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Women Entrepreneurs in the Islamic Legacy.

Byline: Sundeela Fayyaz

Women are the stronghold of any nation, as they raise the future generations. In today's world, women not only care for the domestic affairs and their children, but have also stepped out into the society, contributing positively in nearly all the fields - starting from education and medicine and up to owning their own businesses.

Women Entrepreneurs

Entrepreneurs are people who choose to run their own business, rather than work as employees. Women who run their own businesses are sometimes referred to as 'womenpreneurs'.

Islamic Concept of Women Entrepreneurship

Islam has always considered entrepreneurship an important source of living. Thus, it has its own entrepreneurship culture and guiding principles, based on the Quran and the Sunnah.

In Islam, women are not required to work for earning their living; instead, the responsibility to look after them is the duty of either their parents or husband. However, Islam does not forbid women from working or conducting business. Rather, according to the Islamic law, a Muslim woman has the right to own property, to earn money through business and other professional activities, to enter into legal contracts and manage all of her assets in a way she pleases. She is entitled to run her own business, and no one can put any claims on her earnings (not even her husband), provided that the Islamic standard of propriety and morality is maintained.

Conditions for Women Entrepreneurship in Islam

Islam sets certain conditions for women regarding entrepreneurial operations, which they must follow:

a) A woman must take consent from her husband or guardian before engaging in entrepreneurial activities.

b) She must follow appropriate dress code, as prescribed by Islam.

c) She must ensure that her home and children are properly taken care of.

d) She must lower her gaze and guard her modesty.

e) Any kind of activity that prevents her from following any Islamic obligations, such as

observing Hijab or prayer, is not permissible.

f) Islam has prescribed the limits of Halal and Haram, which both men and women have to observe in all circumstances. They can engage only in Halal pursuits.

Besides these conditions, women must follow the basic Islamic practices in their lives, which include: acquiring knowledge from the Quran and Sunnah, performing prayers, paying Zakat, going for Hajj, fasting in the month of Ramadan, being grateful to Allah (swt), and engaging in remembrance of Allah (swt).

History of Women Entrepreneurship in Islam

We see from the Islamic history that many Muslim women proved themselves excellent in the fields of education, business and medicine. They conducted trade even during the time of the Prophet (sa), who himself motivated women to get involved in business. While Europe was experiencing the Dark Ages, powerful and influential Muslim women were among the best entrepreneurs of their time.

1. Khadija bint Khuwaylid (rtaf)

The first wife of our Prophet (sa) Khadijah bint Khuwaylid (rtaf) was a successful and famous business woman of Makkah. She was a woman of intelligence, who was deeply respected in her society. Khadijah (rtaf) was the leading business woman of her time. She played significant role in the rise of Islam, offering to the Prophet (sa) encouragement and moral support. What's remarkable is that she was also an obedient wife and a loving mother of six children.

2. Asma bint Abu Bakr (rtaf)

When Asma (rtaf), the daughter of Abu Bakr (rtam), got married to Zubair (rtam), they did not have wealth. Prophet Muhammad (sa) gave them some land about two miles away from their home. Asma (rtaf) used to farm and transport the products herself. She was also a dutiful wife and remarkable mother.

3. Zainab bint Jahash (rtaf)

As narrated by Aisha (rtaf), Ummul Mumineen Zainab bint Jahash (rtaf) used to process leather and then sew different things from it to sell in the market. She was also an obedient wife, and also known for her piety and generosity as a Muslimah.

4. Wife of Abdullah ibn Masud (rtam)

The wife of Abdullah ibn Masud (rtam) used to meet her expenses by manufacturing and selling handicrafts. Abdullah bin Masud (rtam) was a stalwart among the Sahabah and had profound knowledge of the Quran.

5. Al-Shifa bint Muawiz (rtaf)

Woman trader Al-Shifa bint Muawiz (rtaf) was elected to be the "commandant" of Madinah market.

6. Sauda (rtaf)

Wife of the Prophet (sa) Saudah (rtaf) was an expert in lather tanning skins. She sold her tanned goods to trading caravans and local men throughout Madinah. Sauda (rtaf) was a supportive wife of the Prophet (sa) after Khadija's (rtaf) death and also a kind mother to the Prophet's (sa) children.

7. More Successful Women

Other women, such as Khaula, Lakhmia, Thaqafia, and Bint Makhramah, traded in oriental oil based perfumes.

More than 1400 years ago, Islam granted to these great women the rights that Western women have acquitted only recently. We can truly be proud of these successful Muslim women entrepreneurs and encourage the Muslim women of today to follow the examples they have set.

What today's women must understand and appreciate is that all the above women were equally spiritual in their worship and obedience to Allah (swt). They followed their husband's instructions to maintain peace at home. They managed their children yet they never complained. These entrepreneurs were patient, Allah-fearing and hardworking independent women who had no problem accepting their femininity and related roles. Because they believed in Allah's (swt) justice.
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Date:Aug 2, 2019
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