Does being a “good Muslimah” simply equate to being a good stay-at-home wife? Or are there deeper meanings to this phrase?
Breaking from the monotony of the routine life, Khadijah decides to step out of her house to work, ambitiously wanting to make something of her life with the sole desire to make the world a better place. She had waited for this opportunity for quite a long time and hoped that finally utilizing her education would be as fulfilling as she’d always imagined to be during her years as a student.
Or maybe, the only reason behind her actions was to lend economic support to her spouse to keep him from the clutches of financial debt.
Learning about Khadijah’s choice, her well-wishers are appalled by her choice, as there isn’t a more noble profession in their eyes than being a stay-at-home mom.
She is fired at with unsolicited advice and such hurtful judgments which hit her harder than bullets. Her motherhood is brought into question for not instinctively wanting to choose to stay home with her children. She is now treated as the one who has buckled under the Western ideology of Feminism and hence an outcast in the religious community for not conforming to the highly touted “Ideal Muslimah” image of staying confined in the deepest part of house, content in dedicating herself to the unsung art of homemaking!
An Alternate Viewpoint
On the other side of the spectrum is Aisha, who rejoices in getting to spend time with her children. She resigned from the fast-paced life to be the metaphoric pillar for her children to lean on and to guide them at all times, exultant in the fact that she has yet to miss out on witnessing their milestones as the car of life zooms by.
In this era of cut-throat competition and materialism, she is expected to equally contribute to earning the bread for the household. With recent conditioning of the masses, as progress and productivity is made synonymous with a lady punching in 9 to 5, a mother who is complacent with her choice of being a #tradwife by staying home and focusing wholly on the upbringing of her children and is perceived to be the lowest totem on the productivity pole. Her resolve is looked down upon as she is made to feel nothing more than a brooding bird, who consciously prefers to waste her potential.
She is made to drown in self-doubt as she is subjected to repeated patronizing counsels to do something with her life, where she is actively given examples of our beloved Mother of the Believers, Khadijah RA.
Good Muslimah = Mere Housewife?
The figurative Khadijah and Aisha, who are on opposite ends of the spectrum of the working class are namesake to our most beloved Mothers of the Believers who are both unique and impeccable timeless role-models for us, and do not hold an edge over the other because of their distinctiveness or choices.
Similarly, Allah has fashioned our faces with his own hands in a radically distinctive manner and made each one of us beautiful and unique, right down to our fingertips. A logical inference drawn from this is that each individual is unparalleled in the uniqueness of their potential and in what they could contribute to the world.
At the time of the Risalah, Khadijah RA was what would now be a modern-day entrepreneur who wasn’t restricted or limited at any point by her husband, our Prophet Muhammad (PBUH). Infact her unwavering support and financial aid to his mission was unmatched and its remembrance moved him (PBUH) immensely long after she was gone. On the other hand, when faced with dire circumstances, the Prophet (PBUH) didn’t expect his wives to back him up economically.
This establishes that the prohibitions on a woman to work after marriage are cultural, rather than Islamic. Often, the responsibilities placed on her to work are only based on social pressure. Islam frees her from these expectations and burdens, giving her the right and the freedom to decide what is in her best interest.
I do not intend to advocate one option over the other, nor magically convince anyone in a flash to make the “right” choice. This article is only meant to provide a bird’s eye view of two different situations and to convince that the opposite of right need not be wrong, and the necessity to self-assess before coming to a decision.
At times, we have to block out the cacophony of opinions to truly evaluate our own potential and seek guidance from Allah to determine the right choice that can enable us to strive and achieve excellence as a Muslimah and a human being.
Nowadays, every girl is thrust into this mental tug of war of whether a woman should work or not, by people around her, as they try to sway her choice using religious references as ammunition in the argument to support their personal view. While these may be well-intentioned, they are unfair as they discount one’s individualism and their distinguished means to attain piety and closeness to Allah.
If only this wasn’t taken as a black-and-white Fiqh issue or a topic for argument…
If only each girl were given strong role models to look up to, and mentored in accordance with her ambitions, to help her soar into the prime of her adulthood without trying to stifle her into the contours of the constricted mould of narrow perceptions, we would be living in a much happier world.