The fields of activity of man and woman

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Allah Ta’ala has created man first and then woman and has placed both of them on earth with specific responsibilities for each. Allah Ta’ala has said: “O Mankind! Fear your Lord Who has created you from a single being, and has, from that being, created his wife and, from both, has spread on the earth many men and women. Fear Allah…verily, Allah sees you perfectly well.” (4: 1)

It has also been said that, after the creation of Adam, he felt lonely, so Allah Ta’ala created Hawwa (Eve) from one of his ribs. Do you know why the rib was used? That is because the rib protects the most important part of man’s anatomy: the heart. The rib is found very close to the heart and remains the most flexible bone of the body. Flexible in order to adapt itself to any place where one goes. Bone is a strong item. A woman is strong and can stand by her husband better than anybody else in difficult circumstances. Prophet Muhammad (saw) was very grateful to Khadijah (ra), his first wife and the first woman who accepted the message of Islam. It was only Khadijah (ra) who had the opportunity to support the Prophet (saw) by comforting him with words of encouragement and by putting her wealth at his service. Hazrat Aisha (ra) has stated: “I never had feelings of envy towards other wives of the Prophet (saw) as much as I had towards Khadijah (ra). That was because the Prophet (saw) used to speak highly of her so much.”

The love that man bears for his wife and that the wife bears for her husband is a sign of Allah. Allah Ta’ala has stated: “And among His signs is this that He has created from you, and for you, wives so that you may live in peacefulness and kindness.” (30: 21). A wife is very close to her husband by the fact of her creation and by her own nature. However, if advice is not sought about the rights of each partner in a couple, then there arises the risk of losing the points of reference of a balanced conjugal life.

But it must be realized that man is different from woman and that is why their responsibilities are also different. Allah Ta’ala has stated: “The boy is not like the girl.” (3: 36). The holy Prophet Muhammad (saw) has told women: “When you prostrate (in prayer), then lower yourselves, towards the earth, because in that posture, woman is not like man.” (Baihaqi). Man and woman are different physically, psychologically and biologically. It is clear that their responsibilities and prayers (swalaah) are different. Last time, we spoke about the balance between man and woman and about the fact that each operates in his/her own sphere of responsibility. Each has his/her field of activity and that should not be disturbed. Let us now look together at the various responsibilities of man and woman.

By studying the Qur’an and the sunnah, one finds that man’s responsibility encompasses all his subordinates including his wife and children. The wife focuses her efforts on her home and the children. The husband works outside the house, whereas the wife looks after her house. The prophet of Allah (saw) had assigned duties outside of the house to his son-in-law Ali (ra) whereas household chores devolved upon his daughter Fatimah (ra). Allah Ta’ala has prescribed the following to our mothers: “Remain at home, and do not display yourselves in the manner of pre-Islamic women.” (33:33). Hence, the wife’s field of activity is her home. That is the reason why a woman’s prayer is better when accomplished at home. The Prophet of Allah (saw) has said: “Let the wife perform her prayer at home; that is better than in the mosque.” (Baihaqi, Kanzul Oummaal)

Anecdotes about the Prophet (saw) and his companions clearly show that food preparation was woman’s responsibility. Although Shariah (Islamic law) does not compel women to prepare food, conjugal balance demands that the wife works towards the proper running of the home.

There have of course been wealthy women, thanks to their professional success, in Islam. As regards Khadijah (ra), from her home, she appointed agents to operate her business. But Islam has not abandoned women without giving them their own rights. A woman is precious in the eyes of Allah. So precious, that she has a price of her own. Like the price that she can demand deliberately from her future husband in the form of mahr (dowry). She can claim a condition at the time of marriage that she will not be removed from her native country. In the case of divorce, if the husband refuses to grant talaaq (divorce) she can have recourse to the procedure of “khula”.

The “khula” depends on the acceptance by the husband of an offer of money or property in exchange for talaaq. In that case, the wife may, for example, ask the person performing the nikah (marriage) to be her agent. The wife may seek divorce from an Islamic Court on the following grounds: physical incapacity of the husband, brutal treatment, aids virus contracted by the husband or even long absence (of many years) of the husband from the home. The wife can obtain the power of talaaq and exercise it herself, provided the husband agrees to it. All these measures reveal that Shariah has not abandoned woman and that, on the contrary, there are laws to safeguard her rights. However, very often, in order to maintain conjugal equilibrium, one has to sacrifice one’s rights and allow friendship and mutual confidence to prevail. There is therefore the need to seek proper advice.

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