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Coping of Muslim Woman with Practical Life

Question and answer details
Farah
2013/05/05
Salam. Al-hamdu-li-Allah for my iman and I only wish for it to grow. I come from a Muslim family that preferred the Western way to the Islamic way of living. Thus, though I found my religion by God's grace and by reading the Quran, my family still puts some opposition in my way to practice. As yet since I am an unmarried sister these are my confusions… Al-hamdu-li-Allah I graduated well in genetics and biochemistry, etc. and very recently was offered a good position in a biotech company that is halal (no GM products). Yet, I do feel that the full time work, field visits and overnight stays and high level of interaction with males is detrimental to my bond with Allah. But how do I deal with this? It is difficult for me to find work that is mediocre and be un-frustrated... I have deep doubts as to whether my yearning to use my knowledge and seeking a masters course, etc. will deviate me from Allah… And I fear that! Your views and advice? How does a modern Muslim woman cope —with her own need to perform according to her talents/abilities, her un-Islamic family's pressure to become a career woman— and what path should she choose? Jazakum Allah Khayr. I do solicit your views please. As-salamu `alaikum.
Ælfwine Mischler
Answer
As-Salamu Alaykum Farah.

Thank you for your question. I’m happy for you that you have turned to Islam. May Allah help you to grow in faith.

Your question, as I see it, is how to balance work and your spiritual life. I don’t think I have ever read anything specifically on this topic, so I can only give you some of my feelings on the subject.

First of all, you must keep in mind that your whole reason for being is to know and worship Allah. Everything you do should be aimed at pleasing Him.

But that does not mean that you have to lock yourself away and pray 18 hours a day. You sound like a very intelligent woman who could make some great contributions to society. If Allah has blessed you with such abilities, use them. Go for your master’s degree, and maybe even a PhD. Why not? As long as your intention is to please Allah and you take time every day to read Quran and perform your prayers regularly, why can’t you have a career? And a career in the natural sciences should lead you closer to Allah as you see the wonders and perfection of His creation every day.

I understand that you would be frustrated in a mediocre job. I would be, too. What I think I’m hearing from you is asking whether THIS job offer is the right one—this one that will involve field visits and overnight travel and interaction with men. You don’t say where you are living, but from your message (and the spelling) I assume you’re in the United Kingdom. If you’ve grown up in any Western country, you most likely have been interacting with men all your life in school, so why should such interaction on the job be a problem for you?

If you wear hijab and keep your conversations limited to the usual daily pleasantries (“Hello, how are you today? How are the wife and kids?”) and work issues, you shouldn’t have too much trouble. And if any of your colleagues (male or female) has a habit of cracking obscene jokes, let him or her know that such jokes are not welcome in your presence. Be firm and consistent, and your colleagues will get the message and respect you for it.

The overnight travel is another issue. I cannot give you a fatwa on that. Some sheikhs would say it is haram, others would say that if there is a need and you’re traveling in a safe way and staying in a safe place it might be allowed.

It seems that you are not comfortable with the overnight travel, whether for religious or other reasons. That is something that only you can answer for yourself.

At this time in your life while you’re still single, such a challenging job opportunity might be right for you. But remember that in a few years you will probably want to settle down and raise a family, in sha’ Allah, and then you will most likely want to take some leave from work or limit your work hours. It most likely wouldn’t hurt for you to take such a job now, but you might want to consider whether or not you really want to get into a career track that would be hard to leave.

Overall, you have to decide what you want in life, why you want it (to help society? to get rich? to become a famous scientist for fame’s sake?), and how you’re going to achieve your goal.

If you’re having doubts about this particular job offer, keep praying Istikharah and make a list of the pros and cons of this offer. Then decide what’s best for you. It may be that it is good for you at this time and will help you to advance your career. There’s nothing wrong with having a career. But if something about this job (such as the travel) bothers you, ask yourself why? Are you just afraid of the unknown or the challenge? Fear can be overcome. Or do you really think it would be detrimental to your faith? Ask Allah to help you decide, and if you decide that this is not the right job, ask Him to bring you something else better than it. I can understand your not wanting a mediocre job, but perhaps there is something out there that is exciting, yet not quite so challenging as this offer, something that would not involve travel.

Constantly work on developing your faith by reading Quran and religious books, and by praying salah, du`aa’, and dhikr. Develop yourself so that you will not be influenced by others but instead will be able to influence them. Don’t be afraid to test your faith, but within limits. That is, don’t put yourself in a particular situation unless you feel strong enough to overcome its temptations.

Keep praying Istikharah, and may Allah bless you in your career.

Thank you again for your question and please keep in touch.

As-Salamu Alaykum.

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