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Women Shaping Islam

Women Shaping Islam: Reading the Qur'an in Indonesia

Copyright Date: 2006
Pages: 336
  • Book Info
    Women Shaping Islam
    Book Description:

    In the United States, precious little is known about the active role Muslim women have played for nearly a century in the religious culture of Indonesia, the largest majority-Muslim country in the world. While much of the Muslim world excludes women from the domain of religious authority, the country's two leading Muslim organizations--Muhammadiyah and Nahdlatul Ulama (NU)--have created enormous networks led by women who interpret sacred texts and exercise powerful religious influence. _x000B_In Women Shaping Islam, Pieternella van Doorn-Harder explores the work of these contemporary women leaders, examining their attitudes toward the rise of radical Islamists; the actions of the authoritarian Soeharto regime; women's education and employment; birth control and family planning; and sexual morality. Ultimately, van Doorn-Harder reveals the many ways in which Muslim women leaders understand and utilize Islam as a significant force for societal change; one that ultimately improves the economic, social, and psychological condition of women in Indonesian society.

    eISBN: 978-0-252-09271-8
    Subjects: Sociology, Religion, History

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-x)
  3. Introduction
    (pp. 1-24)

    When I asked Ibu Chamama Suratno in the summer of 2001 if she feared any negative consequences from the increasingly loud and visible extremist Islamic groups that had come to dominate the Indonesian press, she responded: “Never! We will never succumb to fundamentalist Islam. It has no place in Indonesia; it is a Middle Eastern import. And we will debate with those who preach it and teach them the true fundamentals of Islam.” She is the national chair of ‘Aisyiyah, one of the largest organizations for Muslim women. Since its inception in 1917 it has taught women the essentials of...


    • 1 Discussing Islam, Discussing Gender
      (pp. 27-49)

      The work of the women of ‘Aisyiyah and Muslimat NU cannot be separated from their environment; it sustains continual conversation with local cultures, with developments concerning women’s position generated by the state, and with trends within Islam. Islamic opinions concerning the status of women are not static but are influenced by historical conditions and recurring or newly emerging debates about gender. This chapter surveys some of these constellations in places where they affect the activities of the women leaders. It tries to provide a roadmap situating the women within the forces they must respond to at all levels of work,...

    • 2 Competing in Goodness: Muhammadiyah and Nahdlatul Ulama
      (pp. 50-84)

      Indonesia is a vast country, and “Indonesian Islam” comprises a variety of interpretations concerning the role of Islamic law, methods of interpreting the holy sources, and opinions about religious pluralism and local cultures. This chapter looks at some of the main representations of Islam in Indonesia. It tries to locate the organizations of Muhammadiyah and Nahdlatul Ulama within this spectrum in order to understand how their religious propensities have contributed to their teachings on gender issues.

      There are continuing discussions about how to discern the different groupings within Islam.¹ Sharp definitions from the past are fading as new trends develop...


    • 3 ‘Aisyiyah’s Jihad
      (pp. 87-130)

      In May 1998, Ibu Uswatun gave a passionate speech to an enthusiastic audience. Standing on a platform facing the mosque of the Kraton, the palace of the sultan of Yogyakarta, she called for the end of corruption and the end of the Suharto regime:

      All Mbak Tutut [the president’s daughter, who was the minister of social affairs at the time] does to heal the wounds of our nation is hand out bags of rice. We Muhammadiyah women can do that. We do not need to be in the ministry for that. We have handed out food to the poor for...

    • 4 Nurturing the Future: Nasyiatul ‘Aisyiyah
      (pp. 131-162)

      It was easy to choose Ibu Uswatun as a model to portray her organization, since it was her task in ‘Aisyiyah to “guide researchers.” In the beginning, she was present during all the hours I read the organization’s historical material and visited its projects. My map with notes holds more from and about her than any other ‘Aisyiyah member. Even though I talked with many other members, this method of transmitting information illustrates ‘Aisyiyah’s bureaucratic and hierarchical model as top-heavy, trying to maintain control of all that goes on. It also shows that some of its members have time to...


    • 5 Tradition Revisited: The Pesantren
      (pp. 165-202)

      “Did you notice that not one man was present during the whole graduation ceremony? No man spoke, and all the female teachers used their own names. Not once was a man’s name mentioned!” A female teacher at an Islamic boarding school (pesantren) whispered this observation in my ear around midnight after a graduation ceremony for the women students who had memorized the entire Qur’an and studied the complex science of its interpretation. The ceremony had been a glamorous event; the graduates sat on chairs decorated with golden bows. Their dresses were shiny green satin, their slippers golden. They wore the...

    • 6 Tradition in Action: Muslimat NU
      (pp. 203-236)

      Speak to one Muslimat NU woman and you might find the dutiful spouse of an ultraconservativekiai. Engage another in conversation and you might find yourself speaking to a socially active member of Parliament in Jakarta. The first may have initiated the construction of a birthing clinic; the second may teach the Qur’an in her free time. Many Muslimat NU women, barely a generation removed from the old ways, now work against practices their parents or grandparents considered natural—child, forced, and arranged marriages, polygyny, refusing women an education. Whatever their background or current position, a wellspring of personal experiences...

    • 7 Post-Tradition: NU Activists
      (pp. 237-260)

      The young NU generation practices an amalgam of new trends of thought and interpretation of Islamic texts that have entered the NU discourse since the 1970s. These ideas, many of them proposed by Abdurrahman Wahid, were converted into action when P3M and the think tank Lakpesdam arose from the folds of established NU leadership. The young generation that learned from the P3M workshops and studied publications by Lakpesdam became dissatisfied with the traditional models of leadership and interpretation within NU and spearheaded their own initiatives. Remarkably, some of the most intense and creative of these NU activities originated in Yogyakarta,...

  7. Conclusion
    (pp. 261-268)

    The women introduced in this book have to be extraordinarily creative in juggling the many demands emerging from their families, careers, society, and the Muslim organizations they belong to. I came to know them at a time when the Suharto regime was still firmly in power. Indonesian society and trends in Islamic discourse have since undergone seismic changes. The Islamic resurgence has resulted in increased awareness of religious identity. For some Muslims this means increased practices of personal piety. For others it means an emphasis on the rules of the Islamic law: they may wish to follow the law more...

  8. Notes
    (pp. 269-292)
  9. Glossary
    (pp. 293-296)
  10. Bibliography
    (pp. 297-316)
  11. Index
    (pp. 317-324)
  12. Back Matter
    (pp. 325-326)