Patriarchy and Gender Inequality

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Aalaa Mohasseb
Professor Mahdi Tourage
Religious Studies 2500F
19 November 2012
Patriarchy and Gender Inequality
"I created you from one soul, and from that soul I created its mate so that you may live in harmony and love” (Quran 4:2). When distinguishing between the Quran and Western Christian tradition, it becomes clear that equality amongst genders is much more prominent in the Quran. This is a result of the influence of Greek misogyny being integrated into Western Christian tradition. The most fundamental proof of equality that supports the Quran is the fact that in Islam, God does not have a gender. S/he may be referred to using the male pronoun in Arabic, but s/he is never described as “father or as s/he is in the Christian traditions. As discussed in lecture, in Islam, God is described using female characteristics as well as male. For instance, her/his most important names are Al- Rahman (the All-Compassionate) and Al- Rahim which come from the root word R-h-m meaning womb. Therefore, in Islam God does not have a sex or race and thus unpatriarchal. Dr. Sherif Abdel Azeem’s research of American female converts revealed that the ratio of American female converts to males is four to one (Azeem).According to these women, the reason for their conversion is that Islam liberates them and gives them more power than they have ever experienced before. When analyzed in its wholeness and put into proper perspective, it is clear that there is no favoritism towards a specific gender; the Quran displays equality throughout its revelation and misinterpretations are what make the religion seem patriarchal, such is seen with the topic of menstruation. This paper specifically analyzes how menstruation is dealt with in the Quran, and how different commentators from different time frames interpret verse 222 from surah Al Baqarah. It looks at the way women are degraded because of a disillusioned patriarchy being read into the Quran making them look inferior. In addition to this, how the oppressed women take the very terms of oppression and use it to their benefit will be seen as well. The Quran mentions menstruation in two contexts: ritual purity and the law of marriage and divorce. When discussing ritual purity, menstruation is one of the several bodily functions that require ablution in order for a person to be pure and be able to perform prayer and other rituals (“Menstruation”). In the context of Islamic law, menstruation is seen to cause impurity to that of the same degree created by sexual intercourse.  The marital law states that a widowed or divorced woman’s waiting period can only begin when she starts menstruating and she may re-marry once the waiting period is over. The topic of menstrual purity is a significant topic in the Islamic law, however the Quran does only mention it once, “They ask you about menstruation say, it is an adhan. Remain aloof from menstruating women and do not approach them until they become pure again; when they have purified themselves, go to them as God has instructed you. Indeed, God loves those who repent and those who purify themselves”  (Quran, 2:222).  Adhan, a scarcely used word in the Quran holds a strong meaning although semantically open. In the context of this verse, many medieval interpreters often referred to it as ““dirtiness”, smelliness and general offensiveness of menstrual blood” (“Menstruation”). Professor Mary Douglas’s book Purity and Danger helped the understanding of causes and consequences of menstruation as a defect and pollution because of the interchangeable misuse of the words purity and unclean. On the other hand, modern interpreters focus on the harm done to the menstruating woman. For example, no intercourse during that time is permissible because the woman would be experiencing weakness and has no energy. Muhammed Rashid Rida explains how intercourse while a woman is on her period can be harmful because intercourse disrupts her...
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