In each of these societies, Muslim, African, and Indian what was the social position and role of women? Was any one of these societies more equitable to women than the others? Explain how one might be considered better than the others or how they were all the same. The role of women in the Muslim society was to be subservient to the men in their lives. Women were expected to be seen and not heard, and only seen when they were permitted to leave their homes from the dominate male in the household. Women were married off at a young age to men, and were always supposed to support and honor the males in her life, especially the dominate male in her life. Men were allowed to take more than one wife but women were not given this right. Men were also authorized to divorce their wives, women were only granted this right when they met certain circumstances; most likely not at all. According to the Quran women were allowed to own personal property but it was not practiced, also according to the Quran women were to “cover their bosoms”.
This covering of the chest evolved into women covering all skin on their bodies except the skin around their eyes and hands, some don’t even allow the hands to show skin. A skill that was expected of all women was to learn to weave clothing and rugs. Girls at a very early age, sometimes as early as four, were taught to spin and prepare wool from the families’ flock of sheep. As the girls grew they were taught more and more about the art of making clothes and weaving rugs. Since girls were married off and the male gaining family required a dowry for the girls this art of making clothing and rugs was considered essential. It was a skill that would help to support the family both in clothing the family and monetarily. The role of women in the African society was in theory the same as that of the Muslim women, in practice though a little different. Men were the dominate figures in general society and women were their subordinates just as that of the Muslims; there were some other very big differences.
The women were not meant to stay indoors all the time, in fact these women were mean to tend the fields while the men went out hunting or took care of their herds of cattle or other livestock. In some areas of the continent the young girls of the family were taught trades they would later use in the merchant world, or they were sent to tend the mines as they were much smaller and more nimble than the men. Another difference between the Muslim women and the women of Africa is that while the Muslim women were supposed to be allowed to own person property the women of Africa really did. The women of Africa often had their husbands move in with them in marriage as the lineage of the Africans is matrilineal rather than patrilineal. Men were, just as the men of the Muslim society, allowed to take more than one wife; this was still just privilege given to the men and not the women. After the religion of Islam, that of most Muslims, came to the continent of Africa the women of the region did not change their ways as their customs and culture didn’t require them to adhere to the strictest rules of Islam.
One particular rule they did not always follow was how they were required, if they were Muslim, to cover their bodies with clothes and only allow their husbands to see them. The women in Africa often would keep their bodies uncovered until marriage, and they would also reveal themselves to all the men in their lives. They were much freer than the women of the Muslim world. The women of India were also considered to be subordinate to the men of the society; this is a theme in most patriarchal societies. Women were not really considered to be a great blessing when born into the family. They would not be able to help the family outside of the home and later in their lives would require a dowry to be married off. Once married off they were no longer with their families and could not assist in any further advances for the family. Thus, early in life a woman was not considered to be a blessing. However, when a woman was married off she was supposed to be regarded as highly as possible by her husband.
They were according to the Law of Mann women were meant to be honored and celebrated, if they were done so this would please the Gods, if this did not take place the Gods would be angered and bad times would fall on the family. Women were supposed to be held on high and regarded in the most respectful and honored ways. This was noted in many artistic renderings from Ancient India. Women were often pictured as equals with the men in the paintings and sculptures. The female sexuality was also extremely fascinating to the Indian culture, so fascinating that the Goddess of the Earth and fertility was said to have to power to make trees bloom and blossom with just a touch. The Indian women did carry some of the same practices of the Muslims; women would cover their heads with scarfs once they were married. There were other things that did impact women as the Hindu religion began in the region. Men began making women remain indoors, it is said this came to practice not only because of the religion but to keep prying foreign eyes from them too.
Prior to the Hindu religion women were much more free and regarded as honored persons, once the religion came to the region women were kept in line with much more strict rules. After the Hindu religion came to the people women were no longer allowed to own property, they were not permitted to remarry after the death of a husband. Their role was to bear children and very little other than that, it was preferred the women bear male children as the female child was not a blessing but a burden. These roles all seem very restrictive to me but if I were forced to pick one that was better than the other it would be that of the African women. The African women seem to have been given much more freedom than that of the Muslim or Indian women.
They were not forced to follow all the restrictions of the Muslim religion, probably because of their cultural understanding of the role a woman has in society. While the African women were subordinate to the men of society they were permitted go about in public without a guardian, they were not forced to wear the veils that the Muslims were, they were authorized to own property, they may not have been held as high as the Indian women in the early Brahman religion but they were not forced into the strict rules of the Muslim women when the Islamic religion came to their region.
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