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2.6 The Status of Women during Jahiliya
(pre-Islamic period)

According to Ashgar
Ali Engineer, during Jahiliya (time before the arrival of Islam religion) women
have no right, enslaved, and also they were treated as an object where they can
be inherited as a possession (20). “Among the pre-Islamic Arabs, when a man
died, his elder son or other relations had a right to possess his widow or
widows, marrying them themselves if they pleased, without settling a dowry on
them, or marrying them to others, or prohibiting them from marriage altogether”
(Maulana Muhammad Ali 20-21). According in the Holy Quran, it was stated that
Arab in Jahiliya used to bury their female infants alive (21). However this is
contradict to the Prophet of Islam had announced that, a people who do not bury
their daughters alive, do not humiliate her, do not prefer son to a daughter,
will be surely entered to heaven and one who patiently go through trials and
tests due to a daughter will be prohibited to hell-fire (Engineer 21). Ashgar
Ali Engineer concluded that, this is a great upgrading of women status. During
the pre-Islamic period, there is no restriction of the number of wives and this
verse is revealed:

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“And if you have reason to fear that you
might not act equitably towards orphans, then marry from among (other) women
such as lawful to you-two, or three, or four, but if you have reason to fear
that you might not be able to treat them with equal fairness, then (only) one

2.7 The Status of Women in Islam

“O mankind! Be conscious of your Sustainer,
who has created you out of the living entity (nafsin wahida), and out of it
created its mate, and out of the two spread abroad a multitude of men and
women. And remain conscious of God, in whose name you demand your rights from
one another, and of these ties of kinship. Verily God is ever watchful over


In the Koran
excerpt above, it clearly mentioned the statement concerning human beings and
the passage ‘created you from one single entity’ was stated that five times in
Koran. (K.6:98; 7:189; 30:21; 31:21 and 39: 6). This specific passage does not
directly refer to male or female but both. It shows the equality between man
and women in the eyes of God as it clearly presented in Holy Koran. According
to Roald, both men and women are equal in aspects such as humanity, intellect,
rights and obligations (123). However, both men and women have their own
responsibilities in term of marriage. In Islam, matrimony is considered as a
completion of life ( Khadija 123).

The hadith in al-Bukhari:

“The Prophet (p.b.u.h) said: ‘After me I have
not left any affliction (fitna) more
harmful to men than his wife, his children and his neighbors.” (al-Bukhari,
Book of Fasting, no.1762;Muslim, Book of Belief, no.208; Sunan at-Tirmidhi,
Book of Afflicatios, no. 2184)

on the hadith above, most responses to it are not seeing women as sinful
beings, but rather to warn men as they tend to look women as sexual objects
(Roald 126). Therefore, it clearly explains that both Hadith and Koran have no
prejudice towards women as both men and women are equal. However, many
religious texts have been interpreted from the point of view of andocentric
that resulting in negative perceptions toward the original texts’ content.
(Roald 118).

2.8 The Misconception and Manipulation of

In Hypatia, Okin stated that religion is
regarded unquestionably a good thing that has to be protected and taught to
people as young as possible (42). This is the main reason why society uses
religion to fulfil their needs and wishes because religion is something that we
can argue and respect. Therefore, “many violations of women’s basic human
rights both occur within families and are justified by reference to culture,
religion, or tradition” (Okin 39). According to Islamic belief, women belong to
men and men have authority over women (The Koran, Women, Verse 38) and this
line has been manipulated by the society that leading to the misconception of
religion. Williams stated that from Islamic view as clearly assured in Quran,
it is easy to see the cultural connotations of interpretation and the ways that
those cultural connotations can be one of the reasons of oppression for some of
the believers in that religion, even when many of them acknowledge the
interpretation as universal (13).

“Women’s unfreedom
stems not from Islam per se, but from the use and interpretation of Islam to
feed into and support overtly political agendas
and purposes which are in turn developed by and for men and serve patriarchal
interests, just as supposedly gender-neutral value systems, such as liberalism
and Christianity have been used by and for Western men” (Williams 13). It is
because religion and gender are tightly intertwined in Islamic countries. In
his essay Islamic Feminism and Feminist
Theory, Cathrine Williams proves that the interpretation of the Holy Quran
has a authorized system attached that take slight notice of changes in roles,
expectations and requirements and mostly mislead from the earlier
interpretations directly linked to the original text of Quran (13). Mostly the
oppression of women through religion happens because “the text Quran is
studied has little to do with original intent but more to the cultural
expectations of interpreter” (Williams 13).

2.9 Religion and Culture

According to Williams, culture determines how women are treated and how
they themselves see the world in which they live, not the religion because
cultural practices is different in all the states that declare themselves as
Islamic (8). Culture and society state that, by returning to, Raymond Williams in his study in  British Cultural Studies, “culture is a
description of a particular way of life, which expresses certain meanings and
values not only in art and learning, but also in institutions and ordinary
behaviour. The analysis of culture, from such as definition, is a clarification
of the meanings and values implicit and explicit in a particular way of life, a
particular culture” (46)

the effect on women, it is compulsory to develop an understanding of the
intention of the originator of that religion while discussing the religion in
its cultural context (William 10). Williams highlights that both men and women
are the members of the society and the ways they play their roles culturally is
not a religious matter (10). Afaf Lutfi al-Sayyid Marsot in her essay in
Feminism and Islam raises the issues of interpretation of Qur’an by men and how
the interpretation is different. “All interpretations of the Qur’an have been
produced by men, who consistently held the politico-judicial positions in their
society; the result was that different interpretations were underlined at
different periods” (34). According to Okin, “respecting cultural differences”
has become the euphemism for violating and denying the women’s human right
(36). In her essay Feminism, Women’s
human Rights, and Cultural Differences, Susan Moller Okin explains that the
issues of sexuality, marriage, reproduction, inheritance, and power over
children are concerned (issues that play a large part in most women’s lives
then they do in most men’s) arise, the relevance of cultural practice is often
claimed. These situations often are seen through the context of religion or
culture and not in other areas of life such as crime (Okin 36).





The study explores
and analyses the three literary texts on the basis of certain issues. The
issues that highlighted in every text are the misconception of polygamy, the
mistreatment of wife, and the misinterpretation of Islamic teachings.

In the process of completing this study, the selected literary texts by
three different Muslim women authors from different countries and continent who
share the same issues in their text are used. 
This study adopts the principle of Islamic views and referring to the
main sources in Islam; Quran and Prophetic Hadith and Sunnah and scholarly work
by Muslim writers as the main guideline. The literary texts of this research
are Melor in Perspective: Mariah by
Che Husna Azhari, one of the most well-known feminist writers in Malaysia.
Second, Umm Zakiyyah’s “His Other Wife”, a selected short story from an
American Muslim writer, who successfully made her literary works as a Da’wah to
spread the truth and struggles of Muslim women. The last text is “Her” by Titis
Basino, female writer from Indonesia.


3.2.1 Theory: Islamic Feminism     

The theory of
Islamic Feminism is one of the branches of Feminism criticism. Islamic or
Muslim Feminism theory is categorized under the third wave of the feminist
movement as it focuses more on emancipator activism. Gillis argues that
Islamic Feminism is one of the feminists voices in third wave feminism because
in this third wave feminism, the theory of feminism is redefine and it is not
merely focusing on ethno-specific ideal type but more to emancipator activism.
These are great opportunities for Islamic Feminists to find their strength
since “third wave feminist discourses allow Muslim Feminism a space in which it
can be both authentic or others” (Gillis 225). According to Alldred and
Dennison, the first wave of feminism depicted the ‘struggle for equality and
integration’, while the second wave of feminism revolving around criticism
about dominant values and hierarchies, and the third wave of feminism is about
the gender binary (126). In the essay entitled Muslim Feminism in the Third Wave: A Reflective Inquiry by Sherin
Saadallah, she stated that the pluralities in the third wave of feminism
provide more spaces compared to the earlier feminisms. However, this is a
debatable issue since some others claim that Islamic feminism is under second
wave of feminism.

 Badran defines Islamic Feminism as a “feminist
discourse and practice articulated within an Islamic paradigm” (242). In 1990s,
the term of Islamic Feminism began to be noticeable in all locations globally
(Badran 243). According to Williams, the theory of  Islamic feminism is a reaction to the
patriarchal structure explicitly stated in shari’a
and implied in all actions of society and the state that deny women their place
in that community (7). In his book Feminism
in Islam, Badran clearly stated that the focus of Islamic Feminism is to
“seeks rights and justice for women, and for men, in the totality of their
existence” (242). Islamic feminism is also has been describe as the
articulation and advocacy of a Quran-mandated gender equality and social
justice by some of the Muslim women (Badran 244).

“Islamic Feminism
is not a coherent identity, but rather a contingent, contextually determined
strategic self-positioning” (Cooke 59). Cooke emphasizes that in order to
promote justice and freedom, the actions, behaviours, pieces of writing that
bridge religion and gender issues should not be translated into seamless
identity (59). Badran asserts that Islamic feminism is more radical compared to
Muslim’s secular feminisms because “it insists on full equality of women and
men across the public-private spectrum” (250). Meanwhile, Al Faruqi claims that
people can understand better the reasons why Islamic feminism should be
acknowledged as a lawful and successful movement for revolutionize since “this
ideology expressly acknowledges that many Muslims women, their self-identify as
believers precedes their gendered identification”(53). This new feminism has
given rise simultaneously to hopes and to fears because there has been much
understanding, misinterpretation and mischief concerning this Islamic feminism
theory. Therefore, people should clearly understand with the aim of this theory
“reject the idea that Muslim women have to abandon Islam to secure their right”
(Murphy 2).

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