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Being A Stay-At-Home Dad – A Muslim Perspective

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When my sister-in-law told me that her former co-worker now turned stay-at-home dad asked if I’d be interested in writing an article for TheGoodTheDadAndTheBaby.com, I was thrilled.

The site, run by Detroit native Matt Dudzinski, tells the story of a very rare and unique role people take in today’s world: a guy who decided with his wife to be a stay-at-home dad watching their daughter while mom went to work.

My excitement came because I had just recently experienced a time in my life when I was unemployed and, with my wife, made the decision (and in some ways was forced) to be a stay-at-home dad with our new baby boy, while my wife went to work. The experience was something I wanted to share with people, and I thought what better place than on a site written by someone in the same shoes.

The article was written for an open online audience at large. One of the goals I had was to show other American readers that your Muslim neighbors go through some of the very same and real problems you do, and here’s how they approach it with Islam to empower them.

Now, I’d like to share it with the Muslim community. The goal this time, however, is to call something to our attention.

There are many personal situations that our community is largely unfamiliar with. Some examples are divorce, poverty, unemployment, and baggage from before accepting Islam.

Because of our unfamiliarity, we sometimes look down on people in situations that we don’t understand.

This does a lot of damage to people. They might be in some sort of great need, but instead are shunned, because their unique situation is something people are just ignorant about, leaving them without any means of seeking help.

I found myself in one of those “unfamiliar” personal situations. I was a stay-at-home dad.

And while I found support in certain places, I also found scenarios where people from our community looked down at me because of my situation.

Why? I’m sure there are many reasons. Yes, our faith defines general guidelines for roles and responsibilities between genders. And maybe the way certain cultures that are predominantly Muslim have institutionalized those guidelines into hard, fast rules might have something to do with it.

But, like I mentioned for the other scenarios, I feel it’s because of people’s unfamiliarity with my situation that may have caused them to have a negative feeling about my decision to be a stay-at-home dad.

After all, what kind of Muslim man has his wife go out and earn an income while staying home to change diapers? No one really knows, because it’s not something common, and therefore probably not a good thing.

These types of standards made life a little hard for me, socially. I would find myself feeling bad about telling people within our community that I was a stay-at-home dad. For some reason, I felt like people wouldn’t accept me for it.

SubhanAllah, we know very well the high regard our faith gives to people who treat their families best. And in my situation, unable to find work, I had no choice. I had to stay home (as you can read in the article). Yet, still I got heat for it!

Now, my situation isn’t that big of deal; I only had to deal with this social stigma to a limited extent. Plus, I actually really enjoyed my time at home with my son.

It’s people going through much worse that I worry about. Those who are divorced and have a stigma attached to them by others. People of other races that are looked down upon. Even people struggling with their faith finding little to no acceptance in the community.

People are in need, and when they want to try and reach out for help, they don’t, because they know how people will react if they find out about their situation.

The solutions to this issue are many. But the one clear way I feel is to take a prophetic approach and be more open and accepting as a community.

Behind every tradition of the Prophet in words and actions, there were real live humans he interacted with on a daily basis, peace be upon him. Especially those that came to him with situations unique from the majority of the community. Anybody with any problem was able to approach the Prophet with an open-door policy. Hearing about those Companions’ lives, may Allah be pleased with them, gives people in similar struggles something to find comfort in and relate to.

But it’s knowledge about their stories that is critical. To bring back the prophetic way of acceptance in our times, maybe we need to hear more about what people go through today.

And that’s why I’d like to share my experience as a stay-at-home dad. Our community needs to hear about people in situations we’re unfamiliar with. As Allah says in the Qur’an, “…so that you may get to know one another.” (49:13)

I hope that by seeing how the situation was for me, our community can increase understanding and begin to exercise compassion to others in similar situations.

Compassion that, hopefully, can do the same for those in greater need, as well.

The Best Job I Ever Had

Four weeks before our first son, Abdullah Yusuf Shafi, was born, we found ourselves in an interesting situation. I had lost my job as an accountant at a corporate retail company. Within a few weeks, Ayesha was due to go on maternity leave from her position as a high school math teacher at a small private school, unpaid. Not exactly the situation we had planned for when we would have our first child.

Read the rest of the article, The Best Job I Ever Had,” at TheGoodTheDadAndTheBaby.com.

SaqibSaab is an average Desi Muslim guy living in Chicago. He enjoys videography and design as side hobbies, and helps out with AlMaghrib Institute in Chicago, Wasat Studios, and other projects here and there. His go-around vehicle is a 2007 Volkswagen Jetta 5-speed Wolfburg Edition. Originally born in Michigan, he and his wife reside in Chicagoland with his parents who come from Bangalore, India. He blogs personally at SaqibSaab.com.

35 Comments

35 Comments

  1. Avatar

    Nuraini

    December 8, 2011 at 9:59 AM

    my husband and i will be in a similar situation. we are a cross-nationality marriage. one of us will have to leave the native land and migrate to the other’s. the twist is, i am the one with the higher earning power. the kinds of things my husband is good at (crafting) in the current world is no longer quite so valued – even though he can do so many things with his hands. plus his country’s economy and cost of living is getting worse, whereas there is more opportunity in mine. so, based on this and other reasons, the logical conclusion is that he migrates, which means he will be out of job at least for the near term and effectively function as the stay-at-home spouse. he will have a workshop to tinker in – and who knows, maybe start a business from in future, as he does want to begin earning again at some point so he can buy me presents and stuff.

    we think actually this general arrangement suits our personalities and natural gifts best – and it’s a good thing for kids when parents are happy. nowadays when the home is wired for technology, there are more things to troubleshoot and keep in good repair – i would have a husband looking after all of these things, on top of some of the daily tasks, and make some of our furniture and things too, without having to call in a plumber or technician. i value that a great deal. i think it disrespects the female stay-at-home spouse when you say a stay-at-home dad ‘does nothing’. coz this implies the wife also ‘does nothing’ when she’s a homemaker. besides, in this age where there are many jobs that are more gender neutral and even being increasingly virtual (removing any advantages of physical endurance or strength), there are going to be some marriages where to prioritise the family means swapping around some of the traditional earner/home roles.

    increasingly there are couples where the wife has the steady employed job, providing the ‘safety net’ whereas the husband has the riskier own-business type jobs for the opportunity to move up the socioeconomic ladder – i know at least 3 pairs of friends like this. one of these wives has the talent and in a position to someday be the national authority in an emerging technological field of knowledge, which the country would lose had her husband not been supportive and open to a flexible family arrangement, her talent and intelligence would have been wasted, the ummah lose an intellectual merely because she is female. another is a specialist doctor who will serve her turn at rural communities – had her husband not been supportive, considering the shortage of doctors, who will serve such communities? both are otherwise completely feminine, ordinary muslimah wives and mothers. what enables such flexibility aside from an open mind? the power of the extended family – such a force of good for the ummah, when we wish it to be.

    • Avatar

      Mohammed

      February 18, 2016 at 6:08 AM

      Becareful can lead to haram overpowering th3bhusband.

  2. Avatar

    cassieandraj

    December 8, 2011 at 12:05 PM

    I really enjoyed this. My husband and I just converted last month. I am a stay at home mom to 2, my oldest is from my first marriage. When I mentioned this before people seemed to act strange about it, but I didn’t let that bother me. We are struggling with our families, since they are Christian, and the Christmas season. We have abandoned doing Santa for the kids and had planned on leaving the Christmas tree behind as well, however it proved to be a huge point of contention with our families.

    When some of our Muslim friends saw that we had a tree they immediately called my husband to “Talk” to him about it. We are doing it to keep the peace, not to celebrate the birth of Jesus. It’s hard when you are a convert, born Muslims seem to have a hard time understanding American/Christian celebrations. My family never celebrated Christmas as a religious holiday anyway, it has always been about family and friends. At first I felt bad about the tree, but I have decided that it is what needs to happen to keep my family from completely rebelling against us.

    I foresee many more problems like this in the upcoming year and plan to handle them accordingly. I will base my decision off of what ends up being the most peaceful for my family. I am not willing to sacrifice my family in order to make other people think higher of me. I am hoping that over the next year or two we can slowly weed out things like the Christmas tree, but to keep the peace it will have to be a slow and gradual process.

    Thanks for bringing up the point of not understanding what converts have to go through. I appreciate that!

    AA

    • Avatar

      Saher

      December 8, 2011 at 9:24 PM

      I completely agree with you. We have a tree downstairs and it has nothing to do with celebrating the birth of Jesus for us. For us this is just a time of the year when the kids are done exams, friends and family are free to spend time together and it’s a lot of fun putting up the tree with the kids. They have no clue that xmas is intended to be the day some people celebrate Jesus birthday. I have a lot of chritians friends who don’t take xmas as a religious holiday. Just a time for everyone to eat and hang out. I say, don’t feel bad about the tree. And even if you think that it’s not a good idea…then don’t put it up next year! Can’t change everything over night. All the best to you!

      • Avatar

        cassieandraj

        December 12, 2011 at 11:14 PM

        Thanks so much! I appreciate the words of support.

    • Avatar

      Umm Sulaim

      December 9, 2011 at 4:58 AM

      As-Salam alaykum and welcome to Islam, Cassieandraj and family.

      The important thing is your intention and the fact your actions are not deliberately to join in the celebration. I admire that.

      Even born Muslims come up with excuses for marking the day.

      With time you will be more comfortable with the situation, though I truly doubt your family’s opposition will diminish.

      Welcome to the Truth.

      Umm Sulaim

      • Avatar

        cassieandraj

        December 12, 2011 at 11:15 PM

        I don’t see my family’s opposition changing anytime soon. However, I am hoping that it will become less of a big deal over time…maybe they can just be opposed among themselves when we are not there.

        Thanks for the support!

    • Avatar

      Reina

      December 9, 2011 at 9:46 AM

      As salaamu alaikum and congrats on converting! I converted in 2007 and just in the last few years have weeded out all the Christmas stuff out of my life, alhumdulilah. My family, like yours celebarted it the holiday as more of a secular event but does not change the origins or the overall meaning of the holiday. There comes a time when, for me anyway, compromising your religion for family gets uncomfortable. Our compromise is that we still do Thanksgiving…lol, hate the origins of that holiday but Christmas is way more problematic religiously. Anyway, My parents still buy my kids a few things around the winter time but everything else to do with the season has stopped. It really has taken a load off and I feel a lot bette rnow that it’s behind me.

      It takes time to change your life and Islam is a huge and wonderful life change, alhumdulilah. Take the time and as many steps as you need!

      • Avatar

        cassieandraj

        December 12, 2011 at 11:17 PM

        I’m not sure that I will ever be able to get the families to stop buying gifts. My oldest sons family I’m sure will never stop. His father told me when he brought him home that they accidentally fed him 3 pancake/sausage on stick this weekend. They are super rednecks though so I am honestly surprised that they are taking it so well.

        • Avatar

          SaqibSaab

          December 12, 2011 at 11:24 PM

          Pigs in a blanket! Now you gotta make some Halal chicken sausage and pancakes on a stick for them. Don’t forget the real maple syrup, thanks for your comments!

    • Avatar

      Abu Sumaiyah

      December 10, 2011 at 12:17 AM

      As-salamu alaikum

      Welcome to islam. I, like yourself, am a revert. I understand your situation. However. I would like to give you some advice. Do not compromise on your religion with your family. My family is from Bosnia, the Croatian side. They despise Muslims with ferver. However, I dont compromise my religion with them. They didnt like it, but they are the ones who made compromises for me, my wife, and my children. They dont like it, but they will realize that you are serious about your religion and if they want to have a family they wil just learn to be quiet. If you compromise on one thing, you will being to compromise on everything. I advise you to obey Allah and His messenger. Follow him in everything and ask Allah to make the hardship easy. With every diificulty, there is ease. You should realize that Allah comes before your family. I made that clear to my family, that my religion is more important. If a Catholic family from Bosnia can accept it, then I am sure a typical Canadian/American family can.

      • Avatar

        cassieandraj

        December 12, 2011 at 11:21 PM

        I appreciate your input. I was planning on avoiding Christmas for the most part, although I won’t alienate myself by not going to the family get togethers as this is the only time I see some of my family. I understand that my religion should come first, but my family is a huge part of my life and I cannot put myself in a bad situation with them. I have to take it little by little and ease them into it. These are the people who help take care of my children and who help us if we ever need it, I can’t just ignore their concerns. I will compromise where I feel I can and won’t when I feel like it is not possible. Compromise, unfortunately, is just part of life in general, we all have to make them upon occasion.

        Thanks for your support, I really appreciate it!

        • Avatar

          Umm Sulaim

          December 13, 2011 at 3:17 AM

          Appreciate and stick with your family for as much as you. If I had a family I could describe with even those words, my psychology would be totally different.

          Just do not lose focus.

          Umm Sulaim

    • Avatar

      jebat

      June 11, 2015 at 9:28 AM

      welcome to islam. if i were you, i continue to celebrate the holiday. because if you lookup the terms “when jesus was actually born”, you would find plenty evidence from the bible that jesus was not born on 25th December. thus generally christians, just like you, are just celebrating that holiday with families and in your case, with families and some muslim friends. since we muslims dont really celebrate christmas, it can be quite lonely on those days..

  3. Avatar

    sister M.

    December 8, 2011 at 1:49 PM

    MashaAllah; may Allah reward you for your attitude of acceptance and openness to others who are in different situations than yourself, and for encouraging others to be open and accepting as well. That is really how we as Muslims should strive to be, regardless of social/cultural conventions. Writing this article was indeed a great effort in encouraging acceptance and open-mindedness. JazaakAllahu khair.
    May Allah continue to bless your family.

  4. Avatar

    SimplyMe

    December 8, 2011 at 3:27 PM

    MashaAllah. Throroughly enjoyed this article.
    A wonderful way to highlight an issue we as muslims need to look into. This may not be a common issue but it is something that happens.

    At least three we know of including the above commenters. I am sure there are others who are facing this situation.

  5. Avatar

    Ahmed

    December 8, 2011 at 9:20 PM

    wow, great insights into an unclear territory.
    Thanks for sharing.

  6. Avatar

    Siraaj

    December 9, 2011 at 12:01 AM

    Great article Saqibsaab, I remember this time well in your life. I had heard there were some positions for you out in Dallas at the time, and I thought, man, Saqib, Murphy, Faiez, and Mueze in Dallas, what’s gonna happen!?

    But anyway, glad it worked out for you in Detroit, alhamdulillaah :)

    Siraaj

  7. Avatar

    Hansa

    December 9, 2011 at 11:46 PM

    Great story mashaAllah. My own father stayed home with us(his three girls) for many years, and those memories and experiences are among the most treasured of my life. May Allah SWT reward him and you.

  8. Avatar

    Mohammed

    December 10, 2011 at 8:38 PM

    salaam

    Whilst I fully accept that there are men who are forced to be at home due to circumstances (such as unemployment/ illness etc…), I have to say that I disagree with calling yourself a stay-at-home dad. I think you’re an unemployed dad looking for work and whilst you are doing so, you are spending time in your home with your kids. This does not suddenly make you a house-husband.

    Making a conscious decision to stay at home and willingly invert the natural roles of the male and female is un-Islamic and a recipe for disaster. The man is supposed to be the head of the household and so many of HIS islamic obligations are tied to the fact that he provides monetary income into the family.

    In your case brother Saqib – it seems to be a case of semantics – you were not in that position out of choice so how can anyone be upset at you? However, should anyone be in that position out of choice then I think society is justified in questioning this.

    • Avatar

      amatullah

      December 10, 2011 at 10:47 PM

      Agree.

    • Avatar

      Olivia

      December 11, 2011 at 12:03 AM

      I don’t think brother Saqib is insecure, that’s why he has no problem calling himself a stay-at-home-dad. I mean, he was staying at home, and he’s a dad…No one is advocating a gender-role-reversal. What really destroys the balance and happiness in marriage is when a man is very insecure about his manhood, to the extent that he feels emasculated by staying at home with is kid and being called by a certain term.

    • Avatar

      Mira

      December 11, 2011 at 3:20 AM

      hope you’re not just looking after your son but taking care of the cooking and housework too.

      • Avatar

        SaqibSaab

        December 13, 2011 at 8:27 AM

        Mira, alhamdulillah I did cook and clean here and there, and still try to do so now that I’m working full time. Not sure what my wife would have to say about how much and how well, though!

        • Avatar

          April

          December 14, 2011 at 7:31 AM

          It is admirable that you made efforts to cook and clean, but “here and there” sounds like it was perhaps not as much as a SAHM would do? It would be nice if you comment on this aspect of being a SAHD because maintaining the home is actually a major part of what makes being a SAHM so challenging in many cases…and many people do not understand that “staying home” involves a whole lot more than playing with the kids all afternoon.

    • Avatar

      April

      December 11, 2011 at 8:28 AM

      I don’t think society is justified in questioning how two adult married Muslims choose to structure their lives. So long as it is consensual, meaning that the wife has agreed to the arrangement, I can’t see how it is anyone’s business who goes out to work and who stays at home to take care of the kids. There are many reasons why such an arrangement might work better in some families.

      • Avatar

        AbuKunya

        December 15, 2011 at 1:42 PM

        So long as husband and wife agree, what does it matter what Allah says, eh?

        Not singling you out with my response, per se, but to the idea that it should become considered acceptable to invert the roles of who goes out to work .. especially the notion of doing so on the basis of consensuality (is that a word?) between husband and wife.

        _______
        That was where my comment could end, but I feel the strange need to clarify my standpoint, which is this:

        No doubt circumstances may dictate that such an arrangement is a practical reality.
        And if so, there should be no shame imputed, nor felt.
        In such a situation the husband should fulfill this role, however temporary (or not, as the case may be, as decreed by Allah azza wal), to the best of his ability, indeed with cheerfulness, optimism, hope, proactivity and love for his family (as opposed to moping and feeling sorry for oneself) – I definitely applaud this.

        But the *intention* surely ought to be to seek (by dint of dua and by effort) to revert to the natural roles that we were made for, the ones we are meant to fulfill as husband and wife, the roles we will be questioned about, and to avoid the trap of becoming too entrenched in that new arrangement – to the point where it becomes the state of affairs in that family or in society.

        It’s a test from the tests in this world.

        _____________

        As a side note I’d like to point out this – is there also not a distinction to be made between the husband ‘going out to work’ and the husband ‘providing for his wife/family’.
        The two are not necessarily the same (though often of course they are).

        ie. is wealthy enough without having to go out to work.
        (..or, works from home? lol.)

        So long as he is fulfilling his duties of housing, clothing, feeding etc. – is that not what he’ll be questioned about?

  9. Avatar

    Olivia

    December 10, 2011 at 11:53 PM

    Masha’Allah, Saqib, what a great article. My Allah bless you and Ayesha and Abdullah.

  10. Avatar

    Zahra

    December 11, 2011 at 6:32 PM

    Jazak Allah khairan for the honest and heartfelt insights. This article is a wonderful depiction of all the effort it takes to make a family succeed. May Allah swt bless your family, ameen.

  11. Avatar

    Hassan

    December 13, 2011 at 6:06 PM

    Were you living in your parents house during the time?

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  13. Avatar

    maryam

    April 2, 2013 at 5:00 PM

    Happy to see MM hosting an article like this!

  14. Avatar

    Hira

    January 17, 2016 at 12:53 AM

    Assalaamu’alaikum Brother.

    I was pleasantly surprised and happy to read your article. Unfortunately, society today still has a way to make someone feel ashamed about something so remarkable. I am a daughter who’s father was a “stay home dad” and mother was a physician. My parents immigrated to North America in the seventies, though my father was initially successful in obtaining work in a larger city. My mother being a foreign trained physician had to apply through various institutions to get her licensing. Alhumduhlilah she did get a placement but work was in a more rural area. By this time they had three children and needed someone to look after them. As my mother’s job was more secure than my father’s she worked while my father took care of us. For those people who read this, before judging, assuming and criticizing others- please be advised that such things can and do happen. We three grew up in a population of 15 000 with a huge Caucasian community, limited muslim interaction and virtually no other ethnicity. Alhumduhlilah we can speak four languages (including urdu), and all three of us are health care professionals, we love, cherish and respect our parents and have strong muslim and family values. Perhaps my father could have gone elsewhere and worked but at what price? So someone else could have looked after us? So we would be raised by strangers? My parents made the best that they could under the circumstances they faced… be fore we judge others perhaps we should take a long look into ourselves and see if we cannot do something to make our own life/ selves better.

    Anyway, I just wanted to say I am extremely close to my father and he is one of best friends and someone who has been a hero to me as is my mother. Both have led paradoxical lives but simply to do the best they can for their children. Masha’Allah I applaud you both for doing what you are and dua that your children grow-up to also be open minded, tolerant and understanding of the uncertainties and unpredictability of life. Though others may judge you- to your child your presence and time may simply be the best gift you could ever give.

    Asslaamu’alaikum,

    your sister in Islam

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#Life

Highly Educated, Willingly Domesticated

Laura El Alam

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Doctor.  Engineer.  Certified Nurse-Midwife. Writer and Literary Critic.  Lab Technician. Parliamentary Assistant. These highly-trained, respected careers are the culmination of years of intense study, training, and self-discipline.  Most people, upon achieving these esteemed positions, would happily dedicate the rest of their working years to putting their knowledge and expertise to use. They would gradually gain more experience, earn greater pay, and amass professional perks.  Most likely they would also, over time, assume leadership roles, earn awards, or become sought-after experts in their field.

What kind of person has all this at her fingertips, but decides to give it up?  Who would trade in years of grueling study and professional striving for an undervalued position that requires no degree whatsoever What type of professional would be willing to forgo a significant salary to instead work for free, indefinitely, with no chance whatsoever of a paycheck, recognition, benefits, or promotion?  

Who else, but a mother?  

While certainly not all mothers choose to give up their careers in order to raise their children, there is a subset of women who do. Stay-at-home-moms (SAHMs) may spend the majority of their days performing unglamorous tasks like washing dishes, changing diapers, and reading storybooks to squirming toddlers, but behind the humble job title are dynamic, educated, and capable women. They may currently have a burp cloth in one hand and a sippy cup in the other, but chances are, SAHMs have a mind and capabilities that reach far beyond the apparent scope of their household duties.  

What motivates a capable and ambitious woman to give up her career and stay home to raise children? Is she coerced into it, or does she choose it willingly? What is her driving force, if not money, status, or respect?  I had many questions for these women -my sisters in Islam and my stay-at-home “colleagues”- and some of their answers surprised me.  

For this article I interviewed seven highly-educated Muslim moms who chose to put successful careers on hold, at least temporarily, to raise their children. Between them, they hold PhDs, MDs, and Masters degrees. While the pervasive stereotype about Muslim women is that they are oppressed and backward, these high-achieving females are no anomaly. In fact, according to her article in USA Today, Dalia Mogahed points out that, “Muslim American women are among the most educated faith group in the country and outpace their male counterparts in higher education.”  Across the pond, The Guardian reports that more young Muslim women have been gaining degrees at British universities than Muslim men, even though they have been underrepresented for decades.”    

 

Ambitions and dreams

Every single one of the women I interviewed grew up in a household with parents who highly emphasized their daughters’ education. In fact, all of them were encouraged -either gently or more insistently- to pursue “top” careers in medicine, engineering, or science. Perhaps unsurprisingly, most of the women I interviewed were at the head of their classes at university.

In their school years, before marriage, all of the women I spoke with considered their career to be their main priority; motherhood seemed far-off and undefined. “When in uni,” explains Neveen, an endodontist who eventually put her career on hold to be a SAHM and homeschooler, “I never, ever thought I’d homeschool (nor did I believe in it), nor did I ever think I’d be a SAHM. I was very career-oriented. I was top of my class in dental school and in residency.”

“I absolutely thought I would be a career woman,” agrees Nicole, a mom of three in California who holds a Masters degree in Middle East Studies. “I never considered staying at home with the kids, because they were totally out of my mind frame at the time.”

“I expected that after graduation I would follow a research-based career,” adds Layla*, another SAHM in California who holds a PhD in Computer Engineering. “I never thought I’d stay at home because I believed it was fine for kids to be in daycare. I also thought SAHMs were losing their potential and missing out on so much they could otherwise accomplish in their lives.”

As young women, many assumed that if they ever chose to start a family, they would have assistants, nannies, or domestic helpers to lighten their load. Several of them believed they would put their future children, if any, in daycare. However, the reality of motherhood made each of these women change her mind.  

“My child was highly attached to me,” explains Sazida, an Assistant to a Member of Parliament in England, “and I could not envision him being looked after by anyone else despite generous offers from relatives.”  

“After I had my first child all I wanted to do was be able to care for her myself,” concurs Melissa, a Certified Nurse Midwife from New York.  

 

Other Motivations

It turns out that maternal instincts were not the only factor that made women choose to drop out of the workforce. Dedication to Islam played an enormous part in their decision-making.

“After having my first child,” explains Layla, “I decided that he was far more precious than working. He is a gift that Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) gave me to protect and care for.”

“After I became Muslim,” shares Nicole, “My goals changed, and I hoped to marry and have children. I do think it was beneficial for my children to have a parent always there to depend on,” she adds. “I feel like I was the anchor in the family for them, and I hope to continue that role.”

“What’s important to me,” asserts Neveen, “Is to raise my kids as good Muslims who love -and are proud of- their life and deen.”

Another reason many highly educated women choose to stay at home is because they have the opportunity to homeschool some or all of their children.  Remarkably, out of the seven women who answered questions for this article, five reported that they chose to homeschool at least one child for a few or more years.  

“I really enjoy my homeschooling journey with my kids and I get to know them better, alhamdullilah,” states Layla.

The opportunity to nurture, educate, and raise their children with love and Islamic values is the primary reason why these talented women were willing to put their successful careers on hold. “Hopefully Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) will reward us in Jannah,” muses Layla.

 

Challenges

Although none of the women I interviewed regrets her choice to be a SAHM, they all agree that it is a challenging job that is actually harder than their former career.  

One obstacle they must overcome is the negative perception others have about successful women who make the choice to put their career on hold.  “I soon learnt that casual clothes, a toddler, and a buggy don’t give you the same respect as suits and heels,” says Sazida.

One would expect, given their faith’s emphasis on the dignity of mothers, that Muslim SAHMs would enjoy the support of their family and friends.  Unfortunately, this is not always the case.

One mom explains, “My in-laws offered to look after my child, and my father-in-law couldn’t understand why I wanted to stay at home when there was perfectly good childcare that they were offering. After two and three years passed, he got more and more disheartened that I was not earning and complained about the lost potential income.”

“My non-Muslim mother told me that I wasting my education,” confides Nicole. “She did not support me staying home, though I think she appreciated that I was there for my children and have a good relationship with them.  She was a SAHM as well, so I am not sure where that was coming from, actually.”

Melissa’s mom was similarly skeptical of her daughter’s decision. “My mother didn’t love me being fully dependent on my husband,” she admits.  

“I was not at all supported by my family or friends,” laments Radhia, a Lab Technician with a BS in Microbiology with a Chemistry minor.

Other than being doubted and blamed for their choice, there are other challenges that SAHMs face. Accustomed to mental stimulation, exciting challenges, professional accomplishments, and adult interaction, many former career women find staying at home to raise youngsters to be monotonous and lonely. The nannies, assistants, cleaners, and other workers they had envisioned often never materialized, since hiring these helpers was usually too expensive. Husbands who spent the day working as the family’s sole breadwinner, were usually too tired to help with household duties.  A few women admitted that they felt guilty asking for help in the home when their husband was already exhausted from work. To exacerbate the problem, most of the women I interviewed lived far from family, so they could not rely on the help one normally gets from parents and siblings. That means the bulk of the childcare and housework fell onto their laps alone.  

“The main challenges for me,” states Nicole, “were boredom, and finding good friends to spend time with who had similar interests. I was also very stressed because the raising of the children, the housework, the food, and overall upkeep of our lives were my responsibility, and I found that to be a heavy burden.”

“I think the feelings of vulnerability and insecurity about whether I was a good enough mother and housewife was difficult,” shares Melissa. “All my sense of worth was wrapped up in the kids and home, and if something went wrong I felt like a failure.”

“It was not as easy as I thought it would be,” confesses Radhia. “It was overwhelming at times, and I did miss working. Emotionally and physically, it was very draining.”

“Staying home has been harder than I expected,” adds Summer*, a Writer and Literary Critic from Boston. “I didn’t realize how willful children could be. I thought they’d just do what I said. I’m still trying to get used to the individuality! It’s harder than my job was, only because of the emotional load, and the fact that the effort you put in doesn’t guarantee the results you hope for.”

 

Money Matters

Giving up their salary also put women in a state of financial dependency, which can be a bitter pill to swallow for women who are used to having their own resources.  

“I felt very dependent on my husband, financially,” says Radhia.

“Alhamdulillah, my husband does not refuse if I ask him to buy anything,” explains Layla. “However, I felt like I was losing my power of deciding to buy something for someone else. For example, if I want to buy a gift for my mother or my sister, he never refuses when I ask him, but still I feel internally it is harder for me.”

“Alhamdulillah my husband’s personality is not one that would control my financial decisions/spending,” shares Neveen. “Otherwise I would never have chosen to be a SAHM.”

“Giving up my career limited my power to make financial decisions,” asserts Summer. “I could still spend what I wanted, but I had to ask permission, because my husband knew when ‘we’ were getting paid, and how much. He paid the bills, which I didn’t even look at.”

“Asking permission,” Summer adds, “is very annoying.”

Re-entering the workforce was difficult for some women, while not for others.  The total time spent at home generally affected whether women could easily jump back into their profession, or not.  Some of the moms felt their skills had not gotten rusty at all during their hiatus at home, while others felt it was nearly impossible to make up, professionally, for missed time.  

 

Words of Wisdom

Although all of the women I interviewed firmly believe that their time at home with their children is well-spent, they do have advice for their sisters who are currently SAHMs, or considering the position.  

“If I could go back and speak to myself as a new mum, I would tell myself to chill the heck out and just enjoy being a new mum,” says Sazida.

Melissa offers, “I wish people understood how talented you have to be to run a home successfully. It’s a ton of work and it requires you to be able to do everything from snuggle and nurture, to manage the money, budget, plan precisely, be a good hostess, handle problems around the home, manage time, and meet goals all while trying to look cute.

“I would always recommend that women have their own bank account and money on the side,” advises Nicole. “You never know when you are going to need it.”

“Once their kids are in school,” adds Radhia, “I would suggest SAHMs start something from home, or take on part time work, or courses, if necessary.”

“For moms choosing to stay at home,” Layla suggests, “I would say try to work part-time if your time permits, and if you have a passion for working. Trust that Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) will protect you, no matter what. Remember, you are investing in your kids, and that is far more important than thinking ‘I need to keep money in my pocket.’”

 

Support, don’t judge

As a Muslim ummah, our job is to support one another as brothers and sisters.  It seems people forget this oftentimes, and erroneously believe that we are entitled to gossip, speculate, and sit in judgement of each other, instead.  In our lives we will all undoubtedly encounter women who choose to continue their careers, and those who put them on hold, and those who decide to give them up completely. Before we dare draw conclusions about anyone, we must keep in mind that only Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) knows a person’s entire story, her motivations, and her intentions. Only He subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) is allowed to judge.  

We must also remember that some women, for a variety of reasons, do not have the luxury of choosing to stay at home. They must work to the pay the bills. Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) knows their intentions and will reward their sacrifices as well.

 

It is my hope that this article will not cause more division amongst us, but rather raise awareness of the beautiful sacrifices that many talented and intelligent women willingly make for the sake of their children, and even more so, for the sake of Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He).  They are the unsung heroes of our ummah, performing an undervalued job that is actually of utmost importance to the future of the world.

 

*Name has been changed

 

 

For the past decade, writer Laura El Alam has been a regular contributor to SISTERS Magazine, Al Jumuah, and About Islam. Her articles frequently tackle issues like Muslim American identity, women’s rights in Islam, support of converts/reverts, and racism. A graduate of Grinnell College, she currently lives in Massachusetts with her husband and five children. Laura recently started a Facebook page, The Common Sense Convert, to support Muslim women, particularly those who are new to the deen.

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OpEd: Breaking Leases Into Pieces

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Ali ibn Talib raḍyAllāhu 'anhu (may Allāh be pleased with him)once said, “Know the truth and you’ll know who’s speaking the truth.” 

I am based in Canada and was recently having coffee with friends. In the course of the conversation, a friend (who I consider knowledgeable) said that it’s okay to pay interest on a leased car because interest doesn’t apply to lease contracts. This completely caught me off guard, because it made no logical sense that interest would become halal based solely on the nature of the contract.

I asked him how this can be true and his response was that the lease contract is signed with the dealer and the interest transaction is between the dealer and the financing company so it has nothing to do with the buyer. Again, this baffled me because I regularly lease cars and this is an incorrect statement: The lease agreement is signed with a third party financing company who is charging you directly for the interest they pay the car dealership. Therefore, any lease contract that has interest associated with it is haram. This is the same as saying your landlord can charge you interest for his mortgage on a rental contract and this would make it halal. I tried to argue this case and explain to my friend that what he was saying was found on false assumptions and one should seriously look into this matter before treating riba in such a light manner.

Upon going home that night, I pulled out all my lease contracts (negotiated to 0% mind you) and sent them over to my friend. They clearly showed that a bill of sale is signed with the dealer, which is an initial commitment to purchase but the actual lease agreement is signed with a third party financing company which is charging you interest directly. If this interest rate is anything above zero it is haram (anything which is haram in a large quantity is also haram in a small quantity).

To my dismay, instead of acknowledging his mistake, my friend played the “Fatwa Card” and sent me a fatwa from a very large fatwa body in North America, which was also basing their argument on this false assumption. Fortunately for me, my friend pointed out the hotline number and the day and time the mufti who gave the fatwa would be available to answer questions.

I got in touch with the scholar and over a series of text messages proceeded to explain to him that his fatwa was based on a wrong assumption and for this reason people would be misled into leasing cars on interest and signing agreements with financing companies which are haram.
He was nice enough to hear my arguments, but still insisted that “maybe things were different in Canada.” Again this disappointed me because giving fatwa is a big responsibility – by saying “maybe” he was implying that full research has not been done and a blanket fatwa has been given for all of North America.

It also meant that if my point was true (for both Canada and the United States) dozens of Muslims maybe engaging in riba due to this fatwa.

The next week I proceeded to call two large dealerships (Honda and Toyota) in the very city where the Fatwa body is registered in the US and asked them about paperwork related to leasing. They both confirmed that when leasing a new vehicle, the lease contract is signed with a third party financing company which has the lien on the vehicle and the dealer is acting on the financing company’s behalf.

It is only when a vehicle is purchased in cash that a contract is signed with the dealer. This proved my point that both in the US and Canada car lease contracts are signed with the financing company and the interest obligations are directly with the consumer, therefore if the interest rate is anything above 0% it is haram. I sent a final text to the mufti and my friend sharing what I had found and letting him know that it was now between them and Allah.

1. As we will stand in front of Allah alone on Yaum al Qiyamah, in many ways we also stand alone in dunya. You would think that world renowned scholars and an entire institution would be basing their fatwas on fact-checked assumptions but this is not the case. You would also think that friends who you deem knowledgable and you trust would also use logic and critical thinking, but many times judgment is clouded for reasons unbeknownst to us. We must not take things at face value. We must do our research and get to the bottom of the truth. Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) says to stand up for truth and justice even if it be against our ourselves; although it is difficult to do so in front of friends and scholars who you respect, it is the only way.

2. There are too many discussions, debates and arguments that never reach closure or get resolved. It is important to follow up with each other on proofs and facts to bring things to closure, otherwise our deen will slowly be reduced to a swath of grey areas. Alhamdulillah, I now know enough about this subject to provide a 360 degree view and can share this with others. It is critical to bring these discussions to a close whether the result is for you or against you.

3. Many times we have a very pessimistic and half hearted view towards access to information. When I was calling the dealerships from Canada in the US,  part of me said: Why would these guys give me the information? But if you say Bismillah and have your intentions in the right place Allah makes the path easy. One of the sales managers said “I can see you’re calling from Toronto, are you sure you have the right place?” I replied, “I need the information and if you can’t give it to me I don’t mind hanging up.” He was nice enough to provide me with the detailed process and paperwork that goes into leasing a car.

Finally, I haven’t mentioned any names in this opinion and I want to make clear that I am not doubting the intentions of those who I spoke to; I still respect and admire them greatly in their other works. We have to be able to separate individual cases and actions from the overall person.

May Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) guide us to the truth and rid of us any weaknesses or arrogance during the process.

Aameen.

Ed’s Note: The writer is not a religious scholar and is offering his opinion based on his research on leasing contracts in North America.

Suggested reading:

Muslim’s Guide to Debt and Money Management Part 6

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