This specialist in the role of women in Islamic societies felt it imperative to look and disclose how women in the pre-Islamic Arabia were treated, represented, and behaved. Ms. Nashat brings attention to the fact that nomadic lifestyles, especially the Bedouins, were concentrated on group lifestyles. An individual was stronger as a holistic unit versus as an individual component because “group solidarity and protection by the tribe” enabled the tribe to become the chief “focus of the person’s loyalty. ” (Nashat 36-38) This elaborate reference to the Bedouins brings rise to several important facts about women’s roles.
Nomadic women were typically key figures in child-rearing, caring for the animals, and maintaining the food preparation. This clear division in labor roles nevertheless led to a democratic structure because each individual was vital to the continued prosperity of the tribe. Nashat reveals that “when men were away, women looked after the tribe, even if some older men were left behind to supervise. ” This reflects that women had an active contribution to the lifestyle, but Nashat also then states that women did not share equality with men and they “were deemed less useful to the survival of the tribe.
” Nashat does appear to have some conflicting points here because she then states that women were approached for their opinions on important communal situations or conditions. She also makes a blanket statement that women composed some of the “best poems”. She fails to elaborate at this point which poems or authority sources she was deriving this information from (Nashat 36-38). She does iterate that women were empowered to go on military campaigns with their spouses and encouraged to do activities behind battle lines; such, as encouraging their men to do their best fighting.
This empowerment of women is also seen in the tribal membership as children born to an outsider father were considered tribal members automatically. In addition, Nashat states that women could have many partners and this was not considered sinful or shameful at all. In these instances Nashat is arguing her thesis that the pre-Islamic Arabian women had elements of matriarchal social organization because they were expected to fulfill social obligations because they were considered trust-worthy, intelligent, and respectful.
At this point, Nashat has structured her work to introduce the fact that Islam was revealed in Mecca where nomadic lifestyle was seriously decreasing. Instead, the city had turned to commerce and trade. The Quraysh, guardians of the Ka’bah, had built up their prestige in the area and started to ensure that wealth became “concentrated in the hands of a number of merchants” thus changing Mecca’s social and economic standing.
On the other hand, the text implies that inspite of Mohammad’s teaching “prior Byzantine and Sasanian concepts and principles prevailed over Arabian and Quranic values (Nashat 38-39). Conquest and slavery enforced a fn toward polygamy, harems, and the subordination of women. ” To the textbook, pre-existing believes and attitudes were still prominent at the time (Lapidus 851-872). Nashat, recognizes that Islamic values were being instilled in the believers but in some cases human tendencies for wrong still overrun areas. This led to an urbanization of Mecca that nomadic tribes did not experience.
Furthermore, Nashat emphasizes that well-connected and influential women such as Mohammad’s first wife Khadijah were able to take advantage of trade opportunities as an independent businesswoman, as the textbook clearly articulates as well (Lapidus 851-872). Also because female slaves were in abundance and tribal values and respect women were diminishing in the face of economic wealth, women’s social power was decreasing because housework could be preformed by female slaves. Social mores at the time were increasing, but women retained some of the old Bedouin customs including the right to select their own mate.
Nashat clearly shows that Meccan women were able to hold some occupations, engage in trade, and retained right to move around publicly freely and unveiled (Nashat 39-43). The textbook states that “women were no longer seen merely as the mothers of warriors, but were recognized as persons of religious. importance, entitled to modesty, privacy, and dignity. ” (Lapidus 851-872) As a reader, I noticed that Nashat also refers to this elevation of womanly prestige but goes more in-depth by stating that the advent of Islam did not require “radical changes” in how the woman lived but only some “modifying of their ways”.