Social System of Islam- Women in Judaeo-Christian & Muslim Scriptures I

Summary of 7.11 “Position of Women in Ancient Civilization”

The first point addressed the relevance of women in history.’ We said that Islam did not just make some improvements relevant to the seventh century but not relevant today.’ The main purpose was to understand some of the background that existed in the world towards women before the arrival of Islam so that we can appreciate how Islam changed the views all together. ‘The second basic point was to look at how women were treated in previous civilizations in the East, West and Middle East.’ We looked at examples from China, Japan, India, Greek, Roman and Arabian women and it appeared from the quotations that we referred to from authorities on the subject that women on the whole were treated as inferior to man and incapable of doing things on their own and in some cases they were seen as the embodiment of evil.’ However, we mentioned that there were exceptions to that rule especially among women in nobility or ruling families (but this was not the case for the average woman).’ We mentioned that in some cases in ancient civilizations, going back several thousand years before Christ the image of god was that of a god mother. ‘We covered the myth of the god mother and the Sacred Sun and how they were united.’ There is evidence that the image of the female was that of a deity.’ On the whole however the view of women used to be negative.

7.12′ Women in Judaeo-Christian and Muslim Scriptures I

Host:’ What are the areas of comparison which you consider to be essential to such an examination?

Jamal Badawi:

We are not going to extensively cover every point but there are some areas where we can find explicit instruction in both the Judaeo-Christian scripture as well as the Islamic scripture where comparison clarifies the different views.’ These points include the creation of Eve from Adam and what it means from both religious traditions, the issue of the first sin and whose responsibility it is, the view towards pregnancy and the pains of childbirth, how each of the traditions look at the feminine functions (treatment during monthly cycles), treatment of a woman who is raped and lastly marriage (dowery and divorce).

Host:’ What are the similarities and differences are there in the view towards the creation of Eve?

Jamal Badawi:

In both the Bible and the Quran it indicates that Adam was created first and then ‘from Adam, Eve was created.” The degree of explicitness of this discription is what varries between both resources.’ In the book of Genesis 2:2-22 it describes how Eve was created and it simply says that God made Adam go into deep sleep the He took a rib out of Adam and He created Eve from it and then he gave her to Adam.’ The Quran does not mention anything about the rib of Adam.’ The closest description to this in the Quran is in (4:1) in which it says ‘O mankind! reverence your Guardian-Lord, who created you from a single person, created, of like nature, His mate, and from them twain scattered (like seeds) countless men and women.” The word that is used for ‘of like kind’ is minha which could mean of it or of the same kind.’ There however, is no refrence at all that Eve was created from Adam’s rib.’ The word rib has been mentioned in some of the Prophetic traditions but not in the explicit way that it is mentioned in the Bible.’ It says that women were created from ‘a’ rib.’ The context of this is to appeal to man to properly treat women and to take into account their nature and not to try to change that nature by force.’ In that context the interpretation is not that women were created from a rib (physically) but with the same nature of the rib.’ If we take this interpretation which seems to be more in line with the context of the Hadith, as there is no mention of Adam’s rib in particular, I think it is a more exceptable explanation.’ In that sense we can say that both Adam and Eve were created from the same nature which goes beyond the physical rib into physcal, mental and spiritual similarities between both sexes.

Host:’ Who is responsible for the first sin (the eating of the apple), Adam or Eve?

Jamal Badawi:

The Judaeo-Christian and Muslim traditions have basic differences when it comes to this point.’ We will start with some of the similarities found in both religions.’ First, God commanded Adam and Eve not to eat from a particular tree (the Quran does not say what kind of tree wheterh it was apple or banana etc.) and that there was a violation of this command and that both Adam and Eve ate from the tree.’ The way that this happened is different.’ In the Bible in the Book of Genesis chapter 3 it is quite clear that the blame is put on Eve for the first sin: the serpent tempted Eve, who ate from the tree and then she tempted her husband to eat from it too.’ In the Quran there is absalutely no mention of the Serpent.’ The Quran indicates that it was the evil prompting of Satan rather the Serpant that prompted this mistake.’ For example in (38:71-88) of the Quran it tells of God telling the Angels that He is creating a human from clay and that they should bow down to him.’ Then it talks about Satan refusing to bow down in the presence of the other Angels and that he was to haughty and jelous of the special status that God endowed on mankind.’ Similar refrences can be found in the Quran in (7:11+), (2:31+), (15:28), and (17:61+).’ There is no mention of a serpent at all in any of these verses.

The other point that I find to be a major difference is found in the Quran in (7:19-27) it talks about this mistake it describes both Adam and Eve as equally committing that mistake.’ In the span of eight verses refrence to both of them was used fifteen times.’ This removes any nothion of women being the blamed for eating from the forbidden tree.’ This could mean either that both were equally mistaken and according to some scholars that Adam alone was to blame.’ These scholars refer to verses like (7:19) and (20:115) which give the impression that Adam is to blame for this.’ In Bukhari and Muslim it describes the scean on the Day of Judgement when people are confused and they go to various prophets asking them to intercede with God so that accountability starts and it says there that when they go to Adam that he will say ‘God told me and I disobeyed him, look for a Prophet who did not make this kind of mistake.” In other words Adam alone is mentioned as the primary person responsible for the deed.’ It is reasonable however to say that the overwhelming proof in the Quran puts Adam and Eve on equal footing when it comes to responsibility for this mistake.

Another major difference is that according to the Quran, in (2:37) after Adam and Eve made this mistake they both repented to God and God accepted both their repentances and as such there is no original sin in Islam.’ This is emphasized in numerous verses of the Quran.

Host:’ Could you comment on the point of the Serpent and how it is unique to the Bible.

Jamal Badawi:

It used to be believed that it is unique to the Bible but it has been shown in further studies that nearly seven thousand years before the Hebrew Scriptures were written that there are images of the god mother with the Serpent coiling around the tree of life in the Garden of the World.’ This evidence shows that there was symbolism from the past attached to the Serpent as the embodiment of all evil.’ A reference on this is found in ‘The Dangerous Sex’ by H.R. Hays.

Host:’ Can we look at the similarities and differences on the subject of pregnancy and childbirth?

Jamal Badawi:

This issue of pregnancy in the Bible is related to two things.’ In Genesis 3:16 it mentions pregnancy and suffering as a punishment to Eve because she ate from the forbidden tree.’ ‘I will greatly multiply thy sorrow and thy conception; in sorrow thou shalt bring forth children.” So the pains are a sort of punishment because she ate from the forbidden tree.’ This notion is also confirmed when we see how a woman should be treated in the post natal period.’ The main reference is in Leviticus chapter 12 ‘If a woman have conceived seed, and borne a man child, then she shall be unclean seven days’ and ‘And she shall then continue in the blood of her purifying three and thirty days.” This give us a total of 40 days.’ In the same chapter it says ‘But if she bear a maid 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.” This is a total of 80 days.’ Then it goes on in the same chapter (starting at verse 6) describing what to do to become purified after the bleeding stops.’ It says she has to take two pigeons or a lamb as an offering to the preist as an atonment and so that she may be clensed.

The Muslim point of view toward pregnancy as found in the Quran and Prophetic Tradition is not regarded as a punishment for Eve, as the whole notion of original sin does not exist.’ The Quran in (7:189) describes the beauty of pregnancy and it describes how a couple that expects a child pray to God (thankful for the child).’ The same attitude is seen in chapter 31 of the Quran.’ In (46:15) it asks for sympathy and kindness for women by saying that a person is commanded to be kind to his parents because ‘In pain did his mother bear him, and in pain did she give him birth.” The term used for pain is kurhan which is the exact word used for Jihad (struggle), struggle in society or struggle against one’s self as is described in chapter 2 of the Quran.’ This gives it a more beautiful meaning as it is a struggle for which a woman is rewarded.’ In addition, there are a number of prophetic sayings that if a woman dies in during pregnancy, childbirth or during the postnatal period she is regarded as a martyr, which is the highest position that any Muslim can asspire to.’ These sayings are refrenced in Tirmithi, Malik, Ahmad and in Al-Nasa’ai.’ One of the sayings says that if a mother dies in her postnatal period her infant will drag her to paradise.

A second area of comparison is the waiting period.’ In Leviticus the woman has to wait 40 days before she is cleansed after having a son and 80 days if she had a daughter.’ In Islam there is no such destinction.’ The waiting period before a woman can have marital relations with her husband or before she can pray or fast is the same in both cases in Islam. ‘Islam does not require a minimum period.’ The 40 days in Islam is the maximum waiting period.’ If the bleeding stops (even if it is one day after childbirth) the woman is automatically cleansed and can go on doing her business as usual.’ Finally, there is no notion of this being a type of punishment or atonment but is simply a natural function.

Host:’ Is the treatment of women during their monthly cycle is the same in Judaism and Islam?

Jamal Badawi:

There are superficial similarities but once we go beyond the surface there are very important differences.’ The main reference in the Bible for the rules pertaining to this time is found in Leviticus in chapter 15:19.’ Basically what it says is that if a woman is going through her monthly cycle ‘shall be put apart seven days: and whosoever toucheth her shall be unclean until the even.” Also, anyone who touches her bed or a place where she sat will be unclean till the evening and have to bathe and wash their clothes.’ It goes on to say that if the bleeding goes on after the seven days the same kind of treatment continues.’ Finally, it says that after the cycle ends (verses 29 on) she is required to take two pigeon offerings to the priest (one is a burnt offering and one is for her sin) then ‘the priest shall make an atonement for her before the Lord for the issue of her uncleanness.’

Islamic law is different.’ First of all, during the monthly cycle there is absolutely no problem in touching the woman or sitting by her or where she was sitting.’ The only thing that is restricted is having intercourse during that period.’ Prophet Muhammad was asked explicitly what is a man’s relationship with his wife during this period.’ He replied everything except intercourse which as narrated in Muslim, Ahamad, Tirmithi, Al-Nasa’ai, Abu Dawood and Ibn Maja.’ One companion asked the Prophet as narrated in Al Tirmithi he said ‘Should I eat with my wife when she is on her cycle?” The Prophet replied ‘Eat with her.” In the behavior of Prophet Muhammad he showed that all of these practices are not a reflection of the Will of God but rather human biases.’ For example, Aisha, his wife, used to help him wash his hair when she was on her cycle.’ In some cases it was reported that he would sleep in the same bed as his wife during her cycle (but of course without having intimate relations).’ There is absolutely no problem with a husband staying, kissing or touching his wife during this period.’ The Quran describes the flow as atha which means pain or hurt, not that the woman herself is polluted but that the natural function hurts women or makes them uncomfortable.’ This is a sympathetic note rather than an accusation of being uncleanly or polluted.’ Finally, there is absolutely no notion of this being a kind of atonement or that the flow of blood in itself is a sin.’ There are no offerings or any type of atonement.’ The only thing that is required is that a woman takes a bath/shower and cleanses herself when the cycle is over.

In the case of flow beyond the normal number days of a (specific) woman’s menstrual cycle, it is not regarded as a cycle but rather as an illness she is allowed to practice all the normal functions without any deviations (other than making ablution before every prayer).

All articles published not necessarily the official points of view held by islamonline