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Religious and Cultural Aspects of Arab Women

Women in the Arab world have had a lot of difficulties in the way they relate with others. This is because discrimination was the order of the day. They have been deprived of their rights and freedoms which had their basis on religious beliefs and more so on cultural aspects. The dominant cultural beliefs emanate from traditions that were valued by the Arabs rather than from the denomination. The limitations of Arabian culture and religious beliefs are dominantly reflected in the in-laws governing economy, education, justice, and health care in the Arab world (Jamil, 2008).

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The findings of some writers clearly point out that the status of women before Islam. At then, women could access all the rights and freedoms that men are also getting. Some writers have also contrasted with this idea and postulated that women were not given all rights and freedom during the pre-Islamic period. Women were treated poorly. The Arabs practiced women infanticide, patrilineal marriage, and unlimited polygyny. The position of women in the Arabian countries was determined by the extent of urbanization, polarization, and industrialization in a country. Muslim has been considered to be more patriarchal than any other religion in the world due to its intrinsic properties (Evelyn, 2000).

Women’s status during the pre-Islamic period varied widely depending on the cultural practices of tribes in which they lived. Women were of low status in many tribes. They were supposed to perform errand duties such as being the subordinate of their fathers and husbands. To make matter worse, they were considered by other tribes as chattels. They were not allowed to inherit any property as they were regarded unwise to manage these properties. In some Islamic-dominated regions, homicidal abuse of women was practiced. Female infants were being murdered as they were considered to be liabilities in society. During the time of the food crisis, women were killed in families with little resources as they were assumed to be responsible for the starvation among those other family members (Jamil, 2008).

When Islam was introduced in the seventh century, women’s roles and status changed as Qur’an turn down any traditional and cultural practices that oppressed women in society. Women were given equal opportunities and responsibilities. Reforms that were made after the establishment of the Islamic religion concern marriage, divorce, and inheritance. These contrasted with other cultures at that time whereby women were not accorded such legal status. Female infanticide was not allowed because women’s personhood was highly recognized and respected. This was one major move that women’s status of living changes. Dowry which was considered as bride-price before the Islamic religion was taken as a nuptial gift and was retained by the wife as their personal belongings. Marriage among Muslims was regarded as a contract rather than status as the case used to be before the creation of this religion. Women could now inherit properties in a patriarchal society that allowed only men to inherit (Evelyn, 2000).

After the foundation of the Islamic religion, women played a very important part in educational institutions and were given opportunities to occupy a prestigious post on these institutions. According to some writers, women participated greatly in the establishments of educational institutions in the 12th and 13th centuries. It is during this time when around n170 mosques and madrasahs were established in Damascus. Most of these projects were funded entirely by women. Women get access to a variety of educational opportunities. They could study comfortably and earn a very good living than before. They could also qualify for scholarships and other numerous teaching professions. Some businesswomen were very successful which created a lot of influence on the rest f the women (Evelyn, 2000).

In the Arab economy after the creation of the Islamic religion, employment was diverse among both men and women. The idea of ethnicity and cultural background was out of the question. It is during a time when women were employed in a variety of commercial activities and other diverse occupations. Muslim women were given the right to enjoy a monopoly over certain departments of industry especially the textile industry. Women were accorded with the right to own certain property rights which contrast with what was happening in Europe (Jamil, 2008).

Women across Arab societies were expected to adhere to traditional dress in the contemporary world. Countries such as Saudi Arabia are deeply rooted in traditions as women were expected to wear abayas as imposed by religion. The purpose of these traditional dressings was to restrict women from participating in economical activities. This idea has been eradicating in most Arabian countries such as Tunisia where the government advocated for the withdrawal of religious extremism (Valentine, 1994).

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Women are allowed to participate in politics in most Arabian countries. Some granted them a franchise as amended in their constitutions. Currently, women are gaining equal representation in politics due to the liberalization of unfair political systems that existed in these countries. Women were able to participate in parliamentary elections in many Arabian countries.

The significant move by women in the political arena was noticed when women stood for election for the first time in UAE. Further progress has been made in the appointment of women for legislative positions among the Arabian countries. The will and political strategies in a country is the major determinant of the role that women can play in the political arena. The country’s leadership should be very supportive of women who are interested in politics. The cultural attitude of people towards women indulging in politics is a major determinant of the extent to which women can involve themselves in politics (Valentine, 1994).


  1. Daniel, B. & Amal, R. Peoples and Cultures of the Middle East. Prentice Hall, New Jersey, 2001
  2. Jamil & Ahmad. Religious beliefs in Arab World. 2008
  3. Evelyn, E. Culture of Middle East, Indiana University Press, 2000
  4. Valentine, N. Gender Equality in the Middle East. 1994.

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