Introduction of gender bias issues
The issue of the place of the woman in the society has been of debate for a very long time. Anatomical, physiological as well as psychological differences have constantly led to the widely accepted belief that the man is different from the woman. This has lead to the role division between the man and the woman. The man being the stronger and more aggressive is generally the security provider for the family in almost all the cultures. The woman is physically weaker and is primarily supposed to tend for children at home. Religion has not been left behind. Historically many atrocities committed against the woman have their origin fro religion. All religions are known to view the woman as being lesser than the man. This paper compares and contrasts the views of Christianity and Muslim of the woman. It analysis some fundamental differences and similarities in the way the woman is portrayed by the authority books in both the religions namely the bible and the Koran. It concludes by assessing the modern day changes in these views.
A brief discussion of Islam and Christianity
Islamic and Christianity are the leading religions globally. Christians have the Bible as their book of authority while Muslims have the Koran. In the bible differences in the way the man and the woman are viewed started in time of creation. The first chapter of the book of genesis tells of how God created man in His own image. Afterwards, He created the woman out of the man’s rib as he was asleep. In fact the Bible calls the woman ‘a helper’ to the man. In this context analysts see a hidden form of hierarchy in the relationships between God, man and the woman. The man comes immediately after God and the woman follows. Again the woman is seen to be the first to deviate from the rules of Garden of Eden and takes part in a deceitful act of influencing Adam to eat of the forbidden fruit. This is the same case for Islam as the two religions share belief in the world’s creation. This is the introductory part of the two religions and remains very significant in the way the woman is viewed in both Islam and Christianity.
Numerous extracts from the Bible and the Koran exhibit the unequal treatment of the woman. In Leviticus 15:19-23, the woman’s biological process (Menes) is portrayed as a source of grave unclean. Her regular flow of blood is described as having impunity which lasts seven days with anyone touching her becoming unclean. On the same issue, Prophet Mohammed declares the unclean in the blood from the woman.
On women’s right to education, the bible in 1 Corinthians 14:34-35 tells that women should be allowed to be silent in the church and that in case they learn anything; they should enquire from their husbands. It declares that it is shameful for a woman to lead in church. The Koran on the other hand advocates for the acquisition of knowledge for every man and woman (Piece and Humanity, Par 2).
On the issue of right to inheritance, the bible favor’s the man over the woman. It only allows inheritance by daughters only if the deceased leaves no son. The Koran on the other hand encourages the sharing of inheritance between the sons and daughters of the deceased (Piece and Humanity, Par 3).
The two religions have different views on decency in the dressing mode for women. The bible talks of Christ being the head of the man and man as the head of the woman. It directs that the woman should cover her head as a sign that she is under some authority. According to 1 Timothy 2:9-10, She should dress modestly and not braid her hair or ware expensive ornaments but should maintain good deeds as this is a form of worship. The Koran on the other hand urges women to cover their entire bodies and not display their ornaments and beauty except to husbands and close relatives (Piece and Humanity, Par 4)
Discussion of points of differences and similarities in views on the woman by the Bible and the Koran
The issue of marriage is probably the most controversial. In the bible, the Old Testament condones polygamy. Most of the people mentioned had more than one wife. King David had several wives and concubines, King Solomon had seven hundred wives and three hundred concubines as well as many others. The New Testament which Christians of the modern day live by however discourages polygamy. The Koran advocates for polygamy but only for those who do not fear that they will deal with the wives unjustly. Divorce for Christians disallows the woman from engaging with any other man until the death of her former husband. Islam has no such restrictions (Kissling, Par 4).
The overall interpretation of the place of the woman according to the two religions is that she is subordinate to the man. Most prominent people whose life experiences are shared in both the bible and the Koran are all men. Abraham is the father of all generations; Moses delivered Israelites from Egypt and actually had a direct encounter with God through the bush fire: All the kings existing in both the Bible and the Koran were men. The one woman who occupies a higher status in the Bible is Mary the mother of Jesus. She conceived baby Jesus who came to redeem the world (James, pp5-8).
With the onset of modernity comes more freedom in the society. The phrase that “all men are created equal” is increasingly gaining popularity. The way a woman is viewed both in the religious circles has changed drastically. Most of the repressive restrictions and perceptions have been replaced in a bid to woo more people in to the religions. Alternate interpretations have been offered to justify the inclusion or omissions of certain acts against the woman in both the religions.
In the Christian circles, drastic changes have been observed. The earlier conservative Christians had no place for the woman to lead in the church. Today, only the Catholic Church is still holding that belief. Only men are allowed to b priests with the woman’s role being that of a helper in the form of a helper named a Nun. Other churches have almost fully accepted the woman as an equal player in church leadership (Light of life, Par 6).
The requirements for dress codes and hair styles are increasingly becoming irrelevant. Today women are freer to dress as they wish and contribute in the activities previously reserved for men. The modern church has become much more accommodative to women and their living styles (Holm, Bowker, pp 143).
Modernity has brought with it new challenges. The old hierarchical arrangement in the family is increasingly becoming irrelevant. Women are getting educated and engaged in activities previously reserved for men. As the culture gets more accommodative, religion cannot be left behind.
In Islam however not much has changed. Any woman who deviates from the stipulated guidelines of dressing is considered rebellious. Leadership in the mosque has largely remained a reserve for men with women only assigned the lesser jobs. The teachings in Islam continue to depict the woman as the property of man.
It should be noted that the level of liberalism and evolution among women in both Christianity and Islam is dependent largely on the state of freedom in the country of residence. While the western religions have seen a much liberal religious society thrive in the freedom offered by the western governments, the Muslim women in most parts of the east are still subjected to retrogressive treatment and degradation. Islamic countries like Iran, Saudi Arabia and Kuwait still see the irrelevance of uplifting the status of the woman (Jabbaar, Par 4).
Religion being based brings in a different issue. Most Muslim women have been raised to believe that what they go through is the normal life process and hence cannot be criticized. They thus view their oppressions as a normal and right path of life in obedience to the holy laws called Hijab. Polygamy remains rampant among the Muslim community and dress codes are still enforced to date. A recent reminder of the insubordination is the intended caning of a woman in Malaysia as a punishment (Islam and Islamic Studies Resources, Par 4).
Christianity is however more liberal and accommodative. Except for some Eastern Europe states, the Christian woman is freer. She can lead in the church with some even owning and heading huge churches with international followings and men taking lower positions and serving under the women (Poggioli, Par 4).
Despite the advancements, some fundamental principles remain. Both religions emphasize that the woman should be submissive to the man. This remains the status despite the academic or career developments undergone by the woman.
Holm, J. and Bowker, J. Women in Religion. 2000, Web.
Islam and Islamic Studies Resources, (n. d). Women in Islam: Muslim Women.n. d, 2009, Web.
Jabbaar, S., The Place of women In Christianity & Islam. 1994, Web.
James, C. Anatomy of the sacred: an introduction to religion. 1989, New York: Macmillan.
Kissling F.Women Under Oppressive Regimes: Women and Religious Fundamentalisms. 2002, Web.
Light of life. Women in the Quran. n. d, 2009, Web.
Piece and Humanity. Woman’s Status. In Bible & Quran. n. d. 2009. Web.
Poggioli, S., Issues for Muslim Women in Europe Evolve. 2008, Web.