Women In Islam Essay

2728 words - 11 pages

Since the September Eleventh attacks by Islamic extremists at the World Trade Centers, the Pentagon, and a field in Pennsylvania, Islamic culture has come under scrutiny by Americans more so than at any other period in the history of the ancient religion. One area that is often criticized by the American main stream media is the role of women in Islamic culture; it is almost common knowledge now that Islam subjugates women to a degree not seen since the Medieval Ages, and is backwards in all aspects of gender relations. Like many stereotypes, this one is overblown, exaggerated, and often completely incorrect. Women have been a fundamental part of Islamic culture since the founding of the Muslim faith. Women have had tremendous influence in all areas of Islamic culture including education, politics, economic concerns, and religious interpretation; by examining each of these four areas, it become clear that women have tremendous opportunities within mainstream Islam. Of course, certain hardline regimes like the one currently holding power in Iran will always oppress women, as well as gays and other minorities. It is important to not focus on the few areas where Islamic culture is practiced and women are subjugated, but to look at the broader Islamic culture where women are a critical component.
After being thrust into the American conscience by the September Eleventh attacks, Islamic culture and Afghanistan became synonymous in the minds of most American citizens. The active attempts to limit women from receiving education in that nation were all too real, and very tragic. However, in many other Islamic cultures, women have significant and positive influence on the education system, both today and in the past. The achievements by Islamic women in the past are especially impressive. The University of Al-Karaouine, one of the oldest and most respected universities in Islam was founded by a woman named Fatima al-Fihri in the year eight hundred forty one (Makdisi, 152). The University boasts many famous alumni including Ibn Khaldun who is considered by many researchers to be a forefather of modern sociology. For a woman to be able to found such a prestigious learning institution speaks volumes about the culture that she was raised in. If Islamic culture was really that intolerant of women’s education, there is a very slim chance that a woman would have been permitted to found such a successful university.
Moving forward in the history of Islamic culture, women continued to play significant roles in the education system. In the twelfth and thirteenth centuries, women were encouraged to attend school, as well as receive advanced education that qualified them to be teachers in their own right (Makdisi, 155). One argument often heard from those who argue that Islam is intolerant of women’s education is that there were not very many women who qualified to earn the higher level degrees necessary to become teachers and scholars. This...

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