The Sin of the Woman
Interrelations of Religious Judgments in Zoroastrianism and Islam
Islamkundliche Untersuchungen Band 336
Klaus Schwarz Verlag
1. Edition (2018)
Hardcover, 162 pages
Availability: new edition in print, pre-orders taken
Since the 1920s, the so-called »return to the roots«, has become a hegemonic discourse in Iran. Whereas the Pahlavi regimes (1925–1979) propagated the myth of the lost idyll of pre-Islamic Iran representing themselves as the true inheritors of those monarchies, the Islamists adopted a respective approach in regard to Islam.
As a result, a similar fairytale was made about the early Islamic community. Such claims, as it were, are not so much about the past as they are about the present. So is this study.
By delving into the past, it questions the widespread nostalgic notions considering the pre-Islamic era as a lost utopia, wherein women were free from the restrictions »imposed by Islam«. In point of fact such past is a fabrication. In the majority of cases, therefore, the revival projects invent traditions to legitimize current political agendas.
The rise of Islam effectively marginalized the ancient religions, though not necessarily the centuries-old traditions and customs. They survived after being reconfigured and upgraded in connection with the new religion and socio-political conditions. The synthesis is so dramatic that the adjective »Islamic« would be far from accurate to attribute to the society that came out of this interaction. It was rather a Perso-Islamic society.
The Perso-Islamic era started with the fall of the Sasanian Empire in 651 CE until 10th century CE. It flourished particularly after the establishment of the Abbasid Caliphate in Baghdad in 750 CE. Yet, the era is highly indebted to Late Antiquity and the early medieval period and its nomic traditions.
The cultural and legislative interactions created a »state of mixture« as a milieu in which interactions of various legislative traditions took place not only bilaterally but also multilaterally and among various Late Antique religions and cultures such as Judaism, Manichaeism, Christianity, Zoroastrianism, and Gnostic religions. Newer studies demonstrated that the Jews within the Persian Empire had a profound knowledge of Zoroastrianism, not only theologically but also in terms of purity rituals.
By the same token, the belief that pre-Islamic Arabia was an egalitarian society in terms of gender relations, and that gender discrimination and sexual corruption are the outcome of the Islamic sexual morality and the influence of other cultures is not very accurate.
Historical evidence is indicative of sexual permissiveness, mostly in the form of ›mut'a‹, among the non-Muslim Arabs as well as early believers, who strongly insisted on having sexual intercourse with different types of women, particularly war captives (mainly from the ›ridda‹ battles), despite the strong Qur'anic prohibitions and the Prophet’s disapproving commands.
Arab conquests only reinvigorated the already extant negative attitudes towards women created by the Arab war culture and Late Antique ambience. As was indicated, all cultures of Late Antiquity harbored similar negative attitudes towards women. It is expected therefore that Islam, which from the beginning had interacted with its own context, in turn, advocated sexism and intolerance towards women. Islam was not a creation of isolation, neither were its gender attitudes.
The third and fourth centuries witnessed the most controversial and contradictory attitudes about religious judgments on women designating a severe struggle for survival. Nevertheless, Zoroastrian customs and traditions have survived through the rituals of menstruation, purification, fornication, marriage, and women’s disobedience that was incorporated into Sharia after being improved and adjusted to the new religious apparatus.
This will be further pointed out.