Please note: The answers on Hawramani.com constitute friendly advice rather than fatwas. Where relevant, we translate the opinions and fatwas of respected scholars and present them in our answers.

Dealing with people looking down on housewives

Peace be upon you, I am a Muslim woman living in the West who someday hopes to become a housewife and stay-at-home mom; it's something I'm heavily inclined towards. I've been feeling dejected and humiliated about it since even my well-guided religious relatives look down on me for it and others saying I'll become a heavy burden upon my husband (referring to the need for 2 income families in the west). What do you make of this and is there any supportive or empowering material on this I can read?

This is a matter that has more to do with culture than religion. Islam does not strictly define a wife’s duties, leaving it to each culture to decide what is best. Wives in nomadic cultures have extremely different duties compared to wives in agriculturalist societies, and such women in turn have different duties compared to city-dwelling wives.

Rather than considering it an Islamic obligation to be a housewife, it is best to think of it as a role to be fulfilled if and when necessary. Many wives in the West have part-time jobs since once the children grow up a little there is not much for them to do at home and they find it more enjoyable to have something to do outside.

It is true that legally Muslim men are required to provide full financial support for their families. But that is only the legal structure that can be enforced during court cases. As for the how marriages actually work, that is left to the culture’s own practices and the family’s circumstances. If the only way that the family can get by is if both the husband and wife work, then that is what they should do.

I am aware that the culture promoted today often considers women of little worth unless they have accomplishments. Feminists often define a woman’s worth according to her abilities and accomplishments; more ability and accomplishment equals more worth, which is part of why female CEOs and scientists are so celebrated. But by this same logic, less ability and accomplishment equals less worth. To them therefore housewives are of little worth since they do not aim for (male) accomplishments. In the name of equality they create a world where a woman is wholly judged by how good she is at competing with men. She is not allowed to just be a woman and enjoy her life the way she wants, defining her worth on her own terms. She must define her worth with men as her standard.

Meanwhile, according to Islam a woman’s worth is intrinsic and has nothing to do with competing with men. She doesn’t have to do anything to prove her worth. It is not her abilities or accomplishments that define her worth; it is her dignity as a human and her relationship with God. In Islam all humans start out as spiritually equal, but some attain more worth through their relationship with God. The worthiest people are the most God-fearing, so a saint-like “soccer mom” can be far worthier than a female CEO or world-renowned scientist.

It will do little good to keep telling people that housewives are just as good as everyone else. One person cannot change a culture’s worldview. It is best therefore to respect others’ opinions while keeping your own independence of mind. Insulting others for having wrong opinions only causes them to dislike you. For your own good and the good of those around you, try to fit in and try to avoid unnecessary clashes, while doing what is best for you and your family.

I do not know of any specific supporting materials on this matter. I recommend working on having a close relationship with God (as I describe here), this makes it easier to deal with all of life’s challenges.

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And God knows best.

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