About a year or so after taking my shahadah, I met a beautiful young sister thanks to an impromptu dinner invitation her husband so kindly extended to mine one afternoon following jummah. I was so nervous about meeting her. I was new to Islam and have always been slow to make friends; but this warm, vivacious sister instinctively recognize my struggle and by the end of the evening, she and I were giggling together like old friends.
She was one of my very first friends in this deen and I cherished her friendship, masha’Allah. She helped me learn a lot about Islam and introduced me to more amazing sisters in the community. To me she exemplified some of the best characters of the religion. She was a happy wife and stay-at-home mother of five adorable children and a devoted servant of Allah.
A couple of years after our first meeting, my dear sister lost her husband in an unexpected car accident. Inna lillahi wa inna ilayhi raji’un. One day she was a cherished wife and mother, and the next a grieving widow with five children to support on her own, suban’Allah. The community provided the necessary sadaqa to support the sister financially for a short time. She still had very young children and didn’t like the idea of leaving them to work away from home each day; and since she’d never worked outside the home, she didn’t feel confident about being able to get a job anyway.
When the sadaqa was exhausted, my dear friend decided to pack up her children and move in with her mother and step-father in another state. It wasn’t an ideal situation – with no one but themselves to provide for, her mother and step-father lived peacefully in a 2-bedroom 1-bathroom condo. Soon there would be 8 people sharing the tiny space.
Years later, I sat among the Friday congregation listening to a brother deliver a powerful khutbah aimed directly at the sisters of the community. He talked about the importance of having a skill that would allow sisters to earn their own money and possibly even financially support themselves in the event of an untimely divorce or the death of a spouse. I couldn’t help but think of my dear friend.
I am in no way downplaying the importance of a woman’s role in the home. The title of this blog alone reflects my support of women maintaining and managing home affairs. But I am also an advocate for empowerment through continuous learning and development for Muslim women. In a best case scenario: you earn money for yourself to do with as you please. In a worst case scenario: you have a skill to rely on in times of financial need.
Yes, Allah is our sustainer in this life and the next; but even the history of our religion includes highly-revered women who owned and operated their own businesses and/or possessed valued skills; including Khadijah (may Allah be pleased with her) who was a business women when she met the Prophet (peace and blessing be upon him).
Could having a marketable skill have made things easier for my friend? Who knows? There are so many other factors to consider reagrding her situation – like the fact that she probably would have needed to secure and pay for daycare/afterschool for five children if she found a job; or the challenge of finding a job that would allow her to financially support a family of six on her own. We’ll never know.
As for the sister – she her children did move in with her mother and step-father, and she signed up to receive government support. She was also added to a waiting list for Section-8 Housing. When a house became available, she and the children moved out on their own. Eventually she re-married and decided to attend school part-time to earn a degree in Early Childhood Education.
I’ve shared my own story of how having a skill allowed me to earn an income even when my husband couldn’t; but what are your thoughts?