Channel: Jamal Badawi
In the Name of God, the benevolent the Merciful, the creator and Sustainer of the universe, peace and blessings upon the servant and messenger Muhammad forever. I mean, I bear witness that there was no God worthy of worship except the one true God. And I bear witness that Muhammad is the messenger and slave servant of God, I greet you with our usual greeting on our program, the universal greetings of peace. It's a greeting that has been used by all of the profits from Abraham through the prophet Muhammad, peace and blessings be upon them all. Assalamu alaikum, which means peace beyond you. I'm your host, Hamid Rashid. Today we have our 11th program in our series dealing with
the social system of Islam. And we'll be dealing more specifically with the topic of the position of women in ancient civilizations. I have joining me on the program as usual. Dr. Jamal Badawi of St. Mary's University, brother, Jamal assalamu, alaikum.
Before we get into today's program, I wonder if I could ask you in that fashion to perhaps go back to our introductory program dealing with the family last week and ask you perhaps just to highlight some of the main points that we touched upon in that introductory program? Okay. Well, basically, we said that, since we're dealing with the social system in Islam, the cornerstone of society is the family.
And we started off by indicating that the from Muslim point of view, a family may be defined as a number of persons that are related together by blood relations and or marital relationship.
We're trying to indicate that in this definition, Islam accommodates what people call nuclear family, Father, Son and children, as well as the so called extended family, it need not necessarily be one or the other.
It was also indicated that, since the family is based, partly at least on lineal identity, we said that Islam gives so much attention to that we cited chapter 33 in the Quran, where a person is forbidden from giving a person a false identity. Yes, that is if a child for example is adopted, he should not take the name of the family should keep the name of his natural parents or his real family, which one should not falsify this.
But on the other hand, we said that Islam is not again, it's not really adoption, but fostering if we take one special meaning of adoption, that is to take a child who's lost or orphan, and to look after his or her needs, this is a laudable act, and the Prophet himself had an adopted person in that sense, that restricted meaning.
The other thing that we discussed also briefly at the beginning was towards the end of the program, that
was the meaning
place and objectives of family and Islam. And we said that family is them is a divine or divinely inspired institution, which is very important, and which Meantime, also is a social contract or a social institution,
indicating that some of the main objectives behind the family include things like procreation, protection of morals in society, providing stability,
providing socialization for the child and value orientation, providing security on the economic and psychological level and motivation of members of the family to do their best for the good of the family, and for society at large.
We're now returning to our topic of today's program, that is the position of women in ancient history. I wonder, what In your opinion, is the you consider to be the relevance of examining some of the historical historical aspects relating to the position of women in society? Well, I think like the discussion of any important subject, it is always useful to start off with to start off with some kind of background. Now, this should not be construed to mean that we are going to say that, listen, this was the position of women before Islam and it's more complete form was completed at the advent of Prophet Muhammad peace be upon him and this
Essentially. So we're not simply saying that because if you say that it may imply somehow that when Islam did introduce some improvement or some reforms, which were good for that time, for it's time for the seventh century, but perhaps not adequate for today's society. That's not intended at all. Indeed, we will see as we gone, that Islam was at least 1400 years ahead of its time. And there is no wonder because when we talk about divine revelation, and injunctions, which are well preserved in the form of scriptures, then we are also admitting the divine source, at least from a Muslim point of view. And once we do that, we are also accepting God's eternal and absolute wisdom and knowledge
which covers the past the present and future. So in that sense, then we're really talking about something beyond what human beings can legislate, and beyond what philosophers may suggest,
to determine the position of a woman, so I think in that sense, it would be useful by way of providing a broader background to understand the subject better. Okay, perhaps we could turn our attention now to an examination of some of the
ways in which women were viewed by some of these earlier civilizations. Perhaps I could have you start by commenting on the eastern civilizations first. One of the oldest one, an interesting reference on that subject is a book written by David and Vera, mais ma See, he was published in New York 1960. The title is marriage, east and west.
Just selected three quotations as examples are almost typical of the kind of treatment that women received in ancient civilization. But before going into this quotations, it is it will be quite obvious that the position of women in ancient civilizations was not was not really that highly regarded.
For example, in ancient China, the book quotes one of the ancient Chinese poets, by the name of through Swan, that's h es un,
who wrote in the third century before Christ.
And he said that how sad it is to be a woman. Nothing on earth is held so cheap.
Furthermore, we find that according to the teachings of Confucius, that the main function of woman is to obey.
In childhood and early years she obeys her father.
When she is married, she obeys her husband, in widowhood, she obeys her son.
The quality of her obedience is to be unquestioning and absolute.
That's interesting because from a standpoint of many people say, right, there's nothing wrong of a daughter obeying her father, or even woman or wife obeying her husband's in reasonable requests. But the point here is that even in widowhood, a woman obeys her son, and that the nature of that obedience has to be unqualified, and unquestioning matter that we will see as we go on, is not accepted from a static point of view that there is no unqualified obedience to any human being, that the only unqualified obedience is only due to God.
Some used to believe that a son when he's born, he's like a God who fell from heavens, but God is not really that celebrated event. So, to be happy about. And the second reference he made to Buddhist cultures, Japan and other places similar to this.
And he said also that woman was basically inferior to men. Indeed, in some conditions his women, a woman was full of sin. Nothing is to be dreaded so much as a woman,
another very ancient civilization in the Hindu cultures.
The book also refers to the law of manual and a few, very famous writer. And he says, quote,
yes, a woman whose mind, speech and body are kept in subjection acquires high renown in this world, and the next the same abode with
The authors of the book add to this and they say that women, in fact had no business with the text of the leader. The VEDA is the Hindu scriptures,
having therefore no evidence of low and no knowledge of expository texts.
Women were not allowed to remarry after the death of their husbands,
most often they acted as servants in the household in the relatives or the household of the relatives of that deceased husband. In some cases, even a woman would have to burn herself when her husband does die with him, in fact, it was reported even that, despite of the prohibition legally, in India, about this practice that some believe that until now, even in isolated cases that practice seem to continue, but there's no clear documentation of that we have to be careful on it.
And according to Encyclopedia Britannica, in the 11th edition,
it also indicate that in the law of men or women were excluded from inheritance. In other words, the inheritance was to pass only to the main side of the of the family.
In fish 74 of the same book, manage east and west, the authors conclude that the pictures by now is all too clear. In China, an MBA in Japan, it is the same story, the thought of Great Eastern cultures, about the nature of woman shows, little variations.
Certainly, as the Oscars have suggested, it is a very telling picture and a very, very negative situation.
When viewed comes from a modern perspective and surface view from an Islamic perspective, we're now turning our attention to the situation in Europe, were they doing any better than the ancient civilizations of Europe, when Not really.
Other references also on this
list take the two measures in succeeding civilizations, the Greek and Roman civilization. For example, in a book called history of civilization by EA, Allen, and volume three,
he says that Athenian women were always minors, yeah, subject to some means to their fathers, to their brothers, or to some of their men can.
He also indicates that the consent of the girls in marriage was not acquired, and that she simply received from her parents, her husband and has loads. That's an interesting term. Yes, yeah, this is her husband and load.
The Roman women, as reported in the same reference page, by 50, is described in a similar way that a Roman woman, generally speaking was regarded as a babe
a minor Award, a person incapable of doing or acting anything, according to her own individual taste, a person continually under the tutelage and guardianship of her husband.
In Encyclopedia Britannica, it was also indicated that, according to the Roman law, if a woman gets married, her property automatically passes on to her husband. In other words, she would not be qualified or allowed to dispose of that property without his permission, she was not regarded as capable of making any when or negotiating any contract even in had on so called property.
There are other aspects of this
which even existed after even Christianity spread into the Gentile world, but this probably will be forthcoming in coming programs. So the west and the east, seem to have been invited for once one particular thing, and that is the subjugation of women. Now we've examined the east, we've examined Europe. What about that area that
today is commonly referred to as they are the countries included in the quote unquote, Middle East? We didn't seem to touch on them in their remarks at this point, how was the situation and these areas? I think that's a relevant point because the Middle East, as you know, has been the birth place of many of the
major world religions. And I could say, again, hopefully in a reasonable degree of objectivity, that situation wasn't too much better than it was in the east or west.
it was quite common.
There are two elements, perhaps that can refer can be referred to in the Middle East. One is the Hebrew traditions, which extended over hundreds of years. And secondly, were the Arabian women because that also serves to understand and appreciate the kind of reforms Islam brought, when it was completed in the seventh century.
The Hebrew tradition, perhaps we can discuss that in the next program, when we get into the comparison between the Bible and the Quran
with respect to the attitude towards women.
But let me touch briefly on the other aspect, the Arabian women.
As I said earlier, the situation wasn't any better than the east or west. Just to give you some evidence or examples of this.
Usually, when a person receives news of the birth of a girl,
his face become darkened and very sad, and he really gets very upset about it. And like when he's getting the news of a verse of son.
The other thing is that that was very inhuman, a practice that
totally disappeared after Islam was the female infanticide. That is, in some parents even used to bury their girls are life. Some, because of certain reasons, others because of the fear or have any shame, quote, unquote, that the girl may bring to the family, of course, it would have not been universal, or else the race would have disappeared. But the very fact that such inhuman
type of attitude existed is quite revealing.
Indeed, it was not uncommon in Arabia, before Islam, that after the deaths of her husband, the woman herself becomes an object of inheritance, not always the woman is inherited as part of the state of the deceased husband. So in that sense, it wasn't that different either. Now,
that leads me to wonder whether or not there were any exceptions as to this point, the the attitude of the civilizations that we've discussed seems to reveal a universal negative view of women
leads me to ask the question as to whether or not there were any exceptions
to what appears to be this negative attitude that existed throughout? Well, I, I believe that it is reasonably correct to say it was generally negative view of women. But
there were generally here is quite significant, because it is very difficult to talk about civilization or civilizations that continued for hundreds of years.
to get the impression that these quotations, for example, mean that in 100% of the cases 100% of the times, and 100% of all places, that they were no incidents at all have better treatments or respect for women, I think this would be perhaps an overstatement. So perhaps they were generally still probably hold.
No, definitely there have been exceptions to that. But sometimes these exceptions were restricted to nobilities. Of course, in a when you have a rich family or ruling family, women in that respect, would have got some respect, of course, and better treatment than otherwise would be the case for the common woman.
For sure, throughout history,
they, they have been many talented women who because of the extent of their talent, personality and determination could still make their presence sent despite of the overall adverse conditions. But again, in terms of general attitude in terms of the legal systems, which seemed to
to condone this kind of
mistreatment, perhaps the situation was there. Indeed,
it is quite interesting to note that recent discoveries
showed that in ancient in some of the ancient times, the image of God even was a female image, that is God, the mother.
Some of the cave temples discovered in the Soviet Ukraine, in northern Spain and southern France
seem to have indicated that a long time ago
Some estimate even
between 30,000 years before Christ to 2000 year before Christ, that the superior deity that work was worshipped at that time was actually a female deity, Goddess.
The goddesses was not only a concept that was limited to one place or the other. But in different parts of the world, there have been some similar views. In Egypt, for example, the goddess or Supreme Being as believed by some of the old Egyptians before Islam, of course, was ISIS. Yes, and babylone it was time at in ancient sumeria, it was established. In Greece, it was Demeter. In Rome, it was metters. There have been different names, but basically, they refer to the same kind of concept of glorifying the female image of God.
I understand that some authors and some scholars dismiss this as something that relates only to the fertility cults, quote, unquote, no, some just a symbol of fertility cults. But some people indeed see more
relevance to that than simply cults.
Indeed, in some of the ancient writings, they seem to have referred to the mother goddess, as the creator, the lawgiver, the judge, the queen of heavens, indeed, one of the very interesting things that were written in Egypt, that dates back to about 1400 years before Christ, it says, it's quite interesting. In the beginning, there was ISIS.
In the beginning, there was ISIS, all of the all,
the goddess from who, or from whom all becoming arrows, Mistress of heaven, Mistress of the house of life, mysteries of the Word of God. And that, like I said, was 1400 years before Christ.
Another very interesting myth related to that, related to the myth of
God, the mother,
is a mess that was known as the myth of the sacred son, the sacred son and lover.
According to that mess, it says, through whose mystical union that is the mystical union of that second sun. With the Goddess, all existence was granted continuity.
He was usually represented as an eternally dying and resurrecting gods. Again, we're talking about long time before Christ.
It says, dying and resurrecting God as the field of Earth by each year to be born in the spring.
This so called second son, myth,
was referred to by different names. Bands is one rosaries.
tammuz attis. And there are many other similar names that carry the same kind of miss, which relate after all, to this mother, God's
Mother Goddess, I should say.
So, in other words,
the this kind of archaeological evidence seem to indicate that the position of women
in civilizations even preceding the ones that we quoted in China, or Japan or India, was not totally 100% at all times negative. There have been times when women were regarded as goddesses. And it was reported even in some differences, that for some of those symptoms, some women acted as the priestess.
Yeah, very interesting. Well, I wonder if perhaps we might just look at a different aspect for a moment. And I wonder if perhaps you would consider it to be helpful or useful to examine the position of women in both the the Bible in the in the bar?
I think it probably would be useful in a number of ways. On one hand, we have been talking about the women in history. Yes. And of course, an important part of that history, for sure has been the history which was influenced by the teachings, particularly of the three major world religions, Judaism, Christianity and Islam.
It is also a
I believe useful in another respect. Because
when we talk about Islam, perhaps the closest reveal, quote unquote, revealed religions would be Judaism and Christianity. There are lots of points of basic similarity, at least in matters of belief or believing in God profit to the life you're after, there might be variations also in the way they are interpreted. So I think the comparison between this three phase, I think, would make more sense
in terms of borders, in better understanding of the subject.
The other point that I think is of great significance is that very often, many statements about a woman in Islam and that position must be mistaken. And Iranian statements are made
in speeches in a newspaper and magazine articles, and books, even which has the semi academic appearance by scholars in the West who are largely Jews or Christians,
when many times those statements are
not supported by any evidence from the scriptures, which make it incumbent to try and understand the basis and what both scriptures say about this issue.
Recently, I was giving a talk in Montreal, and one sister there brought to my attention, an article that was published in Montreal, in which the writer says that according to Islamic law, he didn't even say, this is the practice of some people. according to Islamic law, he says, the consent of the girl is not required in marriage, a statement which is totally opposed to what the Quran say, and what the teachings of Prophet Muhammad peace be upon him are.
So there are lots of this erroneous kind of statements which are based on myths and misinformation that has been circulating for quite some time providing an Iranian stereotype of the position of Islam towards women and other issues as well like Jihad and other things that lots of mistakes that are of similar nature. Another similar incident, which is quite interesting, in I think it was that one was in Kansas City, somebody brought to my attention, an article in which the author says that, in Islam, a woman is allowed to have a bath only once. And that's the night when she is married, or with something that's absolutely ridiculous. That's even a person who doesn't know about Islam is,
you know, wouldn't know that this is something that's totally you know, out of line. Sometimes statements are made, and references made to the Quran out of context, or purchase, quotation, some people even take half of a verse,
start building on that something which is does not take into account the statements as well or remain remaining, surrounding verses, the remaining parts of the chapter that deal with the subject.
So I think it's quite useful, not in any contentious way, really, but in terms of,
hopefully, objective and honest approach to the subject, to verify some of these informations and to bring forth the scriptures of both,
you know, Judeo Christian traditions, mainly the Bible, in the statements of the Fathers of the Church. And to compare that also with similar references that are accepted by Muslims as authoritative references, mainly the Quran, they regard as the Word of God, and the professor tradition. And perhaps when you look into some of the areas of comparison, we can, hopefully, in an objective and open
minded and open hearted way, compare both and perhaps come up with a better and first understanding of that subject. Okay, we'll leave our comparative study to our next program. We want to invite you back when we'll look at some of the areas we'll isolate some of the essential areas for compassion and have some discussion of them. We want to thank you for being our guest today. Assalamu alaikum, peace be unto you