Thursday, 22 March 2018

QA#4: I am a dentist in UK can i work with men and does islam permit women to work?

Question: could you please kindly also provide me with examples of when the wives of the sahaba worked. This is something which is personally affecting me and I am not able to find this information. Also, I work as a dentist. And in the UK, we are obviously not allowed to treat only women. Being a dentist, I obviously have to get quite close to my patients. The thought that my job is not halal crosses my mind frequently. Do you have any information regarding this. Apologies for the inconvenience. The reason as to why I'm quite confused about the permissibility of a woman working (if there is no need, as in if her husband can provide) is because of the hadith regarding a woman's prayer at home having greater reward than in the masjid. Also, the saying of Fatima (Ra) that the best women are those who do not see men and are not seen by them.

Name hidden

Answer: Assalamu  `Alaykum

when it comes to women working, It isn't that complicated to study the islamic ruling. 

Islam primarily defines certain roles for men and that for women. However, just like everything else, even this "definition" has timely exceptions. 

So for e.g. , it is the norm to go to the masjid and pray your prayer for men, however in certain cases such as when there is a fight in the house or something caught fire, or your neighbour is in distress due to burglars barging in or you simply not having the adequate strength or having itchyness in your eyes as a burning sensation, or it is raining heavily outside - so on and so forth - under these circumstances the "general rule" of going out to pray is compromised and there is no harm in this.

Similarly, the following hadeeth should clarify the primary role definition:

The Messenger of Allah, peace be upon him, said, “Every one of you is a shepherd and is responsible for his flock. The leader of the people is a guardian and is responsible for his subjects: a man is the guardian of his family and is responsible for his subjects, a woman is the guardian of her husband’s home and of his children and is responsible for them, and the slave of a man is a guardian of his master’s property and is responsible for it. Surely, everyone of you is a shepherd and responsible for his flock.”

[Ref: Sahih Muslim, Book 20, Number 4496]

Ibn Hajar said Al-Khattabi said explaining this hadeeth:  {“The Imam and other men have both been called this term, described as shepherds, but their meanings are different. The flock of the Imam is the religion, by establishing the Hudood and being just in his rulings. The flock of a man is his family, running of their affairs and fulfilling their rights. The flock of the woman is to look after the affairs of the house, her children, her servants, remaining loyal to her husband in all this. The flock of the servant is to protect what he has been entrusted with and to fulfill what he has been tasked with.”} 

[Ref: Fath-ul-Bari 13/113]

so this clarifies that primarily speaking, the experts of this religion (scholars) have always explained that the general norm is man outside, woman inside. But with certain circumstances, there are exceptions to this general rule.

one e.g. of how the sahaabiyat also worked both from outside and inside is the following hadeeth:

Musa bin Talhah that Abu Al-Yasar said: "A woman (whose husband was away on battle) came to me selling dates....." [Ref: Jaami` Tirmidhi, Chapter of tafseer, no. 200]

also, the first and favourite wife of our beloved prophet Muhammad sallalahu `alayhi wa sallam - khadeeja bint khuwaylid radhiallahu `anha was a businesswoman in every right. 

if you read the individual seerah of umar and abu bakr radhiallahu `anhuma, you'll notice narrations wherein the ummahatul mu'mineen (wives of the prophet) used to make some stuff and earn whatever they could even though both the caliphs gave them plenty of cash for their luxurious survival. 

there is a weak narration, nevertheless valid to assert a point here wherein umar r.a appointed a woman as a market/trade minister 

عَنْ يَزِيدَ بْنِ أَبِي حَبِيبٍ أَنَّ عُمَرَ رَضِيَ اللَّهُ عَنْهُ اسْتَعْمَلَ الشِّفَاءَ عَلَى السُّوقِ قَالَ وَلا نَعْلَمُ امْرَأَةً اسْتَعْمَلَهَاا غَيْرَ هَذِهِ
2860 الآحاد والمثاني لابن أبي عاصم ومن ذكر أزواج النبي صلى الله الشفاء بنت عبد الله رضي الله عنها

Abu Balaj Yahya reported: I saw Samrah bint Nuhaik and she had known the Prophet, peace and blessings be upon him. She had on a thick corset and veil. In her hand was a whip which she used to discipline people, and she would enjoin good and forbid evil.

[Ref: At-Tabarani, Al-Ma’jam Al-Kabeer, Number 785, weak]

So yes women working or doing labour work such as the wife of zubair ibnul awwam r.a (her name was the mighty asma bint abu bakr aka the woman of two belts) used to go far away from home to fetch water and feed/tame zubair r.a's horse. Which was heavy labour work btw.

though this is a known custom of mankind of every era and nation irrespective of their faith that women primarily handled indoor activities because they excelled at that and men couldn't do it properly the way women did it. Yet here is a narration from our prophet that makes this all the more obvious 

Abi al-Bakhtari reported:

قال علي لأمه فاطمة بنت أسد : اكفي فاطمة بنت رسول الله صلى الله عليه وسلم الخدمة خارجا : سقاية الماء والحاجة ، وتكفيك العمل في البيت : العجن والخبز والطحن.

Ali said to his mother Fatimah bint Asad: I would suffice Fatima, the daughter of the Prophet (sallalahu `alayhi wa sallam), for the undertakings outside the house like bringing water and other necessities and she would help you in household chores, kneading, baking and grinding.” 

[Ref: Ibn Abi Shaybah, al-Musannaf, Hadith 35643, Also, at-Tabarani, Mu’jam al-Kabir, (Cairo: Maktaba Ibn Taymiyyah, 1994) Hadith 873; al-Haithmi said its narrators are those of Sahih al-Bukhari, See Majm’ az-Zawa’id, (Cairo: Maktaba al-Qudsi, 1994) Hadith 15398) ]

Dhamrah bin Habib said:

قَضَى رَسُولُ اللَّهِ صَلَّى اللَّهُ عَلَيْهِ وَسَلَّمَ عَلَى ابْنَتِهِ فَاطِمَةَ بِخِدْمَةِ الْبَيْتِ , وَقَضَى عَلَى عَلِيٍّ بِمَا كَانَ خَارِجًا مِنَ الْبَيْتِ " .

The Messenger of Allah (ﷺ) asked her daughter Fatimah to perform the household duties and ruled for ‘Ali to take the responsibilities outside the house.

[Ref: Ibn Abi Shaybah, al-Musannaf, ed. Muhammad Awwama (Beirut: Dar Qartaba, 2006) Hadith 35649]

When the Muslims received slaves and servants as war booty, the *beloved* daughter of the prophet - Fatima `Alayhis salaam - came asking for a servant for help, the prophet sallalahu `alayhi wa sallam did not give her one even though he could easily use his right of 1/5th of the war booty belongs to the Prophet and his family but he sallalahu `alayhi wa sallam did not do so. He instead asked Fatima (r.a) to recite a special kind of tasbeeh and divided the work between `Ali and Fatima (`alayhimus salaam) 

[Ref: Hadeeth of Saheeh Bukhaari and Sahih Muslim 2728 a, b.  See:]

Imam Tabari rahimahullah said commenting on the above hadeeth: 

أَيْ هَلْ يُشْرَعُ وَيلْزم الزَّوْج اخدامها ذكر فِيهِ حَدِيثَ عَلِيٍّ الْمَذْكُورَ فِي الَّذِي قَبْلَهُ وَسِيَاقُهُ أَخْصَرُ مِنْهُ قَالَ الطَّبَرِيُّ يُؤْخَذُ مِنْهُ أَنَّ كُلَّ مَنْ كَانَتْ لَهَا طَاقَةٌ مِنَ النِّسَاءِ عَلَى خِدْمَةِ بَيْتِهَا فِي خَبْزٍ أَوْ طَحْنٍ أَوْ غَيْرِ ذَلِكَ أَنَّ ذَلِكَ لَا يَلْزَمُ الزَّوْجَ إِذَا كَانَ مَعْرُوفًا أَنَّ مِثْلَهَا يَلِي ذَلِكَ بِنَفْسِهِ وَوَجْهُ الْأَخْذِ أَنَّ فَاطِمَةَ لَمَّا سَأَلَتْ أَبَاهَا صَلَّى اللَّهُ عَلَيْهِ وَسَلَّمَ الْخَادِمَ لَمْ يَأْمُرْ زَوْجَهَا بِأَنْ يَكْفِيَهَا ذَلِكَ إِمَّا بِإِخْدَامِهَا خَادِمًا أَوْ بِاسْتِئْجَارِ مَنْ يَقُومُ بِذَلِكَ أَوْ بِتَعَاطِي ذَلِكَز......

"..We may understand from this hadeeth that every woman who is able to take care of her house by making bread, grinding flour and so on, should do so. It is not the duty of the husband if it is the custom for women like her to do this themselves.

What we learn from the hadeeth is that when Faatimah (may Allaah be pleased with her) asked her father (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) for a servant, he did not command her husband to find her a servant or hire someone to do these tasks, or to do these tasks himself. If it were ‘Ali’s duty to do these things, the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) would have commanded him to do them."

[Ref: Fath ul-Baari 9/506, Maktabah Shamela version] 

The hadeeth of Asma’ bint Abi Bakr
Imaam al-Bukhaari (may Allaah have mercy on him) reported in his Saheeh that Asma’ bint Abi Bakr (may Allaah be pleased with her) said: “I got married to al-Zubayr, and he had no wealth on earth and no slaves, nothing except a camel for bringing water and his horse. I used to feed his horse and bring water, and I used to sew patches on the bucket. I made dough but I was not good at baking bread, so my (female) neighbours among the Ansaar used to bake bread for me, and they were sincere women. I used to bring date pits from al-Zubayr’s land that the Messenger of Allaah (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) had given to him, carrying them on my head. This land was two-thirds of a farsakhaway. One day I came, carrying the date pits on my head, and I met the Messenger of Allaah (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him), who had a group of the Ansaar with him. He called me and made his camel kneel down, for me to ride behind him, but I felt too shy to go with the men, and I remembered al-Zubayr and his jealousy, for he was the most jealous of people. The Messenger of Allaah (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) realized that I felt shy, so he moved on. I came to al-Zubayr and told him, ‘I met the Messenger of Allaah (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) when I was carrying date pits on my head, and he had a group of his companions with him. He made his camel kneel down for me to ride with him, but I remembered your jealousy.’ He said, ‘By Allaah, it bothers me more that you have to carry the date pits than that you should ride with him.’” Asma’ said: “After that, Abu Bakr sent me a servant to take care of the horse, and it was as if I had been liberated from slavery.” (Reported by al-Bukhaari, Fath, 9/319).
In the commentary on the hadeeth of Asma’, it says: from this incident we may understand that it is the woman’s duty to take care of everything that her husband needs her to take care of. This was the opinion of Abu Thawr. Other fuqaha’ suggested that Asma’ did this voluntarily and that she was not obliged to do it.
Ibn Hajar al-‘Asqallaani said: “It seems that this incident – Asma’ carrying the date pitss to help her husband – and other similar incidents were the matter of necessity, namely that her husband al-Zubayr and other Muslim men were preoccupied with jihaad and other things that the Messenger of Allaah (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) had commanded them to do, and they did not have time to take care of domestic matters themselves, and could not afford to hire servants to do that for them, and there was no one else who could do that apart from their womenfolk. So the women used to take care of the home and whoever lived in it, so that the men could devote their time to supporting Islam.”
Then he said (may Allaah have mercy on him): “What is more likely is that the matter had to do with the customs in that land, for customs may vary in this regard.”
It seems that what Ibn Hajar said is close to the view of those who say that the wife has to take care of her husband and the home in accordance with the dictates of local custom.
Ibn al-Qayyim said, concerning the story of Asma’: “When the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) saw Asma’ with the date pits on her head, and her husband al-Zubayr was with her, he did not tell him that she did not have to serve him, or that this was unfair to her. He approved of her serving him and of all the women among the Sahaabah helping their husbands. This is a matter concerning which there is no doubt.”
The hadeeth of Jaabir
The Shaykh of the Muhadditheen, Imaam al-Bukhaari (may Allaah have mercy on him) reported in his Saheeh that Jaabir ibn ‘Abd-Allaah said: “My father died and left seven daughters, or nine daughters. I married a woman who had been previously married, and the Messenger of Allaah (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) said to me, ‘Did you get married, O Jaabir?’ I said, ‘Yes.’ He asked, ‘A virgin or a previously-married woman?’ I said, ‘A previously-married woman.’ He said, ‘Why not a young woman so you could play and joke with one another?’ I said, ‘ ‘Abd-Allaah [the father of Jaabir] has died and left behind daughters, and I would not like to bring them someone who is like them, so I got married to a woman who can take care of them.’ He said, ‘May Allaah bless you’ or ‘Fair enough.’” (Saheeh al-Bukhaari bi Sharh al-‘Asqallaani, vol.9/513).
The evidence derived from the hadeeth of Jaabir is that al-Bukhaari introduced this hadeeth under the heading, “Baab ‘awn al-mar’ah zawjahaa fi waladih (Chapter: a woman helping her husband with his children)”.
Imaam Ibn Hajar al-‘Asqallaani said, commenting on this introduction by al-Bukhaari: “It seems that al-Bukhaari derived the idea that a woman should take care of her husband’s children from the fact that the wife of Jaabir took care of his sisters; if she should take care of his sisters then it is even more befitting that she should take of his children.” (Saheeh al-Bukhaari bi Sharh al-‘Asqallaani, vol.9/513).
We can say that the wife should take care of her husband, as this is more befitting than her taking care of his sisters or his daughters from another wife.

Conclusion: While there may exist a difference of opinion among scholars if a woman doing household chores is an obligatory duty or not, yet there are a few agreed upon notions by all scholars 

1) the husband has to have the means to employ assistance for the wife. If he does not then the wife cannot refuse to help and serve the home or children unless she has a valid reason such as being sick or of its kind

2) the scholars have all asked the husband and wife both to adorn themselves with beautiful manners which include following the sunnah of the husband helping his wife whenever and as much as he can. 

3) Other ahadeeth clearly say that Allah has directly appointed woman as the caretaker of her home and children. If she is lax in this duty because she feels it is not obligatory upon her to do house work and instead she chooses to relax or occupy herself in something extra curricular or even for e.g. memorize qur'an , then she is sinning. 

I am surprised at western influenced feminists who have tried their best to somehow directly or indirectly portray home making,raising a generation and family as somewhat inferior to an outgoing women. It is not hidden from the world how these values have damaged and detrimented the western families and their bonds. Not only are there researches to show why men are not interested in marriage (due to free unrestricted sex without marriage) but also how these oppressive and weird notions have somehow penetrated our minds into believing that for centuries what our religion and culture stood for,our honourable mothers and sisters who raised generations and warriors are now somehow inferior to you because you have an engineering degree!! 

As if the tedious task of a homemaker is now all of a sudden esteem deprived!

so now that i've explained the basics, i'll move on to the topic of women working in today's era. 

Scholars have explained that if and when a woman works outside (and the same laws apply to men also) they have to abide by the basic principles of shar`iah which does not end at mere abaya/hijab

both male and female have to adhere to proper hijab etiquettes when working and mingling with the opp. sex. 

you can find these kind of details here: 

and also 

the first link is a fatwa by the senior scholar muhammad saleh al-munajjid and the second is by the scholarly panel committee of kingdom of qatar.

now coming to your job as a dentist. Again as long as basic ettiquites are adhered to there is no harm. Just like how a make doctor such as an OBY/GYNIC is required to operate a pregnant woman similarly females are required to do their part in life. In these cases there is no harm and no violation of crossing boundaries as long as they are done with good intention and with professional and proper ettiquite. 

to back this up, here is a quote from the giant imam ahmad ibn hanbal

قلت لأبي عبد الله والكحال يخلو بالمرأة وقد انصرف من عنده من النساء هل هذه الخلوة منهي عنها قال أليس هو على ظهر الطريق قيل نعم قال إنما الخلوة تكون في البيوت . 
الآداب الشرعية

A Person said to Imam Ahmad :

An oculist remains alone with woman and often females walks out of his clinic, isn't this type of Khalwa (Seclusion with woman) we are told to be abstained from ?

Imam Ahmad said is not his clinic is visible on the road ? It is said yes, then Imam Ahmad said the Seclusion (Khalwa) which is prohibited occurs in the Houses (i.e hidden or where is no access to others)

Imam Bukhari in his Sahih made a Chapter :

باب مَا يَجُوزُ أَنْ يَخْلُوَ الرَّجُلُ بِالْمَرْأَةِ عِنْدَ النَّاسِ

Chapter: About what is permissible as from Private (يخلو ) meeting between a man and a woman not secluded from the people.

And under this chapter he rahimahullah brought the following hadeeth: 

Narrated Anas bin Malik:

An Ansari woman came to the Prophet (ﷺ) and he took her aside and said (to her). "By Allah, you (Ansar) are the most beloved people to me.

Ibn Hajr writes in the commentary in his famous Fath ul-Bari book:

أي لا يخلو بها بحيث تحتجب أشخاصهما عنهم بل بحيث لا يسمعون كلامهما 

Means it shouldn't be secluded that they (man and woman) be hidden from them (people) rather on the way that they can't hear their speech.

so you see islam is flexible and is understanding, comprehensive and adapts to the era. However certain rules are stone cold and cannot be changed. Because Islam is a religion that was revealed for all times and for everybody. It isn't incomplete like darwin's theory of evolution which can be challenged or altered later on. 

Finally, your job as a dentist could easily accommodate shar`iah guidelines. You could have the patient's friend (male or female) or family or one of your own staff/colleague be in the same room/facility while you do your job. Just to make it comfortable for you if in case you need to. Otherwise as long as you have the right intention and adorn yourself with the shariah stipulated dressing and manners, it should be fine

see, if in case your husband happens to be well off in terms of being able to afford a decent living and if he does not allow you to work then you should not. Disobeying your husband for a non-mandatory issue like this is sinful as described by many scholars. 

What i suggest is to sit down and discuss this with him. Note down and try to comprehend his fears, his reasoning and why he doesn't prefer you working. Try explaining to him the benefits of you working and have a mutual discussion. You may even seek the help of a mutual family friend or one/more of your relatives if you deem it fit. 

If everything goes mannerly and still he happens to say No due to one or more reasons he finds more pressing (such as the upbringing of children, house, in-laws etc) then you should modify your request to make him give you a servant or so if possible. And eventually listen to your husband. In modern times this advise can easily be classified as some sort of Misogynic counsel but no matter what or how the secularist define our religious values, the divine law of god is always for the best.


  1. ''he finds more pressing (such as the upbringing of children, house, in-laws etc)'' Why are the in-laws included in this list? They are not the wife's responsibility as per Islam.

    1. Dear Anonymous commentator:

      yes "technically" speaking the wife is not under an "obligation" to take care of her father/mother in law. Just like how the husband is not "technically" under any "obligation" to buy her new dresses every month/quarter or buy a new 56 inch LED T.V

      but families since centuries haven't always been formed and run on technicalities. This is why the asian/arab families endure longer and have such strong inter-relative connections as compared to the western divorced parents leaving unattended children of theirs to grow up struggling only to eventually have their only son/daughter discard them at the age of "independent 18"

      the family system of each nation and culture is different. Islam may not obligate a certain action but it does not mean that there are no gounds/basis for a husband or wife to make an extra request.


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