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.