Ibn ‘Abidin Shami (1783–1836 CE) on Women Working

Ibn ‘Abidin رحمه الله writes in his commentary on al-Durr al-Mukhtar:

Khayr al-Din al-Ramli said:


“If a female (under the care of her father) is (financially) independent from something like weaving and spinning yarn, her expenses are due from her own earnings, as is evident. We do not say her expenses are due on her father when this is so (as opposed to the situation that she is under the care of her husband, in which case he will be responsible for her expenses even if she has her own earnings).


“(This is) unless (her earnings) are not enough for her, in which case it will be necessary for the father to compensate her by giving her the amount that was not acquired (by her for her needs). I did not see this (explained explicitly) by our (Hanafi) scholars.


“Their statement, ‘(The father may hand over the male child for earning once he is of age) as opposed to the female’, does not negate this because what is forbidden is putting her into employment. This does not entail that she may not be tasked with a craft she knows.” (1)


Meaning, what is forbidden is to put her into employment to serve (her employer) and the like of that which entails handing her over to a (male) employer, as evidenced by their statement: “Because the employer will be in solitude with her”, which is not permissible in Shari‘ah. (2) Based on this, (the father) can hand her over to a woman (3) to teach her a craft like embroidery and weaving for example. (Radd al-Muhtar, 10:601)


He further writes under the explanation of, “When male (children) reach the age of earning, the father can hand them over for work to earn or put them into employment and can spend on them from their earnings, as opposed to female (children)”:

(The father) may not put female (children) into employment for some work or service as stated in al-Fatawa al-Tatarkhaniyyah. (4) This is because the employer will be in solitude with her, which is blameworthy in Shari‘ah, as stated in Dhakhirat al-Fatawa. (5) The implication is that he can hand her over to a woman to teach her a craft like embroidery or weaving as there is nothing blameworthy in that. (Radd al-Muhtar, 10:470-1)


He further writes:

The statement of the jurists that the husband can stop his wife from spinning yarn includes her spinning yarn for herself (as well as for others). If the reason (for the husband stopping her) is that she stays awake at night and becomes fatigued, reducing her beauty, he can stop her from doing what leads to this but not something less (i.e. something that doesn’t affect her beauty).


If the reason (for the husband stopping her) is that she does not need to earn (because the husband is responsible for providing for her) as has preceded, an objection to this is that she may need something the husband is not required to purchase for her. What ought to be said is that he can stop her from every job that leads to lessening his rights, harming him or leaving his house. As for work that does not harm him (nor entails leaving the house), he has no grounds to stop her from it, especially when he is away from the house. Leaving a woman without any work in the house may lead to the whispers of nafs and shaytan or becoming preoccupied with useless things with strangers and neighbours. (Radd al-Muhtar, 10:574)


(1) Hashiyah Khayr al-Din al-Ramli ‘ala al-Bahr al-Ra’iq, p. 98

(2) Men and women intermingling and mixing freely is also forbidden.

(3) Or, a male mahram relative.

(4) al-Fatawa al-Tatarkhaniyyah, 5:418. “As for male children when they reach the age of earning, but haven’t yet reached maturity, and the father intends to hand them over for work so they can earn and spend on them from that, he may do so. Similarly, if the father wants to put them in employment for some work or service, he may do so, as this entails benefit for the minor as he learns (how to) work. As for before learning or after learning but being unable to work, the expenses are due on the father. As for female children, the father may not put her into employment for some work or service.”

(5) al-Dhakhirat al-Burhaniyyah, 4:472

Zameelur Rahman

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