Fatwa ID: 02678
Answered by: Moulana Imran Mughal
Is it permissible for a Muslim woman, living in the western world, to work in a non-segregated office? This is a woman who truly wants to earn her own money, and who enjoys working and being productive.
She is working in an office where her colleagues respect her religion. Hence, she is able to pray at the salat times, and to wear complete/proper hijab. Another thing to mention is that it is nearly impossible to find any kind of job that is segregated in this part of the world. Also, to live in this part of the world with only one salary is quite ridiculous.
I've asked several Islamic scholars, during different lectures/seminars, and the majority answered that it was permissible due to the circumstances here in the West. What are your opinions on this?
Also, I've learned that a woman should remain at home, and not go out except for necessary purposes. What counts as necessary purposes? Could a necessary purpose be that a woman seeks to get some fresh air and/or wants to go for a walk (for mental and physical purposes)?
بِسْمِ اللهِ الرَّحْمنِ الرَّحِيْم
In the name of Allah, the Most Gracious, the Most Merciful.
The rules set by the Shariah are divine rules from Allah, and they are there to govern our lives so as to reap the most benefit we can from them. Sometimes, due to our lack of knowledge and in-depth understanding of the religion, we overlook these rulings. The law in Islam regarding marital roles is that the husband should work and provide for the financial means for the family whilst the wife takes care of the household work.
This in no means belittles men or women in that they cannot do the other. Rather for the overall benefit of the preservation of their family, and for the future of their children has this law been laid down.
If a woman has not married, then it is the duty of her father or guardian to see to all her financial means.
Nevertheless, a woman is totally allowed by the Shariah to work if she so desires, bearing in mind that it prefers for women to get married and be a vital role-model in building correct moral values in raising the next generation just as the Shariah prefers for men to take care of the clothing, food and shelter for his family.
There are a few conditions that must be adopted by a woman if she were to work:
- Khalwah (Seclusion)
One must always remain firm on not being secluded with a non-mahram male, as this is prohibited by the Shariah.
Sayyiduna Umar (may Allah be pleased with him) narrates that the Prophet (peace be upon him) said: “A man should not be alone with a woman, for indeed the third amongst them is Shaytan.”
- Guarding Your Gaze
This is another aspect which is extremely important for both men and women that they should guard their gaze from looking at people from the opposite gender.
Allah says in the Quran: “And tell the believing men to lower their gaze…” In the next verse He says: “And tell the believing women to lower their gaze…”
- No physical contact
Another point to remember is that no physical contact should occur between the genders. If there is a need to hand things over, it should be conducted professionally. Otherwise, the woman may wear gloves or alert the staff members of her religious obligations and I am sure the administration will oblige.
The awrah must be covered at all times, which for a woman is to wear the complete hijab as well as covering the rest of the body so that her body shape may not be exposed in any way.
When it comes to speaking with men, it should only be limited to what is relevant to the work and nothing outside of that, as it leads to being too free and open with the opposite sex which is not allowed.
As for women staying at home and not leaving the house without any purpose, that is often derived from the verse of the Quran where Allah says when addressing the believing women, “And abide in your houses and do not display yourselves as (was) the display of the former times of ignorance.”
Ibn Kathir states in his tafsir of this verse that women should not go out for absolutely no reason and there should be a purpose for going out, which is perfectly logical. Furthermore, it is not as if the Shariah permits men to go out and do as they please, rather the verse specifies women to act oppositely to what the women before them would do.
Ibn Kathir further explains by stating that women before Islam would walk around the streets aimlessly in front of men as to show off their beauty and flirt with men. He quotes Mujahid as saying: Women would wear a scarf over their heads but not tighten it, so that it would show their necklaces and earrings and the men would be enticed by them.
Part of the purposes of leaving the house can be visiting the masjid for salah, visiting a friend or doing grocery shopping, as they are all necessities and obligations one must do in life, provided that correct attire is worn, the awrah is covered and all other conditions are met.
Going for a walk can be included in this, as everyone needs a breather every once in a while. Mentally, it can restore a tiresome brain from constant activity. It also provides opportunity for one to make some sort of dhikr, whilst walking or appreciating the nature of the world that Allah, The Most High, has created.
Be that as it may, the Shariah does still emphasis women to remain indoors as that is the Prophetic advice, and depending on our appreciation of Islam and our understanding of Deen, can these rules truly be appreciated.
Only Allah knows best
Written by Maulana Imran Mughal
Checked and approved by Mufti Mohammed Tosir Miah
Darul Ifta Birmingham