Monotheistic religions all have the common factor that they believe in the existence of only one supernatural being. The three major monotheistic religions of the West are; Christianity, Islam and Judaism. Each of these religions has definite roles cut out for men and women, and each has their own place on earth. However, just as each of these religions have variations in their concept of God as well as in several other beliefs, so are the roles played by women. Each of these religions defines and views the woman’s role differently from each other. This paper will discuss the role of women in Christianity, Judaism and Islam. The paper will seek to show that the roles of women in each of these religions are different from commonly supposed.
The roles of women are normally determined based on their culture and the society in which they live in or have been brought up in. However, the religion also plays a fundamental part in determining their role in the society that they live in. To begin with, the role of women in Christianity is aptly defined. To begin with, the first role of women is that they are men’s companions. In the book of Genesis 2:21-24 (Bible Gateway, 2013), it is narrated that God took a rib from Adam from whom he created a companion, Eve. The woman is also meant to be man’s helper. In this respect, the woman has equal authority to that of a man. Essentially, according to Christianity, neither man nor woman is elevated above the other. In Genesis 1:28 (Bible Gateway, 2013), God instructed both Adam and Eve to be fruitful. He further urged them to subdue the earth, to rule the creatures he had created ranging from fish to the birds and all other creatures.
The role of women in Islam greatly differs from the Christian perspective. Islam, as guided by the Koran supposes that the man is superior to the woman. In sura 4:34 (Quran, 2013), the Koran supposes that man is superior to woman simply because Allah made him superior to the woman. Man is considered intellectually superior to women and; therefore, they cannot be equal. Unlike in Christianity, where Adam’s rib is of much value in the creation of Eve, according to Sahih Al Bukhari (part 7, Haddith 113) (Rafiqul-Haqq & Newton, 1996), the woman is compared to a rib that is crooked. A crooked rib, when straightened, can only break. Therefore, the hadith suggests that men should make use of women in their crooked state. The woman is meant to be seen and not heard. She is expected to be obedient and subservient at all times to the man.
Judaism, on the other hand, allocates women more superior roles unlike the Christians and the Muslims. In fact, Judaism does not view God as exclusively male or female. However, it states that since man and woman are equal, then God must also have some masculine and some feminine aspects. According to Jewish interpretation of Genesis 1:27(Bible Gateway, 2013), the first man possessed both masculine and feminine genitalia. It later came to pass that God separated these to create the woman. Therefore, despite the fact that they were separated, Jews believe that man and woman are inherently equal. In fact, according to Judaism, women have a higher degree of intelligence, understanding as well as intuition than men. Examples of matriarchs such as Leah, Rachel, Sarah and Rebecca exemplify this notion. They appear to have been superior to the matriarchs, Jacob, Isaac and Abraham. This has generally led Jews to believe that women are ideally closer to God than men.
From the discussion, it is evident that the nature of the woman is determined by the beliefs stipulated in the holy scriptures of the group. However, it is clear that the three religions place the woman at different levels to that of a man. While Christians place the woman at an equal footing with men, Islam considers women to be of less value and inferior than men. Judaism on the other hand, places the woman above the man.