Orthodox Christian Women Vs. Muslim Women

SOURCE: Opposing views

by Allison Troy

A Russian Orthodox woman wearing a traditional scarf. Photo: Yulia Smorodova.
A Russian Orthodox woman wearing a traditional scarf. Photo: Yulia Smorodova.
In the religious traditions of Orthodox Christianity and Islam, women’s roles have been widely contested. There are a variety of differences between the two religion’s theological and practical requirements for female believers, but there is also a great deal of commonality between the roles and customs that Muslim and Orthodox Christian women uphold. By examining the particularities of each religion’s teachings about women, it will be easy to draw stronger distinctions and parallels between the two.

Women's Dress: Origins

The issue of women’s dress is one way to compare and contrast the practices of Orthodox Christian and Muslim women. Ruhi Hamid, in her documentary "Islam Unveiled," claims that Muslims were influenced by Byzantine Christians: In early 700, Orthodox Christian women wore head coverings in accordance with the Apostle Paul’s command in 1st Corinthians for women to cover their heads in public worship. Both religions require women to cover their heads in public and to dress "modestly" for public worship and interactions.

Orthodox Women and the Veil

In contemporary Orthodox Christianity, the ways that women dress differ in terms of their parish’s history and geographical location. Most women do not wear a full head covering, or veil, in many parishes across North America. Orthodox churches with an older immigrant population, particularly from Russia or Greece, however, will often require women to wear a head covering of some kind. Matushkas, or priests’ wives, can be required to wear head coverings in the presence of a bishop. It is more common for Orthodox women in non-Western settings to cover their heads.

Muslim Women and the Hijab

In Islam, much of the expectation for women wearing the veil, or hijab, comes from the Quran’s demands for purity of all believers; it is also widely taught that men, as the traditional leaders of Muslim families, must be protected from any sexual attraction they might encounter while seeing other women. There are also rules for various interactions between men and women -- for example, an unmarried Muslim woman will often wear the full hijab to cover her face from men in public, whereas a married Muslim woman, depending on her country’s adherence to Muslim teaching, can go into public with her face uncovered.

Protocol for clothing, particularly in Islam, has become a symbol for what many outside these traditions see as a repression of women’s rights. At the same time, many women in both Islam and Orthodox Christianity would claim that the hijab (for Muslims) and the veil (for Orthodox women) are, in fact, representative of their spiritual freedom.

Women in the Public Sphere

While Orthodox Christianity and Islam practice strict adherence to their traditions’ teachings about the submission of women in public speaking and community leadership, both traditions also give high regard to historical women who modeled a high level of spiritual devotion. The Virgin Mary, or Theotokos, is highly revered by the Orthodox, as are numerous female saints whose stories are depicted in icons, church teachings and hymns. In Islam, the Prophet Muhammed’s wives are seen as the “Mothers of Islam,” and their burial sites are visited as holy places by devout Muslims.

In both traditions, women are not ordained as clergy. Orthodox Christian women serve as teachers, public leaders and musicians, and were recognized as deacons in the early Christian church. Muslim women worship separately from men, and are often given sole charge of women converts’ spiritual instruction. These differences and similarities open a broader window into the lives of religious women in both Orthodox Christianity and Islam.

5/11/2013

Comments
Mary5/21/2018 4:46 pm
Allison Troy, you clearly have no real knowledge of what you are writing about. You confounded the HEAD covering with the HAIR covering. Orthodox Christian FEMALES (virgins, married, and widowed) are to wear the HEAD covering for religious authority, to pray and prophesy, as Holy Scripture states. Orthodox Christian FEMALES (virgins, married, and widowed) are to wear the HAIR covering, an opaque cloth, for modesty, as Holy Tradition states. Both the HEAD covering and the HAIR covering are symbols.
Vasily5/13/2018 4:49 am
I am an Old Believer who resides in Australia. Why do so many New believers from 1666 hate us so much. We did not change they did.
RICHARD4/21/2018 5:55 am
RICHARD....Enjoyed the page. I am a recent convert to Orthodoxy which I believe to be the true religion for all men, which
does not mean that I hate the others. I am ashamed of my government which has attacked SYRIA in the name of
democracy but which is really all about money and power. I admire the faithful CHRISTIANS of SYRIA,especially the women.
Warwick3/26/2017 7:08 am
to Rodney.
Have you noticed the dysfunction and the depravity in people with regard to matters of the flesh which means of course Gender issues.

The subject of gender roles is very deep and rewarding, and of course one can spend a life time learning about the meaning of Masculinity and femininity.

You ask, "Why in the world are women in both faiths required to submit in public speaking and leadership".

And then you state that," The world needs their 'deep' spiritual voices".

The reality is that men are men and women are women, and men must lead, and be seen to lead.
It's a bit like the Father is the Father and the son is the son, but they are in each other and are one.
The son can speak on behalf of the Father but it doesn't change the fact that the words he spoke are the Fathers.

Women's voices are heard or should be heard by their husbands, their children, their friends and relatives and the people that they meet every day, and if they are older women, the younger women are taught by them.

The only thing that gives men equivalence to women is their spiritual pre-eminence.

It is challenging enough to walk as a whole man in Christ , rather than a carnal man born of woman, without having to contend with women who deny divine order and dishonor the men by refusing to recognize the head status of men due to generational bitterness and unforgiveness, thereby also denying that the work of Christ has spiritually and legally restored the dignity of manhood and womanhood.
Chantelle12/27/2016 1:09 am
I think BOTH Christian & Muslim women should practice headcovering if they are so inspired to. I had never practiced headcovering until this year and all it took was one try for it to find a permanent place in my life.
Lisa11/17/2016 7:58 am
My belief as a Christian female, to cover my head in worship is because we are by blessed by the 'arch angels' and loved by God.

Covering our head is to honour our appreciation that we are the loved, cherished and protected ones in this world.

Whilst, Men are to walk in God's foot steps and are the Strength, King and Protector.

Sonja11/1/2016 8:01 pm
This article is embarrassing. Really, comparing Muslim women to Christian women?

Orthodox Christian women do not need to cover themselves up because they do not believe the crazy doctrine that men will be ready to rape a woman if she exposes her flesh (which Muslims believe). A Christian woman's testimony in court is equal to that of a man's, unlike in Islam where it is only worth a quarter of a man's testimony. An Orthodox woman cannot be part of some man's harem where he can get married to four women and sleep around with all of them. And please do not compare our female saints to Mohammed's conquests with women.

As an Orthodox Christian woman, if my status the same as that of a Muslim woman, I would be seriously considering of converting to another religion where I have more rights. My people have lived under Muslims in the Balkans, and trust me, Islam is not a religion of peace.
Mila10/2/2016 10:19 am
Требамо бити Смирени Христолики.

Трудимо се:
Све што радимо, радимо у Господу и са Господом и због Господа;
Све што мислимо, мислимо у Господа и са Господом и због Господа;
Све што говоримо, говоримо у Господу и са Господом и због Господа.

Једина права вера је Православна Вера!
Само се Православни спасавају!
Ван Православља нема спасења!
Maryam12/14/2015 7:59 am
Sorry but your information is slighty incorrect.
Muslim men are allowed to visit graves but Muslim women are not.
Also, we pray to God to forgive and bless the people who have died. We don't worship the dead or pray to them.
Dadang Jebred12/3/2015 7:37 am
I'm a Muslim but I love Russian Orthodox Christianity, very different from the bloody Western Christianity. Russian Orthodox full with love and peace and respect, even we're in different religion. I hope someday we'll join together fighting our enemies, like you're already do it in Syria, fighting stupid ISIS and Free Syrian Army.

I'm a Muslim but I hate Ottoman Empire, whose transform the great cathedral Hagia Sophia into a Masjid, it's shameful for us, I'm sorry about that.

And one more thing, I'm not a Shia, but I support Bashar alAssad in Syria.

Greetings from me to all who read this comment in peace :)
Waliullah Suman8/26/2015 10:18 pm
We should respect all religions !!!
anthony5/9/2014 5:48 am
as one raised in islam, but now Orthodox Christian, this article is troubling , cause it covers up much problems that muslim women suffer all the time from the time of mohammad to present. Thankfully in Christianity, it's very different for even in the most repressive cultures of pagan Rome, our Apostle would openly declare 'there is neither male nor female in Christ Jesus'

mohammad's wives being called mothers is somewhat true but reality according to faithful islamic teaching, is that when mohammad had many teenage girls to do as he pleased, when he was 50 years old, he added a 5 year old little girl to fulfill his lusts :-( . Islamic writings also record his sexual powers over her when he was about 52-53 years old and she was only 8/9 years of age and playing with her dolls and her friends, she would be forced to fulfill pedophile-like sexual fantasies of mohammad :-(

What was most troubling is that mohammad commanded husband to beat his wife unto obedience. In all ancient islamic theology and translations into other languages, this is clearly understood to give the woman as much lower in rights than man. That's why under sharia law, women have much less rights than men :-( And when a woman is raped, she has to produce 4 men to testify because even 4 women would not be enough. Sadly, most often muslim practice is to stone the raped woman for the 'disgrace'.

Thankfully I have found no such teachings or examples in Christianity and among the Church's Saints.
mikura3/26/2014 2:08 am
to @nazneen&Pavle
Well, Pavle you should not feel ashamed that some respect the others religion...he is a part of sects, is ovious that they try to make a good opinion about themself in front of others, but the only and true church of God is eastern orthodoxy, rest= sects, including chatolics...you must to respect all the people like God's creation, but you don't have why to respect what they believe, becasue the sectants are refusing to see the truth, so they consider to important to reconize God and make from themself kings as Lucifer does!
Nazneen, like orthodox human I put my hand on heart and I tell that God exists...is present everywhere in every moment, He is making miracles every day in my life and others life...so I can fight with anyone from sectants who have other opinion that their gods make all this, because I'm more than sure about the God's love! Remember is not big deal that after death you believed in God, Jesus, Holy Spirit, but you will go direct in hell if they really exists and hell is not for 1.000 years is for etenity...this place is so teribble that no nightmare can describe it, will be punshed after your sins!
Pavle1/27/2014 2:00 am
@Mireille,

I'm a Serbian Christian Orthodox man and I actually am ashamed of some fellow Christian Orthodox, why would you talk bad about another fellow human who's religion is Islam?

I feel ashamed because my friend who's Muslim told me that he respects ALL religions so also ours.
He told me if you talk bad about other religion he will also talk bad about yours, why would you want that?

The Islam and Christian Orthodox is much a like, let's love and not hate each other.

I wish you all the best and may god bless you.
nazneen11/25/2013 3:36 am
to mireille.
For your information muhammed (pbuh) was not a pedophile, some sources also says aisha(pbuh) was 16-19 when they married. and when Aisha was a little girl the prophet never did anything unimpropiet with her he played with her like you play with a child.
And the quantities of spouses for men is UP TO 4 WIFES! And to make that even ok properly there are many conditions to follow and it is not the mans choise alone, like any other desicion, islamicly he has to consult his wife.

And of all the religions in the world, i'm sorry to break it ti you but ortodox chridtianity and islam is most similar.

your knowledge is narrow. i recommend you learn morw about islam wich will only make you more in peace.

allahfis
abebe.birhanu5/27/2013 1:09 pm
orthodox chiristian always folow the bible rather than any kind of tradisional practice.fimales are created or originated from male,that is our father adam. as adam himself said your body is also my body,you are some part of our body.so, comper with muslim folower female have equal with male,in ortodox.generaly the natural risours,the tradisional practice like that of learning,teaching,speaking, wiaring,leading,adminestwering and also wht ever in this world are allowed equaly.by theway one thing is ther touching ,eating,visiting,playing etc,dont have sin any person since all of them pasese sequantialy,but god is always with you dont afriade any practice since you are created to do and eat what you done.dont be wory about wering and its type .do you understand before civilaization or before finite years ago human being wears not the same as today so fasion of wiring goes with the development of the human thinking style.by the name of jesus.
ABEBE BIRHANU5/27/2013 1:04 pm
orthodox chiristian always folow the bible rather than any kind of tradisional practice.fimales are created or originated from male,that is our father adam. as adam himself said your body is also my body,you are some part of our body.so, comper with muslim folower female have equal with male,in ortodox.generaly the natural risours,the tradisional practice like that of learning,teaching,speaking, wiaring,leading,adminestwering and also wht ever in this world are allowed equaly.by theway one thing is ther touching ,eating,visiting,playing etc,dont have sin any person since all of them pasese sequantialy,but GOD is always with you dont afriade any practice since you are created to do and eat what you done.dont be wory about wering and its type .do you understand before civilaization or before finite years ago human being wears not the same as today so fasion of wiring goes with the development of the human thinking style.i want to say one thing for the world GOD KNOW or SAW WHAT IS ON YOUR HEART BEFORE YOU SPEAK IT LOUDLY (internaly rathe than phisicaly).by the name of JESUS.
Mireille Joujou5/15/2013 12:57 pm
What is this nonsense! How can you compare this non religion called Islam to ours? How can you compare Mohamed wives to our women saints? How can you make praise of a Pedophile who married a girl 9 years old? How can you compare the respect we have to our religion who gave all the rights to the women with the one oppressing women by giving the man the right to marry 4? The woman is respected in Christianity and it is she who was chosen by God to deliver his message ( Virgin Mary) and to announce his resurrection ( Maria Magdalena). I am so disappointed as an Orthodox by this article! Yes they took their traditions form the Jewish and us but they are not similar to us! Anyway it seems that you do not know Islam very well and what they have done to Byzantine, Constantinople and to all the Christians in the Middle East!! So do not talk in the name of Orthodoxy! Shame on you! The Christian women cover their heads only in church as respect to our Lord and not in the street cause we are free by the name of Christ! But how can an american talk about Orthodoxy? It explains how much you do not know our beautiful religion!
Mireille5/15/2013 12:57 pm
What is this nonsense! How can you compare this non religion called Islam to ours? How can you compare Mohamed wives to our women saints? How can you make praise of a Pedophile who married a girl 9 years old? How can you compare the respect we have to our religion who gave all the rights to the women with the one oppressing women by giving the man the right to marry 4? The woman is respected in Christianity and it is she who was chosen by God to deliver his message ( Virgin Mary) and to announce his resurrection ( Maria Magdalena). I am so disappointed as an Orthodox by this article! Yes they took their traditions form the Jewish and us but they are not similar to us! Anyway it seems that you do not know Islam very well and what they have done to Byzantine, Constantinople and to all the Christians in the Middle East!! So do not talk in the name of Orthodoxy! Shame on you! The Christian women cover their heads only in church as respect to our Lord and not in the street cause we are free by the name of Christ! But how can an american talk about Orthodoxy? It explains how much you do not know our beautiful religion!
Gayatri Wedotami Muthari5/13/2013 3:45 pm
Dear Allison Troy,
In Islamic tradition, there are women who can be ulama (scholars, clerics)and in Shiite tradition women can be a marja' (an ulama one can follow). There are many Sunni and Shia women who become professors in Islamic theology, jurisprudence, and etc also who become teachers and leaders in politics. If you can come to Indonesia, women preach on TV, at mosques, and public sphere like male does.
In Qur'an both male and female are instructed to be modest and to lower their gaze - so although some ulamas more emphasize on women's hijab, actually in Qur'an the instruction goes to both sexes.
That is the physical ones, but there are the spiritual meanings lay deep down the instruction not just merely because of sexual attraction and so on.
Rodney Squires5/12/2013 3:16 am
Why in the world are women in both faiths required to submit in public speaking and leadership. The world needs their 'deep' spiritual voices.
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