Answered by Ustadha Zaynab Ansari Abdul-Razacq
Question: I would like to know if women are allowed to work in environments where they will have to interact with men if they dress and interact modestly and limits interaction with the opposite gender as much as possible? Assume that a woman in such a position is working by choice and not by necessity, and with the approval of her husband. Please advise, as there are many Muslims these days that insist that going to college or working around men is “free mixing” for women and therefore not permitted, even if one chooses to keep their intentions pure and behave according to Islamic guidelines in those mixed environments.
Answer: In the Name of Allah, the Most Gracious, the Most Merciful.
Praise be to Allah, Lord of the Worlds. May the peace and blessings of Allah descend on the Prophet Muhammad, his family, his companions, and their followers.
Thank you for your question. I pray this message finds you and your husband in good health and iman.
I’m a little puzzled as to why people would take issue with your situation. Ultimately, this matter is between you and your husband. If your husband is comfortable with your working, then it should be of no concern to anyone else.
It is not unlawful for a woman to work, whether she needs to work or chooses to do so. You have already outlined the conditions under which it is permissible for a woman to work:
1. The work is halal.
2. The environment is safe.
3. She observes Islamic etiquette.
Those who say that it is unlawful for women to work outside the home may be taking that position in recognition of certain forces or anxieties specific to that culture. In some majority Muslim societies, economic conditions are so difficult that women’s working outside the home may be perceived as taking jobs away from men. As far as free mixing is concerned, its definition can vary depending on someone’s cultural context. In some societies, a woman’s simply walking down the street can be perceived as mixing with the men, whereas in other societies, the limits are far broader.
Given that you live in North America, you need to consult scholars who live here and understand this society. No scholar with a balanced understanding would issue a blanket prohibition on women’s seeking work and higher education. To argue this position, one is effectively saying that Muslim women have only one role: to stay within the four walls. Given the early history of the Muslim community and the very dynamic women that existed in that community, it seems such a position is untenable.
May Allah reward you,
Zaynab Ansari Abdul-Razacq
July 25, 2010/Sha’ban 13, 1431
Checked & Approved by Faraz Rabbani
Zaynab Ansari Abdul-Razacq is a wife and mother residing in the southeastern United States. She graduated from Abu Nour University’s precollege program in 2000 and has remained active in teaching and studying sacred knowledge through SunniPath and SeekersGuidance. She holds undergraduate degrees in history and Middle Eastern Studies and is a certified public speaker.