Women In Islam versus Judaeo-Christian Tradition The Myth & The Reality

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  • Women In Islam versus Judaeo-Christian Tradition The Myth & The Reality

  • 3. Eve's Legacy

    The image of Eve as temptress in the Bible has resulted in an extremely
    negative impact on women throughout the Judaeo-Christian tradition. All
    women were believed to have inherited from their mother, the Biblical
    Eve, both her guilt and her guile. Consequently, they were all
    untrustworthy, morally inferior, and wicked. Menstruation, pregnancy,
    and childbearing were considered the just punishment for the eternal
    guilt of the cursed female sex. In order to appreciate how negative the
    impact of the Biblical Eve was on all her female descendants we have to
    look at the writings of some of the most important Jews and Christians
    of all time. Let us start with the Old Testament and look at excerpts
    from what is called the Wisdom Literature in which we find: "I find
    more bitter than death the woman who is a snare, whose heart is a trap
    and whose hands are chains. The man who pleases God will escape her,
    but the sinner she will ensnare....while I was still searching but not
    finding, I found one upright man among a thousand but not one upright
    woman among them all" (Ecclesiastes 7:26-28).

    In another part of the Hebrew literature which is found in the Catholic
    Bible we read: "No wickedness comes anywhere near the wickedness of a
    woman.....Sin began with a woman and thanks to her we all must die"
    (Ecclesiasticus 25:19,24). Jewish Rabbis listed nine curses inflicted
    on women as a result of the Fall:  "To the woman He gave nine
    curses and death: the burden of the blood of menstruation and the blood
    of virginity; the burden of pregnancy; the burden of childbirth; the
    burden of bringing up the children; her head is covered as one in
    mourning; she pierces her ear like a permanent slave or slave girl who
    serves her master; she is not to be believed as a witness; and after
    everything--death." 2

    To the present day, orthodox Jewish men in their daily morning prayer
    recite "Blessed be God King of the universe that Thou has not made me a
    woman." The women, on the other hand, thank God every morning for
    "making me according to Thy will." 3 Another prayer found in many
    Jewish prayer books: "Praised be God that he has not created me a
    gentile. Praised be God that he has not created me a woman. Praised be
    God that he has not created me an ignoramus."  

    The Biblical Eve has played a far bigger role in Christianity than in
    Judaism. Her sin has been pivotal to the whole Christian faith because
    the Christian conception of the reason for the mission of Jesus Christ
    on Earth stems from Eve's disobedience to God. She had sinned and then
    seduced Adam to follow her suit. Consequently, God expelled both of
    them from Heaven to Earth, which had been cursed because of them. They
    bequeathed their sin, which had not been forgiven by God, to all their
    descendants and, thus, all humans are born in sin. In order to purify
    human beings from their 'original sin', God had to sacrifice Jesus, who
    is considered to be the Son of God, on the cross. Therefore, Eve is
    responsible for her own mistake, her husband's sin, the original sin of
    all humanity, and the death of the Son of God. In other words, one
    woman acting on her own caused the fall of humanity. 5 What about her
    daughters? They are sinners like her and have to be treated as such.
    Listen to the severe tone of St. Paul in the New Testament: "A woman
    should learn in quietness and full submission. I don't permit a woman
    to teach or to have authority over a man; she must be silent. For Adam
    was formed first, then Eve. And Adam was not the one deceived; it was
    the woman who was deceived and became a sinner" (I Timothy 2:11-14).
    St. Tertullian was even more blunt than St. Paul, while he was talking
    to his 'best beloved sisters' in the faith, he said: "Do you not know
    that you are each an Eve? The sentence of God on this sex of yours
    lives in this age: the guilt must of necessity live too. You are the
    Devil's gateway: You are the unsealer of the forbidden tree: You are
    the first deserter of the divine law: You are she who persuaded him
    whom the devil was not valiant enough to attack. You destroyed so
    easily God's image, man. On account of your desert even the Son of God
    had to die."

    St. Augustine was faithful to the legacy of his predecessors, he wrote
    to a friend: "What is the difference whether it is in a wife or a
    mother, it is still Eve the temptress that we must beware of in any
    woman......I fail to see what use woman can be to man, if one excludes
    the function of bearing children." Centuries later, St. Thomas Aquinas
    still considered women as defective: "As regards the individual nature,
    woman is defective and misbegotten, for the active force in the male
    seed tends to the production of a perfect likeness in the masculine
    sex; while the production of woman comes from a defect in the active
    force or from some material indisposition, or even from some external

    Finally, the renowned reformer Martin Luther could not see any benefit
    from a woman but bringing into the world as many children as possible
    regardless of any side effects: "If they become tired or even die, that
    does not matter. Let them die in childbirth, that's why they are there"
    Again and again all women are denigrated because of the image of Eve
    the temptress, thanks to the Genesis account. To sum up, the
    Judaeo-Christian conception of women has been poisoned by the belief in
    the sinful nature of Eve and her female offspring. If we now turn our
    attention to what the Quran has to say about women, we will soon
    realise that the Islamic conception of women is radically different
    from the Judaeo-Christian one. Let the Quran speak for itself: "For
    Muslim men and women, for believing men and women, for devout men and
    women, for true men and women, for men and women who are patient, for
    men and women who humble themselves, for men and women who give in
    charity, for men and women who fast, for men and women who guard their
    chastity, and for men and women who engage much in Allah's praise-- For
    them all has Allah prepared forgiveness and great reward" (33:35). "The
    believers, men and women, are protectors, one of another: they enjoin
    what is just, and forbid what is evil, they observe regular prayers,
    practise regular charity, and obey Allah and His Messenger. On them
    will Allah pour His Mercy: for Allah is Exalted in power, Wise" (9:71).
    "And their Lord answered them: Truly I will never cause to be lost the
    work of any of you, Be you a male or female, you are members one of
    another" (3:195). "Whoever works evil will not be requited but by the
    like thereof, and whoever works a righteous deed -whether man or woman-
    and is a believer- such will enter the Garden of bliss" (40:40).
    "Whoever works righteousness, man or woman, and has faith, verily to
    him/her we will give a new life that is good and pure, and we will
    bestow on such their reward according to the best of their actions"

    It is clear that the Quranic view of women is no different than that of
    men. They, both, are God's creatures whose sublime goal on earth is to
    worship their Lord, do righteous deeds, and avoid evil and they, both,
    will be assessed accordingly. The Quran never mentions that the woman
    is the devil's gateway or that she is a deceiver by nature. The Quran,
    also, never mentions that man is God's image; all men and all women are
    his creatures, that is all. According to the Quran, a woman's role on
    earth is not limited only to childbirth. She is required to do as many
    good deeds as any other man is required to do. The Quran never says
    that no upright women have ever existed. To the contrary, the Quran has
    instructed all the believers, women as well as men, to follow the
    example of those ideal women such as the Virgin Mary and the Pharoah's
    wife: "And Allah sets forth, As an example to those who believe, the
    wife of Pharaoh: Behold she said: 'O my lord build for me, in nearness
    to you, a mansion in the Garden, and save me from Pharaoh and his
    doings and save me from those who do wrong.' And Mary the daughter of
    Imran who guarded her chastity and We breathed into her body of Our
    spirit; and she testified to the truth of the words of her Lord and of
    His revelations and was one of the devout" (66:11-13).

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