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週五, 18 十月 2013 11:02

Gender Roles of Muslim Women in Modern Society

Referee: Dr. Benedict Kwok

Anthor: Karen S. K. Lee

1. Introduction

[1]The encounter between Islam and “the West” seems to have affected both Muslims and non-Muslims since the Islamic community was established in the 7th century. The “diaspora” in a non-Muslim world has been an overarching concern in recent decades. Islam is increasingly viewed as an immense threat to many countries especially in the West. Hostile reactions by non-Muslims to the growing Islamic presence in Europe have fostered antagonistic relations.

However, there tends to be dissonance between the ways in which they perceive each other in different contexts. Said in his book “Orientalism” draws attention to the close link between knowledge and power in the relationship between “the West” and “the Orient”. [2]The knowledge which “the West” came to acquire about “the Orient” over the years might not be the same as “the Orient” had about itself. Missionaries could have viewed Muslim history, culture and ethics merely through Western lenses.

In the eyes of the Western world, it is Islam that defines Muslim women’s subordinate status, socio-economic inequalities and lack of progress. [3]On the contrary, in the Islamic discourse, it is the virtue of Islam that guarantees gender equality and secures religious identity. In the early 19th century the societies of the Middle East began to undergo a fundamental social transformation. It may be stunning to hear that many calls have been made for women’s freedom, liberation and equality in Islamic societies.

[4]As globalization has been a subject of great significance, new chances as well as challenges for the shaping of a shared future inevitably arise. When almost one-tenth of the world population are Muslim women, it is of utmost importance to unravel the controversial gender issues in order to carve new pathways for Christian ministry and missionary.

The aim of this paper is to explore the identities, roles and status of Muslim women in a state of change, from a perspective of socio-historical development. It begins by briefly reviewing the Qur’anic interpretation of women in creation, marriage, family and society. It will then go on to analyze the changes triggered by colonization and globalization, with specific reference to the dynamics of western feminism grounded in Islamic world. In light of Islam on the way to modernity, the reflection may shed light on ministry to Muslim women, in the hope of facilitating mutual understanding and fulfilling God’s mission for the world.

2. Women in the Qur’an

2.1 Self and spiritual identities

In the Qur’an and Hadith literature, there are various statements concerning human beings in general and women in particular. [5]Muslim apologists have always insisted that Islam believes in the equality of men and women, based on the following strong evidence that the Qur’anic creation account makes no distinction between man and woman.

[6]He created you all from a single person: then created, of like nature, his mate; and he sent down for you

eight head of cattle in pairs: He makes you, in the wombs of your mothers, in stages, one after another, in

three veils of darkness. such is Allah, your Lord and Cherisher to Him belongs all dominion. There is

no god but He: then how are ye turned away from your true Centre? (39:6)

[7]Islam cares for women in a very comprehensive way, not limiting to a specific stage of life, but close attention is made to the needs and rights throughout their life cycle. It is necessary to nurture both male and female newborns. The killing of children is a great sin which is punishable by Allah.

Furthermore, justice is generalized and applied to all children regardless of their sexes. [8]Islam calls for material and emotional justice and fair treatment from parents to all their children. A male child is not to be given preference over a female child and vice versa. Nevertheless, Allah’s Prophet concentrated throughout his teachings on giving more care and attention to females, who must be treated with kindness, respect, honour, dignity and integrity.

[9]The equality of the sexes in a spiritual sense, i.e. the relationship between individual and God, is an established notion among Muslims as follow.

[10]Whoever works righteousness, man or woman, and has Faith, verily, to him will We give a new Life, a

life that is good and pure and We will bestow on such their reward according to the best of their actions. (16:97)

The five pillars of Islam namely, the Creed, the Prayers, the Fast, the Alms and the Pilgrimage, are the common duties for both men and women to observe, promising great rewards in the afterlife.

Although men and women are equal in Islam in a sense that both are promised access to paradise, women are excluded from religious practice during menstruation, childbirth and childbed. Moreover, only men are required to attend Friday prayers at the mosque and to listen to the sermon which is frequently on political and social topics.

2.2 Marriage and family

Despite the above fundamental equality asserted in Qur’an, the tasks God has given to women differ from men’s due to their biological differences. [11]In Islam, as in many traditional communities, the woman’s role is generally limited to that of spouse, housewife and mother. [12]As women bear the children and the responsibility for home and family, so men are responsible for the family’s protection and maintenance. [13]Islam urges men to treat their wives kindly with a caring attitude. The most complete believers in terms of faith are those who possess the best morals and those best to their wives. [14]Distinct tasks mean different rights, so “justice between the sexes” implies that only half-share of an inheritance falls to the woman, since she is not the bread winner and does not bear the financial responsibility for the family.

As shown in the following Qur’anic statements, the cornerstone of the marriage contract is the husband’s responsibility to earn a living and the wife’s duty of obedience.

Men are the protectors and maintainers of women, because Allah has given the one more (strength) than

the other, and because they support them from their means. Therefore the righteous women are devoutly

obedient, and guard in the husband's absence what Allah would have them guard. (4:34)

[15]Islamic marriage law demands submission particularly in sexual relations. The husband is obliged to fulfill the sexual rights and ensure the satisfaction of his spouse. However, paying the dowry at the time of marriage, husband also acquires the right over his wife’s body and she has no ground to refuse him except ritual impurity or during the fast. [16]Conversely, refusal on the part of a woman is always grounds for divorce, and there are some traditions that pronounce a curse on the wife for her refusal.

In addition, from the outset of Islamic tradition, polygamy has been condoned by Allah. [17]The Qur’an permits men up to four wives and an unspecified number of concubines. However, in accordance with Islamic teachings and practices, polygamy has its own specific rules and regulations. If a woman is sterile or chronically ill and cannot perform marital duties, polygamy could be a good practice in the wife’s interest. Some men are sexually demanding and one wife may not be able to fulfill it. Thus, following the Qur’an, it would be better for the husband to acquire another lawful wife who keeps him chaste. The man must bear all financial burdens and responsibilities that arise from the marriages. Justice, fairness and equality in treatment are indispensable to avoid any wrong practice against particular wives.

[18]Although divorce is allowed to remove the harm that has been caused to the marriage partners, preliminary solutions must be sought beforehand. [19]Divorces in Islamic law are very simple and frequent for the man who can repudiate his wife at any time without giving any grounds for it by repeating the divorce formula such as “I repudiate you” three times. The regulation of the three-fold divorce formula is intended to protect the woman from impulsive divorces. On the contrary, a wife can terminate a marriage provided that she can prove serious misconduct by the husband and the husband approves it. The children from a divorced marriage always belong to the father.

2.3 Political and social status

[20]The Qur’an identifies human beings as servants who are given leadership position and therefore everything in the universe is made subservient to them. Men together with women are collectively invested with the capabilities and qualities that would naturally enable them to perform the duty. They are accountable to Allah on the Day of Judgment based on how they used their God-given potentials. Nevertheless, women remain the weak side physically and emotionally. Islam then exerts every effort to protect them.

For instance, a man’s testimony can only be outweighed by the testimony of two women. [21]It is based on the presumption that women’s biology predisposes them to greater emotional fluctuations than men and that it would be inappropriate to ask them to decide another person’s fate in a court of law due to their insufficient capacity.

[22]Hence, women holding leadership position should be restricted and limited to certain domains, which may suit their natural constitution and physiology. As a result, women may not be the leader in a mixed prayer session or the Head of the State. [23]As mentioned, based on the unique specifications of male and female, it is proper for man to work outside the house and earn a living whereas woman should work at home and take care of the family. Woman’s work outside must not be in conflict with her domestic duties and responsibilities.

[24]Within the context of the Qur’an, woman is an independent individual human being who has the divine right to acquire wealth through certain means and use it judiciously. As Muslim woman serves as a leader in the home setting, she has to work and adopt all sorts of surviving techniques to generate income to live up to her traditional role expectations.

On top of that, one of the dominant images of women is lack of stamina and intellectual capacity. [25]Women are also regarded as objects of flesh and temptation that may cause men to lose their self-control. This preoccupation strongly reinforces the stereotype of woman as having no individuality or attributes beyond desire and passion. Given this inherent constitution, women are perceived as the cause of society’s moral problems, especially when they are allowed access into the public domain. For instance, it is not permissible for a Muslim woman to travel beyond the distance of a days’ travel without a male relative. A woman driving alone is rendered susceptible to close proximity and they may endanger their safety as well as that of others because of their emotional and intellectual limitations.

[26]In essence, Muslim women are educated and socialized to accept hierarchical gender norms and its associated male privileges in full. There appears to be strong control and dominance of men over women irrespective of age, profession and education. Women are generally placed below men in different aspects of life. They would portray themselves as passive and modest in their engagement with male authorities.

3. Women in modern Islamic thought

3.1 Colonization and globalization

[27]The term ummah (or community) was applied to a united Muslim empire until 1924 with the end of the Ottoman Empire. Western colonialism rapidly expanded as the ummah empire ended. Many of today’s Muslim nation states came under colonial rule or ideological and economic influence of the colonial West.

[28]To Western eyes, veiling, the most visible marker of the differences and inferiority of Islamic societies, became the symbol of both the oppression of women and the backwardness of Islam. It also became the open target of colonial attack on Muslim communities. [29]In the late 19th and early 20th century, the societies of the Middle East embarked on a notable social transformation. As a result of economic invasion by the West and the domination of much of the area by European colonial powers, the compelling social and economic parameters of the transformation gradually formed.

[30]The impacts on the Middle Eastern societies were multifarious and intricate. The pace of change also differed from country to country. Egypt and Turkey where European products first entered the market were in the lead of development, whereas the Arabian Peninsula was less directly affected until the 20th century. It hinges on whether the country remained independent or became submerged into colonialism.

Besides, the Industrial Revolution changed the mode of modern society, promoting an exploitation of human resources in an unprecedented manner. [31]Human labor was in demand for the smooth running of mass production in huge factories away from home. Men departed to the factories and women’s sphere of power simultaneously shrank. The new global economy has brought the pressing need for two wage earners to support the family. In light of this far-reaching effect, more and more women are also burdened with the responsibility of contributing to the family income.

Consequently, a groundbreaking family structure emerged and the traditional division of roles no longer persists. [32]The process is further fostered by women’s access to education and job market as well as the integration of Muslim countries into global economy. The model in which men are the sole breadwinners is modified in order to create resources within the marital unit and to ensure its stability. [33]The century-long gender relations cannot be secure in a world where one’s concept of identity and dignity has been modernized and westernized. All these transformations severely strain the traditional notions of gender roles and relations in the Islamic context of family and society.

3.2 Modernization and westernization

[34]The 20th century has been a time of rapid reformation, a continuation of a process beginning in the West. As a result, modernization has been a global process that we can observe in most of the major cities of the world, regardless of culture. Modernization involves urbanization, increasing levels of literacy, education, wealth, and diversified occupational structures. It also caused tremendous expansion of scientific and technological knowledge that made it possible for humans to control and shape their environment in innovative ways.

Muslims have been living in a time of unprecedented change and development in human civilization in light of these advancements. These breakthroughs have also posed huge threat to the moral attitudes of humankind. [35]Extensive discussions about the ethical implications of the developments, including analysis of gender roles, have been raised indisputably.

[36]Developments in Egypt played a key role in accelerating social change. From the time missionary schools were founded, schools of all sorts increasingly opened. By the end of the 19th century, women in a variety of dress, veiled and unveiled, openly pursuing a range of professional activities, had begun to be a feature of the society.

[37]Westernization is indeed an entire complex of practices and values that have shaped the West over the 2,500 years from ancient Athens to today. [38]The colonial process of the newly formed Muslim nation-states includes reference to Western legal systems for matters of criminal procedures. Many Muslims are seeking the re-establishment of Islamic law. This is particularly true in the areas of family law derived from the Qur’anic statements on harsh punishments for certain crimes. The effect of these prominent reforms on woman and family is of pivotal significance. As a result of the enlightenment, what it means to be human is primarily a premise of individualism.

[39]In most modern Muslim states, the Shariah has been replaced by secular law with a Western orientation. Even in countries such as Saudi Arabia, western elements have been tacitly incorporated into the legal system and therefore many discriminatory principles no longer apply. Hence, the Qur’anic demand for equal and just treatment for all wives is often reinterpreted as the rationale for monogamy. In more recent marriage contracts, marriage with a second wife is excluded.

[40]There are four classic schools of Islamic law namely, the Hanafi, the Shafi, the Hanbali and the Maliki, which regulate everything from marital relations to styles of prayer. It has been found that a certain degree of admixture has been common throughout Islamic history. A number of Muslim immigrants to Europe have played on this possibility to further blur the lines among these schools of thought and to increase the range of choices available to fit both individual preference and adaptation to the constraints of particular European host nation. For instance, the Shariah Council in the United Kingdom seeks to mediate matters among Muslims of diverse backgrounds and the British courts may be called upon to determine Islamic law and reconcile it with British public policy.

[41]Western economic penetration of the Middle East and the exposure of the societies to Western thought did lead to the dismantling of certain social institutions and the opening up of new opportunities for women. [42]Most European countries now have bilateral agreements that recognize a wide range of marriage and divorce in Europe, which were contracted in the Muslim home country. Mediation and informal agreements have also been encouraged so that Islamic officials are able to use contractual clauses relating to conditions for separation that are consistent with both Islamic practice and European laws.

[43]Reforms introduced by upper- and middle-class political leader who had accepted and internalized the Western discourse undoubtedly led to legal reforms benefiting women in some countries. However, these reforms affected primarily women of the urban bourgeoisie and had little impact beyond this class. [44]As a result, most of the traditional laws concerning family and inheritance, which in many respects are contrary to human rights, remain in force and still have strong influence on everyday life. For instance, reforms in laws governing marriage and divorce that were introduced in Iran in the 1960s and 1970s have been reversed. In 1999, a draft government law that would have allowed women to leave a violent husband was rejected by the conservative majority in Egyptian parliament.

However, it could be an erroneous assumption that Muslim women yearn to abandon Islamic tradition and adopt Western culture comprehensively to improve their status. [45]Muslim women might cling to the traditional roles of women despite their changes in the economic or educational standings. [46]Many Muslim societies still do not regard women as having equal rights, despite the affirmation of the fundamental equality of man and woman before God in the Qur’an. The discrepancy between the claims of the Shariah and the context of modernity has become crystal clear when different cultures meet.


3.3 Western and Islamic Feminism

[47]In the process of colonization, feminism was rooted and the issue of women’s position in Islamic societies was always used as the spearhead of the colonial attack on the countries. The argument that the cultures of the colonized peoples degraded women was made to legitimize Western domination. [48]For the entire 20th century, feminism has been flourishing intellectually, then socially and politically. Massive quantities of studies, documents, and texts are available. [49]The number of women writers and their research work has also increased considerably. It has become tremendous boost to the women’s emancipation movement.

[50]Western women could pursue feminist goals by challenging and redefining their cultural heritage. However, this experience may not be valid and effectual for Islamic nations. [51]Critical tensions emerged within feminist discourse with two divergent strains of feminism, including the dominant voice in Egypt and Arab Middle East for most of the century and the marginal voice not even recognized until the last decades of the century. The former affiliated itself with the westernizing, secularizing tendencies of society whereas the latter one searched a way to strive for recognition within a native, Islamic discourse.

In fact, there are a variety of ways in which Muslim women define their stance in the feminist movement. [52]Karam claimed that these definitions are never static, and the boundaries between them may often transcend in the course of dynamic engagement with Islamic traditions. Following her conceptualization in an empirical research on women’s movements in Egypt, the three categories are Islamist feminist, Muslim feminist and secular feminist. There is a continuum where the positions are the extremes and women’s views are generally located somewhere in between.

[53]Islamist feminists strive for women’s active participation in all spheres of life, advocating gender compatibility rather than competition between genders. They still assert that the role of a wife and a mother is the principle way of female self-fulfilment. Muslim feminists, on the other hand, argue that gender equality discourse is valid in Islam because the message of the Qur’an is egalitarian. Thus, their goal is to un-read patriarchy from Islamic sources and to popularize the egalitarian readings in the Muslim societies. There are also secular feminists, who do not use Islam as their theoretical framework. Referring to international law and seeing Islam as problematic in the struggle against women’s oppression, they do not form any bonds with women’s Islamic organizations, but cooperate with Western feminists instead.

3.4 Pioneers in the world

The roles and status of women has undergone massive expansion and transformation. [54]Women's intervention in sectors of public life dominated by male figures has dismantled and restructured the traditional modes of authority within many Muslim societies over the years.

[55]Women in Iran have been an integral part of society not only as the embodiment of indigenous cultural and religious values but also as active participants in public life. Women’s presence in political, economic and social activities is not so much prohibited as conditioned on Islamic virtues. After the 1979 revolution, and especially during the Iran–Iraq war, the government allowed women to enter active, public roles on the condition that they adhere to a strict Islamic system of modesty, including dress codes and gender segregation. Public participation was not presented as conflicting with women’s Islamic duties but in fact was encompassed within them. Islamic leaders described the revolution as a miracle, giving justice to women from foreign exploitation. Women were expected to give thanks to God by using all their God-given potentials to consolidate the Islamic Republic. Hence, women’s participation was necessary for the legitimacy of the republican government.

[56]Furthermore, women's increasing visibility and even prominence in specific sectors within a male dominated society represents one of the recent developments of Islam in Niger. Many women have made their way to public participation strenuously. It has been one of the most visible markers of contemporary Islam. They redefined the practice of Islamic learning and consolidated women's presence in the religious arena, especially in urban areas. They set up learning centers to promote Islamic learning, and devised various strategies to establish female scholarship. Women emerging as authoritative public figures is a striking contrast to the notion that women are only confined to their domestic responsibility.

[57]The social and political climate of post-9/11 has also opened up a space for Muslim women to adopt public roles in the United States, facilitating community outreach and reinforcing religious commitment. There has been an increase in the number of events and programmes that address the rights and roles of Muslim women, while nationally influential Muslim organizations such as the ISNA (the Islamic Society of North America) and MSA (the Muslim Student Association) have been led by women. Some of these Muslim activists identify themselves as feminists. From their perspective, the struggle for equality and justice is consistent with the inherent Islamic message. Many of these actions resonate with “Islamic feminism”. As mentioned, it might be composed of a diversity of voices, differing views on gender roles and relations. [58]Nevertheless, rather than seeing their work as a challenge to Islamic ideas of gender segregation, their faith-driven political and social activism has opened new avenues for Muslim women to negotiate their gender identities in contemporary American society in the quest to gain respect and recognition.

In Jordan, immense change has occurred with regard to the role and status of women through the activities of feminist movement. [59]The new trends in women’s lives, such as in education and their increasing demand to work, confront society beyond measure. [60]Many women activists identify the 1990s as the golden decade for the advancement of women issues. These critical 10 years brought women activists to the public scene and defined the course of their working agenda. Women’s organizations increased from only a few in the 1980s to over 39 in the 1990s. This decade also started the emergence of a more ‘feminist oriented’ discourse on gender issues. Since then, the movement has gained government support for protecting women’s civil and political rights.

4. Diversity and complexity of Muslim women identities

4.1       Traditionalist, secularists and reformers

[61]It has been shown that the Islamic world is not a single unitary block, an “Islam” that one can set against the West. The 20th century in particular found the Islamic world in constant change. Individual Islamic countries have been led by governments with completely different orientations, including capitalist or socialist as well as authoritarian or democratic. The dynamics of different movements and the alliances among the political parties keep changing.

The reactions of Muslims to the invasion of their world by modernity shaped by Europe could be different, ranging from traditionalism to secularism. [62]In the domain of religion, traditionalism is characterized by an uncritical and dogmatic reliance on religious tradition, which are perceived as holistic, complete and immutable. Fundamentalists even emphasize the authority of the whole Qur’an or the Hadith, including those passages which foster enmity between Christians and Muslims. In the discourse of women, this style of thought intensifies disharmony between the changing socio-economic conditions and theological legacies. Women remain confined within the narrow limits of tradition. [63]Traditionalists are willing to give up some privileges or personal rights in order to gain acceptance in the eyes of God which is the highest reward. It may explain why a static image of woman grounded in the past continues to persist in spite of the modern social development.

[64]To secularists, membership of Islamic religion could be given up regardless of one’s own history and tradition in order to live a “god-less” life. They would attempt to catch up with the West by imitation of Western culture and social structure. Countering this radical and extreme stance, reformers pursue reformation of Islamic nurture and education without endangering the core faith.

An example of these reformers is egalitarian in the context of gender movement. [65]Egalitarians strive against the patriarchal relations in family and community. They see the roots of inequality between genders in misinterpretation of the Qur’an and the Hadith. They regard Islam as a perfect religion that empowers women who need to reject biased established readings and engage themselves with the Islamic sources to uncover the true message. Although Islam is supposed to revolutionize gender relationship, its implementation has been distorted by lack of education. Thus, women need to educate themselves to understand God’s message and challenge patriarchal interpretations. They also refrain from referring to God as “he”, as God in Islam is genderless, in contrast to the Christian conception of God as Father.

[66]Throughout the last century, women in a number of Arab countries have attained significant civil and political rights, equal access to education and even entry into all the professions, from teaching and nursing to medicine, law and engineering. Developments in leaps and bounds have hitherto occurred at slightly different rates in different countries, but most Middle Eastern nations are moving toward adopting the western political language of human rights to women as well as to men.

4.2       Ethnic, cultural and political Muslims

[67]The diversity of Muslim women identities suggests the complex relationship of gender construction to ethnic, cultural and political discourses. The heterogeneity of Muslims and the struggle between various strands of Muslims have been a rising interest across the social science disciplines.

[68]Muslim can either be an ethnic or cultural identity. The former belongs to ethnic group and the majority of population while the latter is being socialized into a culture. A Muslim may also only perform religious commands or just claim Islam in its essence as a political and social phenomenon.

For immigrants, the situations of the first generation of migrants are often very different from those of their children, many of whom have been born and raised in Europe. [69]The parental generation often consists of women who were poorly educated and dependent on their children to learn about the country in which they had settled down. Their daughters may have the desire to avenge the slights the parents have had to endure. Thus, the development of Euro-Islam is deeply intertwined both with the changing structure of social ties within Muslim families in Europe and the reactions to the migrants’ experience back in their countries of origin.

[70]In addition, European Muslims’ responses to various Islamic ideas show that the attitude towards change greatly depends on the length of time spent in a European country and the degree of contact with the majority society. Those who remain within the Muslim community and have little contact with non-Muslims tend to reproduce cultural interpretations from their native lands. Many Muslims with integration into European society achieve more dramatic change and their attitudes are more compatible with majority society than those working exclusively within Muslim communities. The most important influence on the process of change could be political group affiliation, which is particularly significant for well-educated Arab Muslims in Europe. Liberation Party and the Muslim Brotherhood tend to respond in terms of these movements’ ideologies. Independent ones may be more receptive of alternative views.

[71]In the modern world, a feminism that is vigilantly self-critical and aware of its historical, cultural and political situations is in need. [72]Many Muslim women have to strike a balance between fundamentalist Islam on the one hand and the global trend of secularism on the other. Nonetheless, as the word, the truth and the way, Jesus offers a third and refreshing option – one not without costs but promising in rewards.

5. Ministry to Muslim women – Be a good neighbour

[73]As Muslims have been in contact with Europe since the earliest years of Islam, the reciprocal influences have been immense. The mutual impacts of the huge movements of population have been crucial to the recent history and politics of the regions affected. The economic and social aspects of this Muslim presence have also received scholarly attention.

[74]The above-mentioned feminist perspectives put forward the women’s struggle for a transformed community, where there is fairness and inclusion of every man and woman of different ages, abilities, races and classes. This advocacy for the transformation of the whole community is rooted in the acknowledgement of the oppression that usually the feminists suffer in society. The quest for reform, therefore, is also a quest to realize the intrinsic connectedness between sexuality and spirituality. It has been affirmed that women commissioned by the Holy Spirit can see their involvement in mission as God’s will.

[75]Christian churches established long under Islamic law were conditioned not to evangelize Muslims, for to do so would threaten their tolerated status under the Shariah. During the period of Western colonialism, when some of these restrictions were relaxed, those who undertook gospel witness to Muslims were often seen as outsiders to the cultures they were attempting to reach. However, in recent decades many gospel communities have been developing in Muslim contexts, with their own indigenous leadership. This is not only modifying the nature of Christian mission to Muslims, but also facilitating a greater understanding on how Muslims turn to faith in Christ.

[76]There has been growing knowledge on the specific needs of Muslim background believers for care and discipleship after they accept Christ. Living as neighbours with Muslims has been the experience of Christians in the Middle East for centuries, and it is now the norm for the world church. For Christians all over the world, Muslims are not only ‘over there’, being confined to hard-to-reach people groups, but they are our near neighbours.

Ministry to Muslims especially women has become an overarching concern. [77]As change has been a notable feature permeating all aspects of life, promoting adaptation, survival and growth, there is prospect of change in attitudes towards Muslim women. For non-Muslims, such changes might help adjust their perception and acceptance of Islam. For Muslims, these changes may strengthen women’s roles within Muslim communities and in the majority societies in western countries. There are no specific limited roles for women, but rather there are flexibility and variety of roles open to them according to one’s life cycle and the needs of particular societies in particular times. These changes in social and cultural encounter between Islam and the West have to be taken into account when designing appropriate strategies to reach Muslim women.

[78]With the increase in educated second-and third-generation Muslims who have absorbed western perspectives through schooling, as in Christianity, interpretations of biblical verses pertaining to women have also been undergoing a process of change recently. The Gospels include many stories about Jesus reaching to women such as the woman with the hemorrhage of blood, the woman at the well, etc. These may offer striking evidence that God cares for women and their needs.

[79]Many Muslim women feel vulnerable so that they actively seek spiritual power to meet their felt needs. They have been overwhelmed by a sense of insecurity and powerlessness in the face of male control or other social pressures. As a result of the changes from arranged marriage to a more Western model, women expressed a lot of anxiety about husband taking concurrent wives. They are also pulled between career and family in cultures where the woman is solely responsible for the home. Muslim women are struggling more because their society is in a process of change but is not as egalitarian as the west. In fact, all these are the issues concerning both Muslim and Christian women in the troubled world nowadays. The similarities can provide a meeting place for women of both faiths to come together. These are common human needs that cause people to seek spiritual power, insight and direction.

Missionaries are not supposed to rearrange everything in another culture. [80]In a situation the social system and structure cannot be changed, followers of Christ who come to “set captives free” have to come alongside, depend entirely on the Holy Spirit, the Comforter, and point them to what God said. It is of utmost importance to express empathy instead of sympathy, sharing their pain and sorrow. Exposing the human side and focusing on our common bond as God’s creation, we can touch each other’s hearts and unite in our journey on the straight path and the goal of a love relationship with God.

[81]Most Muslim women who are drawn to Christ may come as members of a group, with their husbands, children, brothers and sisters, rather than as lone individuals. For instance, village Indonesians often make important decision as groups – households, neighbourhoods or communities.  Decisions among urban groups, however, are primarily of a different type, consisting of chain reaction and centering around vocations, classes and age groups. In either case, witness is a crucial link in Muslim community or a catalyst for a whole group’s turning to Christ.

[82]Colgate elaborated how to turn the gaze from Islam as a separate entity to the people who await friendship in which Christ-like love could be powerfully incarnated. Over the years, Colgate and her team had invited neighbours to many open house thanksgiving ceremonies in their home. After months of intentional immersion in the new community, by exercising understanding and tolerance of their customs and habits, the special bonding could be further strengthened in a Muslim-friendly home environment. Friendship evangelism may extend beyond routine face-to-face time with Muslim women. Transparent exchange of life stories is a prerequisite for bringing the good news of God’s grace. Personal testimony also plays a role in reorienting their concept of God, seeing Him as a loving heavenly Father. Essentially, investing love in the lives leads to faithful proclamation of Christ and His cross.

Women missionaries often live and work closely with local women. [83]Women ministry has never been merely cerebral. It is always holistic, involving body, mind and spirit. Sisterhood bas bonded women across cultures, whatever the missionaries’ ideology. It is a challenging call to fulfill God’s pivotal mission for the world. Any skill, life experience and spiritual gift can be used to serve, praise and glorify Him. Compassionate relationship may convince the lost that the coming of the Messiah is good news. The best hope for reaching the vast Muslim populations of the world, with its great variety of Muslim women, is to plant flourishing churches of Muslim background believers who remain culturally relevant to Islamic society.

It is essential to accompany Muslim women toward the kingdom of God at every opportunity. A ministry worthy of attention is the habit of praying for the needs of them in the name of Jesus. [84]As God draws lost soul into relationship with Himself, evangelism is a sovereign, intimate work of the Holy Spirit for God is overseeing and responsible for the whole process.

6. Conclusion

The growing conversion of Europeans and other nationalities to Islam has been regarded as an “Islamic threat” in recent decades. [85]Many Muslims find themselves the objects of suspicion and discrimination while in the Islamic world anyone associated with the West is exposed to hatred and even violence. We need to beware of our labels on Muslims and portrait of their lives in ways they do not agree with.

By the same token, Muslim women are very sensitive to being viewed in negative and unsympathetic ways. [86]The traditional Muslim family, founded on religious and social values, has been described as patriarchal, with women characterized as dependent, inferior to men, taking a domestic and subordinate role. Yet mounting evidence has indicated that these family norms and structures have become less conservative, and more favourable to educational or professional advancement for women. In line with these changes, Muslim women have accomplished a brilliant success in different spheres of life.

[87]Muslims are increasingly confronted with plurality of possibilities for adjustment and adaptation. In view of modernization and globalization, Islam has been challenged to become a new and differentiated synthesis which would avoid inhumane constraints and destructive effects of modernity. [88]No single new form of contemporary Islam is developing among the migrants to Europe, but far-reaching consequences beyond Europe to any country in the world could be envisaged in the years to come.

[89]The tension between trying to return to the past while accommodating to the present has been a huge problem for Muslims women. They do struggle with their changing cultures and harsh realities. But overwhelmingly, the women remain focused on their daily life and family relationships. The issues raised by Muslim women worldwide are no different from those that concern our neighbours. Modern Muslim women are experiencing stress as they try to balance their roles. Having common bond in life and facing the same problems in different settings, missionaries may place them in the light of the Gospel.

Conviction and faith can never be applied without taking the individual and culture into account. On the whole, humanity and solidarity should be the core values to be pursued as a common ground for exploring spiritual venture. May the Lord open the door of salvation and pour out His love to the Islamic world.


Adeney, Miriam. Daughrs of Islam – Building Bridges with Muslim Women. Leicester: InterVarsity Press, 2002.

Ahmed, Leila. Women and Gender in Islam. London: Yale University Press, 1992.

Alatiyat, Ibtesam & Hassan Barari. Liberating Women with Islam? The Islamists and Women’s Issues in Jordan. Totalitarian Movements and Political Religions 11 No.3-4 (Sep-Dec 2010): 359-378.

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Ammah, Rabiatu. Islam, Gender and Leadership in Ghana. Crosscurrents (June 2013): 227-257.

Balia, Daryl & Kirsteen Kim (ed). Edinburgh Vol II: Witnessing to Christ Today. Oxford: Regnum Books International, 2010.

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Farhat-Holzman, Laina. Modernization or Westernization: The Muslim World vs. The Rest. Comparative Civilizations Review 67 (Fall 2012):50-67.

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McGinty, Anna Mansson. “Faith Drives me to be an Activist” Two American Muslim Women on Faith, Outreach and Gender. The Muslim World 102 (April 2012): 371-389.

Piela, Anna. Muslim Women’s Online Discussions of Gender Relations in Islam. Journal of Muslim Minority Affairs 30 No. 3 (Sept 2010): 425-435.

Rahman, Noor Aisha Abdul. Changing Roles, Unchanging Perceptions and Institutions: Traditionalism and its Impact on Women and Globalization in Muslim Societies in Asia. The Muslim World 97 (July 2007): 479-507.

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[1] Anne Sofie Rold. Women in Islam – The Western Experience (London: Routledge, 2001), 295.

[2] Edward Said. Orientalism: Western Conceptions of the Orient (London: Penguin, 1995), 5-6.

[3] Abdul Rahman Al-Sheha. Woman in t he Shade of Islam (Khamis Mushait: Islamic Educational Center, 2000), 6.

[4] Christine Schirrmacher. Islam and Society (Richmond: World Evangelical Alliance, 2008), 7.

[5] Schirrmacher, Islam and Society, 29.

[6] Holy Qur’an. Translated by Abdullah Yusuf Ali, http://www.islamicity.com/Mosque/SURAI.HTM.

[7] Al-Sheha, Woman in the Shade of Islam, 28.

[8] Al-Sheha, Woman in the Shade of Islam, 30-32.

[9] Rold, Women in Islam – The Western Experience, 121.

[10] Holy Qur’an. Translated by Abdullah Yusuf Ali, http://www.islamicity.com/Mosque/SURAI.HTM.

[11] Hans Kung. Islam – Past, Present and Future (Oxford: Oneworld Book, 2007), 565.

[12] Schirrmacher, Islam and Society, 90.

[13] Al-Sheha, Woman in the Shade of Islam, 43.

[14] Schirrmacher, Islam and Society, 90.

[15] Ibid., 92.

[16] Ibid., 96

[17] Al-Sheha, Woman in the Shade of Islam, 67-70.

[18] Al-Sheha, Woman in the Shade of Islam, 95.

[19] Schirrmacher, Islam and Society, 101-102.

[20] Rabiatu Ammah. Islam, Gender and Leadership in Ghana. Crosscurrents (June 2013): 229.

[21] Schirrmacher, Islam and Society, 90.

[22] Ammah, Crosscurrents (June 2013): 230.

[23] Al-Sheha, Woman in the Shade of Islam, 90-91.

[24] Ammah, Crosscurrents (June 2013): 234.

[25] Noor Aisha Abdul Rahman. Changing Roles, Unchanging Perceptions and Institutions: Traditionalism and its Impact on Women and Globalization in Muslim Societies in Asia. The Muslim World 97 (July 2007): 487-490.

[26] Fulera Issaka-Toure. Contesting the Normative. Crosscurrents 63 Issue 2(Jun2013): 201-202.

[27] Amina Wadud. Inside the Gender Jihad – Woman’s Reform in Islam (Oxford: One World Publications, 2006), 136.

[28] Leila Ahmed. Women and Gender in Islam (London: Yale University Press, 1992): 152.

[29] Ahmed, Women and Gender in Islam, 127.

[30] Ibid., 129-130.

[31] Ahmed, Women and Gender in Islam, 138-139.

[32] Rahman, The Muslim World 97 (July 2007): 495.

[33] Ibid., 140-141.

[34] Laina Farhat-Holzman. Modernization or Westernization: the Muslim World vs. The Rest. Comparative Civilizations Review 67 (Fall 2012): 50.

[35] Wadud, Inside the Gender Jihad – Woman’s Reform in Islam, 141.

[36] Ahmed, Women and Gender in Islam, 143.

[37] Farhat-Holzman, Comparative Civilizations Review 67 (Fall 2012): 51

[38] Wadud, Inside the Gender Jihad – Woman’s Reform in Islam, 136.

[39] Kung, Islam – Past, Present and Future, 567.

[40] Lawrence Rosen. The Culture of Islam (Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 2002): 152-153.

[41] Ahmed, Women and Gender in Islam, 168.

[42] Rosen, The Culture of Islam, 152.

[43] Ahmed, Women and Gender in Islam, 168.

[44] Kung, Islam – Past, Present and Future, 567.

[45] Issaka-Toure, Crosscurrents 63 Issue 2(Jun2013): 202.

[46] Kung, Islam – Past, Present and Future, 567.

[47] Ahmed, Women and Gender in Islam, 244.

[48] Ibid., 174.

[49] Kung, Islam – Past, Present and Future, 568.

[50] Ahmed, Women and Gender in Islam, 244-245.

[51] Ibid., 174.

[52] Anna Piela. Muslim Women’s Online Discussions of Gender Relations in Islam. Journal of Muslim Minority Affairs 30 No. 3 (Sept 2010): 426.

[53] Ibid., 426.

[54] Abdoulaye Sounaye. "Go Find the Second Half of Your Faith With These Women!" Women Fashioning Islam in Contemporary Niger. The Muslim World 101 (July 2011): 539.

[55] Rochelle Terman. The Piety of Public Participation: The Revolutionary Muslim Woman in the Islamic Republic of Iran. Totalitarian Movements and Political Religions 11, No. 3–4 (Sep – Dec 2010), 290, 304.

[56] Sounaye, The Muslim World 101 (July 2011): 539-540.

[57] Anna Mansson McGinty. “Faith Drives me to be an Activist” Two American Muslim Women on Faith, Outreach and Gender. The Muslim World 102 (April 2012): 374-375.

[58] Ibid., 387.

[59] Ibtesam Alatiyat & Hassan Barari. Liberating Women with Islam? The Islamists and Women’s Issues in Jordan. Totalitarian Movements and Political Religions 11 No.3-4 (Sep-Dec 2010): 377.

[60] Alatiyat & Barari, Totalitarian Movements and Political Religions 11 No.3-4 (Sep-Dec 2010): 361.

[61] Kung, Islam – Past, Present and Future, 464-465.

[62] Rahman, The Muslim World 97 (July 2007): 481.

[63] Piela, Journal of Muslim Minority Affairs 30 No. 3 (Sept 2010): 433.

[64] Kung, Islam – Past, Present and Future, 465.

[65] Piela, Journal of Muslim Minority Affairs 30 No. 3 (Sept 2010): 430-431.

[66] Ahmed, Women and Gender in Islam, 241.

[67] McGinty, The Muslim World 102 (April 2012): 372-374.

[68] Rold, Women in Islam – The Western Experience, 18.

[69] Rosen, The Culture of Islam, 154.

[70] Rold, Women in Islam – The Western Experience, 296.

[71] Ahmed, Women and Gender in Islam, 241.

[72] Fran Love & Jeleta Eckheart. Ministry To Muslim Women Longing To Call Them Sisters (Pasadena: William Carey Library, 2000), 71.

[73] Rosen, The Culture of Islam, 145.

[74] Daryl Balia and Kirsteen Kim (ed). Edinburgh Vol II: Witnessing to Christ Today (Oxford: Regnum Books International, 2010): 246-248.

[75] Lausanne Committee for World Evangelization. A New Vision, a New Heart, a Renewed Call. Lausanne Occasional Paper No. 49 Pattaya: September 29 to October 5, 2004): 8-9.

[76] Lausanne Committee for World Evangelization. Lausanne Occasional Paper No. 49 Pattaya: September 29 to October 5, 2004): 8-9.

[77] Rold, Women in Islam – The Western Experience, 300.

[78] Ibid., 296.

[79] Love & Eckheart, Ministry To Muslim Women Longing To Call Them Sisters, 17, 29.

[80] Ibid., 29.

[81] Miriam Adeney. Daughrs of Islam – Building Bridges with Muslim Women (Leicester: InterVarsity Press, 2002): 140-141.

[82] Julia Colgate. Invest Your Heart: A Call for Women to Evangelize Muslims (Mesa: Frontiers, 1997), 16-17.

[83] Adeney, Daughters of Islam – Building Bridges with Muslim Women, 20.

[84] Colgate, Invest Your Heart: A Call for Women to Evangelize Muslims, 49.

[85] Kung, Islam – Past, Present and Future, 658-659.

[86] Rachel Hertz-Lazarowitz and Tamar Shapira. Muslim Women's Life Stories: Building Leadership. Anthropology & Education Quarterly 36 No. 2 (2005): 176.

[87] Ibid., 651-652.

[88] Rosen, The Culture of Islam, 156-157.

[89] Love & Eckheart, Ministry To Muslim Women Longing To Call Them Sisters, 12.

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