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.
President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi chaired on Thursday a meeting of the Supreme Military and Security Committee.
The meeting touched upon the latest developments on the ground and the current Houthi escalation in and around the capital Sana'a which represents a threat to security, stability and public tranquility in the city and coincides with current efforts to bring in a solution for the current crisis.
The UN annual report of the State of Food Insecurity in the World (SOFI 2014) has said that Yemen is one of the most food-insecure countries in the world.
"Conflict, economic downturn, low agricultural productivity and poverty have made Yemen one of the most food-insecure countries in the world", according to the SOFI 2014 report published on Tuesday by the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) and the World Food Programme (WFP).
"Besides restoring political security and economic stability, the government aims to reduce hunger by one-third by 2015 and to make 90 percent of the population food-secure by 2020."
The report showed that the government also "aims to reduce the current critical rates of child malnutrition by at least one percentage point per year."
The Assistant of the UN Secretary-General and his Special Adviser for Yemen Jamal Benomar on Wednesday held talks with Abdul Malik al-Houthi in the province of Saada in the framework of consultations with concerned parties in order to find a peaceful solution to the current crisis in Yemen.
Benomar said that the talks, which lasted three hours, focused on solutions to the crisis that can be agreed on by all parties and be based on the outcomes of the comprehensive national dialogue conference.
The Human Rights Watch has announced today granting its Alison Des Forges Award for the Extraordinary Activism for 2014 to four activists including Yemeni female activist Arwa Abdu Othman.
HRW said in a release posted in the organization's website, the prestigious award has been granted this year to four courageous activists from North Korea, Africa, India and Yemen.
"The winners are among voices calling for justice in their countries and working tirelessly for protecting rights of others and their dignity," said the organization, making it clear that it chose Arawa Othman because she is a key activist working for ending child marriage in Yemen.
A military raid on houses in Hota town of Lahj province resulted on Sunday in arresting three terrorists elements, a military source at the Fourth Military Region Command said.
The military source said that a number of automatic weapons and RPG launchers and silencer pistol were found during the raid, noting that the military and security services are still investigating and pursuing the remnants of the terrorist elements and cells who fled from the area.
The European Union has denounced any act aiming at diminishing the political transfer in Yemen, stressing that parties involved in armed clashes must abandon their weapons they seized from state's army and to abide by effective laws.
In a release issued by the EU Commission today on the occasion of the International Day of Democracy under the motto "Sharing Youth in the Democratic Process," it made it clear the world is focusing on involving youth in the democratic process.
"Half of the population in Yemen is under 15 years and one third of the population is between 15-29," the release said. The released added that the Yemeni youth cannot wait more as they are aspiring for more prosperous future and calling for a new Yemen people share power and resources away of dominance of any group or individuals.
President Abd-Rabb Mansour Hadi on Saturday met with a number of Sheikhs, dignitaries, and social figures from Heziaz area, southern the capital Sana'a.
Hadi during the meeting said that Yemen now is facing critical situation due to current Houthi escalation in and around the capital Sana'a, which needs more caution and avoiding not entering in a conflict with Houthi armed militias.
"We don't mind, and under the constitution and laws, to organize peaceful protests, but trying to storm government facilities, schools, police stations or houses is something forbidden,'' President Hadi said.
He urged everyone to bear his national responsibility in order to avoid fighting in the capital
Yemen's ambassador to the United Kingdom Abdullah al-Radi met on Friday in London with British Minister of State for Middle East Affairs Tobias Ellwood.
In the meeting, al-Radi and Ellwood discussed the underway arrangements for the next meeting of Friends of Yemen Group scheduled on September 24 in New York, as well as the aspects of bilateral cooperation between the two countries.
The British minister confirmed his country's strong support to President Abd Rabbo Mansour Hadi to complete the entitlements of the transitional stage and translate the outcomes of the national dialogue conference (NDC). He stressed that the international community would not allow any group or party to obstruct Yemen's exit march to the prospects of harmony ,peace, development and prosperity.