The role of women in the Islamic religion has drastically
changed in the centuries since Islam began in Arabia in 622. This change
includes equality in social, economic, and political circumstances. Although
the Islamic religion views men and women as equals according to God, women have
not had equal rights in some aspects of Islam.
Before the Islamic religion began, Arabs lived is a
male-dominated society. A man viewed a woman as his property. He treater her
how he wanted. No limitation existed. Women often didn’t get a choice in the
man that she was to marry. Once married, they would lack the finances to support
themselves, as the dowry given by the groom was often given directly to the
bride’s male relatives.
When Islam began, it changed how women were to be treated.
The Qur’an put emphasis on the equality of everyone; both man, and woman. It
realized a woman’s right to choose the man she wanted to marry, and it created
a set of rules on polygamy (having multiple spouses at once). A man could not
exceed four wives, and was only allowed to have four if he could provide for
all of them and treat them equally. The dowry given by the groom was to be paid
directly to his bride. The Qur’an also stated that women would be allowed to
inherit wealth and control their own finances.
Although the outbreak of the Islamic religion provided women
with more rights and equality, it still viewed men as superior to women. A
well-known verse from the Qur’an was that “The
male shall the equal of the portion of two females” (Qur’an 4:11). This
verse states that a man is equal to that of two women. The verses and
scriptures also allowed men to divorce women whenever they wanted, without
reason and revoke mothers of their right to custody over their children.
With all this being said, women played a large role in the
beginning of the Muslim community. It was a woman who first discovered the
revelation of Muhammad. Later, they were giving the responsibility of
assembling both oral and written revelations into one book. They were trusted
to keep important secrets, such as where Muhammad was located and his plans of
attacking Mecca. The Prophet valued women and their opinions and would often
consult with them before making big decisions.
After the death of the Prophet and the growth and migration
of the religion, they began secluding women and forcing them to veil themselves
(wear clothing that covered all parts of their body and hair except for their
eyes). They were encouraged to look in the opposite direction of a man that
wasn’t their husband and forced to seclude themselves. Secluding themselves
meant that they were only allowed the company of other women and male relatives
and when sitting in a mosque, they were divided by a wall and left before the
men to avoid coming into contact with them.
For many years, girls were excluded from receiving an
education. It wasn’t until the 1800s that schools for girls opened in Muslim
communities. Even when these schools were introduced, they were taught things
such as cooking and housekeeping. Starting in the mid-1900s, both boys and
girls were given access to an education where religion wasn’t involved (secular
education). Female teachers were only allowed to teach other girls and male
teachers were allowed to teach both boys and girls because it was believed that
women did not have the capacity to teach boys.
Judaism, for the most part, women are kept separate but viewed as equal to men.
Women are giving different responsibilities than that of a man, but are equally
as important. In the Jewish religion, they don’t view God strictly as a male.
They believe God has both masculine and feminine characteristics. God is
referred to as “Him” for convenience sake. Both man and woman are created in
the image and likeness of God. In Genesis 1:27 it says that “God created mankind in his own image, in the
image of God he created them; male and female he created them.” This verse
is saying that “man” was created as a neutral gender, and was later separated
into a man and woman.
Jewish religion believes that women were blessed with the potential to reach
higher levels of ‘binah” (intelligence). They believe this because according to
Genesis 2:22, “the rib, which the Lord
God had taken from man, made he a woman, and brought her unto the man.” This
verse states that God ‘built’ a woman (banah)
from Adam’s rib rather than ‘assembling’ a woman from objects that a man
already possessed. A number of rabbis have also said that the matriarchs
(Sarah, Rebekah, Leah, and Rachel) were superior to their husbands (Abraham,
Isaac, and Jacob) who were the patriarchs of Israel. The rights and roles of
women in Judaism exceeded those of other religions until the 20th
were allowed to choose who they wanted to marry. Marital sex is a woman’s right
and choice, not her husband’s. Men were not allowed to abuse their wives in the
Jewish religion, which used to be allowed and was common in many Western
countries hundreds of years ago. People who practice Judaism believe that in
cases of rape, a woman did not consent to the act, regardless of whether she
enjoyed it or consented to in during or after it occurred and that forcing your
wife to do sexual acts when she refuses in considered sexual assault, which
many states in America don’t consider a crime because she’s your wife.
Torah law, a woman is under no obligation to marry or have children, unlike a
man, who is required to do both.
in the synagogue, men and women sit separately. There are many reasons for
this, with the main being that it’s a way to ensure that everyone’s main focus
is on the prayer and service and not on members of opposite genders. Evidence
shows that people act differently in mixed crowds than they do in ones with all
the same gender.
addition, a synagogue is meant to be an inviting and welcoming place where
everyone feels accepted. They don’t want single people to feel uncomfortable or
left out when they’re alone while everyone else is with a partner. When men and
women sit apart from one another, everyone feels included in the service.
creating space between men and women allows for a more effective experience and
a better opportunity for individuals to find their higher selves.