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Should married Muslim women be ambitious about the pursuit of careers?

Careers in fields that benefit the Jama‘at or women are encouraged. Even if such a career interferes with her responsibilities to her children, such a career is still encouraged because it is a sacrifice for the greater good. Hadrat Khalifatul-Masih IVrta said:

Some ladies have such professions as are very important for the lady folk itself, for instance, lady doctors. Their profession also, perhaps, interferes to some degree with [the] primary purpose of [their] creation, yet it helps the women folk in general and that is in itself a very useful occupation. So, I’m all out for ladies to become lady doctors, particularly specializing in the diseases of ladies, so that they don’t have to go to men.

(Question Answer Session, Aug 6, 1985)

Hadrat Musleh Mau‘ud’sra own wife, Hadrat Sarahra, was not able to raise her youngest child because she was extremely busy in studying so that she could gain the education needed to educate the women of the Jama‘at (Anwarul ‘Ulum, vol 13, p. 79, Meri Sarah, p. 8).

However, when women’s careers are not beneficial to the Jama‘at or women, then such careers are discouraged because they interfere with their primary responsibility to their children. The high standard that Islam seeks to establish in homemaking requires a great deal of time and attention, and attaining this high standard generally cannot be done while working in a full-time career. Hadrat Musleh Mau‘udra said:

Thus we have to see what knowledge we are in need of. We are in need of the knowledge of religion. If a girl passes in M.A., but she does not know the training of children and homemaking, then she is not a scholar but is ignorant. The first obligation of a mother is the training of children and then homemaking. The one who studies Hadith and the Holy Quran, she is a religious and Muslim woman. If a woman progresses in studying general books so that she can become a teacher or learn medicine, then this is beneficial because we are in need of this, but all other subjects are vain.

(Anwarul ‘Ulum, vol. 13, p. 201)

Hadrat Musleh Mau‘udra also said:

Similarly, women say that we will have jobs, although if they have jobs, then their offspring will be ruined. How will they train their children? The real responsibility on women is the education and training of children, and this responsibility is no less than the responsibility of Jihad. If the training of children is done well, then the foundation of a people is firm and they progress. If their training is not done well, then one day or another those people are inevitably ruined.

(Anwarul ‘Ulum, vo.l 15, p. 28)

Employment for the sake of a career is discouraged because it goes contrary to the spirit of pride in homemaking that Islam seeks to create in women. Obviously, if the family depends on two incomes for  its survival, then that is an exception. Otherwise, in Islam, women are encouraged to take pride in their role. Hadrat Musleh Mau‘udra wrote:

Many girls are studying just for earning and employment, although the work of a woman is not employment. This trend of employment of women is one reminiscence from the cursed reminiscences of Western culture. Islam has placed the responsibility of providing income on men.

Thus, rather than spending their time in some other way, righteous women should spend their time in the protection and guardianship of men, and in the absence of men when they  are out earning a living, they should, with the help of Allah Almighty, safeguard those  trusts  that  have  been  entrusted to them, as in, they should turn their attention to matters of homemaking, train the children, keep the morals of the home and neighborhood right, etc.

(Anwarul ‘Ulum, vol. 13, p. 94; Meri Sarah, p. 23)

Men are guardians over women because Allah has made some of them excel others, and because they (men) spend of their wealth. So virtuous women are those who are obedient, and guard the secrets of their husbands with Allah’s protection.

(Surah an-Nisa’, 4:35)

The Holy Prophetsas said:

The man is a guardian of his family, the woman is a guardian and is responsible for her husband’s house and his offspring.

(Sahih al-Bukhari, Book 93, Hadith 2; Sahih Muslim, Book 33, Hadith 24)

Hadrat Khalifatul-Masih Vaba advised women with children:

The first responsibility is the raising of children. If she is starving then she may work, but she should have  enough resolve  to go and come straight back from work and also raise her children. If she is working only to earn money to do fashion, then she should leave her job.

(Gulshan-e-Waqfe-Nau Nasirat- ul-Ahmadiyya & Lajna Ima’illah Class, Holland, October 10, 2015)

Hadrat Khalifatul-Masih IVrta said:

Islam has placed the responsibility on men to earn a living. It carries a profound wisdom in it. Although women are allowed to earn when necessary and fulfill their needs,  but  only  if they are unable to avoid it. But to earn as a profession is men’s responsibility.

(Hawa ki Betian, p. 148)

If women pursue careers because in their heart they look down on the ideal of being a homemaker that is taught in Islam, then they have begun to suffer from an inferiority complex under the influence of Western cultural ideals. Defining one’s self-worth and seeking fulfillment in employment goes contrary to the spirit of pride and confidence that Islam seeks to create in women. Deeds are judged by motives.

Some wives choose to have a career so that the family can have a wealthier standard of living. However, Hadrat Khadijahra set the ideal example by being a homemaker and living within the means of her husband. Hadrat Musleh Mau‘udra said:

The intentions of Hadrat Khadijahra were very lofty. When the Holy Prophetsas married her, she quickly perceived that she had married a man who has self-respect. She realized that, “He does not have wealth and I have great wealth; when I place food before him then he will feel that his wife has given him food, if I have clothes made for him then he will feel that his wife had it made for him, if I give him money, he will feel his wife has given him money. He will not be able to bear this because God Almighty has made him a man with self-respect.” Thus, after marriage, Hadrat Khadijahra said to the Holy Prophetsas that,  “I have a wish, please accept it.” Hesas asked what the matter was. Shera said, “I wish to call witnesses and give you all of my wealth, spend it as you wish.” Hearing this might have also been difficult for the Holy Prophetsas, but Hadrat Khadijahra said, “I also give all of my slaves to you.” Since the Holy Prophetsas did not like slavery, this also became a reason why hesas accepted the request of Hadrat Khadijahra. Hesas said, “Khadijah, think it over well lest you regret it afterward. I do not like keeping slaves, and if you give me your slaves, I will immediately free them.” Hadrat Khadijahra said that she accepted. Thus, Hadrat Khadijahra gave all of her wealth and all of her slaves to the Holy Prophetsas and hesas immediately freed all of them… Hadrat Khadijahra did not just marry a poor man. After marrying him, she also did not care for whether her wealth would be a source of comfort for her. She turned her wealth over to her husband as well so that he may give it away. This quality is the reason why the Holy Prophetsas had extreme love for her in his heart.

(Khutbat-e-Mahmud, vol. 3, Khutbat-e-Nikah, p. 667–668)

Throughout her life as the wife of the Holy Prophetsas, Hadrat Khadijahra chose to be a homemaker and to live within the means of her husband. Hadrat Khalifatul-Masih IVrta said:

The guiding principle I have told you [is] that you should think within you, what is the main purpose of your creation in a way which is different from men. Allah could make us exactly the same, but He has made us different and because our functions are different.

(Question Answer Session, Aug 6, 1985)
Updated on January 3, 2019

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