(Written by a university graduate who personally experienced campus life)
With the imminent onset of the university year there is currently a vibrant debate regarding Muslim females attending university to pursue tertiary studies.
Those who support the idea of women studying at university argue that Muslims need to be progressive in their thinking. Confining women to their homes is narrow minded they say. This argument implies that all those women who choose to be homemakers are backward. But this is not at all true. Homemaking was the way of the Sahabiyaat and pious women throughout the history of Islam. Women who followed this path produced the Junaid Baghdadis and Hasan Basris of this Ummah. Homemakers are the foundation of the Muslim Ummah. If this foundation crumbles the Ummah will be left in free fall. We need to be unapologetic about this: homemaking is the most progressive career that a female can follow.
The proponents of females attending university also argue that the Muslim Ummah needs Muslim female doctors to cater for the needs of female Muslims. But the truth is that only a small percentage of Muslim females on campus study medicine. What about the large number of females who study accounting, arts, sciences, languages, law, etc? What is the pressing need for them to attend university? Also, the percentage of Muslim female medical professionals who only see female patients is minutely small. It begs the question: did these females study medicine to serve the female community or to pursue a professional career?
Then there are those who argue that Muslim females need a qualification because families cannot survive solely on a husband’s income in today’s challenging financial times. They forget that there are many families who are surviving on a single income because they choose a modest standard of living. Also, why do women who choose to assist their husband’s financially not pursue a home industry such as cooking, baking, sewing, etc? Is it perhaps because such a setup lacks the glitter and glamour of a career environment?
Some women also argue that a degree will be beneficial if their marriage fails and they are left single. However, it seems quite odd for women to want to study for a degree in preparation for the unfortunate scenario of a failed marriage. Should they not rather be spending their pre-marital time acquiring Islamic knowledge and skills associated with homemaking so that their marriages succeed?
A misconception also needs to be cleared up here: a certificate from a tertiary institution is not a one-way ticket to success. Many homes where women follow professional careers have problems of their own. A home where a wife earns more than her husband often proves to be problematic because the man who is the head of the household does not make decisions as he Islamically should. Also, women who rub shoulders with men in their workplaces generate tension in their homes. The amount of Muslim marriages that run into problems because of extra-marital affairs in the workplace cannot be ignored. In addition, a home where the mother is absent from 9-5 is clearly harmful to her family, especially her children.
The beauty of Islam is that it has not burdened a woman to provide for her family. Earning is the husband’s responisbility. She is not forced into an abyss where she has to both earn and take care of her home. Forcing women into such a role is unjust, cruel and materialistic. Statistics have shown that in the days of the industrial revolution when women left their homes to pursue a career outdoors, they suffered an increase in psychological problems such as anxiety.
Coming back to the university question, there are many other facts that we cannot overlook if we want to deal with this issue objectively. One is that the environment at universities is extremely immoral. Campuses are breeding grounds of sin where free mixing between the genders, immoral relationships, improper behaviour, foul language and immodest dressing cannot be avoided. And peer pressure strongly encourages towards these wrongs. It is naive to assume that a Muslim female who is daily exposed to such an immoral campus environment will not be enticed towards sin. It is like placing butter next to a fire and hoping that it will not melt. The truth is that university life comprises of young people who are at the prime of their passions and desires roaming about in a free environment. This is the perfect recipe for moral mayhem.
Reality proves this point. The majority of Muslim females who attend university do not dress Islamically. Many such females find their marriage partners on campus. These are obviously love marriages where dating began while they were studying. Many parents do not know that their daughters go out on social outings with their male friends instead of attending lectures. Muslim females are also known to have entered into haraam relationships with non-Muslims males on campus. There have also been cases where male lecturers have dated and later married their female students. When the conditions in Muslim schools have become so immoral, what can we expect of a campus scenario where there is no supervision?
It is no secret that a campus environment is free and unrestricted. Lectures do not have pardah facilities. Tutorials and group projects require interaction and discussion. Muslim females who have some degree of modesty feel it difficult to lower their gazes during such interactions for fear of being unfriendly. Males and females engage in casual conversations between lectures, when sharing notes and travelling to and from campus. Even the most conservative of females are forced into interacting with males in such circumstances. Anyone who has studied at campus can identify with this setup. It is unIslamic for many reasons.
We cannot also be blind to the fact that campuses have drugs, alcohol and a nightclub culture together with all the evils these bring with them. Campuses are also havens where dubious sects and groups thrive under the guise of free thinking. Hence, modernists and Shias find free reign here. Lecturers and students who may range from atheists to Darwinists often corrupt the minds of those who are not well-grounded in the basics of Islam.
The spiritual dangers of campus life are real and unavoidable. No matter how many precautions a Muslim female student takes, she will have to compromise her Islamic values at some time or the other. To hope that she remains Islamically safe in such a sinful environment is like jumping into a pool of water and hoping not to get wet.
We cannot also forget that the idea of Muslim females attending university suits the kuffaar agenda perfectly. In their worldview they need Muslim females to emerge from their homes as students and professionals so that the Muslim home crumbles. The kuffaar know well that corrupting the minds of the females of the Ummah is an easier way of winning the war against Islam as compared to sending drones and armies.
To allow females to attend university is part of succumbing to the narrative of a culture that is steeped in immorality. Despite Western culture’s advancements in technology, it has brought unprecedented levels of social problems. This culture which has accentuated the levels of prostitution, pornography, abortion, divorces, wife batterings, child abuse, etc. is the same culture that is enticing women to study at universities and pursue professional careers. Those Muslims who promote the teachings of this depraved culture are in a crisis of confidence. They need to be reminded of the beautiful Islamic system where women are the queens of their homes instead of slaves of the marketplace.
Muslim parents who allow their daughters to attend university should seriously introspect. Is it worth it sacrificing one’s modesty (and even one’s Imaan in some cases) in exchange for a university degree? Islam can never permit its women to pursue education in such an environment where maintaining their Islamic values is near impossible.
It is important to note that Islam does not discourage females from being educated. Islam encourages females to acquire an education in the basics of Islam. In fact, this is imperative because a mother who is not well-grounded in Islam cannot correctly guide and nurture her children. Hence, Muslim women should acquire knowledge of Quran, sunnah, aqidah, fiqh, etc. through the correct channels.
Regarding secular and worldly subjects, women may pursue studies if there is a genuine need to do so and it is in a setting that is free of sin. (Unfortunately, university campuses do not make the grade.) Women should remember that their primary responsibility is homemaking and bringing up children. Their core focus and training should be in this field. This is the Islamic teaching. Nabi Sallallahu Alaihi Wasallam instructed his daughter Faatimah Radhi Allahu Anha to take care of the household while her husband Ali Radhi Allahu Anhu was told to earn a living outdoors. This is the natural divine system ordained by Allah and His Rasool Sallallahu Alaihi Wasallam. It is the only system that can produce a harmonious and successful society.