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.
At least 11 people were killed in Dhalea province when the Saudi warplanes targeted al-Mahla area with several raids, a military official said.
The Saudi warplanes also hit Harib-al-Qaramish area and Serwah district of Mareb province with several air raids, the official said, adding the raids caused many casualties.
Moreover, a woman was wounded when the aggression targeted Hareb-Nehm in Sana'a province with two air raids to back an attempt of the hirelings to make progress on the ground.
In Sana'a province, the Riyadh's hirelings targeted the army and popular committees' sites in Nehm district and fired tens of rockets on Mabda'a, Bani Bareq and Malh areas in the district, according to the official.
The hirelings in Taiz province hit al-Qashuba area in al-Waze'yah district, al-Amri and Dhubab city with artillery shells.
The aggression dropped sound bombs on the sky of Harf Sufyan district of Amran province, he noted.
Meanwhile, the Saudi aggression intensified flying on the skies of the capital and its suburbs, Taiz and its coastline, Sa'ada, Hajjah, Mareb and Mahweet, Jawf provinces.
An agreement was reached to release one thousand prisoners from both of the parties to the conflict in Yemen before the holy month of Ramadan, sources in the national delegation in Kuwait said on Thursday.
The sources explained that each party will submit a list of 500 prisoners to the United Nations next Saturday, which in turn will hand over the list of each party to the other party.
The national delegation continued on Thursday, during a session with the UN envoy to Yemen Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed, to discuss ideas and proposals relating to the transition roadmap.
In the session, the national delegation insisted on the need to form a consensus executive authority and determine the time-bound tasks and powers of the transitional phase leading to presidential and parliamentary elections.
The delegation underlined the importance of finding adequate guarantees for a political solution leads to stopping the Saudi aggression, lifting the siege, achieving peace and ending the suffering of the Yemeni people
Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) has called on all parties to the conflict in Yemen to take steps to end the suffering of civilians.
The MSF demanded the parties to the conflict to ensure the safety of health facilities and their workers and give them the opportunity to do their job effectively and safely.
" The organization (MSF) does its efforts in areas that are most in need of medical and humanitarian assistance and we ask all parties to the conflict to respect our work, " MSF's official Will Turner said in a press release.
Turner confirmed that the organization will remain committed to providing health care to patients and respond to the emergency medical needs and will stand by the side of the conflict victims.
Scores of the aggression’s hirelings were killed and others injured, including al-Qaeda leaders, in clashes occurred in al-Maslob district of Jawf province, a military official said Tuesday.
The official confirmed the killing of the two terrorists Manea Hamad Gharza and Mohsen Saleh al-Hadar and a number of mercenaries during a failed attempt to infiltrate towards the army and popular committees locations in al-Waqaz area of al-Maslob district.
The Saudi-led coalition warplanes waged on Tuesday three raids on Harib Nehm area western of Mareb province, in a flagrant breach to the ceasefire.
A local official said that the hostile raids came in conjunction with repulsing the aggression mercenaries who tried to advance toward Harib Nehm area.
The aggression’s hirelings crept toward al-Khaneq area and Wadi al-Namla in direction of Sanomah junction and al-Dhabiya’a area in Harib Nehm, where they were repelled by the army and popular committees and many of them were killed and injured, a military official said.