The status of women in the Bible and in the Quran: What does a burka really mean?

· Philosophy, Religion

There are a lot more similarities in how women are viewed in the Bible and the Quran than people might think at first. A lot of people in Canada, mainly because of the media, think of Arab men as obsessed with sex, very controlling of women, and far behind in the area of women’s and even human rights. However, a close comparison of both holy scriptures belies this popular viewpoint. In fact, sometimes Christians are more restrictive of women’s rights than Muslims.


Let’s take the issue of a woman’s right to education. The Bible says, “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 anything, let them ask their husbands at home, for it is a shame for woman to speak in the church.” This can be found in 1 Corinthians 14: 34-35. Paul wrote these words, and they are representative of how women were viewed at that time, in that culture.


Now let’s look at what Prophet Muhammed, peace be upon him, said on the same subject (The Prophet’s words are considered scripture in Islam): “Seeking knowledge is obligatory on every Muslim man and woman.”


Let’s examine now the issue of dressing modestly with a head covering for women. Here is what the Bible says: “Now I want you to realize that the head of every man is Christ, and the head of the woman is man, and the head of Christ is God. Every man who prays or prophesies with his head covered dishonors his head. And every woman who prays or prophesies with her head uncovered dishonors her head. If a woman does not cover her head, she should have her hair cut off, and if it is a disgrace for a woman to have her hair cut or shaved off, she should cover her head!” These words can be found in 1 Corinthians 11:3-6.


Now let’s look at what the Quran says on this topic:“O Prophet! Tell your wives and daughters, and the believing women, that they should cast their outer garments over their persons (when abroad): that is most convenient, that they should be known (as such) and not molested. And Allah is Oft-Forgiving, Most Merciful.” These words are found in Quran 33:59. So we see here that the wearing of head coverings for women is not just about not tempting men, but it is also like a sign that reads: “Please treat me with respect, for I am a woman of God.”


What about the topic of divorced women? Here is what the Bible says: “The woman he (the priest) marries must be a virgin. He must not marry a widow, a divorced woman, or a woman defiled by prostitution, but only a virgin from his own people.” This is found in Leviticus 21:13-14.


Here is what the Quran says on the same subject: “If any of you die and leave widows behind, they shall wait concerning themselves four months and ten days: when they have fulfilled their term, there is no blame on you (marrying widows) if they dispose of themselves in a just and reasonable manner.” This is found in Quran 2:234.


The point of this article is not to say that Christian men treat women badly and that in all circumstances Muslim men always treat women with respect. It is just to say that a close examination of both religions demonstrate very clearly that the situation is more complex than most people think. There are individual Christians who treat women well, individual Christians who treat women badly, individual Muslims who treat women well, and individual Muslims who treat women badly. This is just common sense, but a lot of people fall far too easily into the trap set by the deceitful and stereotypical media.



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