Women in the Bible and the Quran

                                                 Ehteshaam Gulam

The Bible and the Church have been the greatest stumbling blocks in the way of woman's emancipation.
-- Elizabeth Cady Stanton,  The Woman's Bible

The subject of women is a very delicate manner in all three of the Abrahamic faiths. All of them have different views on women. In order to understand the full aspect of women in Judaism, Christianity and Islam and what all of them say about women is we have to look at the Old Testament, New Testament and the Quran resepectively. Only there can we find out which says what about the subject of women. Let’s start with the Old Testament.

As the reader probably already knows the Old Testament is divided into three parts, the Law, the Prophets and the Writings. Let’s take a look at what these three have to say about women.

The role of Eve.

First let’s turn our attention towards the Torah’s understanding of Eve. Eve is mentioned in the first part of the Law, Genesis 3:20 for the first time.

In Genesis 3, the story is told about Adam and Eve’s explusion from The Garden of Eden.

“Now the serpent was more crafty than any of the wild animals the LORD God had made. He said to the woman, "Did God really say, 'You must not eat from any tree in the garden'?"   The woman said to the serpent, "We may eat fruit from the trees in the garden, but God did say, 'You must not eat fruit from the tree that is in the middle of the garden, and you must not touch it, or you will die.' "  "You will not surely die," the serpent said to the woman. "For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil." When the woman saw that the fruit of the tree was good for food and pleasing to the eye, and also desirable for gaining wisdom, she took some and ate it. She also gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate it. Then the eyes of both of them were opened, and they realized they were naked; so they sewed fig leaves together and made coverings for themselves.   Then the man and his wife heard the sound of the LORD God as he was walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and they hid from the LORD God among the trees of the garden. But the LORD God called to the man, "Where are you?" He answered, "I heard you in the garden, and I was afraid because I was naked; so I hid."   And he said, "Who told you that you were naked? Have you eaten from the tree that I commanded you not to eat from?" The man said, "The woman you put here with me—she gave me some fruit from the tree, and I ate it." Then the LORD God said to the woman, "What is this you have done?" The woman said, "The serpent deceived me, and I ate." So the LORD God said to the serpent, "Because you have done this,  "Cursed are you above all the livestock and all the wild animals! You will crawl on your belly and you will eat dust all the days of your life. And I will put enmity  between you and the woman,  and between your offspring and hers; he will crush your head,   and you will strike his heel." To the woman he said, "I will greatly increase your pains in childbearing;  with pain you will give birth to children. Your desire will be for your husband, and he will rule over you." To Adam he said, "Because you listened to your wife and ate from the tree about which I commanded you, 'You must not eat of it,' "Cursed is the ground because of you;  through painful toil you will eat of it  all the days of your life. It will produce thorns and thistles for you,  and you will eat the plants of the field. By the sweat of your brow  you will eat your food  until you return to the ground, since from it you were taken;  for dust you are and to dust you will return."  Adam named his wife Eve, because she would become the mother of all the living.   The LORD God made garments of skin for Adam and his wife and clothed them. And the LORD God said, "The man has now become like one of us, knowing good and evil. He must not be allowed to reach out his hand and take also from the tree of life and eat, and live forever." So the LORD God banished him from the Garden of Eden to work the ground from which he had been taken. After he drove the man out, he placed on the east side of the Garden of Eden cherubim and a flaming sword flashing back and forth to guard the way to the tree of life. (Genesis 3:1-24)

Analaysis of the Biblical Account of Adam and Eve
As one can see the portrayal of Eve is shown in a rather negative light. She is responsible for the downfall of man along with the serpent, and because of that she has to go through childbearing pain and is the desire of the husband. Further looking back at Genesis 3:12-14 Adam blames Eve and Eve blames the serpent. Then God puts enmity between her, her husband and her children. Forever on earth will their be a sense of mistrust with Men and Women and for some reason serpents. Clearly this is a negative portrayal of women since Eve is the one partially responsible for the downfall of man. This portrayal as we’ll see will continue with various sexist and mygostic church fathers of early Christianity and this potrayl will continue in Paul’s writings.

Women in the Old Testament

Not only is the portrayal of Eve—the first woman created according to the Abrahamic Fatihs,  negative in the book of Genesis, it’s also negative further in the Book of Genesis as well as the other books in the Old Testament. For example, when Noah is loading people into the Ark, females are seen as the property of males (Genesis 7:2). In Exodus 20:17 and Deuteronomy 5:21 a wife is seen as property of the man. If a man dies and leaves behind some inheritance then the daughter is entitled to it. However if the man has a son, then the daughter gets nothing and he interherits all of it, leaving nothing for the mother, aunt, wives sisters, etc in Numbers 27:8.

I have to say that the views of women are very bizarre and just down right disturbing in the Bible, especially in the last part of the Torah. Here are just some strange views of women in the Bible. Virgins are taken as booty by Moses and his men in Numbers 31:1-54. Women are seen as spoils of war and can be taken as property in Deuteronomy 20:13-14. In Deuteronomy 21:11-14 clearly allows men to have sex with their captives.  If a man marries a woman and doesn’t like his wife anymore, he can claim that she wasn’t a virgin. If her father taken produce proof of her virginity which is bloody sheets then the woman is to stoned in front of her fathers doorstep in Deuteronomy 22:13-21. If a woman is raped in a city and can’t scream loud enough then she is to be put to death in Deuteronomy 22:23-24. This makes it difficult for the rape victim to tell the authorities about the crime, since she is risking her own life in doing so. Another weird and downright disturbing attitribute in the Bible about women is this. In Deuteronomy 22:22-29 When a man rapes a woman he must pay her father 50 Shekels in silver and marry her. What kind of person would permit a rape victim to marry her rapist? It makes no sense whatsoever. Further a woman again is seen as the property of a man as Deuteronomy 27:20 states that "Cursed be he that lieth with his father's wife, because he uncovereth his father's skirt." Implying that the husband owns his wife. A wife during Old Testament times used to address her husband as ba’al (Hebrew for master) or adon (Hebrew for lord).

Life for Isralite women was difficult. A wife wasn’t the head of the family, she couldn’t take legal action, sign a contract, etc. Rather in Israel she was forced to do all the work at home, taking care of the fields, children, etc.
But it doesn’t stop with the Torah. In other books of the Bible, the view on women is just as bizarre and sexist. Caleb offers his daughter as a prize to whoever can conquer the city of Debir. Caleb’s nephew eventually captures Debir and is given his cousin as a prize in marriage (Joshua 15:16-17), implying that women were no more than an object to be won. Samson sees a Philistine woman who pleases him and asks his parents to get her for him in Judges 14:1-3.   Samson’s father in law, takes Samson’s wife and gives her away to someone else and offers his youngest daughter because she is more “pretty” than his previous daughter. Samson takes the younger daughter into marriage in Judges 15:2. 
Judges 19-21 tells an interesting story about a traveling Levite, his daughter and his concubine. The Levite then sees a group of Benjaminites who want to have sex with him.  The Levite refuses and instead offers his daughter. The group refuse her and his concubine is shoved out the door of where he was staying and the group gang rape the concubine killing her. The Levite places her on his donkey and cuts her into twelve pieces and sends them to the 12 tribes of Israel. He then demands vengeance against the tribe of the Benjaminites. The emissaries of the tribes are sent to tribe of Benajamin demanding that the tribe hand over the criminals resposnisible for the rape and murder of the Levite’s concubine. They refuse. The result is the tribes refusing to give the Benajaminites their daughters in marriage and war breaks out with them and the other tribes of Israel. Within a day, only 600 men of the tribe of Benajamin with their women and children all being killed. This causes a problem for the Isralities as they fear exiction of the Benajaminites since they already promised they aren’t able to give any of their daughters in marriage to them. So one group of Israelies named Jabesh-gilead who had not been present when the tribes promised not to give the Benajaminites their daughters are attacked and 400 of their women are forced to be given to the Benajaminites. However they are still 400 short. So the Benajamites go and abduct 200 women from the town Shiloh at a time of a religious festival, and thus every one of the Benajamities has a wife. This is a very disturbing story of rape, forced marriage and murder. This story further demonstrates the rights and personhood of women in the Bible and how they are treated throughout Israelie history.

But it doesn’t stop there. 1 Samuel tells even more about how women are treated in Israel with Kings and other Rulers. David and Saul have a contest to see who can please God the most by killing people. Women for some reason act like cheerleaders for both Saul and David in 1 Samuel 18:6-7, 21:11, 29:5. It’s like the women are not only endorsing killing but actually helping David and Saul kill more people. It gets worse as Saul sells his daughter to David for 100 foreskins of Philistines. David brings 200 foreskins to Saul and gives his daughter Michal in marriage to David (1 Samuel 18:25-27).  Michal later on is given to another man, Phatiel, but is given back to David (1 Samuel 25:44, II Samuel 3:15-16). This implies that women were movable or possesable property.

The scriptures and their description of women are also very unflattering. For example in Psalms 51:15, God considers sex and women to be sinful. Okay so why did he make women in the first place? However this is a contradiction because in Psalms 127:3-5 God tells that a man should have as many children as possible. In Proverbs 2:16-19 God warns men about “strange women” and makes no mention of “strange men”. I find that strange. He even warns about “evil” women in Proverbs 6:24-26 and again doesn’t make any mention of evil men. So one can ask, why are women singled out? It is also warned not to give strength or power to women in Proverbs 31:3 and that a good and virtrous woman is hard to find in Proverbs 31:10 and Esslesiastes 7:28. More sexist comments are found in the last books of the Bible, such as Zephaniah 3:1 which states that women are filthy and polluted and Zechariah 5:7-8. Although there are other sexist comments in the Bible and other passages against women, these were the passages that stand out, at least to this author. But the Old Testament’s views on women aren’t the only source of Jewish thought on women. The law of Moeses didn’t allow a wife to divorce her hushand but said a husband was able to divorce his wife, as will be seen Prophets and Patricarchs had more than one wife or concubine, however a woman could have only one mate and a woman couldn’t inherit any land or money from her father or husband unless she had no sons and no other male heirs.  Clearly the portrayl of Women in the Old Testament is unfair and sexist.

Other Jewish Sources on Women 

The Talmud is an essential part of Judaism. One must take a look at the views of women in the Talmud and other Jewish sources to get the full scope on them. Let’s first look at the Talmud’s view on women. Classical Jewish rabbinical literature contains quotes that may be seen as both sexist and derogatory of women. The Talmud states that:"Ten measures of speech descended to the world; women took nine" (Kiddushin 49b)Women are "light on raw knowledge" -- i.e. they possess more intuition (Shabbat 33b)."The sages say that four traits apply to women: They are greedy, eavesdroppers, lazy and jealous...Rabbi Yehoshua bar Nahmani adds: they are querulous and garrulous Rabbi Levy adds: they are thieves and gadabouts" (Midrash Bereshit Rabbah 45:5).
Orthodox Jewish men in their daily morning prayer recite "Blessed be God King of the universe that Thou has not made me a woman." The women, on the other hand, thank God every morning for "making me according to Thy will.

Orthodox Jewish men in their daily morning prayer recite "Blessed be God King of the universe that Thou has not made me a woman." The women, on the other hand, thank God every morning for "making me according to Thy will"  . According to the Jewish Talmud, "women are exempt from the study of the Torah." In the first century C.E., Rabbi Eliezer said: "If any man teaches his daughter Torah it is as though he taught her lechery.
In conclusion, One can see that women are rather seen in a negative light in the Jewish scriptures. Although most Jews aren’t as sexist as seen in their scriptures, the scriptures and the rabbinic writing clearly shows a negative portrayal of women. Although the Talmud has some good stuff about women, most of what the Old Testament has to say about women is generally sexist and unflattering towards women.

Women in the New Testament and Christianity

Women are mentioned in the New Testament and in other Christian sources just as with Judaism. However the view of women in the New Testament and Christian sources is just as bad as the Jewish point of view regarding women and their role in original sin. For example Jesus original disciples are all male. Jesus also teaches men to abandon their wives and children for a big “heavenly” reward (Mark 10:29-30, Matthew 19:29). For example in the Gospels males are holy to God not females (Luke 2:23).Let’s take a look at the views of women in the New Testament and in Christianity.

Islam in the past has been critized especially in the West because of the modern dress it recommends women to wear. However Islam is not the only religion that endorses the modern dress as the New Testament also endorses this as illustrated in the below verses of the New Testament.

I also want women to dress modestly, with decency and propriety, not with braided hair or gold or pearls or expensive clothes, but with good deeds, appropriate for women who profess to worship God. (1 Timothy 2:9 NIV).

When they see the purity and reverence of your lives. Your beauty should not come from outward adornment, such as braided hair and the wearing of gold jewelry and fine clothes. Instead, it should be that of your inner self, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is of great worth in God's sight. For this is the way the holy women of the past who put their hope in God used to make themselves beautiful. (1 Peter 3:2-5)

So one can see that women have to “purify” themselves and not show any beauty from an outward adornment. Modestly is also something which must be done for a Christian woman. Finally in the 21st century there is a huge rise of sexual immorality and immodesty. With women (and I must sadly add Muslim Women) wearing more and more provactive clothing both Christianity and Islam promote the veiling of women. Where does Christianity endorse the veiling of women, one might ask? The answer to that is in the New Testament itself:

Every man who prays or prophesies with his head covered dishonors his head. And every woman who prays or prophesies with her head uncovered dishonors her head—it is just as though her head were shaved. If a woman does not cover her head, she should have her hair cut off; and if it is a disgrace for a woman to have her hair cut or shaved off, she should cover her head. (1 Corinthians 11:4-6)

Wives in relation to Husbands and Education of Women

The New Testament has many statements which degrade women and make them second to men and put husbands first before the women and wives. The below verses illustrate this fact:

Wives must fully Submit to their Husbands:

Wives, submit to your husbands, as is fitting in the Lord. (Colossians 3:18)

Wives, in the same way be submissive to your husbands so that, if any of them do not believe the word, they may be won over without words by the behavior of their wives,
(1 Peter 3:1)

"Wives, submit yourselves unto your own husbands, as unto the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife, even as Christ is the head of the church: and he is the saviour of the body. Therefore as the church is subject unto Christ, so let the wives be to their own husbands in every thing." (Ephesians 5:22-24)

Then they can train the younger women to love their husbands and children, to be self-controlled and pure, to be busy at home, to be kind, and to be subject to their husbands, so that no one will malign the word of God. (Titus 2:4-5)

Wives, submit to your husbands as to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church, his body, of which he is the Savior. Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit to their husbands in everything. (Ephesians 5:22-24) 

What’s probably the worse thing in the New Testament is that Paul of Tarsus the man responsible for today’s Pauline Christianity, permits no woman to speak in Church or even to teach men as the below verses indicate. Another thing to be noted, is that in 1 Peter 3:7, in relation to her husband a wife is seen as the weaker vessel and not equal to her husband.

Bishops and Deacons must be men:
The New Testament didn’t allow women to be bishops or deacons in Churches as these verses indicate: 
"This is a true saying, if a man desire the office of a bishop, he desireth a good work. A bishop then must be blameless, the husband of one wife, vigilant, sober, of good behaviour, given to hospitality, apt to teach"(1 Timothy 3:1-2)

"Let the deacons be the husbands of one wife, ruling their children and their own houses well."(1 Timothy 3:12)

"For this cause left I thee in Crete, that thou shouldest set in order the things that are wanting, and ordain elders in every city, as I had appointed thee: If any be blameless, the husband of one wife, having faithful children not accused of riot or unruly."(Titus 1:5-6)

Forbidden to teach or speak in the church:

The New Testament Epistles maintain that women are forbidden to speak in church. The following illustrates this:

Women should remain silent in the churches. They are not allowed to speak, but must be in submission, as the Law says. If they want to inquire about something, they should ask their own husbands at home; for it is disgraceful for a woman to speak in the church.
(1 Corinthians 14:34-35)

A woman should learn in quietness and full submission. I do not permit a woman to teach or to have authority over a man; she must be silent. (1 Timothy 2:11-12).

Although Paul is not the author of 1 Timothy, the author of that epistle seems to support and agree with Paul’s views on women, that they aren’t allowed to speak in Church and that woman don’t have any rights similar to men and can’t teach men… let alone be educated in public. So much for women ever being in charge of things in Church.

Women in relation to Man in the New Testament

Jesus views on Women

Jesus in the New Testament says some very interesting things about women. Jesus says that divorce is permissible when the wife is guilty of fornication. But what if the husband is unfaithful? Jesus doesn't seem to care about that in Matthew 5:32, 19:9. In Matthew 24:19, God especially hates pregnant and nursing women. Why? How could God hate pregnant and nursing women?

Paul’s Views on Women

If you think Paul’s views on women in the New Testament is degratory and sexist towards women, it only gets worse in women’s relationship to men. Apparenlty Paul views women as created from and for men and that women are subordinate to men in the two verses quoted below.

A man ought not to cover his head since he is the image and glory of God; but the woman is the glory of man. For man did not come from woman, but woman from man; neither was man created for woman, but woman for man. (1 Corinthians 11:7-9).

Now I want you to realize that the head of every man is Christ, and the head of the woman is man, and the head of Christ is God. (1 Corinthians 11:3). 

Not only that but Paul maintained that women’s natural uses are for sexual pleasures of men:

In the same way the men also abandoned natural relations with women and were inflamed with lust for one another. Men committed indecent acts with other men, and received in themselves the due penalty for their perversion. (Romans 1:27)

Now concerning the things whereof ye wrote unto me: It is good for a man not to touch a woman. (1 Corinthians 7:1 King James Version, New American Standard Bible, American Standard Bible)

Concerning the last two verses from Paul’s epistles, Paul claims that the “natural use” of women is to act as sexual objects for the pleasure of men. The next verse says something truly bizarre, that it’s a good thing for a man not to touch a woman. If women are so bad…why did God create them? These verses in the New Testament clearly show that women are inferior to men in Christianity.

Women in other Christian writings and Christian History

Sexism has been a problem ever since the early days of Christianity as can be demonstrated by the writings of the so-called early Church fathers. After Paul of Tarsus,
Tetullian (160-235 CE) an church leader in early Christianity and a Christian apologetic
had written a book on Women and Clothing. The book apparently goes to the extremes in saying that women are all “the devils gateway” and just shows sexism at its very worse in early Christianity.

And do you not know that you are (each) an Eve? The sentence of God on this sex of yours lives in this age: the guilt must of necessity live too. You are the devil's gateway: you are the unsealer of that (forbidden) tree: you are the first deserter of the divine law: you are she who persuaded him whom the devil was not valiant enough to attack. You destroyed so easily God's image, man. On account of your desert that is, death even the Son of God had to die. (De Cultu Feminarum).

But not only that, but Irenaeus of Antinoch also made mention of woman deceiving Adam, as mentioned in the same letter accakting the theory of the illusionary crucifixion of Christ:
Do ye therefore flee from these ungodly heresies; for they are the inventions of the devil, that serpent who was the author of evil, and who by means of the woman deceived Adam, the father of our race. (Trallians)

“The woman deceived Adam”. Apparently Irenaeus (an early church father) stated that it was Eve deceiving Adam—furthering the blame on women for the alleged “fall from grace”. The Second Century St. Clement of Alexandria once wrote: “Every woman should be filled with shame by the thought tha she is a woman” . St. Thomas Aqunias suggested that God had made a “mistake” in creating woman: “nothing (deficient) or defective should have been produced in the first establishment of things; so woman ought not to have been produced then.” 

St. Augustine (354-430) who was an important figure for early western Christianity used the sin of Eve to justify his idiosyncratic view of humanity as permanently scarred by the Fall, which led to the Catholic doctrine of Original sin.

The fear of sexuality and the haterd of women were built into the foundations of Christian theology. I find that very interesting.As Catholic Theologian and German scholar Uta Ranke-Heinemann says:

“Women may well have been astonished to know that they were good only for reproduction, and unqualified for anything having to do with mind and intelligence. This idea was formulated by Thomas Aquinas ... in connection with Augustine as follows: Woman is simply a help in procreation ... and useful in housekeeping. For a man's intellectual life, she has no significance. Thus Augustine was the brilliant inventor of what Germans call the three K's (Kinder, Kuche, Kirche--children, kitchen, church), an idea that still has life in it, in fact it continues to be the Catholic hierarchy's primary theological position on women.”

Uta Ranke-Heinemann in her book, Eunuchen fur das Himmelreich, translated as Eunuchs for the Kingdom of Heaven: Women, Sexuality, and the Catholic Church, documents the sexism and the haterd of women in early Christianity. The sexism and hatred of women in Christianity shaped modern day hatered and mistrust for women in Christianity in America.

The Southern Baptist Convention, the largest Protestant denomination in the United States, recently declared that women should submit to the "servant leadership" of their husbands.Tthe Baptists in the early 90’s have strongly urged that women not become senior pastors. So much for an equal role women play in the church. Pat Robertson—a bizarre Christian fundamentalist-- gave the following fundamentalist view of the role of women: "God has established a pattern. He is the head of man and man is to be the head of woman, and together they are to be the head of children ... in the government of the family and the church, men are to be the leaders"

Furhter Augustine in one of his letters wrote “what is the difference, whether it is in a wife or a mother, it is still Eve the temptress that we must beware of in any woman. As we’ll see Islam clearly rejects this idea. Even the annoymous author of 1 Timothy  seems to put blame on the woman about man’s fall from the Garden of Eden. It is seen that Eve was tempted by Satan and thus was responsible for the fall of man. The only way of salvation is through childbearing for the woman. The below verse demonstrates this.

For Adam was formed first, then Eve. And Adam was not the one deceived; it was the woman who was deceived and became a sinner. But women will be saved through childbearing—if they continue in faith, love and holiness with propriety. (1 Timothy 2:13-15)

Although Paul may have not been the author of 1 Timothy he still agreed that Eve—the woman was deceived by the serpent and not the man as he says in his epistle: 

But I am afraid that just as Eve was deceived by the serpent's cunning, your minds may somehow be led astray from your sincere and pure devotion to Christ. (2 Corinthians 11:3)

Christians throughout history constanstly complained and found fault with women. A historian notes that 13th century preachers would say this about women:

….denounced women on the one hand for….the lascivious and carnal provocation of their garments, and on the other hand for being over-industrous, too occupied with children and housekeeping, too earthbound to give due thought to divine things.

Do Women obtain Salvation in Christianity?

One other thing to  look at is if Women in Christianity obtain any kind of salvation according to the New Testament? Sadly it doesn’t look like. In Revealtion 14:1-4, it says that only 144,000 celibate men will be saved and gain salvation. What about women? It looks like they don’t gain salvation according to Christianity.

Polygamy in the Bible, Judaism and Christianity

Before getting into Prophet Muhammad’s reasons for his multiple marriages, it is crucial to note that polygamy had already been established in the Bible, and Prophet Jesus, as will be seen had come from Prophets Abraham and David who were polygamous. Both the Old and New Testaments say nothing about forbidding polygamy and in fact the Old Testament even allows it and sets laws regarding it. The Bible lists about 40 polygamists. The following is a list of Prophets, Kings of Israel and Judges who all were polygamous in the Bible.

Prophet Abraham had three wives, Sarah, Hagar and Keturah and had several concubines (Genesis 16:1-4, 25:1 and 25:6). Prophet Abraham’s brother, Nahor, had both a wife and concubine. (Genesis 22:20-24). Prophet Jacob had two wives, Rachel and Leah and used their two female slaves as concubines (Genesis 29:21-30:22, 31:17). Esau, the brother of Prophet Jacob was polygamous, having at least three wives (Genesis 26:34; 28:6-9). Eliphaz had two wives in Genesis 36:11-12. Prophet Moses had two wives , Zipporah and an unnamed Ethopian woman (Exodus 2:15-16, 21, 18:1-6, Numbers 12:1).

Ashur, from the tribe of Judah had two wives (1 Chronicles 4:5). Shaharaim, from the lineage of Benjamin who was a son of Prophet Jacob, had two wives (1 Chronicles 8:8). Even the so-called Mosaic Law of Judaism set rules for a polygamous marriages  (Exodus 21:10, Deuteronomy 21:15). Prophet Moses also had set instructions to his men about their wives implying the children of Israel were polygamous (Exodus 19:15). Gideon, a judge in Israel had multiple wives and at least one concubine (Judges 8:30-31). Other Judges appear to be polygamous as Jair the Gileadite had 30 sons (Judges 10:3-4), Ibzan of Bethlehem had 30 sons and 30 daughters because of his multiple marriages (Judges 12:8-9) and Abdon had 40 sons (Judges 12:13-14). Elkanah, the Bible’s father of Prophet Samuel, had two wives (1 Samuel 1:1-2).

Polygamy was also practiced with kings of Israel, Prophets and other leaders. King Saul had multiple wives which were later given to Prophet David (II Samuel 12:7-8). Prophet David had 8 wives and 10 concubines (1 Samuel 25:39-44, II Samuel 5:13-16 and 1 Chronicles 3:1-9 and 14:3). Prophet Solomon had 700 wives and 300 concubines (1 Kings 11:1-3). Benhadad, a king of Syria had several wives in 1 Kings 20:3. Heman had many wives by implication of the number of sons he had in 1 Chronicles 25:4. Rehoboam, the son of Prophet Solomon and a King of Judah, had 18 wives and 60 concubines (II Chronicles 11:18-21). Abijah had 14 wives (II Chronicles 13:21). Jehoiada had two wives (II Chronicles 24:3). Jehoram, another king of Judah, had multiple wives (II Chronicles 24:1-3). King Ahab also had multiple wives (1 Kings 20:1-7). Jehoiachin, King of Judah, had multiple wives (II Kings 24:15). King Zedekiah of Judah also had many wives (Jeremiah 38:14-24). Hosea had two wives (Hosea 1:3, 3:1).Belshazzar, a king of Babylon had many wives and concubines (Daniel 5:2). Ahasuerus was polygamous because of the “women in his royal house” in Esther 1:9. 

Further in the Bible, polygamy is regonized by various people and even God in Israel. For example God is offended when Israelites take forgien wives in Ezra 9:2. God Prophetically has many wives in Ezekiel 23, Jeremiah 3, Ezekiel 23:4, Jeremiah 3:6-14,  Jeremiah 31:31-34. Further Prophet Ezra reconizes polygamous marriages with his people in Ezra 10:2-3,10-11. Nehemiah rebukes the men for marrying their "strange wives" in Nehemiah 13:25-27. In Matthew 25:1, Prophet Jesus compares the kingdom of heaven to ten virgins who went to meet their bridegroom. Also as seen before and as read in John 5:46-47, Jesus upheld the so-called Mosaic law, and by doing so he santionced polygamy and concubinage since those things have already been established in Exodus 21:10, Deuteronomy 21:15. Moreover in 1 Timothy 3:2, a Bishop can have only wife however it seems okay that a layman can have more than one, implying the anonymous author of 1 Timothy implies it is okay for polygamy. Titus 1:6 also states a bishop only is required one wife, stating nothing about laymen (common men). So this also implies that polygamy is allowed, as the passages says nothing forbidding laymen to have several wives. So one can see that the Bible has no rescritions or criticisms over polygamous marriages.

Many Biblical figures have been polygamous, including important figures in Judaism and Christianity such as Prophets Abraham and David. Further nowhere in the Bible is it forbidden to be polygamous. Jesus never forbidded polygamy in the New Testament.   As a matter of fact he upheld and believed in all of the O.T. laws as he said in Matthew 5:17-18 and John 10:35. In Judaism, there was a continuation of polygamy throughout Israel as Josephus in the first century witnessed this and wrote about it, along with Justin Martyr an early Christian apologetic in the 2nd century. Additonally the Talmud allowed a man to have up to 4 wives and for a king up to 18 wives. In early Christian churches polygamy was practiced as well as bishops and such were able to have more than one wife is desired. An Early Church father, Augustine, the bishop of Hippo, supported polygamy in his writings and even today polygamy is practiced in two Christian dominations of Africa: the Legion of Mary Church and the African Orthodox Autonomous Church South of the Sahara.   In the Christian dominated Roman Empire, Concubinage was allowed—thus strongly showing that polygamy was allowed even there. Martin Luther admitted that there was no scriptural prohibition against polygamy in the New Testament.  Finally this author leaves the reader with a quote from Father Hillman. As Father Hillman states:

“Nowhere in the New Testament is there any explicit commandment that marriage should be monogamous or any explicit commandment forbidding polygamy.”


In conclusion one can see that Christianity has a view on woman that is just as bad or even worse than Judaism and the Jewish texts. Apparenly the early Christians just couldn’t trust women or had extreme views about them which resulted in sexism and mysgonistic tendenies throughout Christian history. The Bible is a very sexist book, there’s no denying it. Women as seen in the Bible are seen as something to be accessed or controlled. Women are constantly seen as property. Although many Christian and Jewish men are kind to their women and wives, however their scriptures obviously don’t portray a tolerant or kind view of them and this leads one to question the authority of the Bible.

Women in Islam

Women in Pre Islamic Arabia had little or no rights whatsoever, and were mainly treated like cattle. However when Prophet Muhammad peace be upon him came he had elevated the status of women giving them rights such as the right to divorce their husbands, the right to inherit, the right to maintain their own businesses and their own property, the right to keep their dowry as their own private property throughout their marriage and even when they were divorced. These rights were revolutionary in Arabia where women were treated poorly and mainly like animals. In fact some of the earliest followers of Prophet Muhammad were women.
In Islam, woman are seen as individuals and as equals to men as this verse from the Quran or the Muslim holy book indicates:

O mankind! Reverence your Guardian-Lord, who created you from a single person, created, of like nature, His mate, and from them twain scattered (like seeds) countless men and women;- reverence Allah, through whom ye demand your mutual (rights), and (reverence) the wombs (That bore you): for Allah ever watches over you. (Quran 4:1)

Woman as will be seen are seen as human beings who have basic rights and needs in Islam as opposed to Christian and Jewish scriptures which in more than one places degrades women and puts them down. Prophet Muhammad taught about men and women being equals and encouraged them to do good works as this hadith indicates:

Narrated AbuHurayrah: When the Prophet (peace_be_upon_him) congratulated a man on his marriage, he said: May Allah bless for you, and may He bless on you, and combine both of you in good (works). (Dawud Book 11, Number 2125)

The Quran values both men and women as equals and does not value men over women as this Quranic verse states:

For Muslim men and women,- for believing men and women, for devout men and women, for true men and women, for men and women who are patient and constant, for men and women who humble themselves, for men and women who give in Charity, for men and women who fast (and deny themselves), for men and women who guard their chastity, and for men and women who engage much in Allah's praise,- for them has Allah prepared forgiveness and great reward. (Quran 33:35)

And those who annoy believing men and women undeservedly, bear (on themselves) a calumny and a glaring sin. (Quran 33:58)

It is He Who created you from a single person, and made his mate of like nature, in order that he might dwell with her (in love). (Quran 7:189)

And women shall have rights similar to the rights against them, according to what is equitable; but men have a degree (of advantage) over them. And Allah is Exalted in Power, Wise. (Quran 2:228).

Even better is Islam promotes women receiving an education, something the Christian West never did till the 19th century as these hadith demonstrates:

Anas reported that the Messenger of Allah said “Search for knowledge is compulsory upon every Muslim male and Muslim female.” (Ibn Majah)

Regarding the last verse, men having a degree over women probably refers to men having more physical strength than women and not having been weaken by child birth or mensuration cycles women go through.

Modest Dress of Women and Head Covering

In the West, it may seem strange to see Muslim Women wearing the head scarf. After all Women living in the West are more open sexually than others. Seeing a woman naked or semi-naked is no longer a concern and female fashion is getting more and more open. As Prophet Muhammad procephiced “ Before the end of the world… women will seem naked desprite others seeing them as dressed.” In Islam it is proper for a woman to cover herself fully and modestly so she can avoid “turning” on men. The Following Quranic verse tells women about covering themselves:

O Prophet! Tell thy wives and daughters, and the believing women, that they should cast their outer garments over their persons (when abroad): that is most convenient, that they should be known (as such) and not molested. And Allah is Oft-Forgiving, Most Merciful. (Quran 33:59)

A Hadith also points out to Prophet Muhammad telling about the modest dress:

Narrated Aisha, Ummul Mu'minin: Asma, daughter of AbuBakr, entered upon the Apostle of Allah (peace_be_upon_him) wearing thin clothes. The Apostle of Allah (peace_be_upon_him) turned his attention from her. He said: O Asma', when a woman reaches the age of menstruation, it does not suit her that she displays her parts of body except this and this, and he pointed to her face and hands. (Dawud Book 32, Number 4092)

However it should be noted that many Muslim women have different interpretations on what modest dresses are. Some Muslim women have completely covered themselves like Saudi Arabian women do only exposing their eyes, some Muslim women wear head scarfes covering their hair and some Muslim women have chosen not to hear head scarfes and instead wear clothing that covers themselves without showing too much of their bodies. I personally know many Muslim women and White American Women converts who have chosen not to wear the head scarf and instead have chosen to modestly dress themselves. The issue of the head scarf remains something to be more of a personal interpretation and up to the Muslim woman. Some might even say that it is up to the husband to decide whether or not the head scarf is necessary or unnecessary. Whatever the case may be, I am with the opinion that Muslim women, especially new women converts to Islam should take their time to consider the head scarf and dress modestly the way they are comfortable with.

Treatment of Women in Islam

Contrary to popular belief, the myth that Islam oppresses women and that Islam views men as better than women is completely false on all levels. Prophet Muhammed had told his followers about being good to daughters and treating women nicely in the Hadith or the Prophets sayings as the below sayings indicate.

Narrated AbuSa'id al-Khudri: The Prophet (peace_be_upon_him) said: If anyone cares for three daughters, disciplines them, marries them, and does good to them, he will go to Paradise. (Dawud Book 41, Number 5128)

Narrated Abu Huraira: Allah 's Apostle said, "Treat women nicely, for a women is created from a rib, and the most curved portion of the rib is its upper portion, so, if you should try to straighten it, it will break, but if you leave it as it is, it will remain crooked. So treat women nicely." (Bukhari Volume 4, Book 55, Number 548)

Ab Huraira (Allah be pleased with him) reported Allah's Messenger (may peace be upon him) as saying: A believing man should not hate a believing woman; if he dislikes one of her characteristics, he will be pleased with another. (Muslim Book 008, Number 3469)

Moreover Women have the same rights that men do regarding participating in religious services unlike what the New Testament says as the following hadith indicates:

Narrated Ibn 'Umar: The Prophet said, "If your women ask permission to go to the mosque at night, allow them." (Bukahari Volume 1, Book 12, Number 824)

Narrated Salim's father: The Prophet said, "If the wife of anyone of you asks permission to go to the mosque, he should not forbid her." (Bukhari Volume 7, Book 62, Number 165)

So women are allowed to go to Mosques, the muslim place of prayer. Contrary to another Western  myth, women in Islam are allowed to leave the house whenever they want to or need to as this hadith demonstrates:

Then the Divine Inspiration was revealed to him (Prophet Muhammad) and when that state was over, he (the Prophet was saying: "O women! You have been allowed by Allah to go out for your needs." (Bukhari Volume 7, Book 62, Number 164)

Prophet Muhammad said: "You (women) have been allowed to go out for your needs." (Bukhari Volume 6, Book 60, Number 318)

So a woman according to Islam can join the workforce, and go out of her house to do what she needs to do.

Another myth going around about Muslim men and women, is that men are allowed to beat women. Many have quoted the Quranic verse 4:34 out of context to somehow prove this. However looking at the verse in context along with the Arabic word will immediately refute this claim. The Quranic verse states:

Men are the protectors and maintainers of women, because Allah has given the one more (strength) than the other, and because they support them from their means. Therefore the righteous women are devoutly obedient, and guard in (the husband's) absence what Allah would have them guard. As to those women on whose part ye fear disloyalty and ill-conduct, admonish them (first), (Next), refuse to share their beds, (And last) beat them (lightly); but if they return to obedience, seek not against them Means (of annoyance): For Allah is Most High, great (above you all). (Quran 4:34).
A couple of things are to be noted in the Quranic verse. First the verse states that when women are disloyal to the husband or doing some sort of ill or bad conduct, then first is to admonish them, then not to share the husbands bed with them, and then lastly beat them lightly. After they obey the husband is not allowed to do anything more.
In fact Prophet Muhammad himself never beat a woman as this hadith demonstrates:

'A'isha reported that Allah's Messenger (may peace be upon him) never beat anyone with his hand, neither a woman nor a servant, but only, in the case when he had been fighting in the cause of Allah and he never took revenge for anything unless the things made inviolable by Allah were made violable; he then took revenge for Allah, the Exalted and Glorious. (Muslim Book 030, Number 5756)

Second Prophet Muhammad also told his followers not to beat their wives or their women as this hadith demonstrates:
Narrated Mu'awiyah ibn Haydah: I said: Apostle of Allah, how should we approach our wives and how should we leave them? He replied: Approach your tilth when or how you will, give her (your wife) food when you take food, clothe when you clothe yourself, do not revile her face, and do not beat her. (Dawud Book 11, Number 2138)

Other Translations of Quran 4:34

In the past, critics of Islam have maintained that Islam promotes spousal abuse by using different translations to try to prove their point. Some of these translations are as follows:

Men are in charge of women, because Allah hath made the one of them to excel the other, and because they spend of their property (for the support of women). So good women are the obedient, guarding in secret that which Allah hath guarded. As for those from whom ye fear rebellion, admonish them and banish them to beds apart, and scourge them. Then if they obey you, seek not a way against them. Lo! Allah is ever High, Exalted, Great. (Quran 4:34 from Pickthall Translation)

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. (Quran 4:34 from Shakir Translation)

All I have to say to this is that these translations aren’t as well done as the Yousef Ali Translation of the Quran which is regarded as the best English Translation possible.Regardless, these critics of Islam fail to see the point I brought up earlier, which is that there are two steps that have to be taken before the beating and if the woman doesn’t do her evil deeds anymore then the Quran says to seek not a way against them which means the beating must stop. I still prefer the Yousef Ali Translation which is the best English Translation.

Men are in charge of women, because Allah hath made the one of them to excel the other, and because they spend of their property (for the support of women).

Also antoher thing to be noted is that The Quran is saying in these translations is that men are in charge of women because one has more physical strength than women, and a man is expected to earn for his family and not so much a woman.