It all started with Adam and Eve: G-d made a man and a woman for each other, starting the idea of marriage between two people. God created marriage for two people (ideally for a man and woman, according to most religious believes) to love and support each other and to help each other grow closer to G-d. This goes for Christianity as well as for the Islamic faith. The woman’s role in marriage in both faiths actually are extremely similar; however, there comes a point in both faiths where what is expected of women goes too far as well and becomes borderline abusive.
When You Should Get Married
In both religions there is an “appropriate” age to get married, which actually can be drastically different in different cultures. According to Islamic (Sharia) Law, girls should marry after puberty, assuming she is a virgin. This highlights the very reason that girls are married in Islam, for reproduction. Usually, the age for marriage is based on the legal age of consent for sex, which is around 16 years old. However, it is becoming more unacceptable for such young girls to get married.
In Europe, child spouses weren’t uncommon either, the youngest marriage in Britain happened at ages 14 (boy) and 12 (girl). But in 1885 Britain passed the Criminal Law Amendment Act to raise marriage age to at least 16. Since then, the average age of marriage in the Christian faith has raised to early/mid twenties. Currently, you can legally get married at the age of 16 with parental consent, and 18 without parental consent. Although child marriages are becoming more of a globally known issue, they still are common in some ultra-religious communities today.
Read more: Miss to Mrs: The Official Roadmap
Why You Should Get Married
Throughout history, marriages were commonly arranged by parents or officials for a broad range of reasons. Parents of two people would come together and arrange marriages based on benefits for their children and families. Parents of the husband would seek women (or technically, girls) who were virgins and could bear children and take care of their son. Parents of the bride would seek a man who will take care of their daughter financially and build her a good life. From there the marriage would be arranged by both sets of parents. Marriage was hardly ever based on actual love between two people, and the bride-to-be had barely any say in the decision. Arranged marriages were more common in the Islamic faith than Christianity, and today they are still commonly seen in Muslim couples but not so much Christian couples.
Women’s Purpose In Marriage
Now for the big topic – what is a woman’s role in marriage? What is expected of us that is so important when it comes to marriage? Are we really treated any differently than women are treated in Islamic faith? In the Bible it states that women are given three roles:
- to be mentors (Titus 2:4-5)
- to be witnesses (1 Peter 3:1)
- and to be examples (1 Timothy 3:11)
However, that is not all that the Bible wants women to do. Christian wives are expected to submit to their husbands in every aspect and be the bearer of his children. In the Old Testament, there were a lot of troubling things said in regards to a woman’s purpose. These things included that there is no purpose for a woman besides bearing children, and that “if a woman is to die during childbirth, than it is not a loss, for their purpose is fulfilled.” Because of the story of Adam and Eve, since all the blame was placed on Eve for eating the fruit, women are seen as a disappointment. Leviticus 12: 2-5 says, “if a woman have conceived seed, and born a man-child, then she shall be unclean seven days…but if she bears a maid (female) child, she shall be unclean two weeks…”, and other verses can be found viewing the birth of a daughter as a burden or loss. Although these views have evolved in the New Testament, the same underlying expectations about Christian women is still present. Their main purpose is to take care of their husbands and homes and have his children.
Read more: Student Series! Women and Islam
With Islamic marriage, the views of women is similar in most aspects, but more harsh. The Quran states that men have total authority over their wives. “Good women” are expected to be obedient, guard their unseen parts, and are required to care for their children and tend to the house. A wife is expected to care for her husband, encourage him to do good deeds, and to always be in a good mood. The purposes of marriage in Islam are family and security, an outlet for sexual desire, and reproduction. Allah is said to have endowed women with an extraordinary “power” – the mood and fate of the family is in her hands. Happy wife happy life. As women have a never-ending list of rules, limits, and expectations, Islamic Law conveniently sets only a few limits for men. Islamic men can only have up to four wives and provide for their family. If a man wants, he can get a divorce, but a woman can’t have a say in it. Although not all Muslim husbands take advantage of this, there are a lot of instances where his power can be abused.
Expectations of Married Women & Abusive
As you know, enforcing endless lists of rules and expectations upon women can easily turn abusive, but the number of victims who come forward is very slim. In multiple cases of Christian abuse, husbands will point out flaws and make harsh and degrading comments to their wives, but back it up with Scripture and call it the “truth,”making it hard to validate feelings of hurt. Wives who are verbally and emotionally abused by their Christian husbands rarely ever come forward with the issue, because they feel that it is “G-d’s way.”
The same instance can happen to Islamic women who endure severe abuse in relationships. Some Islamic husbands manipulate Islamic Law to control their wives, making them think they are “going against the will of G-d”. Luckily, there are safe havens in Islamic countries for women who are abused and there are U.S laws that permit abused Muslim women to seek residency alone. Women in both faiths endure abuse to avoid public shame by families or religious figures, because that is the expectations our society and religions have placed upon their heads.
- Constable, Pamela. “For Some Muslim Wives, Abuse Knows No Borders.” Washington Post. Published on May 8, 2017. http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2007/05/07/AR2007050701936.html
- Monger, George. Marriage Customs of the World. Santa Barbara: ABC-CLIO Inc, 2004.
- Nelson, Gwenyth. “My Abusive Christian Marriage.” Today’ Christian Woman. Accessed on May 4, 2017. http://www.todayschristianwoman.com/articles/2009/january/myabusivechristianmarriage.html
- “Role of Wife in the Bible.” All About… . Accessed on May 4, 2017. http://www.allaboutgod.com/role-of-the-wife-in-the-bible.htm.
- “Part 1: The Duties of Women.” Al-Islam. Accessed on May 4, 2017. https://www.al-islam.org/principles-marriage-family-ethics-ayatullah-ibrahim-amini/part-1-duties-women
- “Women’s Status in Islam & Christianity.” Institute of Islamic Information & Education. Published on February 13, 2006. http://www.iiie.net/womans-status-in-islam-christianity/