Wife Seeking Employment without Husband's Permission

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Q: Does a Muslim wife require the permission of her husband to search for a job if they have been separated for a period of almost 3 months? The husband has not been supporting his wife during this separation. He can more than afford to maintain his wife yet did not do so even when they were living together. Should the husband and wife reconcile and the husband still refuses to maintain his wife, can she seek work without his permission?

A:
Your query refers. If the following conditions are found, the wife may seek employment without her husband's permission:

1)  The husband was not forced to leave or abandon the marital home by the wife. In other words, it was the husband's own decision to desert his wife and forsake the marital home.
2)  The husband does not purchase groceries, vegetables, meat, and other household necessities; he does not pay the lights and water account, both of which are essentials for survival, nor is he giving her cash money to pay for these necessities.
3)  The wife is not self-sufficient, that is, she does not have funds of her own to survive.
4)  There are no other mehram relatives, such as father, mother, brother, uncle, etc who are capable of supporting and maintaining the wife.
5)  The husband has the financial capability to provide maintenance to the wife but is not doing so out of spite and dereliction of marital duties.

If the above conditions are found, it will be permissible for the wife to work and earn, even without the husband's permission. However, once she does this, another condition will apply, and that is the law of hijaab. She shall have to cover her self as required by Shariah when going to work and shall not work in an evironment where there is exposure and interaction with men.

If on the other hand, the husband provides basic essentials mentioned in point 2, but does not give her cash, or the wife has close relatives who are prepared to maintain her, or she has her own funds that can sustain her without having to work, then she is not allowed by Shariah to go out for work.

The role Shariah has ordained for women is that of a housewife. That is her profession. Only when dire and desperate circumstances arise will she be allowed to go out and earn. These circumstances were explained above.

We are not aware of the domestic circumstances, nor have we been appraised of the nature of the argument between you and your husband; hence your decision to go and work must be guided by the conditions and requisites mentioned above. It is, therefore, a matter between you and your Allah. You will know exactly whether your predicament is like the scenario we have mentioned in numbers 1 to 5. If it is, you must act accordingly, and if not, then it is your honest duty to abstain from working.

If the husband returns home and resumes his support for his wife in an adequate and just manner, then the wife has to stop work immediately. So we ask you, honourable, sister, to make a careful and well-thought decision before taking this bold step of employment.

And Allah Ta'ala knows best

Mufti Siraj Desai