Badriya Yasmeen Dowe, thestar online - The Islamic Arts Museum Malaysia (IAMM) is currently holding an exhibition on the role of women in the Islamic world. The image of Muslim women was, to some extent, set in the 19th century when they were depicted as less than real individuals in art and literature.
Today, the view held by many in the West is that Muslim women are second-class citizens, trapped in their homes and hidden behind the veil. While this latter view is true in certain countries, it is by no means the norm as often the oppression of women is due to cultural rather than religious traditions.
Since the beginning of Islam, women have played important roles in society. Khadijah, Prophet Muhammad’s first wife, was the first convert to Islam. His third wife, Aisha, was a great contributor to the sayings of the Prophet (hadith), which went on to become a component of the shar’ia (Islamic law).
The deeds of these women secured them a place in the annals of Islam and it would be hard to find a single Muslim that did not know who they were.
Unfortunately, the same acknowledgment has not been extended to the many women who were able to attain the exalted position of sovereign. Occasionally, in Islamic history, women ruled jointly with their husbands, but they have also governed their own territories outright, having their names mentioned in the Friday khutba (sermon), and inscribed on coins.
One such woman was Yemen’s Arwa binti Ahmad al-Sulayhi. She was born in 1048 in Haraz, Yemen, a member of the Sulayhid dynasty, vassals of the Fatimid dynasty in Cairo.
Arwa was taught that in Yemen, the wife of the ruler shared power with her husband and was not meant to stagnate in the harem. At 17, Arwa was married to her cousin al-Mukarram. After considerable upheaval, al-Mukarram passed his power on to Arwa, and retreated from public life.
Queen Arwa focused her attention on the welfare of her people, building mosques, roads and fountains. She also took a deep interest in cultural and religious studies and set up several centres for education. Arwa ruled Yemen for over half a century, never losing the support of her people, who affectionately called her Balqis al-Sughra (Young Queen of Sheba).
In the Indian subcontinent, Nur Jehan may be less famous than Mumtaz Mahal, but her fame among the Mughals was far greater. Born Mihr-un-Nisa (Sun Among Women) in 1577, she was a handmaiden at the palace.
Prince Selim (Jahangir) fell in love with her when he spotted her at the palace bazaar in the spring of 1611, but his desire to marry her was thwarted by his father, Emperor Akbar.
Eventually the two were married and she was given the honorific title Nur Jehan Begum (Light of the World Queen).
Nur Jehan brought the emperor under her influence, concentrating real political power in her hands. Using the emperor as a puppet, this wily individual ruled in his name for 11 years, from 1616 till 1627. She became a legend, sitting on the throne alongside the emperor, with firman (pronouncements) and coins issued in her name.
Women have been among the most significant factors behind the success of Islamic empires since the 7th century. Their faith, intelligence, influence and beauty have been central to Islamic history. Their role in religious, military and social affairs was acknowledged as early as during the time of the Prophet.
Why then is so little known about these extraordinary women?
The reason for this is the scant attention they were given by contemporary and later historians, who either completely omitted them or downplayed their significance. Though Islam raised the status of women and ensured them certain rights, the society they lived in was still extremely patriarchal. And there were those within society who found no pride in being ruled by women.
The two above-mentioned queens are just a sampling of the plethora of Muslim women that were able to rise to prominent positions. The exhibition Faith and Power: Women in Islam at the Islamic Arts Museum Malaysia (IAMM) brings these women out of obscurity and gives them their pride of place in Islamic history. The exhibition runs until July 4, this year.
There is an accompanying catalogue available for purchase at the IAMM gift shop which provides a more comprehensive look at the lives and achievements of the women featured in the exhibition. The women highlighted come from all over the Islamic world, from Spain to South-East Asia, and span the entire Islamic period up till the present day.
A forum will be held at the IAMM auditorium to discuss issues relevant to the modern Muslim women. This is open to the public and free of charge. The tentative date is May 31.
The UN envoy to Yemen confirmed on Monday that the consensus of the participants in Yemeni peace talks held in Kuwait on bringing peace makes reaching a solution possible.
"There is no doubt that there are significant differences in views, but the consensus of the participants to bring peace makes it possible to reach a solution,” the UN envoy Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed said in a statement issued after the talks session Monday.
“There are only two options; either to continue the war or to consult and make concessions in order to achieve peace and all parties should assume responsibility for their decisions,” the UN envoy added.
The Saudi-led coalition has continued to fly intensively on the skies of many provinces, including Sana'a, Taiz, Mareb, Sa'ada, Mahweet, Lahj, Hajjah, Shabwa, Hodeida, Jawf.
A military official said the Riyadh's hirelings targeted the army and popular committees' sites in areas of Beer Basha, al-Khalel in Khadir district, in Jahmaliyah, Klabah, al-Salal and 40 Street in al-Dhamgah district in Taiz with light and medium weapons.
Moreover, the Riyadh's hirelings pounded the army and popular committees sites in al-Shabakah area, al-Ghawi Mount and al-Ain Mount, al-Jurf Mount, al-Shuqairah valley, Hasanat area with mortars in al-Waze'yah district of Taiz, according to the official.
The army and popular committees sites were also targeted by the mercenaries in Nehm district of Sana'a province.
In Mareb province, the hirelings bombarded the army and popular committees sites in al-Mashjah, Hilan Mount, al-Rabiah in Serwah district with medium and heavy weapons.
The Saudi fighter jets dropped flare bombs on different areas of Razeh district in Sa'ada, he said.
The hirelings pounded also areas in al-Ghail and al-Moton districts and targeted sites of the army and popular committees Aibar valley in Jawf with light weapons.
The national delegation in Kuwait met on Monday with ambassadors of the five permanent members of the UN Security Council and the European Union (EU).
The meeting reviewed the conduct of the consultations over the past days and the reasons for the lack of progress in the negotiations, topped by the non-compliance of Saudi Arabia to the ceasefire.
At the meeting, the national delegation stressed that the consolidation of the cease-fire is the key factor for the success of the ongoing negotiations in Kuwait.
The delegation pointed out that the continuation of war and aggression and the other party's disavowal from his responsibilities was the reason for delaying the arrival of the delegation members to Kuwait.
The national delegation demanded pressure toward the success of the negotiations through the implementation of the first item, confirming its keenness on the success of the political process based on consensus and not exclusion.
A new talk session between the national delegation and Riyadh's delegation was held on Saturday in Kuwait.
A Yemeni military communication and coordination committee and UN army experts participated in the session to brief the delegates on their activities and the difficulties they face in their work to make sure the cease-fire is respected.
In the presence of UN envoy to Yemen Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed, the talks continued to discuss the cessation of hostilities, in addition to review the general framework of the talks.
In the session, the UN envoy suggested to issue a statement supporting the ceasefire, which was accepted by the national committee. However, the Riyadh delegation rejected the proposal.
The ceasefire committees in Jawf province signed on Friday a document detailing a mechanism to establish the ceasefire in all fighting fronts.
in a copy of the signed document, which included several terms, the most important are: ceasing fire in all fronts in the province, stopping military mobilization and reinforcements in all fronts, observing the ceasefire by the concerned committees, placing a mechanism for the direct communication between the two parties, halting all acts of detention in the public roads, completing measures for prisoners swap and releasing detainees, allowing humanitarian and relief works and opening roads.
Ansarullah official spokesman has said that the desired solution must be inclusive dealing with all issues.
"We do not want a piecemeal a partial solution. We want a comprehensive solution includes all issues to go to sound solutions," Mohamed Abdulsalam said in the opening session of the peace talks kicked off in Kuwait on Thursday.
He expressed reservations about the continuation of the airstrikes and the five points, which he said "were not clear either in their sequences or content."
He said that they held a dialogue with Saudi Arabia to make Kuwait talks successful, stressing that they will deal positively to come out with an obvious solution leads to partnership.
The talks was supposed to start three days ago, but the national delegation refused to leave Sana'a on time.
Abdulsalam said that the delay was because of the war that has not ceased. "The reasons for the delay are the continued air raids [on Yemen] and the ambiguity in the talks' agenda."
He appreciated the role played by Kuwait and the facilities they offered to succeed the talks.
Head of the General People Congress (GPC) delegation confirmed that the GPC is keen on the path of peace and dialogue as it does in 2011.
A delegation consisting of representatives of the General People’s Congress (GPC) and Ansarullah headed on Wednesday to Kuwait to partake in the dialogue called for by the United Nations.
In a statement to media before departing Sana’a International Airport, the official spokesman for Ansarullah Mohamed Abdulsalam said the delegation’s first purpose is the success of the dialogue, despite the continuing bombing and blockade.
" We are going to Kuwait to prove to the public opinion, the Yemeni people and the army and popular committees everywhere that we are keen on achieving the security and stability,” Abdulsalm said.
He confirmed attending the dialogue, despite the reservation, which came in the delegation’s letter to the UN envoy, about halting the military acts and about the ambiguity in the UN agenda.