Women in Scriptures
Syed Mohd. Saleh Uddin
‘What are beneficial in this Earth its half is done by women and rest other by men’
(Great Bengali Poet Kazi Nazrul Islam)
Litterateurs worldwide talked about both women and men high and also low. Their idea differs according to their view. But practically in patriarchal society men are great, controller etc and in the matriarchal society the view is quite opposite. In the present world however matriarchal are seen mostly among the aborigines.
Ancient societies were mostly were controlled by their existing religions. In our time there are many writings about status of women in the past as well as in the present. Jean Holm with John Bowker edited a book named ‘women in Religion’ which was published by PINTER, Publishers, London and New York. In the book wise contributors quoted from the sacred books of different religions, where they tried to establish their own views. In this article I have presented few of them only. I hope readers will go through extensively their own scriptures as well as to others the Holy books of other religions. Her I like to quote from the above book’s Series Preface: “The person who knows only one religion does not know any other religion.” For its logical support Jean Holm again quoted, a saying of the Poet Goethe: “He who knows one language, knows none.” So, for a comparative study and to know deeply there is no alternative to study. I hope to know the striking facts about the status and role of women in religions above book may help the readers. Followings are the few quotations from religious scriptures on which I will not make my own comments and orders of contents of the book will be maintained:
The first contribution of the book is ‘Buddhism’ developed by Rita M. Gross. Her she referred a female siddahs, perhaps the single most famous woman in Buddhist history, was Yeshe Tsogyel, an eighth century Tibetan woman so important to the transmission of Buddhism to Tibet. It is the belief of many that she attained Buddhahood in single life time, thus refuting frequent claims in older Buddhist literature that such a feat was impossible for a woman. In her biography two passages found almost back to back. She describes what happens to her:
I am a woman-I have little power to resist danger.
Because of my inferior birth, everyone attacks me.
If I go as a beggar, dogs attack me.
If I have wealth and food, bandits attack me.
If I do a great deal, the locals attack me.
Whatever I do, I have no chance for happiness.
Because I am a woman, it is hard to follow the Dharma.
It is hard even to stay alive.
(Tarthang Tulku 1983:105)
The other passage is as follows:
Wonderful yougini, practitioner of the secret teachings!
The basis for realizing great enlightenment is a human body.
Male or female there is no great difference.
But if she develops the mind bent on enlightenment,
The woman’s body is better.
(Tarthung Tulku 1983:102)
The next contribution of the book is Christianity. It is developed by Clare Drury. From her various quotations followings are given below:
‘Adam was formed first then Eve; and Adam was not deceived, but the woman was deceived and became a transgressor’ (1 Tim. 2:13-14).
The punishment mated out to Adam and Eve after their disobedience of eating the fruit of the tree of the knowledge was carnal knowledge. In the other words, Eve was responsible for introducing Adam for sexuality. Women are temptresses in what came to be seen in the Church are the greatest of all temptations, sex.
The developer added: According to the gospels of Matthew and Mark, Jesus joined the two stories together to support his radical opposition to divorce.
But from the beginning of creation, ‘God made them male and female.’ For this reason a man shall
Leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.’ So they are no longer two but one. What therefore God had joined together let no one put asunder.
(Mark 10:6-9, cf. Matt. 19:5-6)
The next contribution of the book is Hinduism. It is developed by Sharada Sugirtharajah. She cited many examples from various Hindu scriptures. She said as follows:
The ideal of pativrata, devotion to husband, came to be seen as the stridharma, or duty, of the wife.
A woman is more venerable than the teacher or the father (Manu 2:145).
She further added: with the advent of Islam in the tenth century, the status women underwent further changes in North India where Islamic culture was dominant. The Islamic custom of Purdah, or seclusion of women, was adapted by upper-class Hindus in North India, This further intensified the seclusion of Hindu women who were already segregated from men. Although it restricted the freedom of women, it came to be seen as a mark of high status and prestige.
The next contribution of the book is Islam which is developed by Leila Badawi. She cited many examples from the Islamic scriptures. Few are as follows:
The Qur’anic account of the creation and fall emphasizes the common origin of men and women, and does not privilege men in any sense. Example: “O mankind! Reverence your sustainer Who created you from a single soul and from it created its mate and from two spread abroad a multitude of men and women.” ( Surah 4:1 Asad)
She added; there is no Quranic texts that Adam’s wife seduced him away from obedience to God, and therefore no implication that either women and sexuality is accursed.
The next contribution of the book is Judaism. It is developed by Alexandra Wright. She also cited many examples from the scriptures. Few are as follows:
To commandment to seek out a partner for companionship and procreation derives from the Book of Genesis:
“Therefore shall a man leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave unto his wife and they shall be one flesh.”
“And God blessed [the man and the woman] and God said to them: ‘Be fruitful and multiply, and replenish the earth. . .’
The next contribution of the book is Sikhism. It is developed by Kanwaljit Kaur-Singh. She also cited many examples from the scriptures of Sikhism. She cited an example from S. Harbans Singh wrote: In a way Guru ( Guru Nanak) advocated and allowed much more equality for women in the fifteenth century. He wanted to build a nation of self respecting men and women with equal dignity. He considered that without the active participation of women in all walks of life, the social structure was not only weak but incomplete.
The next contribution is Chinese Religions which is written by Stewart McFarlane. In his contribution he wrote, “Many ambivalent attitudes to women in traditional China can be detected in: textual sources, authoritative statements, domestic and legal arrangements, rites and practices. For example, the Lun YU (Analects) of Confucius (sixth century BCE), reflect the values of a patriarchal moralist, and certainly had a formative influence on Confucian thought in China and Japan.
The last contribution of the book is Japanese Religions. It is developed by D.P. Martinez. In the introduction she has written: Any attempt to discuss a topic as broad as women in Japanese religion has to begin with the warning that there is no such simple thing as Japanese religion.
However I like to conclude here that the contributors’ thesis on their subjects reflected various sides of women rites in various religions. It is tough to express their view what they expressed by the citations from their scriptures and other sources. So, to tell you about the book I have cited only few examples from the contributions of the writers. You may consider it mere outlines from the book. My requests to you all who are interested to know what religions ns say about the rights of women what are prescribed by religious scriptures, please read the book. The editor of the book Jean Holm written, “The founders or significant figures in four religions were amazingly radical when seen against the background of their times.” So they tried to upgrade rights of women in their time. The present legal rights of women are the consequence of the religions prescribed rights what vary country to country of the earth. I hope this book will help you to learn more.