Divine Feminine in Islam – Commentary by Sally Jo Gilbert de Vargas

“O Mary! Behold! God has elected thee and made thee pure, and raised thee above all the women of the world.”  ~Qur’an 3:42 

Woman is a ray of God. She is not that earthly beloved: she is creative, not created.”  ~Rumi

There is a serious misconception in the West that women are not honored and respected in Islam. Men and women have equal spiritual status in Islam, and follow all the same requirements of the 5 pillars of faith. The feminine qualities such as loving-kindness, tenderness, fierce protection (especially of their children), mercy and compassion are all qualities reflected in the Names of Allah.  It may be true that in many modern Islamic countries patriarchal culture and its leaders have dominated for so long that Islam has been co-opted and misrepresented.  At times these leaders have made Islam a slave to their misogynist and male-dominated laws and customs. Unfortunately, this trend began shortly after the death of our beloved Prophet Mohammad (pbuh).  The Prophet himself had instituted many novel and unheard of rights for women such as the right to own, manage and inherit property, choose their own marriage partner, seek a divorce, and testify in court. The Prophet outlawed female infanticide, which was common in Arabia during and before his lifetime.  In the Qur’an there are many verses forbidding and decrying female infanticide, including the piercing question in the graphic description of the Day of Judgement in Sura 81:8-9:  “When the female (infant), buried alive, is questioned – for what crime she was killed.”  Mohammed’s wife Khadija was a successful business owner 15 years his senior, the first person to convert to Islam, and she was married to the Prophet until her death 25 years later. The Prophet’s only surviving child was his daughter Fatima, whom he was extremely close to and loved dearly. She delivered his eulogy after his death.  During the time of the Prophet, many women converted to Islam before their husbands did, which shows their independence in religious matters.  They worshipped alongside men in the Mosques, and were instrumental in canonizing the Qur’an. 

An entire chapter of the Qur’an (which contains 114 chapters or Surahs) is devoted to Mary, (Mariam in Arabic) and she is considered “the holiest of holy among women.”  Nearly every time Jesus is mentioned in the Qur’an, he is called “Jesus, son of Mary.”  Other women who are venerated in the Qur’an are Asiya, the wife of Pharoah (who accepted the faith of Moses and prayed to be delivered from Pharoah) and Queen of Sheba, who converted to monotheism and surrendered to One God after she met King Solomon and experienced his devotion.  There is also an entire chapter in the Qur’an called “Women” (Nissa) which explains in detail the rights and laws governing relations between men and women and securing fair treatment for women. 

The Qur’an speaks tenderly of relations between men and women, and the Prophet Mohammad called women the “twin halves of men.” The Qur’an says, “Reverence Allah, through whom you demand your mutual rights, and reverence the wombs (that bore you), for Allah ever watches over you.”  (Qur’an 4:1) Men and women may have separate and distinct roles in society, but in the eyes of God they are equal and complementary, and in their capacity to be faithful, do righteous deeds and achieve honor in the eyes of God, they are absolutely equal.  

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