By George Mitrakos| When it comes to religion, the topic of women is scarcely ever ignored. And for good reasons as well. I mean, although it wasn’t until the 1920’s since women were granted with the permission to vote, many are still prohibited from driving, swimming in public pools and even wearing makeup, as is the case in Saudi Arabia.
For years, women were viewed as second class citizens with minimal intellectual ability and social opportunity. But what about religion? What about its view on women? For many individuals, Islam is one of the greatest ideologies in demonstrating a profound respect and reverence for women whilst others view Christianity as a beneficial contributor towards female value.
But if you are a woman, who would you choose? Jesus or Muhammad? To help you out, what we are going to do is compare the teachings of Jesus as found within the gospels to the words of both Muhammad and Allah to see which one stands out as being more fair, just and respectful towards the female gender.
Within this article we are going to be looking at the following points:
- Intellectual worth of a woman
- Stoning and killing women
- Women and their social duties
- Females in heaven
1. Intellectual worth of a woman
In the Quran, chapter 2:282, Allah is talking about the obligations and or recommendations regarding the transactions and future obligations between 2 parties. One of the precepts, however, involves the acquiring of witnesses for the future calling of evidence. It reads:
“Let his guardian dictate faithfully, and get two witnesses, out of your own men, and if there are not two men, then a man and two women, such as ye choose, for witnesses, so that if one of them errs, the other can remind her.”
Did you catch that? In case you didn’t, here are the implications:
- A man’s evidence or testimony is worth that of 2 women.
- Women are intellectually inferior to men.
This notion of the intellectual deficiency of women is also supported in the Islamic hadiths:
“They asked, “Why is it so, O Allah’s Apostle ?” He replied, “You curse frequently and are ungrateful to your husbands. I have not seen anyone more deficient in intelligence and religion than you. A cautious sensible man could be led astray by some of you.” The women asked, “O Allah’s Apostle! What is deficient in our intelligence and religion?”
He said, “Is not the evidence of two women equal to the witness of one man?”
They replied in the affirmative. He said, “This is the deficiency in her intelligence. Isn’t it true that a woman can neither pray nor fast during her menses?” The women replied in the affirmative. He said, “This is the deficiency in her religion.” – Sahih Bukhari 1:6:301
So right off the bat, we see that women are viewed as intellectually inferior in intelligence, intellectually inferior to in terms of evidence and testimony, and intellectually inferior in religion.
The chief message of the entire Christian ideology, as well as the whole of the New Testament, is the gospel: The death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ for our sins. Now seeing as this is the sole means of salvation, one would assume that its initial witnesses/advocates of the empty tomb and resurrection would be sufficiently capable people.
When we read the gospel story, we see that the first witnesses and preachers of the resurrection were women. Luke 24:5-11:
“And as they were frightened and bowed their faces to the ground, the men said to them, ‘Why do you seek the living among the dead? He is not here, but has risen. Remember how he told you, while he was still in Galilee, that the Son of Man must be delivered into the hands of sinful men and be crucified and on the third day rise.’
And they remembered his words, and returning from the tomb they told all these things to the eleven and to all the rest. Now it was Mary Magdalene and Joanna and Mary the mother of James and the other women with them who told these things to the apostles, but these words seemed to them an idle tale, and they did not believe them.”
In other words, though Muhammad regarded women as intellectually inferior, the gospels portray them as worthy of being the initial preachers of the resurrection of the messiah.
Furthermore, Jesus indirectly hinted at the fact that an Old Testament Queen was wiser than the majority of the first century Jews. Matthew 12:42:
“The queen of the South will rise up at the judgment with this generation and condemn it, for she came from the ends of the earth to hear the wisdom of Solomon, and behold, something greater than Solomon is here.”
Not only that, but Christ also used women as spiritual examples in his parables, worthy of emulation. Something he would never do if they were considered religiously or intellectually deficient:
A woman was used as an example for persistent prayer. Luke 18:1-8.
Women were used as an example of being prepared before the second coming. Matthew 25:1-13 and Matthew 24:41.
Jesus used a woman to symbolize God in the parable of the lost coin. Luke 15:8-10.
Muhammad viewed women as being worth less than a man, deficient in intelligence and intellectually inferior in religion.
Jesus viewed women as worthy of being the initial preachers and witnesses of the resurrection, as well as spiritual examples for his parables.
2. Stoning and killing women
Although the Quran is deprived of a verse concerning the stoning of adulterers, there is evidence that Muhammad clearly performed this capital punishment on women during his lifetime:
- Sahih Muslim (17:4206) – A woman who became pregnant confesses to Muhammad that she is guilty of adultery. Muhammad allows her to have the child, then has her stoned.
- Sahih Muslim (17:4209) – A woman confesses adultery and is stoned to death on Muhammad’s order.
Furthermore, following the raid of Muhammad and his troops on the tribe Banu Fazara, a fairly old woman who went by the name of Umm Qirfa was brutally murdered by Muhammad and his followers. Ibn Ishaq 980. As a matter of fact, according to Tabari Vol.8:Page.96, the means by which she was killed is quite gruesome. It reads:
“After he recovered, Muhammad sent him with an army against the Fazarah settlement. He met them in Qura and inflicted casualties on them and took Umm Qirfah prisoner. He also took one of Umm’s daughters and Abdallah bin Mas’adah prisoner. Zyad bin Harithah ordered Qays to kill Umm, and he killed her cruelly. He tied each of her legs with a rope and tied the ropes to two camels, and they split her in two.”
But what about Jesus? Do we see the messiah performing the slaughtering of women and stoning of adulteresses?
In the prominent gospel of John, we read the story about a woman who was caught in the very act of adultery. Now, the religious leaders brought her unto Christ telling him that such a woman is deserving of death. Jesus, however, stated “Those of you who are without sin may cast the first stone”. Not condemning her to death, he sends her away with a warning not to sin again. John 8:1-11.
There is not a single instance where Christ is seen as killing women or prescribing for their murder. Rather, on many occasions, he is seen as healing them:
- Woman with Issue of Blood at Capernaum. Matthew 9:20-22, Mark 5:24-34, Luke 8:43-48.
- Peter’s Mother-in-Law, Sick with a Fever, at Capernaum. Matthew 8:14-15, Mark 1:29-31, Luke 4:38-39.
- Other Women and Mary Magdalene Healed of Evil Spirits and Infirmities in Galilee. Luke 8:2. Mark 16:9
- Woman with a Spirit of Infirmity in Galilee. Luke 13:11-13.
Muhammad stoned and killed women, Jesus saved and healed women.
3. Women and their social duties.
Throughout the qur’anic narrative, we are told that women should reside within the home. Surah 33:33. According to Tafsir ibn Kathir:
“And stay in your houses” means “stay in your houses and do not come out except for a purpose.”
Such a saying is also stated in Sunna Abu Dawood 567:
“…even though their houses are better for them”.
Tafsir Maududi states that in both these cases the verse means to impress that the woman’s real sphere of activity is her home; she should carry out her functions within that sphere peacefully, and she should come out of the house only in case of a genuine need.
Such things can also be seen in Muhammad’s command to his daughter Fatima to stay home and take care of the household duties while her husband Ali took care of matters outside the home, according to Dhamrah bin Habib:
The Messenger of Allah asked her daughter Fatimah to perform the household duties and ruled for ‘Ali to take the responsibilities outside the house.
Now, please be aware that this is not to put down women who joyfully and willingly take upon themselves the role of being stay at home laborers, but when we look to Jesus, we see that women are meant for much more than that.
In Luke 10:38-42 we read about the story of Mary and Martha. Within the narrative, Martha was distracted by much of the household preparations whilst Mary sat near the Lord’s feet to hear the word of God. Seeing that Martha was the only one laboring, she began to grumble, to which Jesus responded:
‘Martha, Martha, you are worried and troubled about many things. But one thing is needed, and Mary has chosen that good part, which will not be taken from her’ ” (Luke 10:39-42).
What we see within this small narrative is that although Martha was taking part in the common workings of 1st century Jewish women, Jesus tells her that Mary picked the better thing. In other words, there is more to the duties of women than cooking and cleaning for the man. In God’s eyes, only one thing is needed. And Mary picked it: Listening to the word of God and establishing a relationship with the saviour. Actions which both women and men are commanded to take part in.
On a side note, notice that prior to the Lord’s Supper, Jesus did not send his female disciples (which he had) to prepare the Passover meal. Rather, it was the MEN who took part in making the preparations. Luke 22:8-12:
“So Jesus sent Peter and John, saying, “Go and prepare the Passover for us, that we may eat it.” They said to him, “Where will you have us prepare it?” He said to them, “Behold, when you have entered the city, a man carrying a jar of water will meet you. Follow him into the house that he enters and tell the master of the house, ‘The Teacher says to you, Where is the guest room, where I may eat the Passover with my disciples?’And he will show you a large upper room furnished; prepare it there.”
Furthermore, the female disciples of Jesus were also TRAVELLING ONES. Quite the contrary to being confined in a home. Luke 8:1-3:
“Soon afterwards he went on through cities and villages, proclaiming and bringing the good news of the kingdom of God. The twelve were with him, as well as some women.”
Muhammad commands women to stay at home and take care of household duties, Jesus had travelling female disciples whilst men also prepared meals.
4. Females in heaven
Within Islam, there is a notion that in Jannah (Paradise) men will be provided with 72 virgins whose qualities are that of full grown, swelling and pear-shaped breasts. Majah, Zuhd (Book of Abstinence) 39:
Abu Umama narrated: “The Messenger of God said, ‘Everyone that God admits into paradise will be married to 72 wives; two of them are houris and seventy of his inheritance of the [female] dwellers of hell. All of them will have libidinous sex organs and he will have an ever-erect penis.'”
Now this number is described as being ONLY for men, whilst women are provided with only ONE man, and they will be satisfied with him, according to Shaykh ‘Abd-Allaah ibn Jibreen.
On the other hand, according to the Messiah, both men and women will be like the angels, NOT married or given in marriage. In other words, there will be no discriminations against one sex to acquire more than the other or vice versa. Both men and women will reside in the heavenly realms, unmarried in glorified bodies, worshiping the triune creator of the universe. Matthew 22:30:
“For in the resurrection they neither marry nor are given in marriage, but are like angels in heaven.”
Muhammad promises males 72 virgins in heaven while females are given ONE man, Jesus says that men and women shall be as angels, not married or given to marriage.
5. Wife beating
For once, the rumors are true. Yes. The Quran does permit disobedient wives to be beaten by their husbands. This is found in the 4th chapter of the Quran, verse 34:
“Men are the maintainers of women because Allah has made some of them to excel others and because they spend out of their property; the good women are therefore obedient, guarding the unseen as Allah has guarded; and (as to) those on whose part you fear desertion, admonish them, and leave them alone in the sleeping-places and beat them; then if they obey you, do not seek a way against them; surely Allah is High, Great.”
Now, when we read the gospels, there is no specific command to beat or not to beat your wife. But there is nothing in the ministry of Jesus that would suggest this is appropriate conduct. Paul told us NOT to be harsh with our wives (Colossians 3:18-21) and that we are to love them as Christ loves the church (Ephesians 5:25).
Furthermore, we can easily draw a lesson from the relationship of Joseph and Mary, to see whether or not beating would have been permitted during the time of Christ.
Within the opening sections of Matthew’s gospel, Joseph is having suspicions concerning Mary’s faithfulness. And this is due to the fact that she was found with child prior to having any sexual relations with Joseph. And if you ask me, Joseph seemed pretty justified, wouldn’t you think?
Yet, the bible describes him as a Godly man. In other words, he was a man who feared the Lord and walked in harmony with his precepts, V 19. So surely, if wife beating was prescribed, he would be the first to take part in it. Especially towards a woman who was seen as cheating.
Yet, we see the exact opposite. Not only did Joseph not beat her, but he did not even want to cause her public disgrace by bringing the matter into the midst of the people. Matthew 1:19-20:
“And her husband Joseph, being a just man and unwilling to put her to shame, resolved to divorce her quietly. But as he considered these things, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, “Joseph, son of David, do not fear to take Mary as your wife, for that which is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit.”
Muhammad ordered his followers to beat their disobedient wives. The bible describes God fearing people as not even willing to shame their unfaithful patners, while being commanded to not be harsh to our wives.
It is clear by the evidence just brought forth that the views of Muhammad and Jesus, as it relates to women, stand miles apart. Muhammad, as we have seen, seemed to have kept to the cultural notions of his time: primarily, that women should be confined to household duties, permitted to be beaten when crossing the line and even viewed them as intellectually inferior to us males, whilst Christ, on the other hand, brought a complete revolution to how women were to be treated, especially in a society that was chiefly dominated by men.
There are, however, plenty more verses and points we can bring up in regards to this topic. But, the truth is, we would be sitting here all day. So I hope that this post helped you in clearing some misconceptions and confusion in regards to this topic at hand while providing you with a clearer understanding of what both the Christian and the Islamic ideology teach about women.