Women, texts and faith

Explore the lives of women in the sacred texts of the world’s major faiths, and the changing ways in which women contribute to religious practice in contemporary society.

Detail from the top of a lavishishy decorated marriage certificate.

Women in Islamic sources

Article by:
Raana B Shah

Dr Raana B Shah explores the presentation of women in Islamic sources, including their role in the scripture and contribution to Islamic sources, both Sunni and Shi‘a. She finishes by reflecting on the role of women in modern Islamic societies and offers some modern interpretations of the role of women in Islam.

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The finding of baby Moses. Illustration of three women gathered around a baby.

Women and gender in the Hebrew Bible

Article by:
Debbie Young-Somers

Rabbi Debbie Young-Somers takes a look at women within the Hebrew Bible, traditional and modern Jewish interpretation of the scripture and womens’ relationship with biblical education.

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A representation of the Virgin Mary wrestling the devil. She has vanquished him and has him pinned to the ground and is pulling on his horns. An angel watches from nearby while holding a baby. From the Taymouth Hours.

Women and Christianity

Article by:
Christine Joynes

Dr Christine Joynes discusses women in Christianity: both their presentation in the gospels and the apostolic letters, and the role of women in Christianity today, from the perspective of female leadership and their perceived role in society.

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Detail from Folio 22 of a 19th-century gilt board manuscript featuring Bhikkhuni Patimokkha

Women in Theravada Buddhism

Article by:
Ajahn Sister Sundara

Writing from the perspective of the Theravāda tradition, Ajahn Sister Sundara explores the role of women in Buddhism, in particular the role of Buddhist nuns.

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Further themes

Buddhism

The Buddha lived over 2,500 years ago, yet his life and teachings continue to inform the lives of millions of Buddhists worldwide. Learn about the Buddha’s teachings, the different Buddhist traditions, and Buddhist meditation.

Christianity

From its origins on the shores of the Eastern Mediterranean to its expansion to every corner of the globe in modern times, discover how the production of biblical texts enabled Christianity to become the diverse faith it is today.

Devotional texts

From medieval Christian Books of Hours to the Sikh empress Rani Jindan’s prayer book, explore how devotional texts have helped believers make a personal connection with their faith.

Hinduism

From its origins as an oral tradition over 4,000 years ago, to contemporary retellings of its epic stories, Hinduism is characterised by seemingly limitless diversity. Discover more about Hinduism’s sacred texts and the colourful gods and goddesses that feature in them.

Illuminated texts

The British Library’s collection comprises some of the most beautiful, handwritten and illuminated sacred texts from many of the world’s religions.

Islam

As the unadulterated Word of God, the Qur’an is sacred to Muslims everywhere. Learn more about Qur’an and its content, and Islam’s other important sacred texts, such as the Hadith and Sunna.

Jainism

Characterised by principles of asceticism and non-violence, Jainism has its roots in India in the sixth century BCE. Discover more about Jainism’s sacred texts, its cosmology, and the religious views and practices of its adherents.

Judaism

Explore how the Hebrew Bible and the Talmud inform the lives of Jews today, and how prayer books such as the Haggadah, used in worship and religious festivals, have helped sustain Jewish identity over many centuries.

Living Texts

Whether retold from one generation to the next, or written down from one language into another, some sacred texts have evolved while others have remained the same throughout time, enriching and informing the lives of those that read them.

Pilgrimage, text and place

Explore the connections between sacred spaces and sacred texts.

Sacred texts

All faiths have their origins in texts, be they the word of God as revealed to prophets, oral stories retold by one generation to another over centuries, or written down in books. Explore the origins and developments of the world’s major faiths.

Sikhism

Discover more about the origins of the Sikh faith, the role of the Sikh Gurus in the compilation of its sacred texts, and the importance of prayer to Sikhs.

The Baha’i Faith

Emerging in the mid-19th century, the Baha’i Faith has grown rapidly from its Middle Eastern origins, and now has around 8 million adherents worldwide. Learn more about the founders of the Baha’i faith, and how they disseminated their beliefs.

Women, texts and faith

Explore the lives of women in the sacred texts of the world’s major faiths, and the changing ways in which women contribute to religious practice in contemporary society.

Zoroastrianism

With its roots in central Asia 3,500 years ago, Zoroastrianism has a rich history of interaction with the Abrahamic faiths, and of migration around the world. Learn more about this ancient religion, and the sacred texts that inform its beliefs.