Traslated by: Manal Samhat
"Laha" Magazine interviewed the Religious Reference, Sayyed Muhammad Hussein Fadlullah, on the rights and duties of the working woman from an Islamic perspective. The following are the questions and answers:
Q: Does the husband have the right to ask his wife to help him with the living expenses?
A: In Islam, if the woman is physically and mentally mature, she is thus a legal entity and an independent figure and she is not under the control of anyone. She is free to deal with the money she earns from her freelance or fixed job or the money she inherits from her parents. She is also free to choose her future husband, whether she is a virgin or not. The virgin woman has the right to chose and to marry her husband without the consent of her father, grandfather, or brother. The husband does not have the right to ask his wife - from a religious perspective - to share the living expenses unless the marriage contract stipulates otherwise. He is responsible for her expenses even though she is financially capable of covering her personal needs.
Perhaps this is the reason why Islam made a distinction between the share of the male and female in the inheritance. The man - husband - is responsible to spend money on his wife and children and cover their own needs. Thus, Islam made a balance in terms of the rights and duties between the male and the female and as such, the man's share is bigger than that of the woman as he has to give a dower to the woman and pay the alimony [Nafaqa] from his own share, while the woman is not responsible for these expenses.
Q: Do the parents have the right to ask their married daughter to give them part of her salary?
A: No, the parents do not have the right to ask their married and unmarried working daughter to give them a part of her salary, because religiously, she is only asked to be kind to them and she has the right to use her salary to manage her own affairs and needs.
Q: Does the working woman (the wife and the mother) have any financial duties towards her house?
A: No, the working mother (the wife and the mother) is not responsible for any financial duties towards the house (the husband and the children), because Islam did not task her with such duties. Yet, Islam said it is recommendable for the woman to take part in the expenses out of ethical values and for the sake of social integration within the framework of the family unit.
Q: What about the wife's salary if her husband in unemployed?
A: There is no difference whether the husband is employed or unemployed. A number of jurisprudents say the wife must spend on her children if there is no one to shoulder this responsibility. But she is not duty-bound to spend on her husband.
Q: Is the man's right only restricted to approving or rejecting his wife's job without having the right to share her money?
A: If the wife was employed when the marriage contract was signed or if she stipulated at the time of marriage that she would carry on working, her husband does not have the right to prevent her from going out to work. In our opinion, he does not have the right to stop her from working if her job does not contradict with his sexual rights. In other cases, he has the right to stop her from working if her job clashes with their marriage relationship. In this case, he can ask her to give him part of her salary in return for allowing her to carry on working.
Q: Does Islam call the woman to share the living expenses with her husband?
A: Islam does not ask the woman to share any living expenses with the man, but he encourages her contribution especially if their situation requires cooperation and if the husband alone is unable to meet all the financial needs of the family.
In brief, the Islamic fatwa that the woman is not responsible to spend on the house and her family is based on legal considerations in terms of the allocation of rights and duties. But from a humanitarian and ethical perspective, Islam does not regard marriage as a financial corporation between the man and the woman in which everything undergoes accurate calculations. Instead, Islam said that marriage is a humanitarian relationship based on love and mercy. Thus, the husband and the wife must cooperate to establish a stable family, and each partner must do every effort to support the family even though she is not religiously bound to do so. For instance, the woman is not responsible for doing the household and looking after her children as this is the husband's responsibility, unless it was stipulated otherwise in the marriage contract. But out of her ethical and humanitarian and spiritual responsibility, she must look after her house and raise her children and spend her money and effort, in order to become closer to God and to integrate with her husband spiritually and physically.