This article is evidence from Shaykh bin Bayyah that the decisions about working women is a matter between the husband and wife, according to their needs, and their condition, not according to some outside ruling.
CAN MAN PREVENT HIS WIFE FROM WORKING?Can a man prevent his wife from working, knowing that he agreed to marry her after he knew that she worked as a teacher. What is the ruling for this case according to the Malikite school or according to ahl al-Sunnah wa al-Jama`ah adherents to the Sunnah and the Muslim mainstream?All praise is due to Allah. Peace and blessings be upon our Prophet Muhammad peace and blessing be upon him, upon his family and his companions. And upon you be peace, together with the mercy and blessings of Allah. First, we say to the questioner that the Malikite school is not foreign to ahl al-Sunnah wa al-Jama`ah. Imam Malik is a leading scholar among ahl al-Sunnah wa al-Jama`ah. Hence, there are not two separate opinions; one according to Malik and the other according to ahl al-Sunnah wa al-Jama`ah.As for the wife’s work, the basic principle is that the husband has guardianship over his wife provided that he can afford her provision and needs. Therefore, according to Malik and al-Shafi`i, who are from ahl al-Sunnah wa al-Jama`ah, if he cannot afford this, his guardianship is not complete and hence she can ask for a divorce. On the other hand, Abu Hanifah views that such a provision remains as a debt on the husband.Thus, one can prevent his wife from working if he can provide her needs. But for me – and I am one of ahl al-Sunnah wa al-Jama`ah – it seems that the issue refers to customs and the individuals concerned. In some places, if the wife is prevented from work and remains at home, this will be a reason for great inconvenience and for more evils. Accordingly, the issue should be weighed up according to the benefits and evils. Women among the Companions of the Prophet peace and blessings be upon him worked. Asma’, wife of al-Zubayr may Allah be pleased with him, worked. She provided fodder for the watering-camel of al-Zubayr, as reported in an authentic hadith. [See al-Bukhary 5224 and Muslim 2182] Another woman was told to stop working on her palm-trees as she was in her waiting period, but the Prophet peace and blessing be upon him said to her, “Reap your palm-trees.” This is an authentic hadith [See al-Musannaf by `Abd al-Razzaq 7:25]Thus, work for women is not something new. It is something known in Islam and hence we should be broadminded in this regard. It is true that the husband has guardianship over his wife as the head of the family. In the Islamic Shari`ah, things have to be under control. “No three persons should travel without having one person as a chief.” [See al-Bayhaqy 9:359 and al-Musannaf by `Abd al-Razzaq 4:58] Thus, in order to keep order and discipline, the husband is the person who is the chief. But this does not mean that he may do or say whatever he wants. Rather, the household is arranged according to his counsel. Almighty Allah commands that the two spouses should consult one another with regard to weaning their child, “But if both [parents] desire to wean [the child], by their mutual consent and consultation.” [2:233] How much more, then, should be the case with regard to her own affairs?In short, if he commands her to do something that does not contradict the Shari`ah, she has to obey him, but he is not permitted to command her to do something that leads to evil or to losing some benefit. But if her work will lead to mingling with men or to other evil consequences, he has the right to command her to leave it and she has to obey him. This is the answer according to the position of Malik and the majority of scholars.