The last Blog was also on Women and Islam, which I intend to expand upon.
The times, from the daily events occurring, of the writings of the Qur’an, the Old Testament (books) and New Testament (books) was the stage for the treatment of women and the situations, the recollections, and the descriptions reflected. The question that arises goes to the issue of the allowances within the framework of the Qur’an or Scripture to change. As time passes, as cultures and societies evolve should the wording be considered in light of the times of the original document and allow for modifications, not as to intent, but along the line of “What would God say,” or “What would Allah say,” today, in this time, in this world-culture.
In the 2000 years since the birth and life of Christ, 4000 or more since Adam and Eve (which include Noah, Moses, Isaac, Ishmael, Jacob, Isaiah, Jeremiah, and more), and 1400 years since Muhammad there have been many significant changes that have taken place throughout the world. Knowledge and understanding of the natural elements that comprise our universe alone, in the name of science, demonstrate the magnitude of changes that have taken place. Economic development and extensive communications have allowed the peoples of the world to become wealthier and closer.
One thousand years after the establishment of Islam the age of Enlightenment introduced a broad base of intellectual thought, philosophical and theological, that used a new set of eye-glasses to understand people, our existence, reality and the relationships of men and woman. Dynamic influences fell upon how we were to think about our religions, our faith, our relationships, our leadership, the variety of governments in place (in many areas tribal centers of oversight vs. those considered more sophisticated in European Countries) and their posture towards rule or control, the temporal vs. spiritual factors in governance, and just who represented authority over mankind.
Consideration of the aforementioned issues continue today with much already written, read, discussed and debated on the variety of subjects. But one must agree that the relationship between humans, men and women, slave and master, king and serf, monarchy and republic, socialism/communism and democracy have all included women and men in their forums. The public square has been opened to the views of everyone, yet there are those that continue to suppress the views of all. The entire world has not opened all the doors. There are locales where the local authorities, tribal or autocratic, some operating even under the name of democracy (although suspect) actively monitor modern communication techniques within their boundaries and disallow any outside sources from being heard. Individuals are fed only what the authorities what them to hear.
In the formative years of the Roman Catholic Church it was the priests, the scribes, and those being trained for the clergy that were educated, taught to read, and who had access to the Bible as well as books by classic authors – Cicero quite popular. They in turn shared with the people their knowledge, often however tempered to their collective thinking – a form of censorship. This was much the case until the time of the Reformation, and the 100 years or so prior, when the printing press enabled publishing of works to be made available to all. The Bible was the most popular first book published, in its entirety. Schools sprang up where people could learn to read and the teachers were not just members of the clergy, monks or Sisters, but lay persons, scholars, legal minds and other non-religion types. Discoveries were made of words heretofore overlooked and passages never discussed, and authors never before heard of, from Plato and Aristotle to St. Thomas Aquinas and Augustine. Minds were being awakened to a whole new window open to that which had been written as history, as conjecture, as thoughts about life, and as the word of God. The winds of history were bringing with it new interpretations, fresh new insights and rebellion towards standards established reflective of authoritative posturing for control. Women too were being seen in a new light. Thus can the darkness of old still be retained, the light of today prevented from entering corners of influence that hold-on to ways of the past?
Have the rights of women changed?
Should the witness of a woman today be equal to that of a man? What proof is there that it has ever been less or equal to ½ as the Qur’an states? (See Sura 2:282)
Should polygamy be accepted, giving consideration to marrying another if a wife cannot satisfy her man, or should she become infirmed, and the man obligated to caring for all equally?
Is today’s woman a possession for a man, because he so ‘covets’ her as he would a fancy automobile or house or horse or money or some other prized item?
Must a wife be totally obedient (“so the good women are obedient”), subject if not to punishment, beaten as necessary to align her with the marriage in which the husband is the commander? (See Sura 4:34). Obedience may refer to obeying Allah, yet this paragraph in the Qur’an goes on to suggest admonishment for fear of desertion, and this is not from Allah, but from the husband.
Should there be equality – as to dress, finances, inheritances, household obligations, voting and testimony? Is it time for the veil to be lifted? It has been noted that woman have sensual desires, as do men, not all are temptresses and may indeed find men attractive (seductive) as men oft find women attractive (seductive). Why then should the women be regarded as a lesser being and most responsible for the temptations of men? Are women not tempted? Are men and women equally sinners? Should men then cover-up, where a veil, avoid tight clothing or exposure of attributes?
Relations between men and woman need recognize differences indeed, yet find those differences a balance to the equation considering the unity of marriage – a man and women joined together to equal One. The Bible recommends conditions for woman too – but how are these to be considered – such as to dress modestly (1 Tim. 2:9), remaining silent in church, as to avoid disorderly speaking (1 Cor. 14:34), yet women can pray and prophesize (1 Cor. 11:5) which allows speaking in church and in public places. As to marriage the Bible suggests women be obedient towards their husbands, both though having marital duties (1 Cor. 7), and to be with each other so as not to be tempted by Satan due to lack of self control (applicable to man and woman), with no allowance for divorce by the man, and considerably less concern for a believer and unbeliever in marriage (the unbeliever “has been sanctified” by the other – 1 Cor. 7:14). A priority is established biblically (Ephesians 5:22-33), woman “submit to husbands as to the Lord”, the man the head of the household as Christ is the head of the Church, while husbands are to “love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her,” and “love their wives as they would their own bodies.” In marriage the man and the woman are to be united and “the two will become one flesh.” The marriage relationship is conditioned on man loving his wife as much or more than his body, never then doing to her what he would not subject himself to – that is quite a statement and requirement. The woman need respect the man, but the love must come from the head of the family. It is not a control issue. But as God loves (the Triune God), often an unrequited love, God still loves all mankind. Allah does not love first, but commands Allah be praised and loved.
As to the love of Allah vs. that of God (the Trinity). Allah loves those who do good to others (sura 2:195), loves those who turn to him (sura 2:222), loves those who trust in him (sura 3:159), loves the dutiful (sura 3:76) and the steadfast (in protecting Allah) (sura 3:146), with no mention of Allah loving mankind, or loving those that may not love him.
God’s love, the love of the Lord, endures forever (1 Chronicles 16:34), abounding in love and forgiving sin and rebellion (Numbers 14:18), an unfailing love (Psalms 21:7, and noted often in the OT), refuge available to “both high and low men in the shadow of your wings” (Psalms 36:7), can be trusted (Psalms 52:8), slow to anger and abounding in love (Joel 2:13), he will quiet you with his love (Zep. 3:17). As expressed by Christ (God incarnate), “Love your enemies, do good to those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you… Do to others as you would have them do to you” (Luke 6:27-28, 31)(You only hear justification for fighting unbelievers from Allah, not ‘love’ of the enemies); “greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends” (John 15:13)(love demonstrated by word and action); God’s love demonstrated in the death of Christ, “while we were still sinners” (Romans 5:8); “because of his great love for us, God…made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions” (Eph 2:4);
There is a different regard for woman in the Qur’an; the Bible allows for progress. This may be born out of love and understanding of the world to be and seen in the creation story. In Paul’s writings he reflects on the standards of the day and the society, recognizing societal differences and suggesting through the unity of one flesh in marriage a joint approach to the future. Creation continues in the hands of men and women and the dispositions they enjoy through the free will they have and share, with the obligations and responsibility for the future of the earth in the hands of men and women. It was men and women that received God’s blessing while saying to them, “Be fruitful and increase in number, fill the earth and subdue it.” (Gen 1:28) Subduing is to share responsibility for the future of the earth and its inhabitants, the earth as created by God, to explore, learn, increase in knowledge, understand fully God’s handiwork, and work together to make it better, to improve upon it with God’s blessing. God was blessing progress. This is the avenue for scientific discovery on earth and the cosmos as a whole. This places both in charge. Man and woman, indeed all of humanity – does this not suggest equality.
Over time we have seen the liberation of women. It has been due to the history of the suppression and mis-treatment of women and recognizing their strengths and qualities and uniqueness and independence and indeed their equality with men as humans. It involved coming to grips with the reality of God’s plan and intentions for humans. Has not this liberation been viewed positively in the Muslim world or is submission and obedience from the annuals of the era of Muhammad still required? Would this not then be a reflection of a religion established in the past and remaining in the past with no regard or desire for Progress? Is Islam then a want for the continued submission not only to Allah but to days gone by and conditions of the past? If so, then the question that arises is – Why? Is not life today an improvement? Has not progress made by man and woman contributed to today’s world and its ability to feed and care for over 6 billion people. [Certainly more is needed in caring for those most needy – yet some of the poverty in the world is due more to the wealth of the authorities of some of the poorest nations not being shared – most notably in Muslim countries rich in oil – moneys being deposited in banks in other countries for the safekeeping and enjoyment of the families of the authorities, the autocracy and their heirs. This may not be in keeping with the Qur’an unless one only views the balance of good vs. evil – the determination of “what is enough” given to the poor can only judged by the heart of the giver. If indeed the provision of an infrastructure alone that provides food, water and electricity by the governmental head – the autocracy – is sufficient, then justification in the name of Allah may be found. The balance may be in measuring more good than whatever evil is in the heart of the autocracy. ]
The Qur’an unfortunately, from my reading, paints a dark picture for women and progress is not on the agenda. The dark picture painted is more like dwelling in an age that has come and is now gone, yet the treatment of those, including women, residing in the cultures that are dictated by the Qur’an, are constrained by the Book of that religion and not by all that is modern. From Unveiling Islam, by the brothers Ergun and Emil Caner (referenced in my prior Blog on this topic), they state, “If a woman is honored and respected in an Islamic home, it is in spite of the teachings of Muhammad, rather than because of them. Such is directly opposite to the admonitions of the Lord Jesus Christ and the Bible.” (pg. 140)
After 1500 years one would in all logic consider a need for a new look at woman in the Muslim culture, yet to alter the Qur’an would defy Allah. How can, then, Muslims ever change?
We can only pray for the women of Islam for a more modern treatment by their husbands, community and authorities. They may have to find their freedom on their own, but not necessarily from the dictates and demands of the religion of Islam, providing leadership, knowledge, judgment and understanding to all women now under the suppressed nature of Allah and the Prophet Muhammad in the words of and through the sacrifice made by Christ. “It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery.” (Galatians 5:1). This Bible verse may reference the slaves all mankind are to sin, yet it also encompasses women and the freedom they too may enjoy in the loving Grace of the Triune God.
Grace and peace.