Question: Are women allowed to work according to the Quran, although they do not have any financial needs? Does a husband have the right to forbid his wife from working even if she fulfills all of her main duties? Does he have to provide a reason for this?
There is no ruling against women’s working neither in the Qur’an nor in the sayings of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH). However, Islam doesn’t oblige women to work. Islam provides women with the comfort they need at their homes by assigning the role of sustaining the household to husbands. Once a woman gets married, it is her husband’s duty to cover her expenses.
According to the Quran, all believers can work for giving zakat:
“Believers will attain what they hope for. They are reverent in their prayers. They turn away from idle talk. They work for zakat.” (al-Mu’minun 23:1-4)
“They work for zakat” can both mean “they work for giving zakat” and “they work for having zakat delivered to its recipients”. In order to be responsible for giving zakat, Muslims must be having extra money after all of their basic needs are met. Since the word “mu’minoon = believers” covers both male and female believers, women can also work in order to give zakat, even though they do not need money themselves.
A husband does not have the right to prevent his wife from working unless:
– The job description includes acts that are forbidden in the Quran,
– Working causes her to ignore/disregard her main duties towards her husband and her family,
– The conditions of her work are unacceptable for a Muslim woman, such as preventing the woman from performing her worships or observing her hijab, or putting her in a position to be alone indoors with a man where there is not the possibility of a third person to get in.
– There is a safety problem at work or along the way to work.
The Almighty God commands:
“Believers! Guard yourselves and your household against a Fire which is fueled by human beings and stones. (…)” (al-Tahrim 66:6)
By this verse, God holds every person responsible for protecting his/her household against all kinds of sins. Protection can be performed by advising what is good and preventing others from what is evil, not by force in any case. In this sense, a man can have the right to warn his wife if she gets herself in an unsafe or inappropriate situation in order to earn money. The man must do this without harming the relation between women because The Almighty God commands:
“(…) Live with your wives according to acceptable terms. (…)” (An-Nisa/The Women 4:19)
According to some reports, Prophet Muhammad’s wife Zaynab used to do leather-work and sell the products at the bazaar. Since she had an income, she had bought some honey and offered him some sherbet she had made with it. This caused Muhammad’s other wives to envy her, and he had forbidden drinking honey-sherbet to himself. It is claimed that the first verses of chapter 66, at-Tahreem (the Prohibition) were sent down after this incident.
We also know that Khadija (RA), the first wife of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) was a tradeswoman.
For the fatwa about a man’s right to command his wife, please see the following link: