West Java, Muslim women conference rejects polygamy

The meeting aimed at boosting the role of female clerics in spreading Islamic teachings. Participants discussed and issued some fatwa. Broadening the role of women in Islam can counter extremist groups' propaganda. Muslim women can be "agents of change." Polygamy causes violence and is not part of Islamic teachings.

Jakarta (AsiaNews) – The first national conference of Muslim female clerics ended today in Cirebon, West Java. More than 700 of imams, scholars and Islamic academics took part in the three-day event at the Kebon Jambu Al-Islamy College.

The meeting was organised to boost the role of female clerics in disseminating Islamic teachings based on the Qur‘an, the Indonesian Constitution and international law.

The Fahmina Foundation (affiliated with the Wahid Institute), the Rahima Islamic Studies Centre, and the Alimat Family Rights Group organised the event.

The seminar focused on “three major issues: child marriage, sexual violence against women, and environmental damage", problems that contribute to social inequality, said Ninik Rahayu, one of the organisers.

For participants these issues were the most relevant in their respective communities.

During the meeting, the female clerics discussed and issued some fatwas, religious rulings, on crucial issues that directly affect millions of Indonesian women.

One of the issues centred on the role of women can play in educating communities about peaceful Islamic teachings.

According to some speakers, this has been effective against the propaganda of violent extremist groups in the communities affected by fundamentalism.

Participants from a number of Muslim majority countries, like Nigeria, Afghanistan, Pakistan and Indonesia, shared their experiences.

Afghan Ambassador to Indonesia Roya Rahmani said that Muslim women could introduce a narrative of “dynamic Muslims.” She added that Muslim women should be recognised as good negotiators because they can embrace people more effectively and tenderly than men.

From Pakistan, Bashra Qadeem shared her experiences promoting respect for different faiths and cultures in high schools in Peshawar, where communities often see teenage boys recruited as suicide bombers.

Through dialogue, in which mothers are eventually convinced that such “martyrdom” is wrong and not Islamic, women can become “agents of change,” Qadeem said.

The conference also highlighted the views of Indonesian Muslims over the controversy of polygamy. Women emphasised that this practice is not part of Islamic teachings.

According to Siti Ruhaini Dzuhayatin, who represents Indonesia at the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation’s (OIC), Islam never introduced the concept of plural spouses.

“Polygamy has existed since the jahiliyyah era,” Siti said, referring to the era of “ignorance” in Middle Eastern history prior to the advent of Islam.

“At that time, men were allowed to have an unlimited number of wives,” but “When Islam came, it humanised the practice by limiting the number [of wives a man could take],” she added.

“We should learn that the Qur‘an itself pushes for monogamy,” said cleric Nur Rofiah of the Jakarta Quranic College.

She added that the Holy Book “says that if men are not able to treat women fairly, then they must only have one wife. So, the requirement [for taking a second wife] is strict and that’s because the practice can lead to violence against women”.