By Ethar Hamid
10 January 2017
I don’t think I will ever be a ‘career woman’ in the sense we know. I won’t ever be a working powerhouse that takes joy and pride in my work, and brings home the turkey bacon (#KeepingItHalal). But I’m ok with that. Completely. In my opinion, there are other ways to fill up ones time and effort, and other ways a woman can help her family out, besides earning a steady pay cheque. The reason why I don’t think I will ever be such a woman is because I don’t really want to, and even if I wanted to, I don’t really think I can.
The reason why I don’t want to work a full-time job is because I don’t want such a big chunk of my time to be spent working. I’d rather be working on my debut book (I’m an aspiring writer) and volunteering in my community, as I am now — I volunteer one hour a week tutoring elementary-schoolers. I enjoy working around kids and being a student of my religion, spending time on Qur’anic studies and the Seerah of our Prophet (peace be upon him) and with this, hopefully imparting that knowledge unto others.
The reason why a full time job might not be the best scenario for me, and why I would probably struggle a lot with such an undertaking is because of my mental illness, which often makes it really hard to hold down a job. I did try to hold down a part-time job once but I found this to be really hard.
The question is, do I really have to have a full-time job? Even a part-time job? I mean, Islamically, I don’t have to as a woman is not obligated to work in order to provide for her family. But what about people? You know—those judgmental folks you always happen to meet after you make a socially unpopular decision, such as deciding not to go to college right after high school, or even at all? Everyones path is different, so why judge anyone for what they believe is the right thing for them? What kinds of faces will people make when I tell them I don’t have a steady job? That I don’t really plan on that, either?
Why are we, as people, so defined by what we do? Why is our worth measured by our work? It seems kind of funny that how we happen to make money becomes such an important factor in whom we are. In reality, many of us don’t like what we do (but are of course forced to do it for money); we don’t have steady jobs, at all (we are homemakers, freelancers, temporary job holders, or other titles that aren’t traditional jobs), or would otherwise prefer to not be defined by our occupations.
But, similar to many other problems in the world, I blame capitalism for this equating work with worth. It is capitalism after all that has led to collective beliefs of ‘money guarantees happiness,’ or that ‘the more money you’ve made, the harder you’ve worked.’ All those ideas are complete nonsense, anyway. How many wealthy people are unhappy and spiritually depraved, after all? How many people do we know of—indeed, how many billions of people are there—who work really hard, but who can never make ends meet?
It is capitalism, and capitalist theories that were around before modern-day capitalism, that have created these societal feelings of work—of money—being the most important things in life. They say that “the ‘higher-up’ your job is, the more money you can make. And the more money you make, the happier you’ll be.” I feel like this is quite a harsh and heartless formula, really; this equation doesn’t factor in any illnesses, disabilities or life events. It doesn’t account for the lack of desire to work most of your waking hours… it doesn’t leave room for life, really. And the truth is; life, with all its occurrences, circumstances, joys and sorrows, spiritual growth, and beauty—doesn’t really go with capitalism.
On a similar vein, I’ve always thought it is a bit weird that a regular workweek in these societies of ours is 40 hours long. I mean, that’s kind of a lot, isn’t it? 20 hours a week should have been the regular workweek, to me. And speaking of weird economic systems, I don’t really know why we don’t have a universal basic income anywhere that I know of. For example, what if someone—a man or a woman—suffers from severe mental illness, or another kind of disability, for example? What if regular work is something beyond their ability? Do they just struggle with money their whole lives? End up homeless? When they physically or mentally can’t work? Or maybe such people have to live with family, when they want to be independent? All this while their governments, which could be providing them with basic income), squander money on crazy things like waging unnecessary wars, or looking for aliens.
Anyone who runs a home, even for the duration of one week, will know very well the amount of work it takes to do so. Dishes, laundry, cooking, sweeping and mopping floors, cleaning the bathrooms, vacuuming, dusting, wiping table tops, keeping rooms tidy… these tasks don’t just get done by themselves. Anyone who is a student of this deen knows how hard the task is, and how hard it is to perfect all the obligations of Islam, for that matter. Anyone who is a volunteer worker in their community will tell you that it’s not necessarily easy work, yet it is crucial. Volunteers are crucial in any community.
The truth is, there is important and noble work to be done in the world, work that pays nothing. So don’t let anyone tell you that paid jobs are the only (or even the most important) productive tasks in life, or that your job defines your worth, in any way. All of that is simply not true.
In addition to being a homemaker, a volunteer in my community, a mother, and a student of this deen, I actually do want to do some professional work, in the sense that I want to be a freelance graphic designer and a writer. Right now, I’m completing a B.A. in graphic design to help me achieve this goal, as well as taking many elective classes in English and creative writing.
But with the kind of life that I chose, I know there will be intermittent times in my life when I obtain no money for what I do. But, Alhamdulillah, it’s all good. Since when did working a nine-to-five, and the cash flow that comes out of that—since when did that become the most important thing in life, anyway?