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As mentioned above, Allah created all mankind from a single male and female, and placed natural love and affection for one another in order that they cooperate to build families and relationships of families. We see in nature that Allah bestowed the male of each species with superior power and endurance in order that he may dominate in certain spheres and seek provisions and protection for the species, while the female of each species is equipped to reproduce and multiply to maintain the continuity of that species. Only the female is equipped with the necessary apparatus to bear, deliver, nurse and care for the young. The female human has been endowed with love, kindness, sympathy, care and affection in order to carry out her duties to her children with dignity. Based on this natural predisposition and delegation of responsibilities, and based on the unique qualities of the male and the female, it is only natural for man to work outside the house and earn for the sustenance of the family and for the woman to work inside the house and take care of the children and the family in general.
Considering this basic fact, Islamic law does not deprive a woman from the right to work within the limits that protect her honor and dignity. Islam permits the woman to personally conduct her business contracts and financial transactions. All such contracts and transactions are sound and valid in the view of Islamic jurisprudence. There are certain set conditions which if violated, the permission given to the woman to practice this right will be rendered void and she can be restrained from the use of her right.
The work that the women engage outside the home must not conflict with her duties and responsibilities to her husband and children. Her work must be with other women and free of intermingling in a male environment, where she comes into physical contact with men, or is confined and exposed to molestation and abuse. As the Messenger of Allah said (Peace be upon Him):
"A man is not secluded with a woman, but that the Satan is the third party to them."
[Tirmidhi #1171 and verified]
And in another tradition,
A man said: "O Messenger of Allah my wife has gone out to go for Pilgrimage and I have been written to go for a military campaign."
He said: "Go and make Pilgrimage with your wife."
[Bukhari #4935 & Muslim #1341 ]
Lady Cook, the well-known English writer says in New Echo:
"Men like (and prefer) the mixed environment. Thus, women are lured to something that conflicts with their human nature. The greater the co-ed. environment (between male and female), the more illegitimate children the society will have. There is the greatest disaster..."
The work that the woman performs outside her home must be, in the first place, a lawful employment or job that suits the nature and physique of the woman. She must not, for instance, be obliged to do heavy industrial jobs, and other jobs to which men are more suited to perform.
The question that poses itself here is: Why does the woman have to work in the first place? If a woman is working to earn her own living expenses, Islam has absolved her from this duty by obliging, as mentioned earlier, the male family members to take care of the entire financial needs and obligations. Thus from her birth to death, throughout the various stages of her entire life, she is not required to work to give utmost dignity and concentration to her paramount mission and duty of taking care of the home and raising the children. This honorable mission requires great sacrifices and devotion, and has the highest status. The well-known English scholar Samuel Smiles, one of the pillars of the English renaissance says:
"The system that has required women to work in factories and industrial areas, regardless of the national wealth it brings, has destroyed the family life. It has attacked, in fact, the basic structure and foundations of the home and destroyed the essential pillars of the family. It has cut and destroyed social ties as well. Stripping the wife from her husband, and depriving children of their rights of proper, tender and maternal care, has resulted in lower moral values for the women. The real job and profession of a woman is to raise a good, sound and moral family. She is mainly required to take care of household responsibilities, home economics and other domestic needs. Work in factories has stripped the woman, as we pointed earlier, of all these responsibilities which changed the looks and the realities of the inner home. Children, as well, were often neglected and raised with no sound standards. The love and affection between husband and wife were somewhat extinguished. The woman was no longer the sought, wanted, admired and loved by man, after he got used to seeing her in the factory next to him doing the same thing he does. Woman came under many influences and pressures that changed her mentality and thinking pattern on which moral values and virtues were established.
In fact, the First Lady of South Africa calls for the return of woman to the home saying:
"The most natural place for a woman is her own home. The main task and responsibility for a woman must be to care for her husband and attend to the needs of her children."
She also said in an address to a women's conference in the capital of South Africa:
"The main task and responsibility for a woman must be to care for her husband and attend to the needs of her children. This is our duty in the society. It is a duty in which we should take special pride as it produces successful men and sound generations."