Women as Role Models (Exemplary Women in the Holy Koran)


Assistant Professor, Faculty of Psychology and Education, University of Tehran


There are some ambiguities about the status of women in Islam, and
this paper studies exemplary women in the holy Koran by content analysis, referring
to valid interpretations. Its basic questions include: Koran’s method in introducing
models, gender roles in Koran, and Koran’s criteria and modeling principles about
exemplary women. The findings demonstrate that the Koran has acted very precisely
to introduce models based on certain criteria. Koran uses the term “osveh”
for “model” and discusses two kinds of models: positive and negative ones; and explains
their characteristics and behaviors in a creative manner. Most of the required
virtues stated in the holy Koran are common or similar for both genders, and some
other virtues are embodied in women examples. The most significant of them is
Mary who is praised as a very great human being, a believer and also a sign of God
for all believers including men. Koran mentions that gender is not an obstacle for
having freewill and independence in making decisions; and presents two women
as examples for freewill; even though they usually are under greater pressure than
men. The holy Koran concentrates on two virtues for all: standing against oppression
and leading a pious life; and introduces two women as role models with such
virtues, not men. Furthermore, the Koran introduces and praises a female governor
who takes a different approach from men in governing a country and successfully
manages complex issues such as war and peace. Instead of confronting the army
of King Solomon, she took a diplomatic approach. Regarding women’s gender roles,
motherhood and women’s role as a wife is greatly emphasized. In this regard, the
holy Koran underlines the pivotal role of moving towards the right path; a woman
accompanying her husband in this path is a perfect spouse, and on the contrary, a
woman should not obey or accompany her husband if he is going astray. Furthermore,
regarding motherhood, the holy Koran mentions mothers’ suffering and their
love and protection for their children under the most severe conditions.