Throughout history in the United States segregation between gender and race has been an issue. Today, in the United States we have made great improvements in this area but there is still more work that needs to be done. In Muslim societies gender plays a role in one’s daily life.
It is important to note that gender segregation happens in most Muslim societies but not all of them. From the reading, we learn that there is a separation of men and women in Muslim society in public spaces. These spaces include; mosques, universities and the market place. According to Esposito, “In many mosques men and women have separate areas for prayer or are separated by a screen”. I thought it was interesting that unmarried men and unmarried women have very little contact with one another outside of very specific context. My theory on this is because of arranged marriages unmarried men and women are not supposed to interact so they do not fall in love with someone that has not been arranged. Again, this is my theory someone feel free to expand if you like. I also found another reason from the reading that unmarried men and unmarried women do not interact in some Muslim societies.
This has to do with the Qur’an and Muhammad’s wives. Muhammad’s wives were told they were not like any other women and they are told to stay with dignity in their homes. The Qur’an tells Muhammad’s wives to keep a barrier between themselves and unrelated males. This one of the reasons why in some Muslim societies unmarried men and unmarried women to not interact with one another outside of certain context. Some Muslim societies also practice keeping women in the home with no or very little contact with public spaces. It is important to realize this segregation between men and women does not happen in al Muslim societies. In countries like Egypt, Tunisia, Malaysia and Indonesia men and women often interact with one another in the city as they work and study together. According to Esposito, “In our modern, globalizing world, where two incomes are often necessary to maintain a household, women are increasingly joining the workforce and breaking down traditional notions of gendered space”.
The real picture of Muslim women is a very complex subject to cover. Many pages and articles have been written on the subject and I could go into great detail and continuing writing but for the purpose of this discussion post I will cut it short and move onto the next topic. Muslims have core beliefs, specifically they have five very strong core beliefs rooted in their religion. These five core beliefs are known as the “Five Pillars of Islam”. These five required observances are something the Qur’an requires all practicing Muslims to follow. According to Esposito, “These pillars of Islam represent the core and common denominator that unites all Muslims and distinguishes Islam from other religions”.
The five pillars begin with, “the declaration of faith”, followed by, “prayer (salat)”, followed by, “zakat”, followed by, “the fast of Ramadan”, and lastly, “the pilgrimage to Mecca”.The first pillar, The Declaration of Faith is when Muslims make the proclamation that there is no other god but Allah and Muhammad is the messenger of Allah. The second pillar being prayer (salat) is practicing Muslims pray five times a day.
Daybreak, noon, midafternoon, sunset, and evening. In many Muslim countries reminders to pray are sent out across cities over a loud speaker. I had the opportunity to experience this every morning when I was visiting Dubai.The third pillar is the “zakat”, meaning purification. The zakat is a way for Muslims to express worship and thanksgiving to god by supporting the poor or those in need. For this Muslims give 2.
5% of income and assets as a annual contribution.The fourth pillar is, “the Fast of Ramadan”. This is one month where Muslims who are healthy and able to not eat food from sun-down to sun-up. The fast is a way for Muslims to stimulate reflection on dependence on god. When reading about this pillar I learned that fasting not only met no food or drink from dawn to day break but also to sexual activity.
The fifth pillar is, “the pilgrimage to Mecca”. The pilgrimage happens at least once in his or her lifetime. This is considered a sacrifice of time, possessions, status and normal comforts to honor god and his service to practicing Muslims. Muslims who are ready and able to participate in the pilgrimage to Mecca wear simple garments. Men are supposed to wear two white seamless cloths and women wear a garment that covers their entire body except for their face and hands. The garments symbolize purity as well as unity between all Muslim believers.
On this journey men and women worship together there is no separation between gender. According to Esposito, “As the pilgrim’s approach Mecca they shout, O’Lord, I am here! And when they enter the Mecca their first obligation is to go to the Kaaba”. The Kaaba is the most sacred space in the Muslim world. Muslims turn to the Kaaba each day to pray. This is the reason it is the first place Muslims go to when entering Mecca. Once at the Kaaba the pilgrims circle it seven times counterclockwise.
This symbolizes divine presence. The topics for this discussion were very interesting to learn about. Each topic was rich with information to be learned.
I could have discussed these topics for hour but my discussion post would have become to complex and way to long. Overall these topics were very interesting and I can not wait to learn more and continue to research the Islamic culture