Indian Women Told Not To Work?

Are Muslim women in India allowed to work outside the home according to religious dictates, and if so, do they have to wear a veil?  That is a question that seems even further from being answered in the last week.

A fatwa from the leading clerics in India, which was apparently issued on the internet and is supposed to be considered almost a “Dear Abby” of proper Islamic etiquette, was extraordinarily vague in answering the query as to whether a woman was allowed to work outside the home, creating the crisis within the community as to what the religious leaders were truly saying.

The exchange that was posted on the website was as follows:

Question: Asalam Aleikum. Can Muslim women in India do government or private jobs? Shall their salary be “halal” or “haram”?

Answer: It is unlawful for Muslim women to do a job in the government or private sector, where men and women work together and women have to talk to men frankly and without a veil. (But) Allah knows best.

After receiving huge backlash from angry Muslims of both genders, The Darul Uloom, Deoband, the top Islamic seminary in India, backtracked on its published fatwa stating that women should not be allowed to work because they would come into contact with men.

The Darul Uloom, Deoband, India’s foremost Islamic seminary, on Wednesday denied that it had asked Muslim women not to work alongside men, saying it had only suggested that working women should dress properly.“We had only given an opinion based on Sharia that women need to be properly covered in government and private offices,” said Maulana Adnan Munshi, spokesman for the seminary in Saharanpur in Uttar Pradesh.

He denied a media report that the seminary was opposed to men and women working together. “No new fatwa was issued,” Maulana Munshi said, adding that the opinion was to a query on whether women could go to work without a veil, and issued over a month ago.

Earlier, in the day, activists and lawyers criticised the fatwa saying Muslim women should not work since in doing so, they would interacting with men, which was against Islamic tenets.


Even after hearing the allegedly clarified response from the clerics, numerous women who were primary breadwinners for their families responded with utter outrage at the declaration.


When my husband passed away 28 years ago, my community members gave me a sermon about a veil being a must for a Muslim woman, especially one who steps out to go to work.

Nobody, however, felt it necessary to help me and my children.

I refused to heed to what they had to say.

Thanks to the job I took up, I was able to educate my son and daughter and even got them married.

I have toiled hard for my family. How can anyone call the fruit of my hard work haram?

If I quit my job, will the Deoband or my community support me financially? It’s easy to preach, but one has to be practical.

I work with over 500 men and women. Wearing a veil will only alienate me from my colleagues.

As another Muslim woman put it, “I feel they [Deoband] do not want women to progress in life. It is unfortunate that they want to suppress our talent. Nowhere does the Holy Quran say women should not work or come up in life. I disagree with the fatwa.

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Daniel Kelley
Daniel Kelley5 years ago

That is a very poignant point Inez Deborah. Most religions that last more than a decade or two, evolve beyond the tenets of their origin. Generally it seems religions have liberalized, to be viewed as less domineering as the people of that religion have become more empowered and emboldened against those precepts. Absolving blood sacrifice is a good example. Another good example I know of is Moses writ that a woman was to have her hands cut off if she grabbed a man's gonads who had been fighting her husband. There are scores of examples of religious evolution. Considering the situation of religions evolving beyond the concept of their creator, it seems to me, the religions creator being now a part of the enlightened spirit, as they say in Islam Allah, the religion's creator would enjoy vast grace for their adherents evolution and enjoying greater blessing.

Rather than fight it, the Muslim religious hierarchy might embrace it as it's a sign that Muslims are feeling empowered which is good for them and if the religion holds onto them, doesn't castigate them, then it could be good for the religion as well.

Daniel Kelley
Daniel Kelley5 years ago

Then if you feel something like veiling is so important, then don't just say what the Koran says, say why it says it and say why that's a good idea. It seems to me, forcing dress codes on people is a means of dominion to enforce social order. But that breeds injury, because as one woman pointed out it would alienate her from her coworkers. Dominion injures by innumerable other ways. So if your religion is truly based on best limiting if not eradicating injury, then dominion must be sacrificed. And if dominion is necessary for social control while being injurious, then probably it's not worth it, especially over something so silly as a naked face. Just my opinion and a bunch of questions. If anyone has an answer for all those questions from the Koran I would indulge in hearing such.

Daniel Kelley
Daniel Kelley5 years ago

I like the fact that the fatwa received such a scathing response that the leading cleric's felt a need to respond. It doesn't seem they changed their answer much, except to clarify they didn't mean to not work, but merely to wear a veil. I don't like it. If a person wants to wear a veil, that it's their choice, so be it. But people telling other people what to wear how to live, when those people have been no offense to them, that's wrong. It's not wrong being a woman in the presence of men without a veil, that's neutral. Cuhmon Muslim clerics, you've got to learn, you can not force people to be ways they do not want to be if they're not harming you in being that way. I suppose you could avoid them or bar them from your mosque, but is that how you wish people of your faith to be viewed? As uppity about nonsense? I know it's your holy book and all, so you feel you need to keep it's every letter otherwise the whole thing falls apart. But is what you're defending worth alienating masses? As I'm sure question being forced to wear a veil. Would it be worth it to your religion to tolerate naked faced women, that perhaps they embrace the more important aspects of your faith? I would hope you hold the most important aspect of your religion as, being a decent person, meaning particularly, well being noninjurious to all people who present no guile toward you. Bring it back to basics. Then if you feel something like veiling is so important, then don't just say what the Koran says, say wh

Anubandh Srivastava

this is just a sample, what happens is that few muslim leaders take money and issue what they call "FATWA" and in that they write what all is asked by the money giver.a sting operation was carried out to expose this and it was found that the muslim leader was ready to write anything from restricting muslims to sleep on a double bed to using a veil for ladies. and when senior leaders and professors of muslim committee were asked from Darum oloom and others to comment on this issue and said that why the media is conducting sting operation on this issue, there are several other issues in india.

Abdul J.
Abdul Jabbar6 years ago

Lauri H. Please read my comments dated 20-May-2010 at 12.19 AM, and 24-May-2010 at 1.03 AM.

laurie H.
laurie easley6 years ago

Interesting article and all the comments. I personally would like to know the whole story from someone that is of that religion and understands what is being done here.

Dorota Janik
Dorota Janik7 years ago

I think reputable work is important for each human being

Inez Deborah Altar

A Fatwa is not the Word of God even under Islam. Ayesha herself spoke very frankly to men who were not "mukhram".
Face-covering was recommended for the protection from sexual molestation and desire for women outside the home, but right now I am not certain if this is actually in the Q´uran. Educated Muslims might be able to conclude just as Jews no longer sacrifice red cows by breaking their necks as a sin-purification offering that men of the Prophet´s age were sao lustful as to make this type of covering necessary. Unfortunately, I cannot claim that today things have got better with a clear conscience, (Personally I think the Niqab creates a very undesirable object image,)

Abdul J.
Abdul Jabbar7 years ago

Bora S. You can see that since I told in my comments a few days back that no such FATWA was given, till now nobody has bothered to bring the so called FATWA but they are actively giving their comments on the above story. Now I strongly demand the author of this story ROBIN MARTY to show the copy of the so called FATWA on the basis of which she is trying to spread this mis-information in the minds of innocent readers or she should apologise the care2 members. Such false reports and stories are written to create polarisation among societies. We should unanimously condemn such attempts

MICHELLE S7 years ago

This is insane!