Rights of Women in Islam Research Proposal

Pages: 20 (6335 words)  ·  Style: Harvard  ·  Bibliography Sources: 3  ·  Level: College Senior  ·  Topic: Mythology - Religion

¶ … Misunderstood Role of Women in Islam

The Islamic faith represents one of the most widely spread and acknowledged religions in the world. Often misunderstood and even more often exploited, members of the Muslim faith have developed an identity in the modern world which is problematically associated to such issues as regional conflict, global terrorism and internal mistreatment of women. However, an examination of Islam finds it to be a deeply complex faith based in a rich history of tradition and progressiveness. First and foremost to that tradition is the relevance of its theological code of laws to everyday life of observant Muslims, which though today are perceived as only helping to intensify the stigma surrounding the people, are nonetheless a self-contained moral paradigm and, in fact, a slew of promises to such oft-mistreated groups as Muslim women. Though current geopolitical conflicts tend to demonstrate a contrary behavior by many Islamic societies, the core doctrines of the Islamic faith, in the core text known as the Quran and in the accompanying code of laws called Sh'riah, tend to favor the establishment of respect for the familial roles of women and the accord of protections for certain female rights otherwise undermined by unrestrained behaviors of varying pre-Muslim societies and tribal communities.

With particular consideration to the Sh'riah, the Islamic code for living is itself produced by a coalescence of sources found in its contextual surrounding which demonstrate its core interest in the improvement of the ethical disposition of society as would impact the standing of women. In many ways, early Islamic doctrine would therefore echo the existing faiths and their respective mythologies, using such as a template for ethical reform. These parallels are important to understanding the way that the Islamic faith will tend to perceive women and their roles in a morally reformed society.

Thus, we note that the mythology encompassing Islam is common to that of such prior established faiths as Judaism and Christianity. Each religion's receipt of its original doctrine of law tells the story of a man chosen by God to serve as a prophet to his people. Just as a God sends an angel messenger to Moses in the form of a burning bush invoking him to free his enslaved Hebrew brethren from the Egyptians, so too does God dispatch the angel Gabriel to make first contact with the founding father of Islam, Muhammed, who was himself engaged in a struggle against the oppression of the Roman Empire. For both, this seraphic encounter would be followed by a direct communion with God in receipt of the law of the people. We understand this as we have in the context of other faiths as a dictation of the role of man in his communion with God. By selecting Muhammed as the prophet through whom to channel his messages to the people, Allah would designate the male gender as predisposed to this type of spiritual communion with God. As we enter into a discussion hereafter on the part which family plays in defining the role of Muslim women, we will also come to understand the manner in which that spiritual connection may actually be said to be stronger in the part which women must inherently play.

Returning to the understanding of Muhammed as the representative man, we note that in many ways, Moses and Muhammed may be perceived as twin pillars on a single continuum. Indeed, "Muhammed regarded himself as the last prophet of the Judaic-Christian tradition. He adopted aspects of these older religion's theologies while introducing new doctrines." (Katz, 1) Thus, it is not surprising that upon its inception into the world at around 570 CE, the Islamic religion produced a legal code which was monotheistic, centered on the prescription of ethical law and applicable in both the theocratic and civil arenas.

This law would likewise predispose the Muslim people to many rituals which echoed those of the Judeo Christian ethic. Like Jesus Christ before him, Muhammed was fundamentally a reformer of theological law, and thus, the first prophet to a new religious entity. As a result, many of the laws contained in the Sh'riah are more conservative variations on existent Christian and Jewish law, such as with the practice of worship. One of the most well-recognized feature of the Islamic religion to the outsider is this practice. "Every Muslim is obliged to pray 5 times a day. He has to choose a mosque for prayers, if not he should turn towards the direction of Mecca from wherever he is." (Suresh, 3) the distinct choice of phraseology here, as had often been the case in the developing Jewish and Christian faiths, would refer to 'He' in discussion the spiritual Muslim, with the core understanding that it was the man's responsibility to commune with God so directly and regularly. For the Muslim woman, that opportunity is forthcoming in what the Muslim faith, like the Jewish and Christian faiths before it, perceived to be the closest possible spiritual connection with God in the form of the gift of child-bearing. And just as with the natural inheritance from God of the tradition of prayer as given to the first man of Islam, there is a meaningful parable which denotes the natural inheritance of this role in reflection of God for women. In a discussion here below on the tradition of the Hajj -- the pilgrimage which all Muslims must make to Mecca at some juncture in their lives -- we will touch upon the important role played by Hagar, the mother of Ishmael and the exiled mid-wife of Jewish patriarch Abraham. This will highlight both the parallels made between Judeo-Christian tradition and Islam, but will also indicate with great certainty the importance of motherhood to the persistence of the Islamic religion. In Hagar, we find that the faith is actually drawn by root to the presence of a matriarchal figure more akin to the Madonna.

The Hajj is the most sacred act in the spiritual life of the Muslim, requiring each man with the means and health to make this pilgrimage at least once in his life with many repeating the ritual multiple times, retracing the steps of Abraham, Hagar and Mohammed in observation of the faith. Mecca, Saudi Arabia, is considered the holiest site of the Islamic faith, containing the massive cubic shrine known as the Kabaa, where it is believed that Abraham laid the first stones. Again, though the Hajj is also required of women, there is without question a sense that the obligation of this pilgrimage is instructed upon men, who must make the physical journey as a demonstration of faith. For women, it is accepted that where it is not possible to otherwise make this journey, it should be done at least once in life with no further obligation. Many men will otherwise feel impelled to repeat the pilgrimage semi-regularly. Again, it has been held by many Islamic women who by point of belief decline to take this pilgrimage that the nine months of pregnancy in which a woman becomes a channel for creation and thus a conduit for God are reflective of the same commitment, sacrifice and faith. As a testament both to this connection and to the idea that one must be ritually purified in order to enter Mecca, "bathing for Ihram is Sunnah for both men and women, including menstruating women and those experiencing postnatal bleeding. After bathing and preparing himself, a. pilgrim, other than those menstruating or experiencing postnatal bleeding, prays the obligatory prayer, if it is time. Otherwise, he makes his intention by praying the two Sunnah Rakass which are made each time Wudhu is performed." (Al-Uthaimeen, 1) for women in the aforementioned condition, the Hajj is not required.

The purposes of the pilgrimage are manifold, with the observation of a set of scripturally-based rituals designing the geographical path and the actions of the event. Beyond these, the notion of community is inherently emphasized by the enormous gathering which moves in concert from one pilgrimage site to another across almost two weeks. A key principle to which pilgrims are expected to adhere is that of Ihram, which dictates a patience, courtesy and respect to one another Ihram is importantly also the name used for the two piece sheet designed to create a uniform physical presence of young and old, rich and poor, Arab or otherwise, all alike. Indeed, both men and women will don the Ihram for performance of the sacred rituals related to the pilgrimage. (Al-Uthaimeen, 1) All dressed in the spare white worshipping uniform, pilgrims will form a sea by which god can only identify the hearts and souls of men, with their physical appearances blending into one field.

Here, we can observe the ordinal steps of ritual which define the pilgrimage, specifically as they relate to the prophets of Islam. The arrival upon the Kabaa, towards which Muslims specifically face when they pray five times a day from anywhere in the world, must be followed by seven… [END OF PREVIEW]

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"Rights of Women in Islam."  Essaytown.com.  July 30, 2008.  Accessed December 13, 2018.
https://www.essaytown.com/subjects/paper/rights-women-islam/9709.