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 Cabinet on Wednesday urged all the concerned political parties to accelerate the formation of a new government.
In its meeting, which was chaired by Acting Prime Minister and Minister of Electricity Abdullah al-Akwa, the cabinet pointed to the importance of the new government formation in stabilizing the political, economic and security situation and overcoming the current problems.
The cabinet's meeting touched on a number of topics, especially the issues related to the service and development aspects.
The cabinet stressed the need to keep the different educational institutions away from any conflicts and the importance of commitment of all parties to maintain the safety of employees and students in these education institutions.
President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi chaired on Monday a meeting of the panel of presidential advisors along with Prime Minister-designate Khalid Bahah.
They reviewed the latest developments in the local arena, besides procedures to form a new government and distribution of the ministerial portfolios in accordance with criteria agreed upon by all components.
Ibb University Council approved Sunday the halt of study in different colleges for a week due to security reasons in the governorate.
The council formed a committee to communicate with the local authority and concerned political forces to withdraw their militants from near the university for it is an educational institution to the governorate's sons.
President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi stressed on Sunday the importance of accelerating the formation of the new government based on the peace and national partnership agreement.
During the meeting, Hadi urged Khalid Bahah, the Prime Minister-designate, to meet with all political powers and components in order to form a new government based on the standards of integrity, competence and experience.
He also emphasized the importance of combining efforts of all political and societal components to face economic and security challenges in the country.
The newly appointed Prime Minister Khaled Bahah has called the International Community to speed up honor their pledges they announced about during Yemen Friends' Meetings held in Riyadh, New York and London.
During a formal ceremony held at the UN Premises on Friday on the occasion of ending duties as Yemen's Permanent Representative to the UN, Bahah talked about providing suitable environment to enhance Yemen's economy to help improving humanitarian and political situation in Yemen, as well as providing protection to weak social categories.
He reviewed a series of political, security, economic, humanitarian and social challenges that will face the expected national partnership government he will form after his arrival to the country.
Yemen has called for gathering regional and international efforts to confront and combat the crime of human trafficking.
At the Regional Conference on combating human trafficking hosted by Sudan's capital Khartoum during October 13-16, Yemen stressed in its speech, which was delivered by the ambassador Abdulelah Hajar, the importance of seeking to eliminate the main causes of the growing phenomenon of asylum and illegal immigration, represented in poverty, illiteracy, unemployment ,oppression ,armed conflicts and natural disasters
The Cabinet discussed in its meeting held Thursday security and economic situations in the country, as well as the performance of the government's institutions.
Presided over by Deputy Prime Minister, Minister of Electricity Abdullah al-Akwa', the government studied measures must be adopted by all ministries and government bodies to deal with present challenges and the implementation of Peace and Partnership Agreement signed by political parties
Japan expressed on Wednesday deep concern and strong condemnation of the terrorist attacks taken place in Sana'a and Hadramout last week.
At least 66 people were killed on October 9 in a suicide bombing in the capital Sana'a and a car bomb attack on an army checkpoint in eastern Hadramout governorate.
"Japan expresses its absolute condemnation of these terrorist acts, and offers sincere condolences to the families of the victims and wishes a speedy recovery to the injured," the Japanese Foreign Ministry spokesman said in a statement posted on the Ministry's