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Reading Session: The Women Of Islam
April 13, 2014
Date: Sunday, 27 April
Time: 3:30PM – 5:30PM
Venue: Graha Pemuda, Sri Hartamas
For his day, the Prophet Muhammad was a feminist. The doctrine he laid out as the revealed word of God considerably improved the status of women in the 7th century Arabia. In local pagan society, it was the custom to bury alive unwanted female newborns; Islam prohibited the practice. Women had been treated as possessions of their husbands; Islamic law made the education of girls a sacred duty and gave women the right to own and inherit property. Muhammad was then considered a liberal at home as well as in the pulpit.
What happened then after fourteen centuries later, when reform is, rather than a process, a historical blip subject to reversal?
While it is almost impossible, given the wide diversity, to paint one picture of women living under Islam today, it is clear that the religion has been used in most Muslim countries not to liberate but to entrench inequality. It is not far from the truth to say that the way Islam has been practiced in most Muslim societies for centuries has reversed the initial reformist agenda of the Prophet and left millions of Muslim women with battered bodies, minds and souls.
Debates continue over the appropriate level of female participation in the public sphere. Women are typically view as key to either reforming or conserving tradition because of their role in maintaining family, social continuity, and culture. Women’s status has also been used as a means of defining national identity. Though in contemporary era, women have again assume leadership roles in the Muslim world, tensions remain between traditionalists, who advocate continued patriarchy, and reformists, who advocate continued liberation of women.