New to Islam? Women In Christianity And Islaam

Misha'al ibn Abd
Non Muslims
It never ceases to amaze me. Whenever the topic of Islam is brought up among Christians, the first objection that immediately springs into their minds is: "But women are so extremely oppressed in Islam." Even though this topic is usually brought up out of ignorance and in order to distract attention from more fundamental issues of worship such as the "trinity" and the "divine sonship" ...etc.

The problem is twofold: First of all, these people usually only have a very superficial knowledge of what Islam is, and secondly, they are ignorant of their own religion. People who make these allegations against Islam can usually be described by one or all of the following:

1) They have gotten their information from a non-Muslim biased media which adores sensationalism and has no use for interviewing people who are actually content with their way of life. These people have also, more often than not, never been to an Islamic country.

2) Even if they have ever been to an Islamic country, they have never bothered to try to get to know the natives and actually speak with them and get their true opinions but preferred to stick close to their own closed circle of fellow countrymen never venturing far away from them.

3) They do not differentiate between the words and actions of a government in an Islamic country and the teachings of Islam itself. Is it logical to say: "The United States does not permit religious education in it's public schools. The United States is a Christian country. Therefore, Christianity does not allow the teaching of religion in public schools"? As the saying goes: "you can't please all of the people all of the time." During the days of the Communist Soviet Union, there was no shortage of articles in that country condemning the decadent West, the moral decay of their society, and their complete lack of love for their fellow countrymen.

You might even be able to find a couple of articles about the imminent fall of such a materialistic Western society and maybe even interviews with some of the socialist Communist reform groups within the United States itself and their opinions about the abysmal conditions in the USA. The reader could then conclude that all of the citizens of the United States hate democracy and long for the day when communism will free them from the shackles of democracy.

Many non-Muslims feel sorry for any Muslim women they see adorned in their modest clothing. They feel that they are deprived the freedom to roam around in more scant and revealing clothing. Anyone who lives in a manner other that which they have become accustomed to is seen by them to be oppressed and forced to live in this manner. There are certain tribes in the Amazon jungle and in Africa which have become accustomed to walking around in a simple g-string around their waist. What would the people of the West say if these people were to condemn the Western habit of "forcing" their women to wear "excessive amounts of clothing" and to demand that all women in the west immediately stop wearing anything but the simplest g-string around their waist? What if they were to say that the Western society should immediately stop unjustly persecuting their women and preventing them from freely roaming the streets wearing only a pair of socks? They would say that the people making these demands have no morals or shame. Philosophers would have a field day with such a question.

What if someone were to claim that it was immoral, discriminatory, and unjust to separate men and women in different public bathrooms just as it is not just to do so with blacks and whites. What if this person were to then call (in the interest of equality, fairness, and constitutional freedom of course) for a merging of men and women's bathrooms into one "unisex" or "equal-opportunity" bathrooms for both men and women? Once again, the philosophers would have a field day. Anyone who follows the news will see that this may indeed be where the USA is now headed. In the New York Post (31 Aug. 1994 or a little before) it is reported that women have now won the right to appear topless in the New York subway system. Where will the USA be a few years from now? That is anyone's guess.

Who has the power to determine what is decent and modest clothing? Who is to determine what is decent and modest behavior? Muslims assign this right to God alone. This is the essence of "Islam." "Islam" means "The submission to the will of God." What God commands, a Muslim does. They do not demand that God justify his commands before they accept them. Once they have verified that a command is indeed from God then they abide by it without hesitation.

Well then, what is the Biblical view on these matters? For all those people who would like to see what the Bible has to say about women, we will quote a small sample:

What St. Paul's "new covenant" has to say:

1 Timothy 2:11-14 "Let the woman learn in silence with all subjection. But I suffer not a woman to teach, nor to usurp authority over the man, but to be in silence. For Adam was first formed, then Eve. And Adam was not deceived, but the woman being deceived was in the transgression."

1 Corinthians 14:34 "Let your women keep silence in the churches: for it is not permitted unto them to speak; but they are commanded to be under obedience as also saith the law. And if they will learn any thing, let them ask their husbands at home: for it is a shame for women to speak in the church."

1 Corinthians 11:5-10: "But every woman that prayeth or prophesieth with her head uncovered dishonoureth her head: for that is even all one as if she were shaven. For if the woman be not covered, let her also be shorn: but if it be a shame for a woman to be shorn or shaven, let her be covered. For a man indeed ought not to cover his head, forasmuch as he is the image and glory of God: but the woman is the glory of the man. For the man is not of the woman: but the woman of the man. Neither was the man created for the woman; but the woman for the man. For this cause ought the woman to have power on her head because of the angels."

1 Corinthians 11:13: "Judge in yourselves: is it comely that a woman pray unto God (with her head) uncovered?"

What the Old Testament has to say:

Genesis 3:12-16 "And the man (Adam) said, The woman (Eve) whom thou gavest to be with me, she gave me of the tree, and I did eat. And the LORD God said unto the woman, What is this that thou hast done? And the woman said, The serpent beguiled me, and I did eat. And the LORD God said unto the serpent, Because thou hast done this, thou art cursed above all cattle, and above every beast of the field; upon thy belly shalt thou go, and dust shalt thou eat all the days of thy life: And I will put enmity between thee and the woman, and between thy seed and her seed; it shall bruise thy head, and thou shalt bruise his heel. Unto the woman he said, I will greatly multiply thy sorrow and thy conception; in sorrow thou shalt bring forth children; and thy desire shall be to thy husband, and he shall rule over thee."

Leviticus 12:2-5 "Speak unto the children of Israel, saying, If a woman have conceived seed, and born a MALE child: then she shall be unclean SEVEN DAYS; according to the days of the separation for her infirmity shall she be unclean. And in the eighth day the flesh of his foreskin shall be circumcised. And she shall then continue in the blood of her purifying three and thirty days; she shall touch no hallowed thing, nor come into the sanctuary, until the days of her purifying be fulfilled. But if she bear a FEMALE child, then she shall be unclean TWO WEEKS, as in her separation: and she shall continue in the blood of her purifying threescore and six days."

Ecclesiastes 7:26-28 "And I find more bitter than death the woman who is a snare, whose heart is a trap and whose hands are chains. The man who pleases God will escape her, but the sinner she will ensnare....while I was still searching but not finding, I found one upright man among a thousand but not one upright woman among them all"..

In other words, the Bible teaches us that:

1) Women should learn in silence and subjugation.
2) Women should not teach.
3) Women should not have authority over men but should remain silent.
4) Adam and Eve were not equal in blame. Adam was not deceived but Eve was.
5) Women must keep silent in Churches and not open their mouths.
6) Women are commanded to be under obedience to men.
7) Women should not ask a question in Church. If they have a question they should ask their husbands before going to church and then their husbands will ask for them in the church.
8) It is a shame for women to speak in the church.
9) God ordained that men shall for all time rule over women.
10) A woman should neither pray nor profess with her head uncovered.
11) If a woman prays with her head uncovered then she might as well shave her head.
12) Man was created in the image and glory of God, and Woman was created in the glory of Man, thus Man must have power over her head.
13) Any woman who delivers a male baby shall be unclean for one week. But any woman who delivers a female baby shall be unclean for TWO weeks. Thus, females make their mothers DOUBLY unclean as compared to males.
14) While it is possible to find one upright man in every thousand, it is impossible to find even one single upright woman in every thousand
15) Woman is a snare, her heart is a trap, and her hands are chains. The man who pleases God will escape her, but she will ensnare the sinner.

What the canonized saints of Christianity said about women:

"Woman is a daughter of falsehood, a sentinel of Hell, the enemy of peace; through her Adam lost paradise" (St. John Demascene)

"Woman is the instrument which the devil uses to gain possession of our souls" (St. Cyprian)

"Woman is the fountain of the arm of the devil, her voice is the hissing of the serpent" (St. Anthony)

"Woman has the poison of an asp, the malice of a dragon" (St. Gregory the great)

There is so much more that could be said, for example:

St. Tertullian, while he was talking to his 'best beloved sisters' in the faith, he said, "Do you not know that you are each an Eve? The sentence of God on this sex of yours lives in this age: the guilt must of necessity live too. You are the Devil's gateway: You are the unsealer of the forbidden tree: You are the first deserter of the divine law: You are she who persuaded him whom the devil wasn't valiant enough to attack. You destroyed so easily God's image, man." Once again, St. Augustine wrote to a friend, "What is the difference whether it is in a wife or a mother, it is still Eve the temptress that we must beware of in any woman." Centuries later, St. Thomas Aquinas still considered women as defective, "As regards the individual nature, woman is defective and misbegotten, for the active force in the male seed tends to the production of a perfect likeness in the masculine sex; while the production of woman comes from a defect in the active force or from some material indisposition, or even from some external influence." (all these quotations can be found in Karen Armstrong's book, The Gospel According to Woman, London: Elm Tree Books, 1986, pp. 52-62. See also Nancy van Vuuren, The Subversion of Women as Practiced by Churches, Witch-Hunters, and Other Sexists Philadelphia: Westminister Press pp.28-30.)

Orthodox Jewish men in their daily morning prayer recite "Blessed be God King of the universe that Thou has not made me a woman." The women, on the other hand, thank God every morning for "making me according to Thy will" (Thena Kendath, "Memories of an Orthodox youth" in Susannah Heschel, ed. On being a Jewish Feminist, New York: Schocken Books, 1983, pp. 96-97)

According to the Jewish Talmud, "women are exempt from the study of the Torah." In the first century C.E., Rabbi Eliezer said: "If any man teaches his daughter Torah it is as though he taught her lechery" (Leonard J. Swidler, Women in Judaism: the Status of Women in Formative Judaism, Metuchen, N.J: Scarecrow Press, 1976, pp. 83-93)

According to Rabbi Dr. Menachem M. Brayer (Professor of Biblical Literature at Yeshiva University) in his book 'The Jewish woman in Rabbinic literature', it was the custom of Jewish women to go out in public with a head covering which, sometimes, even covered the whole face leaving one eye free (Psychosocial Perspective, Hoboken, N.J: Ktav Publishing House, 1986, p. 239). He quotes some famous ancient Rabbis saying, "It is not like the daughters of Israel to walk out with heads uncovered" and "Cursed be the man who lets the hair of his wife be seen....a woman who exposes her hair for self-adornment brings poverty."

Rabbinic law forbids the recitation of blessings or prayers in the presence of a bareheaded married woman since uncovering the woman's hair is considered i"nudity" (Ibid., pp. 316-317. Also see Swidler, op. cit., pp. 121-123). Dr. Brayer also mentions that "During the Tannaitic period the Jewish woman's failure to cover her head was considered an affront to her modesty. When her head was uncovered she might be fined four hundred zuzim for this offense."

Dr. Brayer also explains that veil of the Jewish woman wasn't always considered a sign of modesty. Sometimes, the veil symbolized a state of distinction and luxury rather than modesty. The veil personified the dignity and superiority of noble women. It, also, represented a woman's inaccessibility as a sanctified possession of her husband (24. Ibid., p. 139). It is clear in the Old Testament that uncovering a woman's head was a great disgrace and that's why the priest had to uncover the suspected adulteress in her trial by ordeal(Numbers 5:16-18).

St. Tertullian in his famous treatise 'On The Veiling Of Virgins' wrote, "Young women, you wear your veils out on the streets, so you should wear them in the church, you wear them when you are among strangers, then wear them among your brothers..." Among the Canon laws of the Catholic church today, there is a law that require women to cover their heads in church (Clara M. Henning, " Cannon Law and the Battle of the Sexes" in Rosemary R. Ruether, ed., Religion and Sexism: Images of Woman in the Jewish and Christian Traditions, New York: Simon and Schuster, 1974, p. 272.). Some Christian denominations, such as the Amish and the Mennonites for example, keep their women veiled to the present day. The reason for the veil, as offered by their Church leaders, is "The head covering is a symbol of woman's subjection to the man and to God" : The same logic introduced by St. Paul in the New Testament (Donald B. Kraybill, The riddle of the Amish Culture, Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1989, p. 56.)

Russian Orthodox women are expected to wear a head covering when in the church. Most don't outside of it in America, but many in Russia and many other eastern Orthodox women all over eastern Europe, Greece, and the middle east do wear scarves on their heads all the time when in public

It is generally accepted that St. Paul, the author of the majority of the books of the New Testament, underwent a miraculous conversion from a persecutor and killer of Christians into a more perfect teacher of Christianity than the apostles themselves (see chapter 1.2.7). It is also well known that just prior to Paul's miraculous conversion and "heavenly vision" he had been extremely infatuated with a woman called Popea and had wished to marry her. Popea was the attractive but ambitious daughter of the high priest of the Jews. She possessed haughty beauty, and an intriguing mind. She liked Paul but rejected his offers of marriage. She went to Rome as an actress. She started on the stage and ended up in Emperor Nero's bed. She eventually married him and became the Empress of the Roman Empire (Jesus Prophet of Islam, Muhammad 'Ata ur-Rahim, p. 57). For any normal man this would have been sufficient reason to hate both the Jews, the Romans, and probably even all women in general. After his conversion, Paul began to preach celibacy (See most of 1 Corinthians 7).

According to the Old Testament, a childless widow must marry her husband's brother, even if he is already married, regardless of her consent so that she might bear a child from him (Genesis 38).

According to the Bible, "If a man happens to meet a virgin who is not pledged to be married and rapes her and they are discovered, he shall pay the girl's father fifty shekels of silver. He must marry the girl, for he has violated her. He can never divorce her as long as he lives" (Deut. 22:28-30). One must ask a simple question here, who is really punished, the man who raped the woman or the woman who was raped? What is to prevent someone from finding the best looking woman in town, raping her, telling everyone about it, and then having the courts force her to be his wife for the rest of her life?

According to Numbers 27:1-11, widows and sisters don't inherit at all. Daughters can inherit only if their deceased father had no sons.

So what is the official standpoint of the Qur'an with regard to women? Let us have a look:

"And they (women) have rights similar to those of men over them in a just manner." Qur'an Al-Baqarah(2):228

"And their Lord has heard them (and He says): Verily! I suffer not the work of any worker, male or female, to be lost. You proceed one from another. So those who fled and were driven forth from their homes and suffered damage for My cause, and fought and were slain, verily I shall remit their evil deeds from them and verily I shall bring them into Gardens underneath which rivers flow. A reward from Allah. And with Allah is the fairest of rewards." Qur'an, A'al-Umran(3):195.

"And covet not the thing in which Allah has made some of you excel others. Unto men a fortune from that which they have earned, and unto women a fortune from that which they have earned. (Envy not one another) but ask Allah of His bounty. Verily! Allah is Knower of all things." Qur'an Al-Nissa(4):32.

"Unto the men (of a family) belongs a share of that which parents and near kindred leave, and unto the women a share of that which parents and near kindred leav, whether it be little or much, a legal share." Qur'an Al-Nissa(4):77.

"And whoso does good works, whether of male or female, and he (or she) is a believer, such will enter paradise and they will not be wronged the dint in a date stone." Al- Nissa(4):124.

"And the believers, men and women, are protecting friends one of another; they enjoin the right and forbid the wrong, and they establish worship and they pay the poor-due, and they obey Allah and His messenger. As for these, Allah will have mercy on them. Lo! Allah is Mighty, Wise." Qur'an Al-Tauba(9):71

"Whosoever does right, whether male or female, and is a believer, him verily We shall quicken with good life, and We shall pay them a recompense in proportion to the best of what they used to do." Qur'an, Al-Nahil(16):97.

"And of His signs is this: He created for you spouses from yourselves that you might find tranquillity in them, and He ordained between you love and mercy. Lo, herein indeed are signs for folk who reflect." Qur'an Al-Room(30):21

"Whoso does an ill deed, he will be repaid the like thereof, while whoso does right, whether male or female, and is a believer, (all) such will enter the Garden, where they will be nourished without stint." Qur'an 40.

In the Qur'an, both Adam (A.S.) and Eve (A.S.) share the blame for eating from the tree. This can be seen in the Qur'an in such verses as Al-Baqarah(2):36, Al-A'araf(7):22-24. They were also both forgiven by God almighty. Actually, in one verse of the Qur'an (Taha(20):121), Adam (A.S.) is specifically blamed.

Islam encourages spouses to take each other's council and to seek mutual agreement in matters which affect them, for example, in the Qur'an, Al-Bakarah(2):233 we read:
"Mothers shall suckle their children for two whole years; (that is) for those who wish to complete the suckling. The duty of feeding and clothing nursing mothers in a seemly manner is upon the father of the child. No one should be charged beyond their capacity. A mother should not be made to suffer because of her child, nor should he to whom the child is born (be made to suffer) because of his child. And on the (father's) heir is incumbent the like of that (which was incumbent on the father). If they desire to wean the child by mutual consent and (after) consultation, it is no sin for them; and if you wish to give your children out to nurse, it is no sin for you, provided that you pay what is due from you in kindness. Observe your duty to Allah, and know that Allah is Seer of what you do."

Husbands are commanded to treat their wives with kindness and respect. In Al- Nissa(4)-19 we read "..But consort with them in kindness, for if you hate them it may happen that you hate a thing wherein Allah has placed much good."

These are only the tip of the iceberg, as any truly comprehensive study of this matter would require quite a few hundred pages just to contain the verses of the Qur'an and the sayings of the prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings be upon him) in this regard.

(Excerpt From 'What Did Jesus (A.S.) Really Say?' By Misha'al ibn Abdullah al-Kadhi )

Some Ahadeeth

Abu Hurairah (May Allah be pleased with him) reported: Messenger of Allah (peace and blessings be upon him) said, "The believers who show the most perfect Faith are those who have the best behaviour, and the best of you are those who are the best to their wives".

`Abdullah bin `Amr bin Al-`as (May Allah be pleased with them) reported: Messenger of Allah (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) said, "The world is but a (quick passing) enjoyment; and the best enjoyment of the world is a pious and virtuous woman". [Muslim].

Abu Hurairah (May Allah be pleased with him) reported: Messenger of Allah (peace and blessings be upon him) said: "Take my advice with regard to women: Act kindly towards women, for they were created from a rib, and the most crooked part of a rib is its uppermost. If you attempt to straighten it; you will break it, and if you leave it alone it will remain crooked; so act kindly toward women". [Al-Bukhari and Muslim].

In another narration of Al-Bukhari and Muslim, Messenger of Allah (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) said: "A woman is like a rib, if you attempt to straighten it, you will break it; and if you benefit from her, you will do so while crookedness remains in her".

In another narration of Muslim, Messenger of Allah (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) said: 'Woman has been created from a rib and will in no way be straightened for you; so if you want to benefit from her, you will benefit from her while crookedness remains in her. If you attempt to straighten her, you will break her, and breaking her is divorcing her".

The words (Istawso bi' nisa') mean, take care of your wives. Whatever is the formation of the words of the Hadith, it stresses the importance of kind treatment to wives. Man should have greater patience, and be more more forgiving in his dealing with her. The secret of a pleasant family life lies in this advice of the Prophet (sallallaahu 'alaihi wa sallam) with its emphasis on kind treatment to wives.

Mu`awiyah bin Haidah (May Allah be pleased with him) reported: I asked Messenger of Allah (sallallaahu 'alaihi wa sallam): "What right can any wife demand of her husband?'' He replied, "You should give her food when you eat, clothe her when you clothe yourself, not strike her on the face, and do not revile her or separate from her except in the house". [Abu Dawud].

(Riyadh Us Saliheen) By Imam Nawawi رضي الله عنه