“Who can understand women!” a phrase often voiced by men around the world. Sigmund Freud once said, “The great question which has never been answered, and which I have not been able to answer despite my thirty years of research into the feminine soul is: What does a woman want?”
While the feminine soul may be intriguing to such as Freud, at least he has acknowledged that she has a soul. In France, a synod in 1586 was convened by the Church to debate the question: “Does woman have a soul? Is woman to be considered a human being or not?” The Verdict: “Woman is a human being, but she is created to serve man.”
We, as Muslims, may rightly point out that Islam in the 7th century CE acknowledged woman’s soul as being equal to that of man; that she was to be treated with respect; that, as a Mother, Paradise was at her feet.
However, in a number of regions of the Muslim world, these worthy teachings appear to be suffering culture shock. Indeed, such things as “Woman’s face is fitna” and “Women are the kindling of hell” have not escaped us.
Unfortunately over the centuries, women have believed these utterances, considering themselves to be lesser beings, subservient to their male counterparts and their male children; always teetering on the brink of hellfire.
Even young women reverts have fallen into this trap.
So it would seem that the early Christian finding is still alive in so-called Muslim men who question the soul of woman, evidently believing that spiritually and in every other way she is a lesser mortal.
The fall of Man
This tendency to look down upon women would be better suited to Christianity or Judaism as in the earlier scriptures Eve is blamed for man’s fall: “And the man said, ‘the woman whom Thou gavest to be with me, she gave me of the tree and I did eat.’” [Gen.3:12].
Excuses, Excuses! If this were to be carried to its logical conclusion, in effect Adam is blaming God for giving him such an inferior mate. In Paul’s letter to Timothy, he said: “And Adam was not deceived, but the woman being deceived was in transgression. [1Tim.2:12] Ah! That wicked woman!
This very definitely this is not the case in Islam: “Then did Satan make them slip from the garden.”[Q.2:36]; “…so he brought about their fall when they tasted of the tree.” [Q.7:22].
However, just in case there is any ambiguity here: “Thus did Adam disobey His Lord and allowed himself to be seduced.” [Q20:121]
There is no hiding behind Eve in the Qur’an.
So what are the scriptural dynamics of the male/female relationship that beg to question?
In the Biblical context, Eve was created to be Adam’s help-mate. It is said that he was lonely so God made him fall into a deep sleep during which He took one of his ribs and from that fashioned Eve.
Adam said when he saw her, “This is now bone of my bone and flesh of my flesh…” It further states, “Therefore shall a man leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave unto his wife: and they shall be one flesh.” [Gen. 21-24]
I note that there are some Muslims who believe this version of creation. However, negativity intrudes and it has been written that as the rib is crooked this must be taken into account when dealing with a woman.
If one is to believe this version I would much prefer the account that says “Eve was created not from Adam’s head, nor his feet, but his chest. She was not created to rule over him, nor yet to be trodden underfoot.
She was created close to his heart so that he could protect and hold her close, while she, on the other hand, was given to comfort him and to be there for him in good times and adversity. It is a tender scenario and love was the keynote here.
Qur’anically it was Allah’s Lovingkindness that prompted the creation of Eve for Adam. “He, it is Who did create you from a single soul and therefrom did create his mate that he might dwell with her in love.” [7:189]
Prophet Muhammad (s) spoke of the husband & wife relationship as “twin souls”.
Little is said regarding the actual creation of Eve, however, there are wonderful texts relating to this aspect: “O Mankind, reverence your Guardian-Lord Who created you from a single soul, created of like nature his mate, and from them, twain scattered countless men and women…Fear Allah from Whom ye demand your mutual (rights) and (reverence) the wombs that bore you.” [Quran 4:1]; “I will not suffer to be lost the work of any of you whether male or female. Ye proceed from one another.” [Q.3:195]
Women have been created to fulfil many roles, therefore, multi-tasking comes naturally to her. Her God-given maternal instinct is a determining factor here.
She has been given intellect and capability to reach the pinnacle of academic and scientific heights when this has been made possible. Education is one of the mutual rights which she has been accorded.
She can be as gentle as a dove but should she have to stand against what she considers to be wrong or threatening to those she loves, she can be as strong and brave as a lion.
She is often thought to be stubborn about some things when it comes to decisions about right and wrong.
It is natural for her to be a home-maker and to take pride in her work and her family.
She has the uncanny ability to see further into the hearts and minds – some call it intuition, but rather this is the gift given to her whose first priority is that of protecting those she loves.
Her ability to withstand pain is a legend and her capability of bearing and giving birth to children is a testament to that. It is also a sign of the love for her husband and the already burgeoning love for that small life which she carries within her.
She is not immune from fear for those whom she loves, and while being stoical can also be found hiding her tears and her fears. The heart of woman, while sometimes cloaked, is tender.
The heart of a woman
The daughters of Eve bring with them all the aspects that have been gifted to them since Creation. The heart of Woman needs to be loved but she needs to be able to love and to be that for which she was created; to know that she is loved and needed.
She, O Man, is not a chattel nor an animal that has been brought into your life merely to do your bidding and bear your children.
She is your companion, your wife, your lover, but more than that, she is the gift that God has given to you. Love her and cherish her as such while you still may, for when a woman is loved the complexity dissipates and you will realize that really, you are not at odds, you are now complete!