Tuesday, 8 July 2014

Women’s Rights in Islam & Christianity - Crystal S. Lewis

As I continue to think on the meaning of Ramadan and its requirement that observers commit themselves to acts of justice, I am drawn to consider the issue of women’s rights. While completing my Masters Degree in Theological Studies, I simultaneously earned a Certificate in Muslim and Christian Dialogue through the Washington Theological Consortium. This program was a wonderful experience for me in a variety of ways—with the most memorable of those experiences occurring in my coursework involving matters related to womanhood in the Muslim context.

I learned that the greatest misconception regarding Islam is the belief that men are permitted to treat women as poorly as they wish with no consequence from the law, and with no consequence from God. However, this is clearly not true. The woman and man are both worthy of equal respect according to the Quran.

For example-- see Quran 58 which says that Allah’s all-seeing eye is ever present where marriage is concerned, and that each party is required treat his or her spouse with proper care. Similarly, the Quran seems to protect women against the unfortunate circumstance of divorce at the hands of an unfair husband. Clearly, there is great concern for the well-being of women whose husbands might have threatened to leave them destitute in patriarchal societies. Furthermore, there is no tolerance in the Quran for a man who would attempt to slander his wife or tarnish her reputation. This is revolutionary thinking, particularly when we consider the time at which the Quran was first used as scripture.

Both Islam and Christianity endure an unfortunate reputation for being inherently “oppressive” to women because there isn’t enough of a spotlight on the images of women’s equality in our holy scriptures. Similarly, it’s easy for modern atrocities against women in the names of Islam and Christianity to obscure the great strides that are being taken today in order to publicly uphold the worth of the female life in each respective religion. This is not to say that atrocities against women do not exist in Islam and Christianity, nor do I mean to imply that acts of injustice against women perpetrated by our/their religions should not be made public and openly disavowed. I believe such discussions are appropriate and necessary, and that they should occur sternly and without apology in the same way that the Supreme Court’s Hobby Lobby decision has been publicly discussed by both religious and non-religious figures as an over-reach oppressive to women. Indeed, I only mean to state that both Islam and Christianity would benefit if there were more balanced discussions about the contributions of and rights for women that exist in their/our scriptures, and in modern expressions of their/our religions.

And so, at Ramadan, I feel compelled to think about matters of justice as they relate to the cause of women’s equality all over the world, and particularly within Islam and Christianity. I think about the reputations held by each religion as “oppressive to women,” and the tragedy we all experience when we do not take strides to understand the contributions of feminist thought to the future of these two separate holy paths. I marvel at the ways in which both Jesus (my supreme prophet and teacher) and the Prophet Muhammed (upon whose legacy I also confer peace and reverence) stood firmly with women, and I wonder to myself how our understanding of these two religions would change if we focused as much on their egalitarian teachings as we do on the misguided actions of some followers.

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Crystal Lewis is a co-ministry leader at Universalist National Memorial Church in Washington, DC. She earned her Master of Theological Studies Degree with a concentration in World Religions at Wesley Theological Seminary, and a Graduate Certificate in Muslim and Christian Dialogue through the Washington Theological Consortium. She blogs at Window on Religion (www.crystalstmarielewis.com). Follow Crystal on Twitter (@CrystalLewis).

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1 comment:

  1. Until everyone of the faith actually reads, studies and interprets their own holy scripture with common sense and research nothing will change. We are in a world of laziness in faith today where people are lax and think they are doing well just to attend services once a week and listen to what others (the "teachers") say about scripture.

    This is a lost generation and the lazy ones would not know false teaching if it came up and bit them on the behind. I am Christian with Muslim friends. I can ask them anything about Islam, they can ask me anything about Christianity. We both love God/Allah and we both know Jesus will return - however, we have differing beliefs as to who he is exactly, and why.

    They have never judged me, and I will not judge them or the Islam belief because Jesus taught to never judge those who are not of your faith - this is left for God/Allah to judge. We do however have the same desire for the world: to leave in peace and harmony with one another. And that the radicals (of both our faith) be quiet and stop killing.


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