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Religion and Society

Male-female relations in Islam and Christianity: a Comparison

Martino Diez

The Islamic and Christian Ways to Conceive the Union between man and woman


is the title of a seminar that was held on 12 March at the John Paul II Pontifical Institute for Studies on Marriage and Family. The meeting began with the presentation of papers by Professors Hmida Ennaifer, of Zeituna University in Tunis, and Eduardo Ortiz, of the San Vicente Mártir Catholic University in Valencia, Spain.


As Prof Bruno Ognibeni said in the initial welcome address, the goal of the meeting was to shed light on the anthropological notions that underlie male-female relations in the two religions, with more legalist questions left for later. In fact it is only possible to understand the normative element in male-female relations if certain anthropological foundations are taken into account.


For Professor Ennaifer a reflection of this kind is urgent; for her Islam's traditionally legalistic approach to the matter is no longer sufficient. For his part Professor Ortiz stressed that the urgency of the matter depends above all on a dispute over the nature of the humanum


: in the beginning the human person, image of the Trinitarian God, was given in two different "versions", that of man and woman.


In their interventions the participants further discussed the relationship between the Creator and the beings he created, the sacredness of the human person, the link between nature, culture, religion and traditions.


At the end of the morning the role of the Law was addressed. Professor Ennaifer suggested that a more "directional" reading of the Qur'an, one that captures the purposes of the Holy Book by integrating them anew in changed social contexts, might offer a new method to address some of the more controversial issues in the field of family law.

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