the Woman
(A Mother, a Wife, and a Homemaker)
Allah (swt) divided the responsibilities wisely between the man and woman in a legislative manner that aligns with their respective natures perfectly and justly; thus, giving each of them their natural roles and responsibilities in life. There is no room for comparison or preference in their roles because Allah (swt) has obligated the male and female equally to His (swt) orders and prohibitions, and He (swt) has rewarded them for the good deeds even if it’s the weight of an atom and punished them for the bad deeds even if it’s the weight of an atom without discrimination. Accordingly, the deeds of the Muslim person are intended to be obligated with the rules of the Shari’, regardless whether the deeds are done by a male or female, or a person in general without any specific gender. Thus, commitment to the Islamic concepts and the Ahkam Ash-Shari’yya (Sharia rules) emanating from believing in Allah’s right in legislating and being fully pleased and convinced with His (swt) rules in its entirety, as they are the Haqq (truth), goodness, and justice, and what goes against them are deviance.
As such, the occupation of the Muslim woman in the family institution as a mother, a wife, and the homemaker is a Sharia duty which the Islamic Sharia meant for her since the family is greatly valued. Also, the woman plays an important role which aligns with her nature, so Islam addressed her especially with rulings regarding giving birth, breastfeeding, nursing, and motherhood. This responsibility is her most important tasks and her greatest role as this kind of occupation leads to the existence and continuation of the human kind, and the role of motherhood at this stage is far more important than the role of fatherhood because the mother here is the tool for maintaining the human kind! In addition, motherhood is not restricted to reproduction, as it also encompasses raising, nurturing, building, and shaping of the children, and this responsibility is supervised by the woman which is in reality a process of producing the generations of the Ummah!
The aware Muslim woman realizes quite well that her main cause in her life is her Ummah and its revival, and she knows no other cause. Therefore, she understands very well the magnitude of the responsibility Allah (swt) has appointed upon her in building her Ummah through the message of motherhood, and through what this mission requires from exertion of energy and efforts and dedicating time in order to achieve her duties perfectly and fulfill them in a way that pleases her Creator (swt). This is the meaning of the phrase: “The nature of the woman is to be a mother and a homemaker”, that her duty which takes precedence in her list of priorities is at home so that she can give it its due diligence and she fulfills its rights.
The term “home” in this context is not to devalue or degrade the role as advertised in the capitalistic Western understanding. On the contrary, it is just a location specifying where her role should be, as the home in this context involves taking care of the children and the husband, providing all the materialistic and emotional needs, from cooking, cleaning, washing, raising, following up with the children, being intimate with the husband and obeying him in what the Sharia has allowed, maintaining the secrecy, money and dignity. Also this role requires thinking, knowledge, sense, emotions, good management and behavior, and whatever this massive responsibility needs from seriousness, patience, giving, efforts, and sacrifice. So where else will she perform all of these tasks if not in her home, and how much time will these tasks require if they don’t take up most of her life?
It is true ignorance when we claim that the family life, and the marital life in particular, is a partnership of roles and responsibilities, but this concept doesn’t align with the Sharia nor with the instincts. It is not possible to share family roles since every member has a role to play which goes with his nature in life and is compatible with his energy and instincts. Given that the work of the woman at home requires a great deal of effort and a lot of time. The Sharia has not required from her the responsibility of spending and supporting the family financially, but it made this obligatory upon the man whereby he sins if leaves it or falls behind in it. In addition, this responsibility takes place outside of the home in general and it has its demands and requirements; thus, the Sharia has assigned this responsibility to the man as it goes with his nature as a male characterized by being a guardian, protector, a physically strong person which qualify him for this occupation naturally; thus, mounting upon him the necessities of spending and caring. Therefore, partnership is not possible in the marital life; it is rather commitment to the responsibilities according to what the Sharia has specified, and the woman cannot, for example, balance between the roles of motherhood and sustenance, and the man cannot balance between the roles of spending and house chores, because for each is his or her own tasks and qualifications. A part of a Hadith of the Rasuul (saw) clearly shows the specifications of the responsibilities: «كُلُّكُمْ رَاعٍ وَكُلُّكُمْ مَسْؤول عَنْ رَعِيَّتِهِ، الإِمَامُ رَاعٍ وَمَسْؤولٌ عَنْ رَعِيَّتِهِ، وَالرَّجُلُ رَاعٍ فِي أَهْلِهِ وَهُوَ مَسْؤولٌ عَنْ رَعِيَّتِهِ، وَالْمَرْأَةُ رَاعِيَةٌ فِي بَيْتِ زَوْجِهَا وَمَسْؤولَةٌ عَنْ رَعِيَّتِهَا...»“All of you are guardians and are responsible for your subjects. The ruler is a guardian of his subjects, the man is a guardian of his family, the woman is a guardian and is responsible for her husband's house and his offspring; and so all of you are guardians and are responsible for your subjects.” [Narrated by Ibn Umar, and reported Sahih by Bukhari and Muslim]
The Sharia has tied the importance of this responsibility which has been appointed to the woman to the great rewards that she will receive, as narrated by Abdul Rahman ibn ‘Awf: The Messenger (saw) said: «إِذَا صَلَّتِ الْمَرْأَةُ خَمْسَهَا، وَصَامَتْ شَهْرَهَا، وَحَفِظَتْ فَرْجَهَا، وَأَطَاعَتْ زَوْجَهَا قِيلَ لَهَا: ادْخُلِي الْجَنَّةَ مِنْ أَيِّ أَبْوَابِ الْجَنَّةِ شِئْتِ»“If a woman prayed her five prayers, fasted the month of Ramadan, preserved her chastity, and obeyed her husband, it will be told to her: Enter Jannah from any door your desire.” [Reported Sahih by Ibn Habban on the authority of Abu Huraira, may Allah be pleased with him]
Islam brought forth its rules from revelation in order to organize man’s life and to create harmony and balance in fulfilling his needs and in agreement with his nature, rather than distressing him and being an obstacle in his matters and making the marital life a distress, misery, and injustice. It is meant to create within the family a state of stability, serenity, and security if every member committed to their roles and responsibilities, as Allah (swt) says:
﴿وَمِنْ آيَاتِهِ أَنْ خَلَقَ لَكُم مِّنْ أَنفُسِكُمْ أَزْوَاجًا لِّتَسْكُنُوا إِلَيْهَا وَجَعَلَ بَيْنَكُم مَّوَدَّةً وَرَحْمَةً إِنَّ فِي ذَٰلِكَ لَآيَاتٍ لِّقَوْمٍ يَتَفَكَّرُونَ﴾
“And among His Signs is this, that He created for you wives from among yourselves, that you may find repose in them, and He has put between you affection and mercy. Verily, in that are indeed signs for a people who reflect.” [Ar-Rum: 21]
Though what was mentioned previously should not be understood that her original occupation is being a homemaker that she is solely limited to that occupation, and that she is not allowed from taking up other occupations. She also has other Sharia commitments just like that of the man, such as prayers, paying Zakat, performing Hajj, carrying the Dawah, pursuing education, and others. She is also allowed to work in the public sphere just like she works in the private sphere, and the Sharia has allowed her to buy, rent, and be represented. The Sharia has allowed her to work in agriculture, manufacturing, and trading, to enter in contracts, to own various sorts of ownerships, and to invest her money. She is also allowed to manage the affairs of her life by herself, for her to be a partner and a renter, to hire people and rent properties and objects, and to perform all sorts of transactions. She can do all of these jobs as long as they do not interfere in her role as a mother, a wife, and the homemaker, and as long as they don’t affect her commitments in this Sharia obligation and do not override her natural tasks, or forbid her from them, or push her to fall short or ignore them.
That is why the state in Islam is the state of taking care of people’s affairs, and it is the state which enacts the rules which organize the life of the individual and the group. So, expenditure becomes an integral right for the woman upon her guardian or from the state directly if her guardian was not able to provide it, even if she’s able to work. The state in Islam works for ensuring job prospects befitting the needs of the people and agreeing with their nature, and more importantly, according to the Sharia where the woman is able to secure a job outside of her home without encroaching upon her original occupation inside her home due to the nature of the job, the work hours, and its conditions.
The reality that the Muslim woman lives nowadays in the absence of implementing Islam in her life has lead to her oppression and demeaning, where the occupation of being a homemaker, and what it means as the greatest responsibility, becomes labeled as unemployed because it’s not viewed as an occupation of financial value. In addition, her going out for work has led her to being deprived from many rights, such as motherhood, enjoying her children, spending quality time with them and following them up on their mental, psychological, and behavioral upbringing. This made her life all about running after financial rewards; thus, putting a big stress on the family and making her falling short in her role as a wife in providing her husband with the means of comfort and happiness inside the home, or as a mother caring for her children, monitoring their upbringing, or as a homemaker concerned about the cleanliness of her home and organizing it. When priorities become badly set and the division of the tasks has overburden its holder, the level of anxiety experienced by many working women has affected their wellbeing due to the huge stress they’re living in inside and outside the home. This has pushed them to accept normal jobs unwillingly or considering their exerted efforts as a favor and not of obligations, leading to a great demand of hiring nannies, servants, and child centers in an attempt to achieve a balance!
Falling short in the original occupation of the woman has created many problems in the society, such as divorcing in high rates, destroying of many homes, ignoring the children, demanding more contraceptives out of fear of having lots of children, ignoring homes, and increasing the requests for a better way of living in order to cover the expenses of home wares, nannies, and even psychological counselors! We cannot deny that many women are in agony because of this sad state which exceeded their feminine nature and forbade them from achieving jobs which go with their instincts, but ensuring a decent way of living for her family has become an obligation upon her as imposed by the oppressive Capitalistic ideology which is draining her energy and efforts and is denying her rights.
Islam has provided the woman with a secure and safe lifestyle which agrees with her nature with rules of her Lord (swt) Who created her, formed her, and taught her the instincts and needs so that she can live under the Sharia of her Lord (swt) in peace, stability, and happiness. Since her relationship with her Lord (swt), with the humankind, and with herself are all interconnected, she will not be able to achieve a harmonious state without implementing all the Sharia rules which connect her to this life; thus, achieving the goodness of the Dunya and Akhira. Therefore, her job of establishing the Khilafah Rashida (rightly guided Caliphate) and embarking on an intellectual clash and political struggle is a Sharia responsibility besides her responsibilities as a mother, a wife, and a homemaker in order to establish the Sharia of her Lord (swt) holistically so that she meets Allah (swt) while He is pleased with her.
﴿مَنْ عَمِلَ صَالِحًا مِّن ذَكَرٍ أَوْ أُنثَىٰ وَهُوَ مُؤْمِنٌ فَلَنُحْيِيَنَّهُ حَيَاةً طَيِّبَةً وَلَنَجْزِيَنَّهُمْ أَجْرَهُم بِأَحْسَنِ مَا كَانُوا يَعْمَلُونَ﴾
“Whoever works righteousness, whether male or female, while he (or she) is a true believer (of Islamic Monotheism) verily, to him We will give a good life (in this world with respect, contentment and lawful provision), and We shall pay them certainly a reward in proportion to the best of what they used to do (i.e. Paradise in the Hereafter).” [An-Nahl: 97]
Written for the Central Media Office of Hizb ut Tahrir by