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 United Nations Secretary-General underlined that the only option for resolving the crisis in Yemen is negotiation.
Mr. Ban Ki-moon "is aware of reports that other States, in particular members of the Gulf Cooperation Council, are also supporting these [Military] operations," said a statement released from the office of the UN chief's spokesperson.
Mr. Ban called for ensuring the protection of civilians and emphasized that "negotiations remain the only option for ultimately resolving the crisis."
A clarification message from the Pakistani embassy in Sana’a denies the rumors of Pakistan involvement on the air strikes against Yemen.
The source was surprised of including the name of Pakistan to the list of countries who participated in last night air strikes on Sana’a and other Yemeni cities.
Ambassador to Yemen Dr. Irfan Shami said, Several international media reports are erroneously reporting that Pakistani aircraft were involved in the air strikes launched by the GCC coalition against Yemen in the early morning of Thursday, 26 March 2015.
The Secretary-General of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) Iyad Madani called on all Yemeni parties to act wisely and put the interests of Yemen above all political, tribal and sectarian accounts.
In a statement aired by Saudi Press Agency (SPA), Madani described the developments that are currently taking place in Yemen as "serious".
Madani urged all parties to avoid the military option and to response to the international and regional efforts that call for a comprehensive national dialogue to find a peaceful way out of the deepening crisis in Yemen
Yemen stands on the brink of civil war amid deepening political tensions and an uptick in sectarian violence, United Nations Special Adviser Jamal Benomar warned [Yesterday] as he explained that only through dialogue could the country achieve a peaceful political transition.
Briefing the Security Council via video conference in a rare Sunday session, Mr. Benomar told the UN body that Yemen was on a “rapid downward spiral” as the conflict took on “worrying sectarian tones and deepening north-south divisions.”
“Emotions are running extremely high and, unless solutions can be found, the country will fall into further violent confrontations,” Mr. Benomar declared. “Events in Yemen are leading the country away from political settlement and to the edge of civil war.”
The situation in Yemen has been rapidly deteriorating since the country formed a new Government in November 2014 aimed at ending a period of political turbulence and bringing about a full transition towards democracy. Nonetheless, the country has continued to be plagued by violence and mass political demonstrations despite UN efforts to bring about a peaceful political resolution
Yemen's unity and stability are under huge threats, which casts serious consequences for the Arab region and the international peace and security, Egypt's Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry said on Monday.
"Yemen is facing multiple challenges, which makes it imperative to help Yemen and drag it away from the edge of the abyss ", Shoukry said in his speech during the Arab League Council meeting at the ministerial level held in Cairo.
He reiterated Egypt's support for the institutions of the state in Yemen to carry out their national responsibilities in maintaining the unity of Yemeni territory.
The United Nations announced on Sunday the launch of the humanitarian response plan for Yemen for 2015 with an amount of US $747.5 million to deliver humanitarian aid to 8.2 million people.
Humanitarian Coordinator in Yemen Johannes Van Der Klaauw said that the latest developments in Yemen confirm the importance of continuing humanitarian aid and expanding its domain to reach millions of vulnerable Yemeni people.
"Despite the political unrest in Yemen, the humanitarian community will continue to work in Yemen at its full capacity and within strong partnerships with local communities and local partners," Klaauw added.
He said that the humanitarian agencies are adhered to continue to deliver emergency humanitarian assistance and to provide protection services for people within the vulnerable groups.
He called on all donors and concerned parties to support such efforts and provide humanitarian response plan for Yemen during the current year.
The United Nations Security Council (UNSC) renewed on Wednesday its call for all political parties in Yemen to implement the Council's relevant resolutions, especially the resolution 2201.
The council urged Yemeni political parties to reach a political agreement based on the Gulf initiative and the Peace and National Partnership Agreement (PNPA), confirming its respect to the unity, sovereignty and territorial integrity of Yemen.
Chaired by Francois Delattre, the ambassador and Permanent Mission of France to the United Nations in New York, the UNSC confirmed its support for the efforts made by the UN Special adviser on Yemen Jamal Benomar.
In closed consultations which lasted for more than two hours, Delattre said, "We have heard Benomar's briefing over the latest developments in Yemen, reviewing our concerns the lack of political solutions as well as growing of terrorist threats due to the ongoing security vacuum."