Facts From Fiction

Does Islam Forbid Women from Leaving the Home? Deconstructing the Myth


Nila Ahmad, USA

I find this particular misconception interesting for any time I have received a question of this nature, you can be assured that I have encountered the questioner outside of my house in some public space. And although my own presence outside the four walls of my home could be proof that Islam does not restrict women in this way, I am perceived to be the exception to the case in the eyes of my questioner. Therefore, it is necessary to draw from the Holy Qur’an and historical accounts to dispel this misconception.

What instructions has the Holy Qur’an provided to clearly infer that women can leave the home? The first instruction is that of purdah (the veil). The Holy Qur’an states that believing women,

… draw their head-coverings over their bosoms, and that they disclose not their beauty save to their husbands, or to their fathers, or the fathers of their husbands or their sons or the sons of their husbands or their brothers, or the sons of their brothers, or the sons of their sisters …’. [1]

One might ask how the instruction of purdah supports the fact that women can leave the home. Well, the verse specifically states before whom purdah (the veil) is not necessary. Thus, a Muslim woman must cover herself before any other man who does not fall in this category. If a woman is meant to only stay at home, when would she wear the veil? Is the whole instruction of purdah based on the off chance that non-familial men are visiting the home? No, clearly not. It is only because women are expected to leave the home for various purposes that the injunction of the veil is given to both men and women. Islam established these safeguards so that when women do leave the house, they are protected from objectification and unwanted attention from men.

One only needs to look at historical accounts from the time of the Holy Prophet Muhammad (sa) to discover the truth of the matter. History tells us that Muslim women left their homes to tend to the wounded during battles and to work the fields. The Holy Prophet’s (sa) wives would accompany him on trips and in fact, Hazrat Aisha (ra) later commanded an army in the Battle of the Camel. If women were not allowed to leave the home, the Holy Prophet (sa) would have been the first to stop his wives and daughters from doing so. As Hazrat Mirza Bashiruddin Mahmud Ahmad (ra), the Second Head of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community wrote,

This type of purdah is not found in the Holy Qur’an or in the Hadith. It can be clearly deduced from the Holy Qur’an, that women are permitted to go outside their homes. Were they not allowed to go outside, there would hardly be the need for the command of Ghadd-e-Basar [(for men) to keep one’s eyes downcast]. History tells us that during the time of the Holy Prophet Muhammad (as), his own wives and daughters would go outside in order to go out onto the battlefields, to work on farms … This was evidenced thousands of times and even the slightest account of history proves this to be true. Thousands of incidences prove that women did leave their homes.’ [2]

Thus, the Holy Qur’an and historical accounts undeniably prove that Islam allows women the freedom to leave their homes. If there is a man, woman, child, or even government that claims otherwise, then rest assured there are other motives at work, none of which are religious in nature. The truth of the matter is that Islam allows women to leave the home and enables them to do so with freedom and safety.

About the Author: Nila Ahmad lives in the southern United States with her family. Having graduated with an art degree, she has participated in the illustration of children’s books, as well as serving on the team for US magazine Al-Hilal. Her particular interest is in dispelling misconceptions around women’s status in Islam. Nila is an Assistant Editor of the Women’s Section of The Review of Religions.


[1] The Holy Qur’an 24:32

[2] Ahmad (ra), Hazrat Mirza Bashir-ud-din Mahmud. Flowers for the Women Wearing Veils. Silver Spring, MD: Lajna Ima’illah USA, 2019, pg. 218, 219.