Orientalism. Women in the Muslim Culture Term Paper

September 21, 2021 by Essay Writer


Women are viewed in many different forms by different religions. Some consider women as the integral part of the religion or of the society while some provide several restrictions for women when it comes to their beliefs and traditions. The picture above is just one of the proofs that women can be viewed differently especially when the religion will be the deciding factor.

Gender Roles

As represented in the picture, in Muslim societies women and men are expected to behave in accordance with social, cultural or religious codes. They have various reasons from doing so but what is most dominant is the fact that they want to make create a line separating men from women and that they want to distinguish between what is considered to be ‘masculine’ or ‘feminine’. These gender roles are learned within a particular social and cultural context. More so, these gender roles are affected by factors such as education and economics (Inglehart, 2002).

In practice, gender roles are often affecting women thereby adversely impeding their self determination in areas such as their socio-economic status, status within the family, health, life expectation, independence, freedom and even their rights (Inglehart, 2002).This clearly reflects the gender bias that is happening inside the Muslim communities. For them, women are still the weaker sex and males are the dominant ones.

For them, women are essential for male for they should act as their partners… and because they are essential for men, Muslim societies tolerate men from having numerous women (provided that men can financially support all his women and his offspring equally). For them, women are accessories to the male’s harem and that the males are the ones who would ensure on the availability of food, shelter and other basic commodities, while the women should stay at home and manage what is being given by the males. For the Islam, women should not be in command… the decision making is the sole responsibility of the males. In short, women in Islam, are often expected to be obedient wives and mothers remaining within the family environment, whereas men are expected to be protectors and caretakers of the family

Although the Qur’an views women and men to be equal in human dignity, this spiritual or ethical equality has not been reflected in most Muslim laws. Like for example, women do not have equal rights to make independent decisions in relation to choice of marriage or even of their partners. Still, women are not the deciding factors when it comes to obtaining a divorce and custody of the children (Inglehart, 2002).

There have been various reactions from the female side. Reformists and feminists have challenged women’s lack of rights and lack of control over their own lives in Muslim Laws through the various techniques discussed in the section (Inglehart, 2002).

Central to this challenge has been the reinterpretation of Qur’anic verses which seemingly privilege men over women and reinforce gender roles. Qur’an verse 4.34, which refers to men as ‘guardians’ (qawamun) (over women), has been used to justify gender roles. Likewise, this verse is used to give merit as the why men enjoy certain privilege over women. Reformist and feminist scholars have argued that the concept of guardianship has formed the basis of particular “gendered roles” in Muslim societies (Inglehart, 2002).

Scholars have also explored how verse 4.34 has been interpreted and used to limit women’s autonomy, freedom of movement and access to economic opportunities and independence. They found out that the concept of ‘guardianship’ actually only meant to ensure that a woman who is bearing and nurturing children, is provided for (by her husband) whilst undertaking this task. Meanwhile, feminist scholars believe that this economic safeguard has been extended through the concept of guardianship to create a rigid division of gender roles and social control of men over women. This extension of male ‘guardianship’ over women has become embodied in Muslim Laws and is therefore embedded in Muslim societies (Inglehart, 2002).

One of the key reasons put forward for justifying male guardianship over women within the family and in society at large, is the idea that female sexuality needs to be controlled, but the reason behind this idea is still unknown.. The concept of guardianship, rigid gender roles and male control over women’s sexuality are also tools to impose and enforce heterosexuality (Inglehart, 2002).


From the picture itself, the roles of women in the Muslim culture is highlighted. It can be easily reflected in the picture that the roles of the female and of the males vary greatly depending upon the beliefs and traditions of the religion itself. At most times, the traditions and cultures of a particular race who initiated the religion dominates the “roles” imposed on each gender. Like for example the Muslim who follows the Islam context or point of view. But there is one thing for sure, and that is the fact that the difference in gender roles are aimed not making an invisible line to separate the men from the women, but only to uphold the traditions and beliefs of the religion and of the race.

Reference list

Inglehart, Ronald. 2002. “Islam, gender, culture, and democracy”. International Journal of Comparative Sociology. E.J. Brill.

“The Role of Women”. 2002. Web.

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