Islam: Gender and Family Term Paper

Pages: 5 (2235 words)  ·  Style: MLA  ·  Bibliography Sources: 3  ·  File: .docx  ·  Topic: Mythology - Religion

¶ … Islam: Gender and Family

Within the varying interpretations of Islam there are many varied views on the institution of marriage, specifically on the number of wives one is allowed or sanctified to have, the wearing of the veil by women and lastly female circumcision. These varied interpretations have led to varied applications and laws that dictate the diversity of the very mildest forms of the application of these ideas to the most extreme.

Differing interpretations of Islam




The Veil


Female Circumcision


Within the diverse regions of Islam there are many diverse and sometimes conflicting interpretations of the word of the Qur'an. The Qur'an itself is said to be the word of the Prophet, though there are texts that have been given distinctive levels of degree, as to the sources of the documentation. In other words there are passages within the Qur'an that are deemed reliably true representation of the word of Mohamed and others which are still included in cannon but which can not be linked, through research directly to Mohamed and so are given less scriptural weight. As a whole the document is a life guide, which Islam sees as laws that supersede those of man, much like the other major allegorical religious texts.

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The Koran is the Muslim scripture, that is to say the scripture of the followers of Islam. Islam is the religion established among the Arabs -- a people until then largely confined to the Arabian peninsula -- by the Prophet Muhammad in the early seventh century. According to Muslim tradition, the Koran was revealed to Muhammad by God through the agency of the angel Gabriel; this took place partly in Mecca, his hometown, and partly in Medina, where he succeeded in creating a state in an otherwise stateless tribal society.

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Term Paper on Islam: Gender and Family Within the Varying Assignment

According to the tradition, just as with so many other religious and spiritual pronouncements the messages and words of the Prophet were not written down, by him in his life time and therefore the works have been codified according to the traditions of the religious cultural hierarchy.

The message was revealed in Arabic, the language of the people it was addressed to; for some further information about the language...Although the revelation was complete before the death of Muhammad in 632, the tradition tells us that he did not himself assemble the material into a definitive text. The task of making a book of his revelations -- the 'collection' of the Koran -- was thus left to his successors, the Caliphs, who ruled the Muslim community from Medina in the decades after his death. Muslim tradition would place the completion of this task somewhere around 650.

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This is no an unusual circumstance, as it is a traditional literary and spiritual situation, but it does, as it does with other texts, enter the first interpretive period into the mix of ideas, with all the connotations of life, law, propriety, politics and the list goes on that are involved in codifying texts. This by no means reduces the spiritual value of the text as it is a body of work that outlines an extraordinary man with extraordinary ideas and philosophies, about everything from the most grand, Allah to the most mundane instructions about life and love. "We have love more surely as a bond in the mundane when we celebrate it in the transcendent."

Cragg 80) frequent perceived point of contention between the world of Islam and that of the West, or even the East is the manner in which people have interpreted the laws of the Quran as they apply to marriage and interactions between men and women.

If readers of the Qur'an have assumed in any manner that men are superior to women intellectually, spiritually, ontologically, etc.; that men are 'in charge of women'; that men have a more significant role in the continuation of society; that men are natural leaders; that men should 'rule' the family and get obedience from women; that women do not have to participate and contribute in order to maintain the family and society or that her participation is marginal; then those readers will interpret the Qur'an in accordance with those assumptions.

Wadud 96)

The context of the writings, having been established, resolve issues and create new ones. It is of the opinion of most liberal Quran scholars that the intention of the prophet was likely to resolve historical difficulties and advantages men took, with regard to women in a patriarchal society.

Some prevailing practices were so bad they had to be prohibited explicitly and immediately: infanticide, sexual abuse of slave girls, denial of inheritance to women, zihar, 15 to name a few of the most common. Other practices had to be modified: polygamy, unconstrained divorce, conjugal violence, and concubinage, for example. With regard to some practices, the Qur'an seems to have remained neutral: social patriarchy, marital patriarchy, economic hierarchy, the division of labour between males and females within a particular family.

Wadud 9)

Yet, the codification of the prophet's words, and the interpretations of them have been utilized by some as sanctified and legalistic ways to ensure that institutions, such as polygamy, the wearing of the veil and female circumcision are retained in their society. It is for these reasons and many others that some outsiders see Islam as oppressive toward women, and in some cultures of Islam this is indeed the case, it is the interpretation of the intent of the Prophet and the common link between the religious and the legal that create such a situation.


As is mentioned in the above statement polygamy is spoken of by the prophet in a manner that is intended to place controls upon it, this leave the reader with the logical conclusion that like so many other things, with regard to the treatment of women, polygamy predated the Quran and Mohammed. Mohammed saw polygamy as an institution that was leaving women in a bad position, far from protecting them, in some situations it was desperately exploiting them.

Many Muslim nations which now consider polygamy unconstitutional have justified such changes in legislation on the basis of the overall Qur'anic perspective on marriage, as well as on modern Islamic perspectives of marriage. The marriage of subjugation at the time of revelation was premised on the need for females to be materially provided for by some male.

Wadud 82-83)

It is clear that Mohammed wished to permit polygamy only in cases where the individual man could rightly provide for women in need, and in fact one of the most commonly sited passages in the Quran is discussing the marriage of men to orphaned girls, as acceptable if this is the best means one has to take care of them, justly. Yet it is clear from other passages with regard to the ideal state of marriage that polygamy would be a difficult state to be in, materially, spiritually and emotionally.

Wadud 83)

It is especially clear that this verse is concerned with justice: dealing justly, managing funds justly, justice to the orphans, and justice to the wives, etc. Justice is the focus of most modern commentaries concerned with polygamy. In the light of verse 4:129-'You are never able to be just and fair as between women...' --many commentators assert that monogamy is the preferred marital arrangement of the Qur'an. Surely, it is impossible to attain the Qur'anic ideal with regard to mutuality ('They [feminine plural] are raiment for you [masculine plural] and you are raiment for them' (2:187)), and with regard to building between them 'love and mercy' (30:21), when the husband-father is split between more than one family.

Wadud 83)

The Veil:

The variations of the veil, worn by women in Islam are many. There is in fact no better direct visual representation of the varying interpretations of the Quran, than the variations of the veil, especially with regard to a limited western view. In more progressive Islamic communities the veil is nothing but a light scarf worn by women to cover their hair and their shoulders. While in its most conservative form, the Burka or hijab, the entire person becomes swallowed by a large heavy garment that covers them from the top of their head to the tips of their toes, and allows vision only through an elaborate lace screened slit over the eyes.

Del Collins 61) the Quranic interpretations abound differing cultural identities, and as has been seen in some fundamental reaffirmations, such as by the Taliban in Afghanistan the affirmation of the fundamentalist can often be a very visible enforcement of more restrictive codes toward women. Prior to the time of the Taliban Afghanistan had been a rather progressive Islamic nation, where women were educated and employed and changes were extreme, for both men and women. A lesson to be learned from this involves the acknowledgement that a form of protection, in the Quran was interpreted in many extreme ways to create a situation of forced social order and… [END OF PREVIEW] . . . READ MORE

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How to Cite "Islam: Gender and Family" Term Paper in a Bibliography:

APA Style

Islam: Gender and Family.  (2007, March 24).  Retrieved October 27, 2020, from

MLA Format

"Islam: Gender and Family."  24 March 2007.  Web.  27 October 2020. <>.

Chicago Style

"Islam: Gender and Family."  March 24, 2007.  Accessed October 27, 2020.