Sunday, August 3, 2014

The Right for Women to Work in Oman---and in the Islamic Religion

I wanted to do a re-post. It is more an Islamic article but would be interesting for non-muslims to read as well. While I doubt a great very many English-speaking expats in Oman interact frequently or socialize with Omani women whose culture, tribe or family do not believe women should work, I know my share, from the rare Muscat example, to girls in the ladies in Dhofar. Even my own Omani family, they don't like when women outside of teaching in female-only schools generally. Many women from our family do... but this has been a long time coming and an effort. I still hear sexist things from Omani men (even at my own work) about working Omani women (and I work in Muscat in higher education).

While Oman legally allows and promotes a woman's legal right to work and drive and attend school, the concept of social interaction between the sexes is greatly misunderstood in Oman by Muslims in general, whatever thou mayest be, Shia, Sunni or Ibadhi. Thus, women's right to work has been greatly reduced, and thus, her chance for financial independence eliminated (which I believe is her right to require before marriage and insist upon).

And while Oman's laws may very well support the Islamic concept of women building and being a part of society, very few in law enforcement actually care to carry out such laws.

It is all well and good for Omanis to say, "..we are not Saudi Arabia, women work, they drive here, they can be Ministers, ect..." but when it comes to down to it, when we really need to do so something about it, I hear this phrase " is our culture" as an excuse of laws being ignored, and Islamic examples even, being forgotten.

One such case was presented to one of the OPNO girls recently. An Omani father decided to go and close his daughter's business file (which is against the law, since she was the sole owner of the file and above the age of majority in Oman). He also went to the police station (where her brother and father took her ID card after she filed for it) (so now she is unable to apply for a passport) and she has been forcefully confined to her home since and stripped of any channel of communication such as phone or internet.

All this, was, apparently, supported by law officials in the ROP, since they did nothing despite her complaints (she ran away once to the protection of the ROP, and they returned her to her family where God/Allah alone knows what they did to her) and despite her legal rights to an ID card, passport, and work. In the ROP office, they told her, yes, what her family was doing was technically wrong, it was their shared culture, so by that she should accept it and it would be better for her.

"It is our culture," they said. But that is NOT the culture of Oman, or Islam. That is a culture of backwardsness, of female suppression and yes, I will say it, even to my own Omani inlaws when they act that way, " it is not Omani culture... It is from Jahiliyia... pre-Islam."

What it came down to is, the people responsible for maintaining her rights and her freedom as an Omani citizen, essentially considered her a non-person by way of her being born with a vagina, a pocession of her brother and father, no matter her age, no matter the fact that she wished to marry and work (both rights she has in Islam and in Oman unless she should agree to marry a man who would support her entirely). That scares me Oman. What about my daughter? Will you consider her some man's pocession one day and then hypocritically decalre that you are not the same as Saudi Arabia?

Anyways, this rant leads me to my re-post, one about what examples we have from Islamic history about working women and how the sexes interacted in the Prophet Mohammed's time (peace and blessings be upon him). The post is by an awesomely feirce niqab-wearing lady who did my henna for my very first Eid (ha) and pretty much sums up the Islam I was taught about (her father was the Imam/Sheikh at our Mosque):

Career Women of the Sahabiyat (the early Muslims)

There are those who try to say that Khadijah (radhiAllahu 'anha) [she was the Prophet Mohammed's first wife] never worked outside of her home and point to the fact that she had agents conducting much of her work. Ironically, the very point that they try to use to prove that she wasn't involved in actually being a businesswoman (or more explicitly, that she didn't interact with non-mahram men), is what proves that she was.

Those very agents of hers were non-mahram - case in point, her trusted employee Maisara [a woman unrelated to the Prophet Mohammed], who was the one who reported to her about the admirable character of young Muhammad (sallAllahu 'alayhi wa sallam). As well, a false dichotomy is erected when it's implied that she didn't deal with 'strange men' - the default in Islam is that unnecessary mixed gender interaction, and inappropriate gender interaction, is what's forbidden... not respectful, dignified interaction with a necessary purpose.

The books of fiqh explicitly discuss the permissibility of women engaging in business, and in fact mention the case of a woman temporarily removing her niqab to confirm her identity for the purposes of confirming her business transaction.

For those who wish to know of other Sahabiyaat and women of the Tabi'een who had careers, Zaynab bint Jahsh was a skilled craftswoman and would make and sell her products, then give the proceeds to Sadaqah.

Samraa' bint Nuhayk wasn't a businesswoman per se, but was appointed by RasulAllah (sallAllahu 'alayhi wa sallam) to monitor the marketplaces and discipline those who were caught cheating or engaging in dodgy transactions.

Rufaydah al-Aslamiyyah was a doctor whose 'hospital' was a tent erected within Masjid an-Nabawi itself. RasulAllah (sallAllahu 'alayhi wa sallam) would send all those who were ill or wounded to her.

Hafsah bint 'Umar and ash-Shifa bint Abdullah were teachers, who taught others how to read and write.

It is said that Sawdah bint Zam'ah owned and ran a leather tanning business, and that other Sahabiyyaat such as Khawlah, Bint Fakhriyyah and others were professional traders in the perfumes.

The women of the Ansar ran their own farms and were keen as to how the produce was collected and sold.

All of these activities were careers that had these women engaged outside of merely staying home with the husband and children - they were intelligent and they put their skills to good use.

(Source: Great Women of Islam, published by Darussalam)

In short, those who claim that there is no 'evidence' of Muslim women amongst the Sahabah and Tabi'een having 'careers' are merely revealing their own ignorance and lack of knowledge and understanding.
{end article}
I also recommend this article of her's and enjoyed it greatly:

I highly recommend you read her blog if you are interested about learning about Muslim women and how we think ;) more than say, a cultural blog, such as my own... ect...


Yamina said...


I sent you a mail asking your permission to translate and publish this post in French on my blog... did you receive it ?

Omani Princess (not Omani...yet) said...

Yamina: Please ask this blogger, as it is her post, but I am sure she wouldn't mind at all;)

Anonymous said...

As a young guy i haven't looked too much into detail about this particular topic but nevertheless thank you for bringing it to light as i would like to get married one day. I knew a little about it and this adds to my info :)