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 government of Yemen and donors held the fourth follow-up meeting today in Sana’a to discuss the progress made in the Mutual Accountability Framework (MAF) and the level of aid absorption in the last quarter of this year.
The meeting was chaired by the Yemeni Prime Minister, the Chairman of Executive Bureau to Accelerate Aid Absorption and Support for Policy Reforms Board (EB), Eng. Khalid Bahah, from the government and the World Bank, G4 and GCC Mission representing donors. The meeting was attended by the Ministers of Planning, Finance, Transport, Public Works, Trade number of deputies and government institutions chairmen.
The meeting, which was attended by GCC ambassadors and donors representatives as well as private sector, parliament and CSO representatives, has discussed the policy reforms implementation and absorption of donors’ aid included in the EB’s annual report. The meeting also debated the next steps and mutual commitments of both the government and donors.
Mrs. Amatalim Alsoswa, the EB’s Managing Director, welcomed the attendees and highlighted the significance of the meeting which was held after the formation of the technocratic government led by PM Eng. Khaled Bahah. She also said that the meeting was held after one year passed since the launching of the EB under which worked under exceptional security, political, economic and stability challenges.
“The Yemeni government and donors community should agree on a work plan and a mechanism to increase the level of allocation, approval and disbursement of the remaining funds as well as the development of a National Plan for the Foreign Aid as it represents a primary indicator and regulator of the GoY-donors relationship from one side, and the government.” Mrs. Alsoswa said.
From his side, the Prime Minister stressed that the cabinet targeted a number of priorities in its program. The primary priorities were security, stability, spreading State’s control and push the economic development wheel forward. “The government is working to make the best use of the donors’ pledges and reach high absorption rates for these resources
The UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has strongly condemned the Tuesday bomb attacks in Radaa city in Bayda province, which killed more than 25 people, including at least 15 schoolgirls.
"There is absolutely no justification for such cowardly terrorist acts that brutally take the lives of innocent civilians, including children", said a statement read by Spokesman for UN Secretary-General.
The statement called for the perpetrators to be brought to justice.
In the statement , the UN Secretary-General expressed his sympathies and sincere condolences to the families of the victims of these heinous attacks.
The UN Secretary General Advisor on Yemen Affairs Jamal Binomar condemned on Friday the two terrorist attacks which took place on Tuesday in Rada city, Al-Baidha governorate, claiming the lives of 26 people, mostly children.
In a statement issued on Friday, Binomar said that: “As we offer our condolences to the families of the victims, we condemn these two terror attacks.”
An informed source in the local authority in Hodeidah governorate has said that terror elements attacked one of the “Ansar Allah” popular committees location in Kornish street using a booby-trapped car.
members of the popular committees confronted the attack killing two suicide bombers before they blew themselves up while the two others managed to blow themselves up.
The Parliament approved in its meeting on Thursday the Government's general program and voted unanimously to give confidence to the government.
After completing the discussion of the government program, the parliament listened to a report by the parliamentary committee on the main observations made during the debates and directed a number of recommendations to the government
The Republic of Yemen has strongly denounced the Israeli aggression which led to the killing of the Palestinian Minister and Head of Popular Committee Against the Settlement and Apartheid Ziad Abu Ain.
"While the Republic of Yemen denounces this brutal assault, it shoulders Israel the responsibility of this atrocious act that contradicts humanitarian values," said the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in a release issued on Wednesday.
The International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) has held in Amman, Jordan, a four-day workshop on the implementation of Yemen's project portfolio.
The workshop, which started on Monday, also intends to review the general conditions and adopted procedures for all IFAD projects and financing agreements.
Representatives of at least 30 relevant bodies take part in the workshop, including Economic Opportunities Fund (EOF), and Ministries of Planning and International Cooperation, Finance, Agriculture and Fisheries.
At the opening session of the workshop, Yemen's project portfolio Director Mohammed Abdul-Qader talked about the importance of applying the IFAD-adopted procedures and regulations of the financing agreement and the general conditions to implement projects, stressing that IFAD's all projects aim to eradicate poverty in rural areas.