Mary Magdalene

From Appearance of Jesus Christ to Mary Magdalene by Alexander Andreyevich Ivanov. Source: Wikimedia Commons

When Jesus rose early on the first day of the week, he appeared first to Mary Magdalene, out of whom he had driven seven demons. She went and told those who had been with him and who were mourning and weeping. When they heard that Jesus was alive and that she had seen him, they did not believe it.

Mark 16:9-11 (NIV)

The archetype of the stigmatized woman is no better demonstrated than through Mary Magdalene. To understand how she was perceived the reputation of having a background as a harlot, you might need to understand the mentality of the Middle East. The Muslim culture has its own social stigmas, and traditional Judaism also. How we came out from under the patriarchal umbrella that defines women’s behaviour as sinful and their existence as that of lesser beings than men is still evolving in the present day church as we accept modern interpretations or perceptions of the Bible, such as the story of Dinah in The Red Tent. The Bible has traditionally told this account of her story as a cover-up for the violent retribution of her father and brothers, who killed a hundred men. All this while not considering her point of view, or the stigma against Gentile husbands at her time.

The Bible does not confirm the notion that the Christian Religion does not have many women, perceived sinful or otherwise, for its heroes. In fact, the lineage of Jesus includes Rahab, a prostitute. Her story is found in the book of Joshua, Chapter 4 and Chapter 6, 17-25. “She provides shelter and support to Israelite spies, who are on an intelligence-gathering mission in her hometown of Jericho, a gated city in Canaan. Through her actions, she demonstrates faith in and allegiance to God” (Source: https://www.workingtolive.com/story-rahab-faith-action-can-transform). Yet when people see women selected for various roles in ministry are they more likely to criticize them than men. Are men unwilling to come under the leadership of women even though women are in leadership in the church, and have been selected and anointed by God. Do Christians still insist in a medieval way that women will dominate men with witchcraft if given the opportunity. That view is very biased, assuming that women are innately sinful without male domination; instead of the covenant paradigm of Jesus Christ indwelling every person who is called by his name. That indwelling presence is what turns us from a sinner to a saint. We realize our error in misperceiving women through the lens of male-dominated religion and patriarchy. Even in the modern world, the Muslim religion carried on its death threats against women who do not religiously follow its rules.

For example the story from Infidel by Ayaan Hirsi Ali.

“One afternoon, just after Ijaabo settled into our apartment, a young woman, Fawzia, knocked at our door, looking for Abdellahi Yasin. She told him she had no where to go. Fawzia had her three-year-old boy with her. The child was the son of someone Abdellahi know, an Osman Mahamud, but he was garac . . . born out of wedlock. Fawzia was alone, and she begged Abdehhahi to ask if she could stay in our house.

Abdellahi Yasin was embarrassed, but he came and told Ma and me the story. Ma got a look on her face like something smelled bad. She couldn’t have a prostitute in the house she said. I recoiled. There was nothing at all to indicate that Fawzia was a prostitute. I saw in front of me the image of the woman in the rag hut, in the camp. I said to Ma, “If you don’t let her stay, I’m leaving.”

It was a long struggle, but Mahad and Haweya backed me, and we won. Finally, Ma said, “She can stay but I don’t want to see her.” I found a clean sheet and a towel–those were the rarest things in our house-hold–and this poor woman ended up staying with us for a few months with her little boy. By that time, there were so many of us that Haweya Ijaabo, and I had to share a mattress.

To Ijaabo, Fawzia was the living face of shame, and she immediately embarked on a program to persuade her to repent her sinful ways and become a member of the Brotherhood. Ijjabo used to say,”The only way to wash off your shame is to pray, pray, pray and give your life to Allah, in search of forgiveness.” One evening when she was getting at Fawzia again, I snapped and told her to shut up–she was constantly irritating. I said Allah wouldn’t test us on whether we condemned somebody who became pregnant outside of marriage; He would rest us on our hospitality and charity.

Ijaabo quoted the Quran for the six-hundreth time that day. “The man and the woman who commit adultery, flog each of them on hundred time,” she said. I told, “Okay, here’s a stick. Since we don’t have Islamic law in Kenya, do you want to do the flogging?” Abeh, who was in the room at the time, laughed and took my side. Ijaabo acted angry and insulted for week.

Mahad and Haweya knew I was Abeh’s favorite, but they had also learned long ago not to complain about it. Jealousy is forbidden.

The Somalis all shunned Fawzia. When we never have dared to look at me that way: I was Hirsi Magan’s daughter. But Fawzia was known to all as a harlot, and she had no clan protector. She was prey.

Fawzia was used to the verbal and physical abuse. She was conditioned to believe that she deserved it. She told me to ignore Ijjabo’s remarks. Unlike Ijaabo, Fawzia used to help me with the cooking, cleaning, and shopping. After the early morning prayer, she didn’t go back to bed like everyone else did, but instead helped me bake angellos for everyone’s breakfast.

Fawzia told me clearly that she lived for only one thing: her son. He was prey, too. The other, bigger children treated the boy as an outcast. Aidarus and Ahmed, my young cousins, used to plague him. My family never stepped in to prevent the abuse. There was a stigma on him. It was the first time I had knowingly met the child of an unmarried woman.

Most unmarried Somali girls who got pregnant committed suicide. I knew one girl in Mogadishu who poured a can of gasoline over herself in the living room, with everyone there, and burned herself alive. Of course, if she hadn’t done this, her father and brother would probably have killed her anyway.”

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