The Women of the Arabs - Sample Essay

The article “Ajellak Allah or, The Women of the Arabs” was written in 1874 and the culture of the author shows through strongly in the various positions taken by the author and the controversial issues that are dealt with. The author is unnamed but in the article he represents himself as a missionary who has had contact with people in the Middle East, and because of his cultural and religious perspective, his bias toward the Arabs and their way of life comes through.

It is obvious that he does not like their religion and sees them as something less than civilized; however, some of the author’s points seem almost ahead of his time in terms of seeking a more equal respect for both sexes, most especially women. The author uses the attitude of the Middle Eastern and Islamic cultures towards women as a basis for his study of their culture.

The author says that Arabs viewed women so lowly that when a girl is born it is customary to say, “The threshold weeps forty days whenever a girl is born” and that young girls themselves understand their position in life, with one young girl saying, “As little as was the joy of my father on the day I was born! ” in reference to how small an object was (Ajellak Allah).

The author’s position throughout the article is that women are treated as if they mean nothing in the Arab world, and that the Arab world is full of poverty and uncivilized men. Throughout the article he refers to the men as “creatures” and “brutes”, giving the distinct impression that because of his Western Christian view, these people are to be considered uncivilized (Ajellak Allah).

The article makes some very outdated points about the culture of the Arab world, showing the prejudice that people during this time would have had towards non-Christians and how the cultural misunderstandings would have made such a distinct impression on the way people from each culture communicated with each other. While it is true that many non-Western cultures do not value females in their society, there has often been the same type of devaluing of women in Western cultures.

Some parts of the article even appear to be unbelievable, such as when the author writes that he “saw a woman and a donkey” yoked together, with a man driving them (Ajellak Allah). The article is definitely written in the voice of someone who has no respect for the cultural norms of the people with which he had his experiences and instead of looking at them through the eyes of an anthropologist or history, he is looking at them through the eyes of a missionary who is seeking to change the very essence of who they are, not learn about why they are the way they are.

Instead of looking down at the people an author writes about, the writer needs to clearly and concisely describe things from an analytical point of view and inform the public, instead of criticize without explanation.

Works Cited

“Ajellak Allah or, the Women of the Arabs. ” Scribner’s Monthly VII (1874): 559. APS Online. 8 Feb. 2007.