بِسْمِ اللَّهِ الرَّحْمَـنِ الرَّحِيمِ
I often come across rather polarized views regarding women and wealth. On one end are the slightly misogynistic myths that purport that if a woman is allowed to earn her own money and become financially independent, she becomes too headstrong and rebellious, and loses interest in living a simple life that is spent mostly at home, with her family as her focus.
Consequently, many of those who endorse this myth oppose higher education for girls (lest these girls become too difficult to ‘control’) and discourage or outright disallow women of any age from doing anything besides their domestic duties of serving their husbands, taking care of their homes, and raising their children.
Surprisingly, the men and women who hold such beliefs think nothing of the women in their family
spending wasting time watching television, idly surfing social media and the Internet, gossiping on the phone, reading fashion magazines, or splurging whatever money they possess in beauty saloons, clubs and malls.
On the other extreme exists the belief that all women should get highly educated and work full-time in order to be as, if not more, materially successful and financially independent as men.
Most of those who endorse this latter concept believe that every woman should work at a full-time job in order to prove that she is doing something worthwhile, focusing only on ascending the corporate ladder no matter how loudly the ticking of their biological clocks resonates in their own ears, or how intensely they secretly desire maternity and a slower, more peaceful life that is totally in their own control.
For many of those who possess such strong views, women who choose to “just” stay at home and raise a family are akin to ‘losers’.
The reality is, that women should be allowed to grow and mature according to their own individual selves, and yes, in my opinion, their first priority (either before or after marriage) should be their home — I strongly believe in and endorse this tenet of Islam.
I think that full-time, physically demanding jobs are for men because they have been obligated by Allah to work hard to provide for their families, whereas financial empowerment is for women.
Now let me explain what I mean, before you think that I just contradicted myself!
Having a job means that you are practically someone’s servant (yup, even if you are CEO of your organization, because if the CEO doesn’t deliver results, he will be out of his job, and stripped of his flashy set of company-maintained wheels right after the next annual board meeting, will he not?).
While a Muslim man has no choice but to join the rat race of employed
servants corporate professionals as soon as possible, in order to fulfill the obligation of providing for his family, women have been spared the pressure of awaking at the crack of dawn to go out, take orders from someone else, and spend most of their day doing tasks that will be checked for performance appraisals later.
Women have been absolved from taking orders from others about what to do all day, because what most of them might really want to do is wake up at their own leisurely pace, prepare and consume a lazy breakfast at home without being rushed, and proceed to spend their day as they please – not as someone orders them to, in return for payment.
The Definition of Success: Financial Freedom
Today’s women have been largely duped into believing that a successful person is the one who is kept on a tight leash by his employer, albeit paid highly on a monthly basis and provided impressive ‘perks’ in return for giving their fixed daily time and efforts to the duties of their job, and that too, strictly according to their employer’s wishes.
Most “empowered” working professionals today, will readily agree that the truly successful people are those who achieve enough material success/financial freedom in life, which allows them to retire early and lounge around next to a pool in their own mansion/farm/ranch/seaside retreat, sipping a (non-alcoholic) drink, and henceforth focus all their efforts on philanthropy and humanitarian work aimed at improving the lot of those in the world who are less privileged than themselves.
Yet, despite this widely accepted definition of worldly success (which is equated with complete financial freedom, as I said), many still look down upon the similarly ‘empowered’ Muslim woman who has been absolved from having to work for someone else in return for a salary.
She has been, instead, allowed to lounge around like this in her home, enjoying full financial security by having her husband provide for her, which allows her ample time and opportunities to do other kinds of beneficial work for others, on her own terms; work that she fits into the spare time lying around in her schedule - a schedule that is dictated primarily by her home-related obligations and duties.
Sad, eh? When women do not want to be liberated by the excellence that Allah has provided to them through Islam (by absolving them from having to work in order to provide for themselves, or for others), but instead, want to “earn it” themselves by working outside the home, just like men.
The fact is, that for most young, single women who are used to supporting themselves financially by working at a strictly structured full-time job, it is often very difficult to become entirely dependent on their husbands for money after marriage.
It is another fact that many men (at least in the part of the world from which I hail) get intimidated by powerful and wealthy women. They prefer to marry women who are, and will continue to be, financially lesser-off than them and entirely dependent upon them for money. Such women are (according to their perception) easier to satisfy, ‘control’, and ‘tame’ into submission.
What I am saying is, that if a wife earns more money than him, a husband might start to change towards her in his attitude and behavior. This is a fact (not one that I am endorsing, but just stating) that exists all around the world, whether we like it or not.
Anyhow, what I want to say is that I do not subscribe to either of the polarized beliefs regarding women and wealth that I have mentioned above.
My beliefs lie somewhere in between: I think that even though a woman’s “base” should be her home (where she works and stays most of the time, arising from it only on the basis of need), she should not let her spare time – the one left over after she is done with her domestic duties – go to waste.
Rather, she should spend it in doing beneficial work for humankind, which is very easy to do in the current day and age, الحَمْدُ لِلهِ, with the Internet and telecommuting options making it possible to bring about global good from within the confines of one’s own home office.
I also think that if women efficiently manage the money and other financial assets that they possess (and as life goes on, they will be possess more and more wealth, I can tell you that much, — but only if they discipline themselves to save it, spend it wisely, discharge their zakah scrupulously, and give supererogatory charity regularly for the sake of Allah), they can become financially very secure without needing to work for an employer — ever.
I refer to the Quran and sunnah as usual, whenever I am pondering about something in my mind (which is currently the issue of women and wealth), and I try to find answers therein.
Alhamdulillah, I came across a hadith of Sahih Al-Bukhari, which I am going to take you through below, which threw ample light upon the nature of the Allah-fearing and financially empowered women (sahabiat) who lived at the time of our Prophet ﷺ.
The central figure in it is Zainab, the wife of the noble companion Abdullah bin Mas’ud رَضِىَ اللهُ عَنْهُمَا.
حَدَّثَنَا عُمَرُ بْنُ حَفْصٍ، حَدَّثَنَا أَبِي، حَدَّثَنَا الأَعْمَشُ، قَالَ حَدَّثَنِي شَقِيقٌ، عَنْ عَمْرِو بْنِ الْحَارِثِ، عَنْ زَيْنَبَ، امْرَأَةِ عَبْدِ اللَّهِ ـ رضى الله عنهما ـ قَالَ فَذَكَرْتُهُ لإِبْرَاهِيمَ فَحَدَّثَنِي إِبْرَاهِيمُ عَنْ أَبِي عُبَيْدَةَ عَنْ عَمْرِو بْنِ الْحَارِثِ عَنْ زَيْنَبَ امْرَأَةِ عَبْدِ اللَّهِ بِمِثْلِهِ سَوَاءً،
Heeding the Prophet’s Advice ﷺ in His Masjid
قَالَتْ كُنْتُ فِي الْمَسْجِدِ فَرَأَيْتُ النَّبِيَّ صلى الله عليه وسلم فَقَالَ ” تَصَدَّقْنَ وَلَوْ مِنْ حُلِيِّكُنَّ”
Narrated `Amr bin Al-Harith: Zainab, the wife of `Abdullah said, “I was in the Mosque and saw the Prophet saying, ‘O women! Give alms even from your ornaments.’
The narration begins with Zainab present in the masjid of Prophet Muhammad ﷺ listening to him especially exhort the women who were there to give in charity, even from some of their trinkets and jewelry (حُلِيِّ).
This proves two things: first, that women used to listen to the sermons of the Prophet in his masjid and that he’d address them specifically during these sermons. The second is that women have been especially advised by the Prophet ﷺ to give away some of their jewelry in charity for the sake of Allah. I have already touched upon this topic before.
Zainab, the Secret Provider
Muslim women at the time of Prophet Muhammad were financially secure and empowered, yet they downplayed their affluence. They did not need fancy job titles or a bunch of “Yes-Ma’am”-saying subordinates to feel worthwhile.
وَكَانَتْ زَيْنَبُ تُنْفِقُ عَلَى عَبْدِ اللَّهِ وَأَيْتَامٍ فِي حَجْرِهَا، قَالَ فَقَالَتْ لِعَبْدِ اللَّهِ سَلْ رَسُولَ اللَّهِ صلى الله عليه وسلم أَيَجْزِي عَنِّي أَنْ أُنْفِقَ عَلَيْكَ وَعَلَى أَيْتَامِي فِي حَجْرِي مِنَ الصَّدَقَةِ فَقَالَ سَلِي أَنْتِ رَسُولَ اللَّهِ صلى الله عليه وسلم.
Zainab used to provide for `Abdullah and those orphans who were under her protection. So she said to `Abdullah, ‘Will you ask Allah’s Messenger whether it will be sufficient for me to spend part of the Zakat on you and the orphans who are under my protection?’
He replied, ‘Will you yourself ask Allah’s Messenger?’
This part of this hadith is even more enlightening!
- Zainab used to financially support not just her husband (who was undoubtedly out of work and needy) but also some orphans (in another narration found in Sunan ibn Majah, they are mentioned to be her deceased brother’s children) – and she undertook this spending for the sake of Allah. [Lazy, spineless, gheerah-lacking male readers -- this hadith should not be used by you to start eating from your wife's money! I hope you will never, ever take a single paisa/cent/pence from your wife's money for yourself, unless you hit absolute rock bottom in your life (Allah forbid) and find no means of sustenance.]
- Zainab wanted to know if she could count this spending of hers as zakah. What did she do? Did she go out and ask the Prophet herself? No, she took her husband’s counsel about it, and asked him to find this out for her by going to the Prophet with her question. This shows that even if a wealthy Muslim wife is supporting her husband financially, out of dire need, she should still consult him and take his permission in matters concerning their lives, i.e. treat him as her ameer, just as Allah has ordained. Modern day Muslim ladies, please note: just as your employer holds a degree above you on the basis of the contract of employment that you’ve signed with them, for which they pay you in return for your services, your husband will always hold a degree above you on the basis of the contract of nikah that you’ve both signed for the sake of Allah. So consult him and take his permission in all matters, especially those that involve talking about him or discussing him with others.
- Abdullah bin Masud allowed his wife Zainab to go and ask the Prophet about this issue herself. Consequently she went. This indicates that both of them had a secure, trusting relationship, just as the ideal husband-wife relationship should be. Abdullah did not feel his honor lessened by the Prophet discovering that he was being supported by Zainab. Nor did he dislike his wife going out of the house to ask the Prophet a question about matters of jurisprudence in Deen. This indicates that Muslim women can ask scholars and leaders questions of fiqh themselves, and their husband should not stop them without a valid reason.
- Zainab was truly one awesome lady. Spending on her husband and also on her nieces/nephews? She must have a really big heart!
Going Incognito Out of Humility
فَانْطَلَقْتُ إِلَى النَّبِيِّ صلى الله عليه وسلم. فَوَجَدْتُ امْرَأَةً مِنَ الأَنْصَارِ عَلَى الْبَابِ، حَاجَتُهَا مِثْلُ حَاجَتِي، فَمَرَّ عَلَيْنَا بِلاَلٌ فَقُلْنَا سَلِ النَّبِيَّ صلى الله عليه وسلم أَيَجْزِي عَنِّي أَنْ أُنْفِقَ عَلَى زَوْجِي وَأَيْتَامٍ لِي فِي حَجْرِي وَقُلْنَا لاَ تُخْبِرْ بِنَا.
(Zainab added): ‘So I went to the Prophet and I saw there an Ansari woman who was standing at the door (of the Prophet) with a similar problem as mine.
Bilal passed by us and we asked him, ‘Ask the Prophet whether it is permissible for me to spend (the Zakat) on my husband and the orphans under my protection.’
And we requested Bilal not to inform the Prophet about us.
- It seems that the women at the time of the Prophet ﷺ used to spend their money in the way of Allah more than on worldly interests. Most of the women I’ve taught Fiqh of Zakah to at Al-Huda, shared with me that they did not possess enough liquid cash to discharge the zakah on their gold, as they were not earning money. I came to the conclusion that they were unable to save any money from that which they were given by their husbands for household expenditures. Most people tend to undermine, or are outright ignorant of, the tremendous power of saving, especially for those people who are dependent on others for money. Saving is done by putting away a small portion of money as soon as any money comes into your hands. Small portions thus saved add up over time, and become a considerable pool of liquid cash. Anyway, it is quite clear that the sahabiat were not spendthrifts. They knew how to handle their money wisely, which is why they were able to support their needy husbands as well as minor orphans among their close relatives.
- They requested Bilal to not inform the Prophet about their identities (unless asked). This undoubtedly stems from humility: they did not want people to find out that they were spending on their husbands and other relatives. What taqwa!
فَدَخَلَ فَسَأَلَهُ فَقَالَ ”مَنْ هُمَا”. قَالَ زَيْنَبُ قَالَ ”أَىُّ الزَّيَانِبِ”. قَالَ امْرَأَةُ عَبْدِ اللَّهِ.
‘So Bilal went inside and asked the Prophet regarding our problem. The Prophet asked, ‘Who are those two?’ Bilal replied that she was Zainab. The Prophet said, ‘Which Zainab?’ Bilal said, ‘The wife of `Abdullah (bin Mas`ud).’
I can’t help but smile at this part of the hadith! The Prophet wanted to know who these 2 women were, who were asking him this noble question. Bilal, keeping his word, tried to avoid revealing their identities for as long as he could, by mentioning just their first names.
But the Prophet persisted in finding out exactly which “Zainab” it was, who was standing at his door with this question! So, in obedience to the messenger of Allah (ﷺ), Bilal had to relent and divulge her identity.
Women Get Double Rewards
قَالَ ”نَعَمْ لَهَا أَجْرَانِ أَجْرُ الْقَرَابَةِ وَأَجْرُ الصَّدَقَةِ”.
The Prophet said, ‘Yes, (it is sufficient for her) and she will receive a double rewards: one for helping relatives, and the other for giving Zakat.’”
If a Muslim man spends on his dependents, he gets one reward, that of fulfilling his obligation. However, since a woman has not been obligated to spend her wealth on anyone besides herself (and what she spends in Allah’s way as zakah, if it is due on her wealth), she gets two rewards if she spends on needy relatives: one reward for helping relatives (الْقَرَابَةِ) because giving a relative something to fulfill their needs leads to improvement of relations and strengthening of the ties of blood, and one reward for discharging charity in the way of Allah (الصَّدَقَةِ).
Now I ask you, who is being given an extra degree of excellence by Islam? Who has the greater reward, based solely on gender?
In the end, I just want to point out a few things, lest this hadith be used by some readers as an excuse to start eating shamelessly from their wives’ money.
Ideally, a Muslim husband with a high sense of honor and self-respect should take offense at the thought of his wife spending her money on the household expenses, or even on her own basic expenses (such as food, clothing, and medical needs), as these expenses are his responsibility.
He should dislike her ‘chipping in’ to share the financial burden of running their house to such an extent, that she should have to resort to contributing her money in any way into their household (for the sake of earning rewards) discreetly and secretly, so that he doesn’t find out that she is doing it.
As for those husbands and in-laws who take a woman’s wealth by coercion, emotional blackmail or outright force – well, they are sinning, and will be answerable to Allah for committing this oppression.
Husbands and in-laws nowadays do this in various ways: e.g. by not paying a wife her dower (mahr) despite it being stipulated in the nikah contract. Not providing for her medical expenses, even during pregnancy and childbirth. Or by forcing her to work at a job against her will, and to give them all or a portion of her salary, or to pay for the children’s expenses from her money.
Such ignorant Muslims should brush up on their knowledge of Islam, increase their waning level of faith and self-respect, and stiffen up their spines to stop themselves from stooping to this injustice.
Finally, to those working women who have become so used to living the luxurious, independent and
self-absorbed ‘carefree’ single life that they cannot envision themselves being dependent on a man for money, I say: there are some needs inside you, as a woman, that no one but a man can fulfill, through marriage. Not even your parents, much less your friends or siblings, can satisfy that part of you, or come close to.
There is a part of you that wants to be pampered by a man; to be indulged and flattered by him. The part that wants a man to pick up the cheque after dinner, carry the heavy bags during the shopping trip, and take care of you when you are down (e.g. when you’re sick). The part that wants strong, manly shoulders to support you with a hug; to get wet with your tears as you sob your heart out. The part that wants him to bring you flowers when you least expect it, hold your hand for no reason, and caress your face like a child’s. The part that wants you to ‘make a baby together’…
You don’t know what you’re missing, sister. So stop letting your love of financial independence keep you from attaining that elusive marital bliss, because marriage is much more than just a relationship based on who pays the rent, and who does the pile of dishes in the sink.
To my married female readers, I entreat you to start saving money for discharging your zakah and to spend the remaining amount wisely in order to attain true, long-lasting financial freedom and empowerment. Take care of your husband if, Allah forbid, he hits a bad spot in his life, and do not desert him in pursuit of material wealth and status, unless his character is very bad and he is severely lacking in Deen.
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