For my course on Death and Dying, I have been undertaking an energetic effort to better understand the tenets and histories of the world's major religions, since the course is intended to offer a cross-cultural survey of attempts to comprehend the reality of our mortal condition. My most recent explorations have been directed towards bettering my knowledge of Islam, and I want to share some of my musings on the subject with Crash Landing readers.
The first surprise from my studies, given the frequency with which Islam is charged with oppressing women, was to learn that Mohammed, for his time and place, was somewhat of a radical feminist. His contemporary Arabian society regarded women as property; a husband owned his wive(s). Mohammed insisted that marriage be regarded as a contractual rather than proprietary relationship. He made it easier for women to divorce, and demanded that their right to own property be respected. He banned the (apparently common) practice of female infanticide. He said, at one point, "The best among you are those who treat your wives the best." And he held that, in a Godly society, men and women ought to live together in compassion and equity.
Now, none of the above negates a charge that contemporary Muslims (when and why did 'Moslem' get replaced with 'Muslim,' by the way?) ought to have kept going along the course that Mohammed charted, and that they are properly criticized for not having done so. Nevertheless, it is interesting to note that, at its inception, Islam represented a significant advance in the status of women.
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