Today is Mother’s Day. May all Mothers bring out the best in their husbands and children while living up to their own full potential. Below is an article I wrote for The Philippine Post on December 14, 1999. It is about Eve, the Mother of all the Living.
“The man called his wife Eve, because she became the mother of all the living.” (Genesis 3:20)
Muslim women enjoy such a bad press in non-Muslim societies. They are pictured as suffering martyrs with no rights of their own, second-class citizens in their own societies. Any proofs to the contrary are usually ignored.
But it would be interesting to know how the Jews, Christians and Muslims regard Eve, the first woman. (The story of Adam and Eve is not universal. Only these three groups believe in it.). All three religions believe that God created Adam and Eve, the first humans. For the Jew and Christians, Eve was made out of Adam’s ribs. (”…This one shall be called ‘woman’, for out of ‘her man’ this one has been taken.” Genesis 2:23)
All 3 religions also believe in The Temptation and the subsequent Fall of the First Humans. But herein lies the difference. In the Judeo-Christian tradition, the serpent “who was the most cunning of all the animals that the Lord God had made” tempted Eve to partake of the Forbidden Fruit. “So she took some of its fruits and ate it; she also gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate it.” (Genesis 3:6) When God asked Adam about it, he replied: “The woman whom you put here with me — she gave me fruit from the tree, and so I ate it.”
God then “banned (the serpent) from all animals and from all wild creatures” and to crawl on its belly and eat dirt forever. And God said: “I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and hers; he will strike at your head, while you strike at his heel.”
And God said to Eve: “I will intensify the pangs of your childbearing; in pain shall you bring forth children. Yet your urge shall be for your husband, and he shall be your master.” (Genesis 3: 12-16)
In contrast, the Qur’anic version is thus: “O Adam dwell with your wife in the Garden and enjoy as you wish but approach not this tree or you run into harm and transgression. Then Satan whispered to them in order to reveal to them their shame that was hidden from them…”(Qur’an vii: 19-20)’ When asked by God of their violation of His command, “They (Adam and Eve) said: ‘Our Lord we have wronged our own souls and if Thou forgive us not and bestow not upon us Thy Mercy, we shall certainly be lost’ ” (vii : 23). God then said: “Get ye down, Both of you,– all together (including Satan), From the Garden, with enmity to one another: but if, as is sure, there come to you Guidance from Me, whosoever follows My guidance, will not lose his way, nor fall into misery.” (xx: 123)
The contrast is very clear. In the Judeo-Christian tradition, Eve was to be blamed for the Fall, for which God punished all women with the pain of childbirth and subservience to their husband-master. God also decreed enmity between the woman and the serpent.
On the other hand, the Qur’anic Eve was not blamed at all. Both she and Adam shared the act and were both punished. God decreed enmity between Adam and Eve (mankind) on the one hand, and Satan on the other.
MICHELANGELO’S ADAM and EVE
In Judeo-Christian tradition, Eve was the cause of man’s fall from Paradise and that she and her kind deserve the worst. In the Bible (Sirach 25:18-23), it says: “There is scarce any evil like that in a woman; may she fall to the lot of the sinner!…..In woman was sin’s beginning, and because of her, we all die.”
Jewish Rabbis listed nine curses inflicted on women as a result of Eve’s succumbing to Temptation: “To the woman He gave nine curses and death: the burden of the blood of menstruation and the blood of virginity; the burden of pregnancy; the burden of childbirth; the burden of bringing up the children; her head is covered as one in mourning; she pierces her ear like a permanent slave or slave girl who serves her master; she is not to be believed as a witness; and after everything–death.”
To the present day, orthodox Jewish men in their daily morning prayer recite: “Blessed be God King of the universe that Thou has not made me a woman.”
For Christians, Eve’s fault was truly great because it was the Original Sin, which their descendants bore and for which the Son of God had to be sacrificed on the cross.
The foremost Christian thinker St. Paul had this to say: “A woman should learn in quietness and full submission. I don’t permit a woman to teach or to have authority over a man; she must be silent. For Adam was formed first, then Eve. And Adam was not the one deceived; it was the woman who was deceived and became a sinner”(I Timothy 2:11-14).
St. Tertullian was even more blunt than St. Paul. While he was talking to his ‘best beloved sisters’ in the faith, he said: “Do you not know that you are each an Eve? The sentence of God on this sex of yours lives in this age: the guilt must of necessity live too. You are the Devil’s gateway: You are the unsealer of the forbidden tree: You are the first deserter of the divine law: You are she who persuaded him whom the devil was not valiant enough to attack. You destroyed so easily God’s image, man. On account of your desert even the Son of God had to die.”
St. Augustine has this to say about Eve and her kind: “What is the difference whether it is in a wife or a mother, it is still Eve the temptress that we must beware of in any woman…I fail to see what use woman can be to man, if one excludes the function of bearing children.”
Poor Eve, she was / is blamed for everything while her husband, and partner-in-crime remained/s unscathed.
Nowhere in the Qur’an can one find anything degrading about Eve or women in general. In the Qur’an, it says: “He (God) it is who did create you from a single soul and therefrom did create his mate, that he might dwell in her (in love)…” (vii : 189)
From the holy books, it is clear who regards women as second-class or even worst-class beings. Eve, the first woman and the mother of mothers, is reviled in Judaeo-Christian literature. She was the archetypal Siren, the Temptress, the Enchantress. She was the cause of Man’s fall from Grace and loss of Immortality.
It can fairly be said that how one regards the First Woman is how one regards ALL women.