Q: Is it permissible for Muslim women to receive secular education and study in universities so that they can earn a degree? Some people argue that it is necessary for a woman to hold a degree so that if she is divorced or widowed, she will be able to earn a living and see to her dependants. Furthermore, there is a need for Muslim female professionals e.g. doctors. If our Muslim sisters do not become doctors, Muslim women will be forced to go to male doctors.
A: We have prepared a detailed article regarding women studying in universities. This article can be found below.
The condition and plight of a Muslim woman leaving her home to earn a degree can be aptly likened and compared to the following example:
A poor family, living in a remote village, struggle to fulfil their daily needs. They are nonetheless content and happily continue with their lives. Subsequently, the family is informed of a valuable treasure located at a distant place. If the treasure is obtained, it will improve their standard of living and will make life more comfortable.
The route to the treasure is however very dangerous. It crosses through thorny bushes and dangerous jungles filled with wild beasts and serpents. Furthermore, it is well known that people traversing this path often encounter thieves, bandits and even murderers.
Under these circumstances, would any sensible person even consider sending his daughter out into the wild in order to pursue such a treasure, no matter how lucrative it may appear? Obviously, no one will risk the life and honour of his daughter for the mere sake of wealth.
The Harm outweighing the Benefit
Similarly, there are many things in this world which, though they may be of some benefit to man, have harms and dangers that far outweigh the benefits. Islam declares such things as impermissible. Allah Ta’ala states in the Holy Qur’an:
يَسْأَلُونَكَ عَنِ الْخَمْرِ وَالْمَيْسِرِ ۖ قُلْ فِيهِمَا إِثْمٌ كَبِيرٌ وَمَنَافِعُ لِلنَّاسِ وَإِثْمُهُمَا أَكْبَرُ مِن نَّفْعِهِمَا ۗ
They ask you concerning wine and gambling. Say: “In them both is great sin, and some benefit for man; but the sin outweighs the benefit.”
It is an established fact that there is some benefit and enjoyment in alcohol and gambling. However, the grave consequences and the long term, evil outcomes that affect the person as well as his family and others cannot be denied. Hence, Islam declared all such things as forbidden which are against the greater welfare and benefit of man.
The Deen of Islam
The Deen of Islam is a universal religion that has been divinely chosen by Allah Ta’ala as the perfect religion till the day of Qiyaamah. Our Merciful Creator wants the best for us in this world and the Hereafter. Hence, He sent Rasulullah (Sallallahu Alaihi Wasallam) with Islam, the complete code of life that will stand the test of all times. Rasulullah (Sallallahu Alaihi Wasallam) has said:
عن ابن مسعود قال : قال رسول الله صلى الله عليه وسلم : أيها الناس ليس من شيء يقربكم إلى الجنة ويباعدكم من النار إلا قد أمرتكم به وليس شيء يقربكم من النار ويباعدكم من الجنة إلا قد نهيتكم عنه (شرح السنة رقم 4111)
“O people, There is no good act which leads you to Jannah and will save you from the fire of Jahannum, except that I have commanded you to carry it out, and there is no evil that will lead you to Jahannum and distance you from Jannah, except that I have prohibited you from it.”
In other words, every command of Shariah that is directed to men, as well as every command of Shariah that is directed to women, its fulfilment is the only means for their success in this world and the Hereafter. Contravening these commands of Shariah is undoubtedly a recipe for bringing ruin and disaster to themselves.
Education in General
Islam encourages one to acquire beneficial education, especially when it aids one in earning a halaal livelihood and is the means of serving humanity. Such beneficial education is in fact commendable and praiseworthy. Rendering service to humanity, assisting the poor and the underprivileged and even sacrificing one’s comfort to fulfil the needs of mankind are all part of the Deen of Islam.
Education for Women
In Islam, women are not discouraged from acquiring beneficial education. However, due to the abundant and serious harms that accompany the contemporary system of seeking education, Islam does not allow women to leave their homes for this purpose.
What are the harms associated with the contemporary education system?
The contemporary system of education opposes the very core values of Islam. By and large, women who pass through this system gradually lose their hayaa and compromise their Deeni obligations. This is due to the fact that most educational institutes are western orientated. The course offered is thus designed and shaped to promote the mindset and values of the west. As a result of the west showing ultimate importance to education, the importance that Islam lays upon Hayaa (modesty), segregation of the sexes, women covering their hair and entire body and remaining concealed from the gazes of strange men, performing Salaah on its prescribed time and many other Deeni obligations are not only overlooked but are actually regarded as a small price to pay. Hence, the mindset, values and lifestyle of a woman attending college or university are clearly corrupted by the western education of the university.
In Islam, women are commanded to remain within the confines of their homes. They should not leave their homes unless there is a valid need. If they have to leave their homes, they should ensure that they leave their homes in the state that they do not make a display of their beauty nor apply perfume. They should be accompanied by their mahrams at the time of leaving their homes, and should not be left alone in the company of non mahrams. However, in the environment of the university, all these laws of Shariah are commonly violated.
Though men are also prone to the harms of the contemporary education system, however since they are required to venture out into the world to seek a halaal livelihood and to support their families, permission is granted for men to leave their homes for this purpose.
1. Recently, a female matriculant boldly and boastfully rejected Islam, claiming that her tutors had presented so-called ‘very convincing’ arguments to prove the non-existence of God (May Allah Ta`ala protect and save us all).
2. Some Muslim students admitted being influenced by and believing in Darwin’s theory of evolution, etc, whereas this theory opposes many clear verses of the Holy Qur’an (May Allah Ta`ala protect us all).
3. In an entire grade of a certain school, almost every female pupil confessed to having had some degree of intimate contact with the opposite gender.
4. In another girls’ school, there were even incidents of girls being intimate with each other.
5. Many pupils leave high school plagued by serious doubts and uncertainty regarding the basic and fundamental beliefs of Islam, thereby jeopardizing and risking their Imaan.
6. Many students have explained that on account of peer pressure, it was virtually impossible for them to remain free from many vices and evil influences.
University and Beyond
The university lifestyle poses a significantly greater risk and danger to the Deen of a woman. Imagine, what would be the end result of a woman regularly remaining in the midst of many non mahram males in an anti Islamic environment? Free intermingling and casual interaction with each other in such an environment are the norm. Apart from this, since she is aiming to acquire a degree in a certain field, e.g. medicine, dentistry, law, etc, she is bound to interact with her tutors and seniors, many of whom are males. She is then expected to fit in the circle and conduct like one of the rest. After qualifying, she is expected to render community service in order to be recognized by the Government as someone qualified in that field. In doing so, she is sometimes required to relocate in order to serve the needs of a specific community. Hence, a young woman will often be found living alone in some apartment while working in a government hospital. During this time, she is exposed to every danger which could cause her to lose her Deeni values, respect and hayaa. On account of this type of lifestyle that she has chosen for herself (both in the university and during the course of her career afterwards), she can easily become a victim of abuse, zina, etc by men who wish to take advantage of her. However, she is prepared to risk all these dangers and in the interim, even sacrifice her Deeni values, just in order to secure some material benefits and financial interests.
Many parents feel that they should send their daughters to university in order to make them self-sufficient and financially independent. They argue that in the case where the girl is divorced or her husband passes away, if she has a degree or is qualified in some field, she will be in a better position to fend for herself and her family. We should understand that while Islam does not prohibit a woman from earning a halaal living, Islam commands that she should first be loyal to her Creator by fulfilling the obligations He has placed upon her and by not doing anything that will be a means of earning His displeasure. She should understand that her aim and goal in acquiring a degree is in order to get sustenance, and sustenance lies in the hands of Allah Ta’ala. Hence, if the means adopted to acquire her livelihood causes her to become disobedient to Allah Ta’ala, then how can she ever expect to become successful in this world and the next?
Since the mindset that is created in these Western universities and colleges, as well as the environment, totally oppose the laws of Shariah, her presence in such an environment will be the cause of Allah Ta’ala’s displeasure. Furthermore, the argument of hoping to earn some money to become self-sufficient despite losing one’s deeni values, shame and modesty, does not hold any weight in the sight of Allah Ta’ala.
Technology- The Web of Shaytaan
The arrival of technology and its advancements has led to the degeneration of hayaa (modesty and shame) in the ummah. By the press of a button, one is able to view the worst of sins being committed. Many cases of broken homes and broken marriages are the direct result of the misuse of these modern day devices such as the cell phone and internet. The sheer number of females on Facebook, Twitter, Whatsapp and other social media platforms is staggering. While this may not be confined to those seeking education, it is far more prevalent amongst them on account of the environment they are exposed to. Generally, the mindset of a person and his outlook are shaped by the environment he is in and the company he keeps. For an innocent, modest girl, striking an illicit relationship with a boy becomes easy when she finds herself in an anti Islamic environment where everybody around her is involved in some illicit activity. Many young girls from respectable homes have been lured and duped into haraam activities, such as drugs, partying, alcohol, zina, etc, on account of the overwhelming influence of the evil environment.
Breakdown in Marriages
The damage and evil effects of such a lifestyle are gradually revealed later on in a woman’s life. Due to the demands of her profession, she neglects her children, household duties and other primary obligations. Often, it is observed that professional women are willing to serve complete strangers in the corporate environment for material gain, but are unwilling to serve their husbands and families at home for the pleasure of Allah Ta’ala. At times, they are disloyal to their spouses on account of the illicit relationships they were previously involved in. As a result of their financial independence and “high level” of education, they find it difficult to be obedient to their spouses. Hence, the breakdown in many marriages is a direct result of the incorrect upbringing and the wrong environment the children were exposed to. Just as children are blameworthy for their actions, likewise their parents are also accountable for allowing their children such freedom and placing them in such an immoral environment.
It is thus clear as daylight that the harms of educating women in institutes of western education far outweigh the benefits. Hence, if the basic community needs can be fulfilled through other avenues, such as non-Muslim female doctors, then there is no need for us to open the doors of western education to our sisters and daughters, as this is a proven means of ruining their Deen and Aakhirat. The need of the time is for us to strengthen our belief that our sustenance has been pre-ordained by Allah Ta’ala. We should understand that our sustainer, Allah Ta’ala, has taken care of centuries of females before us who did not venture into the open workplace. Similarly, if we trust in Him, He will surely take care of us.
And Allah Ta’ala (الله تعالى) knows best
Mufti Zakaria Makada
Shaykh Mufti Ebrahim Salejee