If a girl or woman wants to go to a school where she can cover her head (wear hijab),where only female students attend and where she can study non-religious subjects, can her father or her husband (if she is married) prevent her according to our religion?

The Answer

Dear Brother / Sister,

"If a girl or woman wants to go to a school (middle school, high school, university) where she can cover her head (wear hijab), where only female students attend and where she can study non-religious subjects (chemistry, sociology, history, etc.)", she needs to go to such a school. A woman who has learned her religion, practices it, has studied another subject and has received education can serve Islam better and more effectively than those who lack such knowledge.   

"If her father or husband does not allow", it is necessary to consider the reason. If the reason is groundless, weak, inconsistent and unjust, what should the daughter or wife do?

If a woman decides to have education despite her father or husband, the family order will be disrupted and it will have many drawbacks. If she gives up, she will be deprived of education and serving Islam. In that case, the solution should be persuasion through the intermediary of wise people.

It is fard for a person, whether male or female, to learn the sciences necessary for them. No one has the right to prevent something that is fard (obligatory), and others’ permission is not necessary. Besides, it is one of the most important duties of parents or husbands to prepare the necessary conditions for learning those sciences.

Undoubtedly, religious sciences are among the main sciences that are necessary. The most important ones among them are the knowledge of catechism (ilm al-hal) about creed and worship.

Learning the remaining sciences such as medicine, engineering and architecture is a fard al-kifaya, though not fard al-ayn. When some people learn them, others are freed from its responsibility. Branches of science such as imamate, preaching, being mufti, medicine, midwifery, nursing, engineering, architecture and administration are fard al-kifaya. It is not possible for everyone to be a mufti; similarly, it is not possible for everyone to be an engineer.

It is understood from those explanations that learning such sciences, whether they are social sciences such as sociology, psychology and history, or exact sciences such as chemistry, physics, mathematics and astronomy, is important indirectly, though not directly because every century has its own characteristics. As Badiuzzaman Said Nursi puts it, "Time is a great interpreter; there is no objection if it shows its conditions." In this century, which is under the effect of materialist philosophy in all aspects, heresy and irreligion come from science and philosophy. In order to be able to resist those materialist movements, it is necessary to know and learn the religion of Islam properly, and to transform belief - equipped with science - into an investigative style. It is possible only by learning science.

However, we should state again that learning those sciences is not fard al-ayn. Therefore, as a general fatwa, we cannot say that it is fard / wajib for everyone to learn them and that no guardian can prevent it. Individuals and families need to decide in this regard specifically by understanding the importance of the issue.

We should not forget that the peace and tranquility among the members of a family should be sought not only within the framework of law, but also in humane and ethical dimensions such as mutual respect-love, solidarity and reconciliation. Otherwise, if everyone tries to seek their rights individually, there will be no peace in the family. There are places where rights correspond and also places where they conflict.

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