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

  • 9. Vows

    According to the Bible, a man must fulfil any vows he might make to
    God. He must not break his word. On the other hand, a woman's vow is
    not necessarily binding on her. It has to be approved by her father, if
    she is living in his house, or by her husband, if she is married. If a
    father/husband does not endorse his daughter's/wife's vows, all pledges
    made by her become null and void: "But if her father forbids her when
    he hears about it, none of her vows or the pledges by which she
    obligated herself will stand ....Her husband may confirm or nullify any
    vow she makes or any sworn pledge to deny herself" (Num. 30:2-15). Why
    is it that a woman's word is not binding per se ? The answer is simple:
    because she is owned by her father, before marriage, or by her husband
    after marriage. The father's control over his daughter was absolute to
    the extent that, should he wish, he could sell her! It is indicated in
    the writings of the Rabbis that: "The man may sell his daughter, but
    the woman may not sell her daughter; the man may betroth his daughter,
    but the woman may not betroth her daughter." 17 The Rabbinic literature
    also indicates that marriage represents the transfer of control from
    the father to the husband: "betrothal, making a woman the sacrosanct
    possession--the inviolable property-- of the husband..." Obviously, if
    the woman is considered to be the property of someone else, she cannot
    make any pledges that her owner does not approve of.

    It is of interest to note that this Biblical instruction concerning
    women's vows has had negative repercussions on Judaeo-Christian women
    till early in this century. A married woman in the Western world had no
    legal status. No act of hers was of any legal value. Her husband could
    repudiate any contract, bargain, or deal she had made. Women in the
    West (the largest heir of the Judaeo-Christian legacy) were held unable
    to make a binding contract because they were practically owned by
    someone else. Western women had suffered for almost two thousand years
    because of the Biblical attitude towards women's position
    vis-à-vis their fathers and husbands.  

    In Islam, the vow of every Muslim, male or female, is binding on
    him/her. No one has the power to repudiate the pledges of anyone else.
    Failure to keep a solemn oath, made by a man or a woman, has to be
    expiated as indicated in the Quran: "He [God] will call you to account
    for your deliberate oaths: for expiation, feed ten indigent persons, on
    a scale of the average for the food of your families; Or clothe them;
    or give a slave his freedom. If that is beyond your means, fast for
    three days. That is the expiation for the oaths you have sworn. But
    keep your oaths" (5:89). Companions of the Prophet Mohammed, men and
    women, used to present their oath of allegiance to him personally.
    Women, as well as men, would independently come to him and pledge their
    oaths: "O Prophet, When believing women come to you to make a covenant
    with you that they will not associate in worship anything with God, nor
    steal, nor fornicate, nor kill their own children, nor slander anyone,
    nor disobey you in any just matter, then make a covenant with them and
    pray to God for the forgiveness of their sins. Indeed God is Forgiving
    and most Merciful" (60:12). A man could not swear the oath on behalf of
    his daughter or his wife. Nor could a man repudiate the oath made by
    any of his female relatives.

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