Now all this inspiring talk of women and Islamic learning should in no way take away from seeing just how blessed the silent work of millions of women is!
Household Work Equivalent to Jihad
Women asked Rasul Allah (sal Allahu alaihi wa sallam), ‘O Messenger of Allah, by performing Jihad the men have grabbed Allah’s favours. Is there any deed that we women can do through which we can obtain the same reward of performing Jihad?’ The Messenger of Allah (sal Allahu alaihi wa sallam) said, ‘Yes, if one of you does the work of her house it will fetch her the same reward as performing Jihad.’ [Baihaqi]
Get this: all the work that is performed inside the house— whether it be related to cooking, cleaning, taking care of children or organizing things— is an infinite source of great reward for women. For what is more glamorous a destination than Jannah (Paradise) itself? Yet note the ease with which our benevolent creator has laid out the roadmap for us, within the comforts of our own homes. The mileposts? They’re here, within. The sub-stations aren’t in far-flung areas.
So— Whither Are We Headed?
If we are constantly seeking reward and recognition elsewhere, have we stopped to think about what the final destination is that we have in mind? Well, often most Muslims will answer Jannah as their goal in life. The vastness though is in the gap between this vague goal and our actual actions and daily, more immediate goals.
For many, such as myself, it has taken a significant shedding of feminist baggage to find meaning in simple tasks. To be deemed worthy of my intellectual input, housework simply wasn’t buzzing with enough energy or glamour.
There were in fact many extremes forces within myself to be reckoned with. I shall confess: there was a time about a decade ago when anything I did that wasn’t related to my consulting work felt like a waste of my time. How utterly ignorant. Corporate America (its liberal arts education system included) will do that to you.
Connecting with Our Creator
That buzzing energy can come from nothing except my own soul and its connection with its creator. All else is fleeting. For no one can reward us as extravagantly as Allah has promised us, even for chores as seemingly mundane as daily cooking and cleaning. The catch is for us to internalize how deep the reward is in the path He has selected for our noble selves, in this world and in the Hereafter. And it is such a deep relief that this path is often within the home.
While all this may sound commonplace to many, it was quite a dramatic realization for me.
Instead of the usual feminist bickering and compensation-complexed approach, we need to be grateful that while men must participate in the most difficult of activities– Jihad – we get the same reward as them by cheerfully doing the work of our house instead.
No one is stopping us of course; it’s just a paradigm shift in approach and a way of seeing the treasures that lie beneath our noses.
A Truer Taste
Our’s, Islam’s, is not a feminism that comes at the cost of all one’s relationships. What with unabashed Western feminism finding birds of its feather everywhere, many women instead sought external recognition, achievement– and compensation. And thus the foundations of our society were steadily shaken. All kinds of Shariah guidelines were breached, with women’s responsibilities neglected and rights even further neglected in this façade of power struggle.
In my former work as a Sustainability Consultant, grassroots movements were a popular buzzword. Yet, our secular training conveniently forgot that the foundation of a healthy society was the most fundamental root of all: the family unit. A unit abandoned to nurturing provided by sitcoms and hired help.
In the pursuit of all that glitters, our spiritual sides were simply locked out. We became hollow juice boxes, with pretty packaging yet empty on the inside. Hence the unhesitant lack of contentment spreading through society– a vacuum fuelled by further materiality.
Action-Wise: what is truly required of us is a niyyah-check. A deep check of our daily and strategic intentions. We need to constantly remind ourselves that the intention behind everything we do is to please Allah. Shaitan will try to derail us an infinite number of times and we have to literally, verbally, remind ourselves with our regular niyyah-checks.
With this tried and tested trick so many puzzle pieces will simple fall into place. The frequent niyyah-check will catch us and be our gentle reminder. If, for example, we’re about to be short with parents, they’ll help give us better akhlaaq (social etiquette). They’ll nip useless activities closer to the bud– if our intention is pleasing our creator, how are all those hours of virtual meandering, or worse still, voyeurism, helping us reach that goal? Those pointless shopping escapades— cut. Those maddeningly escalating work schedules – my rizq (sustenance) is written for me; the middle path will work just fine, thank you.
Moreover, those pieces that aren’t a part of our very own jigsaw will fall away themselves. No more forcing men’s tasks or roles on to our feminine selves. InShaAllah!
About the Author:
The author is currently studying Islam in-depth at Pakistan’s leading Islamic university for women. She has also been a business journalist and writer with over 150 published pieces, including book chapters and strategic reports as part of her former consultancy.