Giving Thanks for the Blessing of Reason: Reconstructing the Meaning of Wilayah (Guardianship) to Prevent the Practice of Child Marriage

Report on Discussion of the Book Fikih on Guardianship: Re-reading the Right of Guardianship for Protection of Women from Child Marriage and Forced Marriage

In Bekasi, on 20 October 2019, Rumah KitaB, in cooperation with Yayasan Perguruan Islam el-Nur el-Kasysyaf (YAPINK) and Institut Agama Islam Shalahuddin Al-Ayyubi (INISA), conducted a discussion of the book Fikih on Guardianship: Re-reading the Right of Guardianship for Protection of Women from Child Marriage and Forced Marriage. This event was attended by 194 participants (44 men and 150 women), comprising the Board of Pesantren Caretakers of YAPINK, the leadership of INISA, lecturers, teachers, and students, and invited Ulil Abshar Abdalla (PBNU), KH. Ali Anwar (YAPINK Board of Pesantren Caretakers), and Ahmad Hilmi, (member of the book writing team) as the resource persons. The discussion took place at the Lecture Hall of YAPINK’s Faculty of Culture, and acting as the moderator was Jamaluddin Muhammad (Researcher from Rumah KitaB).

Before the event started, KH. Khalid Dawam (Chairman of the YAPINK Board of Pesantren Caretakers) provided welcoming remarks conveying his appreciation for the intellectual work that has been done by persons who are willing and courageous enough to explore matters that are often considered final, such as fikih. This intellectual work to respond to what is happening in society, according to KH. Khalid Dawam, is not intended to ignore, negate, or disrespect the fuqaha who have set forth their thinking in the studies on fikih as presented in various books, but is instead a form of intellectual responsibility to address problems in society.

Al-Qur’an and the hadith are indeed one, but clearly their interpretations are not singular, KH. Khalid Dawam stated. Hence, he continued, it is still possible to discuss matters that are of a furuiyyah[1] nature.

If to date the community has believed that akil baligh [maturity] is one indication that a person is allowed to marry, now we must reexamine what exactly akil baligh is, and what its consequences are – particularly if biological maturity is used as a basis for allowing child marriage. This is because there are certain individuals who use this basis to commit actions that are not beneficial for all, thereby often giving rise to negative views about Islam. Observing this, KH. Khalid Dawam said, quoting the noted Egyptian Muslim intellectual, Muhammad Abduh: “Al Islamu mahjubun bil muslimin” (the glory of Islam is concealed by (the actions of certain) Muslims themselves).

The book Fikih on Guardianship prepared by the team from Rumah KitaB, according to KH. Khalid Dawam, is part of an expression of gratitude for our being given common sense, by using it as well as possible so that rigidity of thinking does not occur.

Ulil Abshar Abdalla stated that the book that is being discussed came about as a response to the widespread practice of child marriage in Indonesia. Following on from this, Ahmad Hilmi mentioned that Indonesia is among the countries with a high rate of child marriage.

This problem of child marriage has become so serious not solely because of legal issues, but also because it is intertwined with religious and cultural perspectives. Hence, according to Ulil, the book makes a significant contribution to resolving the problem of child marriage.

For example, the religious arguments that have up to now been used as a justification to allow child marriage are reconstructed in the study (in this book) and given a new meaning that is friendlier to females, particularly those who are likely to become victims of child marriage. As an example, the concept of ijbar in fikih differs from the concept of ikrah (coercion). Ijbar is the realm of protection by the father (guardian) to his daughter in order to protect her from all possibilities by choosing a proper partner for her. And clearly, a requirement for ijbar is the willingness of the daughter who is to be married. The power and authority to protect the rights and dignity of a child that are held by a guardian in ijbar cannot simply be reduced to the idea of coercion (ikrah).

[1] Furuiyyah literally means branch. But in this context, it can mean multidimensional.

 

REPORT OF BOOK ROADSHOW: “Fikih on Guardianship: Rereading the Right of Guardianship for Protection of Women from Forced Marriage and Child Marriage”

Thursday, 12 September 2019

13.00 – 16.00 Western Indonesia Time

Pondok Pesantren Cipasung, Tasikmalaya, West Java

AS part of the 2019 Book Roadshow, Yayasan Rumah Kita Bersama (Rumah KitaB) conducted a discussion and analysis of the book Fikih on Guardianship: Rereading the Right of Guardianship for Protection of Women from Forced Marriage and Child Marriage at Pondok Pesantren Cipasung, Tasikmalaya, West Java, on Thursday, 12 September 2019. The opening remarks were conveyed by Dr. Zaky Mubarak, M.Si., Director of Postgraduate Programs at Institut Agama Islam Cipasung, and Lies-Marcoes-Natsir, MA., Executive Director of Rumah KitaB. The event was attended by 149 participants, consisting of lecturers, teachers, and santri from Pondok Pesantren Cipasung, Tasikmalaya.

The discussion was kicked off by Dra. Hj. N. Ida Nurhalida, M.Pd. (PP Cipasung) who spoke extensively about the experience of Pondok Pesantren Cipasung in putting gender justice into practice. Next the participants, together with the resource persons, Prof. Dr. Amina Wadud (USA), Jamaluddin Mohammad (Rumah KitaB research team), and Ulil Abshar Abdalla, MA. (PBNU), discussed the various efforts of rereading which have produced an interpretation of gender relations that are more equal and fair as a thought product that socially has a broad influence in the daily lives of the Muslim community.

The event began with the reading of verse al-Isra`: 13 of the Qur’an, which states that for all persons, without differentiation by their sex, their actions have been determined, and on the day of Judgment will be shown to them in a book containing a record of all their deeds and actions while living in this world.

 

The Experience of Pondok Pesantren Cipasung

Dra. Hj. N. Ida Nurhalida, M.Pd., who is familiarly known as Ibu Nyai Ida, explained that ever since its founding by her grandfather, KH. Muhammad Ruhiyat, Pondok Pesantren Cipasung has applied what she refers to as gender justice.

According to her story, while leading and running the pesantren in 1931, KH. Muhammad Ruhiyat was assisted in his teaching not only by his son KH. Muhammad Ilyas Ruhiyat, but also by a female teacher, Ibu Hj. Suwa. KH. Muhammad Ruhiyat never assumed that women are lacking in expertise and would be unable to provide benefits to the pesantren. Ibu Hj. Suwa was given the broadest possible opportunity to teach the books “al-Jawhar al-Maknûn”, “Alfîyyah”, and other classic books to the male and female santri. This shows that KH. Muhammad Ruhiyat was truly a person imbued with gender justice.

According to Ibu Nyai Ida, this discussion and analysis of the book Fikih on Guardianship is not the first activity related to rereading of the fikih regarding women. Many years ago, in 1994, Pondok Pesantren Cipasung was host to a similar activity which began with the Fiqh al-Nisa` program of P3M together with Kiyai Masdar F. Mas’udi and his colleagues. This program received full support from her father, KH. Muhammad Ilyas Ruhiyat. This was the first time that Ibu Nyai Ida heard about the term “gender”.

After learning about and understanding the term “gender”, Ibu Nyai Ida then concluded that true equality is a core value whose presence is indisputable in the daily life of Pondok Pesantren Cipasung. Her own father, KH. Muhammad Ilyas Ruhiyat, deeply respected his wife and children. Males and females are given the same opportunities, with no discrimination or constraints. Everyone is given freedom to pursue their own interests, and even given the freedom to choose their own marriage partners, with no coercion.

Although her mother was only a primary school graduate, her father always involved her in consultation on all matters. Behind the success of her father, who was the Rais ‘Amm PBNU [Supreme Leader of the Central Board of Nahdlatul Ulama], was her mother, a modest person who always provided input and supported him in everything.

In later developments at Pondok Pesantren Cipasung, women were not only given the opportunity to teach or serve as guru ngaji, but also granted the mandate to lead formal educational institutions. For example, the Principals of the MI, MTs, MAN [primary, junior high, and senior high school level madrasah], senior high school, and even the Head of the STIE [economic college] within Pondok Pesantren Cipasung are all women. And based on observation, the women who lead these formal educational institutions are very successful.

Regarding child marriage, Ibu Nyai Ida told that one of her aunts was married at the age of nine. However, at first she was not allowed to live under the same roof as her husband; they were only allowed to live together after she reached the age of 15. She had many children, all of whom were successful.

In her day-to-day life, Ibu Nyai Ida recalled, this aunt seemed to be fine. But when encouraged to have a heart-to-heart conversation, she would tell about all the problems she experienced. She was very sad that she had not been able to pursue her schooling to a higher level, because she had to stop when she got married. She advised her children not to get married until after they finished university.

Ibu Nyai Ida heard many stories from relatives who married in childhood. They all said, “avoid getting married in childhood.” They even became involved in the campaign to prevent child marriage within the pesantren. It commonly happens that a girl santri is taken out of the pesantren by her parents in order to be married off. Quite often the pesantren has to negotiate with the parents to allow the girl the opportunity to finish her education at the pesantren, and then when she is old enough she is allowed to marry.

For Ibu Nyai Ida, child marriage is an emergency whose handling requires the involvement of many parties, including those from the educational world of the pesantren. It is true that there is no specific religious teaching that explicitly forbids child marriage. There are still differences of opinion among the ulama regarding this issue. Some deem that child marriage is acceptable and valid, while others feel it is not. Even if it is considered permissible, child marriage is not a good thing, because based on experience, it brings more problems that advantages.

In reading a text, according to Ibu Nyai Ida, it is essential to look at its background: why did this text appear, when, and in what context? This is what is called contextualization, which continually requires a balance between the text and the context so that the mission of Islam as rahmatan li al-‘âlamin, a blessing for all, males and females, can be carried out.

To further show concern for women, Pondok Pesantren Cipasung has established a WCC (Women’s Crisis Center) or PUSPITA (Pusat Perlindungan Wanita) which is part of Puan Amal Hayati. Many cases have been handled by PUSPITA. One of these was the case of a girl who was repeatedly raped by her own father. Ibu Nyai Ida related that every time the father wished to perpetrate this evil deed, he would order his wife out of the house, while the daughter was not allowed to go with her. He did this many times, with no resistance by the girl, until finally the crime was revealed and then reported to PUSPITA. The father was arrested and imprisoned; the girl was assisted by PUSPITA and enrolled in a beautician course, and eventually she married her teacher’s son. She now has a happy life with her husband.

In Ibu Nyai Ida’s view, what PUSPITA does is an effort to protect human lives and dignity, and this is part of religiousness. “Wherever we are, that is where we must carry out our religion. When we are at school or on the campus, that is where we engage in religious behavior, not just through our prayers or fasting,” she said.

 

Between Text and Context

The experience conveyed by Ibu Nyai Ida is truly extraordinary – departing not merely from theory, but from social reality which shows that women have what in the social sciences is referred to as agency or ahlîyyah: the ability to do something or to change something in society, and this has been soundly proven by the experience of Ibu Nyai Ida through the institutions of Pondok Pesantren Cipasung. This kind of experience is widespread in society: that women have capacity and agency, in many cases exceeding that of men.

Whether we realize it or not, the views that control us even now are views that were constructed by males. In the history of interpretation of the Qur`an, for example, almost all of the main players have been men; very rarely do we find tafsir written by women. In Indonesia, or even in the world, all writers of tafsir on the Qur`an are men.

Therefore, as conveyed by Ulil Abshar Abdalla, MA., the views on the role of women in society are often out of balance. The interpretations of the texts of the Qur`an and hadith regarding women, which were constructed and written by men, do not reflect the experience of women. As a consequence, there is a gap between text and reality. On the one hand is the realty that women are increasingly involved in society, while on the other hand the interpretations of the Qur`an and hadith – which are mostly written by men – still take a disdainful view of the roles of women.

This gap, according to Ulil Abshar Abdalla, has existed for a very long time, but recently it has come into question by Muslim intellectuals, including those in Indonesia. In the recent developments, as a country with a majority-Muslim population, Indonesia has taken great steps in granting a greater role to women. Sometimes these actions have been taken without first requesting approval from the ulama, and when the ulama are asked to grant approval, it may happen that not all of them agree. For example, nowadays there is a worldwide movement to give women adequate representation in social roles. As an example, the Indonesian law on political parties states that all parties are obliged to allocate 30% of legislative candidate positions to women.

Furthermore, in their organizational structure, political parties are also required to provide an adequate allocation to women. During the deliberation of the political parties law in the parliament, nobody made an issue of the 30% representation for female legislative candidates. There has never been any major dispute in Indonesia based on religious grounds regarding the greater role for women in political parties. Yet if we look at the experience of other countries with a majority Muslim population, this is still a matter of debate.

In the countries of the Arabian Gulf – Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, the United Arab Emirates and so on – whether women can be members of parliament is still a major issue. Do women have the ahlîyyah or agency to be members of parliament?

But in Indonesia, such questions have never been an issue. Yet the construction of the tafsir on this topic is still traditional, viewing women as creatures who must always be inside the home, never outside the home. This contrasts strongly with the reality in society, where many women are actively involved in political parties, as members of parliament, and as state officials.

Ulil Abshar Abdalla related that in the 1950s, a scholar from the United States named Daniel S. Lev conducted research on judicial institutions in various regions of Indonesia. In his research, he found a woman serving as a religious court judge. Obviously, this came as a great surprise, because in Indonesia, as a country with a majority Muslim population, it was possible for a woman to be given space to serve as a judge, something which would be unimaginable in other Muslim countries.

In the Qur`an there is a verse that reads “Al-rijâl qawwâmûn ‘alâ al-nisâ`,” [QS. al-Nisa`: 34]. According to Ulil Abshar Abdalla, the interpretation of this verse by the ulama tends to be rather uniform: that leadership is in the hands of men, while women are seen as mere followers. For example, Fakhruddin al-Razi, in his book “Mafâtîh al-Ghayb” (the last major Sunni tafsir, 13th century CE) states that the meaning of “al-rijâl qawwâmûn ‘alâ al-nisâ`” is that “men are given the right to act as leaders who control women”.

If we look closely, the basis of all the concepts about wilâyah and qiwâmah is “al-rijâl qawwâmûn ‘alâ al-nisâ`” (men are leaders for women). But in daily practice we often find that “al-nisâ` qawwâmâtun ‘alâ al-rijâl” (women are leaders for men). One obvious example is Ibu Nyai Ida, who currently serves as the Principal of MAN [senior high madrasah] II Cipasung. In this position, she has many men working under her.

Does Ibu Nyai Ida’s position as Principal of the MAN conflict with the Qur`an? So we are now faced with a situation in which there is a gap between “al-rijâl qawwâmûn ‘alâ al-nisâ`” as text and “al-nisâ` qawwâmâtun ‘alâ al-rijâl” as context or social reality. Hence, the challenge for Muslim scholars going forward is to build a construction of fikih that involves dialogue between the texts (al-Qur`an and hadith) and the context (social reality).

 

The Importance of Education for Equality

Ibu Nyai Ida noted that when she gives lectures at religious study groups (majelis taklim and pengajian), she always inserts material on the importance of education for both males and females. “In the majelis taklim, we tell them that if you want to have good offspring, their mothers have to be smart. If you have children, whether boys or girls, both must be given the same opportunity to study and get an education,” she said.

The importance of education for males and females was also conveyed by Prof. Dr. Amina Wadud. Quoting a hadith of the Prophet pbuh which states, “Seeking knowledge is an obligation for both male Muslims and female Muslims,” she said that the 1441-year history of Islam has shown the importance of education, because the very first verse that was revealed to the Prophet pbuh was “Iqra’” (Read!), which emphasizes the importance of reading. The existence of this command to read as a verse revealed to the Prophet pbuh added to the knowledge of the Muslim community at that time.

According to Prof. Dr. Amina Wadud, the Muslim community achieved its golden age at precisely the same time the people of Europe were stuck in the Dark Ages. But the Muslims failed to maintain this glory, because they were unable to preserve the spirit of the importance of education as taught by the Prophet pbuh.

It is important to note that the Arabic word “tarbiyah” (education), which comes from the root “rabbâ” (to educate, to care for), does not refer solely to a quantity, but instead relates to fostering and guidance to improve the quality of life and growth of boys and girls.

The quality of growth and development must be continuously improved through education so as to enable every person to have the opportunity to become a good servant of Allah. In Prof. Amina Wadud’s view, when Allah said He would create a khalifah on the face of the earth, this showed that every human has a responsibility to give their best in order to improve the quality of human life on earth.

“Truly, the history of the future has not yet been written,” said Prof. Amina Wadud. Therefore, every person, male or female, has the same opportunity to formulate great steps to achieve an even better future.

 

The Methodology Offered by the Book Fikih on Guardianship

According to Ulil Abshar Abdalla, the book Fikih on Guardianship is truly an effort to bridge the gap between text and context by proposing a tafsir based on maqâshid al-Islâm or maqâshid al-syarî’ah and the principle of benefit. One of the themes discussed in the book is child marriage. In fikih, there is a concept known as wali mujbir, a guardian who has the right to force his child to marry. In fact, this concept is still a matter of debate between the various mazhab (schools of thought); some mazhab allow a guardian to force his daughter to marry, others do not allow this, and so on.

To date, the popular understanding in society regarding wali mujbir is that a guardian or parent has the right to use his authority to force his daughter to marry. This happens in cases of child marriage in many regions of Indonesia. Research by Rumah KitaB has found that Indonesia is a country with a very high rate of child marriage.

Among the reasons why parents marry off their daughters at a very young age are economic factors, unwed pregnancy, the factor of traditional or social views that if a girl reaches a certain age but is not yet married, this brings tremendous shame to her parents, so they have the right to force her to marry even if she does not like her prospective husband, and many other factors. This concept of wali mujbir is then used – or misused – by parents to marry off their daughters without the girls’ permission.

As well as the issue of wali mujbir, which describes the relationships between parents and children in the context of the concept of wilâyah (guardianship), the book Fikih on Guardianship also discusses the relations between husbands and wives in the context of the concept of qiwâmah (leadership). Jamaluddin Mohammad noted that gender analysis is essential in looking at the concepts of wilâyah and qiwâmah. This is because the concepts of wilâyah and qiwâmah have become well established social institutions practiced since 1300 years ago, and have become part of the value system recognized and embraced by the Muslim community. Consequently, any efforts for renewal will certainly come under suspicion as attempting to alter the long-established nash or texts; people are trying to reinterpret something that is claimed to be indisputable.

Using gender analysis as a critical perspective, it will be found that the concepts of wilâyah and qiwâmah contain asymmetry or inequality in the general relations between males and females. This gender analysis is then reinforced using the approaches of maqâshid al-Islâm or maqâshid al-syarî’ah (hifzh al-dîn, hifzh al-‘aql, hifzh al-nafs, hifzh al-nasl, and hifzh al-mâl) in the framework of triangulation between text, context, and maqâshid al-Islâm. Here, the text and context are promoted to attain the great ideal of Islam, i.e. maqâshid al-Islâm.

The book Fikih on Guardianship mentions many efforts by thinkers and practitioners to show that the efforts for a rereading of the concept of wilâyah and qiwâmah are not something new in the study of Islam. Among the noted scholars who can be mentioned are Prof. Dr. Teungku H. Mohammad Hasbi Ash-Shiddiqiy, Prof. Dr. Mr. Hazairin Harahap, S.H., Dr. (HC). KH. Sahal Mahfudz, and Dr. H. Andi Syamsu Alam, S.H., M.H., as well as ulama from the Middle East such as Rifa’at Rafi’ al-Thahthawi, Thahir al-Haddad, Muhammad Abduh, and Qasim Amin. They are thinkers and practitioners who have tried to contextualize social changes with the original texts so that the texts remain relevant in overcoming the asymmetrical gender relations in the family.

Their ideas are truly extraordinary. Take for example Thahir al-Haddad, a thinker from Tunisia, who in his time proposed the idea that the registration of marriage is one element for the validity of a marriage. A marriage certificate is one of the foundations of a valid marriage. Furthermore, in his opinion talak, effecting divorce through repudiation, is the right of both men and women. So it is not only men who can perform talak but also women, and furthermore this can be done only through the courts. Simply uttering “thalaqtuki tsalâtsan” (“I divorce you” three times) does not automatically lead to divorce. But that is how it is seen in the classical books of fikih, and this is one of the things that today’s ulama are trying to change. []

 

Book Roadshow: Fikih on Guardianship

Pondok Pesantren Kebon Jambu,

Babakan Ciwaringin, Cirebon, West Java

Friday, 6 September 2019

Achmat Hilmi, Lies Marcoes

 

With support from the Oslo Coalition, Rumah Kita Bersama held a “Book Roadshow” activity for the book Fikih on Guardianship on Friday, 6 September 2019,  at the Sang Dwi Cahya Mulia Women’s Mosque, Pondok Pesantren Kebun Jambu (regarding the Women’s Mosque, see the report by Lies Marcoes). This pesantren is headed by Nyai Masriyah Amva, a very influential woman ulama in Babakan Village, Ciwaringin District, Cirebon Regency.

This activity was designed as outreach to publicize the book “Fikih on Guardianship” – Rumah Kita Bersama’s latest book, which was compiled based on the routine discussions of Dirasah Kutub Rumah KitaB on the concepts of Qiwamah and Walayah. These discussions produced a knowledge product that reconstructed the religious understanding on the concepts of the power relations between men and women, between husbands and wives (Qiwamah), and between fathers and daughters (walayah), in the domestic context and in public space, by presenting various methodologies for reading texts conceived by previous generations of scholars at both national and international levels.

This activity was attended by Prof. Dr. Amina Wadud, an Islamic feminist who has conceived the paradigm of Tauhid as an effort toward equality between men and women. Amina is currently in Indonesia as part of her sabbatical to write several knowledge projects relating to the issues of feminism and Islam. Also present were Buya Dr. (HC) KH. Husein Muhammad (ulama from Cirebon), and Ibu Nyai Masriyah Amva.

The event was attended by, among others, postgraduate students from Universitas Pendidikan Indonesia (UPI) Bandung, students from IAIN Nurjati Cirebon, ISIF Fahmina, Mahasantri (university level santri) from Ma’had Ali Al-Hikam As-Salafiyyah (MHS), Mahasantri from Ma’had Ali Ponpes Kebon Jambu, teachers from within Pondok Pesantren Babakan Ciwaringin, Cirebon, as well as male and female santri from pondok pesantren Kebon Jambu and from various other pesantren in Babakan Village. More than 200 participants were present.

In her welcoming remarks Nyai Masriyah Amva emphasized the importance of openness and tolerance. According to ibu Nyai, it is very important for the santri to attend this event to enrich their knowledge about the discourse on a tolerant Islam. This activity, according to ibu Nyai, is a response to the needs of the santri, who are currently facing the challenge of an increase in intolerant religious views in Indonesia which can potentially damage the relations between religious communities and reinforce discriminatory religious views toward women both in the private context and in public space.

Ibu Lies, in her remarks, expressed her thanks to Ibu Nyai Masriyah Amva and Buya KH Husein Muhammad. Ibu Lies has been teaching the concepts of gender justice for over thirty years, in various pesantren. Now, the concept of gender justice is growing in the world of the pesantren, in line with the perspective and character prevailing in the pesantren. In this way, the concept of gender justice can develop. In Indonesia, the concept of gender justice has been able to develop thanks to the existence of the pesantren. With their traditions, outlook, and knowledge, pesantren can apply the concepts of gender justice so as to bring about new models of knowledge products on gender justice based on the pesantren tradition and perspective. Thus, the pesantren have been proven able to develop religious inclusiveness in the social space of the pesantren community. But to counteract the rise in intolerant religious views in West Java, this Fikih on Guardianship Roadbook activity is being held at Ponpes Kebon Jambu, Cirebon, to strengthen the santris’ knowledge on the concepts of power relations with gender justice.

Prof. Dr. Amina Wadud explained about the concept of the mosque and the patterns of discrimination against women with a religious basis. According to Amina, mosques are part of the historic struggle for gender equality in Islam. Yet in the historical record, mosques have never provided the same, equal space for men and women; women are often placed in smaller prayer halls with a different social status from a mosque. Within an actual mosque, women are placed behind the men; they are treated as secondary visitors. This situation does not come from the teachings of God, but rather from men’s attitudes which are discriminatory toward women. God has never made an issue of the positions in worship of men and women, whether in the back, in the front, by the side or in the middle. Women can worship anywhere, in any part of the mosque, because God is present everywhere and has never stipulated a particular location for women to worship in a mosque. It is the men who determined that women’s place is in the back, at the side, and that the men are in front. These rules were made by humans and conflict with the concept of equal rights in worship which is taught by God.

Buya Husein, as the second speaker, explained the importance of reconstructing the understanding relating to Qiwamah and Walayah, because the religious interpretations currently available still see the power relations between men and women in a discriminatory and subordinating way. In his explanation, Buya Husein helped the participants to map the distance between religion as a spiritual locus with universal concepts of teaching, and religion as a product of culture in a particular region. As a universal teaching, religion embraces the concept of equality between men and women, because the highest power is with God alone, and other than God, all are equal except in their devoutness, not superior from their inherent status as males. This is different from the religious perspective produced as a product of a patriarchal culture, which states that men’s superior position relative to women is inherent. This view clearly contradicts the universal concept of religion. Any religious product that deviates, from justice toward injustice, from love to dislike, requires a reinterpretation of its religious perspective, as it conflicts with the general concepts of religion.

Roland Gunawan, as a representative of the writers of the book “Fikih on Guardianship,” explained that the emergence of the book was preceded by a lengthy series of eight discussions to seek and explore religious arguments as a basis and foundation for reconstructing religious views with gender justice in the concepts of Qiwamah and walayah.

Following the series of lectures, the activity continued with a discussion session. Three santri asked questions. Three questions of an abstract nature were raised by two male santri from Ma’had Aly Al-Hikam Al-Salafiyah and Ma’had Ali Kebun Jambu. The fourth question, based on the experience of women, was raised by a female santri from Ponpes Kebun Jambu. But the most interesting was certainly the question asked by the female santri, since its basis was the experience of women who suffer discrimination in public space, in connection with forced marriage.

The response from the participants was tremendous, as proven by the dozens of santri who enthusiastically used the discussion session to present their comments and questions. []

 

Finland expresses its gratitude for contributions to equality with special recognition – Rumah Kita Bersama Foundation from Indonesia among the recipients

Jakarta, 11 July 2019

 Finland places great significance on promoting equality in the world, and wishes to thank those who are working towards this common goal. To express its gratitude, Finland is presenting special recognition to individuals and groups around the globe. The names of the first recipients from 17 countries are released, with one of the honours going to Indonesian Rumah Kita Bersama Foundation.

 

Equality is a core value for Finland and its people. To highlight the importance of equality and to show gratitude for the valuable work that is being done to advance equality in society, Finland is presenting special recognition to individuals and groups around the world. Finland aims to encourage conversation about equality and promote initiatives for a more inclusive society.

 

Rumah Kita Bersama Foundation is a research institution aiming to empower women, children and marginalized groups in Indonesia. It pursues an equal society by shedding light on discriminating social and religious structures through advocacy, education and awareness building. It is led by Ms. Lies Marcoes-Natsir, an expert in the fields of women’s rights, reproductive health and gender in Islam.

 

“We are thankful for this Hän Honour that recognises our humanitarian work, the importance of equality among people and the acceptance of diversity of ethnicities, races, religions and genders. For Rumah Kita Bersama, the recognition serves as a motivation to work even more actively in the community”, said Lies Marcoes-Natsir, on receiving the Hän Honour at the Embassy of Finland in Jakarta on 11 July 2019.

 

“Rumah Kita Bersama’s work encapsulates very well the meaning of this equality campaign”, said Ambassador Jari Sinkari at the recognition ceremony. “Hän” is the neutral 3rd-person singular pronoun in Finnish language and the symbol of the campaign as it stands for equal opportunity.

 

Among other recipients of the recognition are individuals and groups from for example Singapore, Croatia, Namibia, Norway and Japan. They represent a range of fields, including education, minority rights and gender equality.

 

The recognition forms part of a broader campaign about equality, launched in June 2019 and continuing until the end of the year. Finland aims to bring questions of equality to the fore of the international conversation.

 

In 2017, the year Finland celebrated the 100th anniversary of its independence, it promoted action around the world in the name of gender equality and launched the first International Gender Equality Prize. The prize will be awarded for the second time in 2019.

 

List of recognition recipients: https://finland.fi/han/#Han_honours
Finland’s equality campaign website: www.finland.fi/han

Rumah Kita Bersama website: https://rumahkitab.com/en/

IGEP: https://genderequalityprize.fi/en

DISCUSSION OF BOOK ON FIKIH ON GUARDIANSHIP: RE-READING THE RIGHTS OF GUARDIANSHIP FOR PROTECTION OF WOMEN

Qiwamah and Wilayah Column:

[Over the next several months, this Qiwamah and Wilayah Column will appear in the Rumah Kita Bersama website. As well as reporting on the Roadshow for outreach on the book conducted in several cities, this column will try to reach a broader range of readers. Therefore, this column is presented in both Indonesian and English. This column is published four times, in cooperation with the Oslo Coalition]

 

Jakarta, 25 June 2019

Unchaining Fiqh from the Manacle of Asymmetric Relations in Gender’s Construction

JAKARTA. On Tuesday, 25 June 2019, Rumah Kita Bersama launched the book Fikih on Guardianship: Re-Reading the Rights of Guardianship for Protection of Women from Forced Marriage and Child Marriage. This book is the outcome of a study on classical and modern texts on the concepts of wilayah and qiwamah together with various religious figures, sociologists, anthropologists, legal experts, and activists conducted over several months.

This event took place in the hall of Griya Gus Dur at the Wahid Foundation, Menteng, Central Jakarta. The event was attended by sixty participants from various institutions: NGO activists, representatives of the government such as from the Ministry of Religious Affairs, Supreme Court, Ministry of Law and Human Rights, Ministry for Women’s Empowerment, Commission for Prevention of Violence against Women (Komnas Perempuan), Commission for Protection of Children (Komnas Perlindungan Anak), university lecturers and students, and the media. Also in attendance were three representatives of the Oslo Coalition, Norwegian Centre for Human Rights: Dr. Lena Larsen (the Director of the Oslo Coalition, one out of six thematic areas at the Norwegian Center Department), Prof. Dr. Nelly Van Doorn, and Kathrine Raadim (the Director of International Department at Norwegian Centre for Human Rights, University of Oslo).

To discuss the book, Rumah Kita Bersama invited four resource persons: Dr (CH) KH. Husein Muhammad (head of Pesantren Dar at-Tauhid, Cirebon and former commissioner of Komnas Perempuan), Nursyahbani Katjasungkana SH (women’s activist from LBH Apik Jakarta), Drs. Mohammad Noor SH, MH, (Judicial Judge of the Legal Bureau and concurrently Public Relations officer of the Indonesian Supreme Court), and Ulil Abshar Abdalla MA (young intellectual from Nahdlatul Ulama). The event was led by Lies Marcoes-Natsir MA from Rumah Kita Bersama.

In her introduction, Lies Marcoes noted that normatively, Islam places the values of equality of men and women as a principal value, but in terms of fikih law – where the law regarding social relationships within the family is constructed – the relations between males and females are placed asymmetrically.  In the concepts of fikih, the relations between these two genders are linked in ways that are slanted or imbalanced. Nevertheless, this asymmetrical construct is (often) considered to be certain, fixed, and immutable, or qath’i. In reality, these asymmetrical relations are not always accepted, even by the fuqaha themselves. This can be seen from their interpretations, which very obviously seek to achieve a fairer balance in the relationship. In the book, many figures are presented, including some from the Middle East such as Rif’at Thohtowi, Qasim Amin and Muhammad Abduh. From within Indonesia, the book presents the ideas of Kiai Salah Mahfud with his social fikih, as well as breakthroughs by religious court judges in the Supreme court as exemplified by figures such as Prof. Hasybi Asydidiqie, Prof. Hazairin, and Andi Syamsu Alam SH. They offer new ideas, in terms of both methodology and interpretation, on family law and on how these methods can be applied in court hearings.

Many people assume that Islamic law is whatever is set out in the fikih. In fact, according to Ulil Abshar Abdalla, Islamic law is not just what is stated in the (books of) fikih, though fikih is one part of the big picture.

Meanwhile, Nursyahbani Katjasungkana stated that the concept of guardianship in Islamic law differs from the concept of guardianship in both the Civil Code and the Marriage Law. In both those laws, women are allowed to serve as guardians; something that is very different from the concepts of qiwamah and wilayah found in the book. Nursyahbani also noted that this asymmetry occurs not only in fikih, but also in the Laws on Islamic family law, such as in the Marriage Law, which states that the man is the head of the household and the woman is a housewife. This indicates that the Marriage Law does not refer to international law or conventions such as CEDAW.

Another problem, as noted by Kiai Husein Muhammad, is that to date men have been at the center of the lawmakers, and they enjoy luxury in many aspects, including in the issues of wilayah and qiwamah. This process of granting luxury to men, according to Kiai Husein Muhammad, is not solely a form of delegation of rights based on gender due to descent or to relations that arise from the occurrence of a legal event, such as marriage, but is instead related mainly to the man’s responsibility and obligation to protect the rights of the children or the wife. In other words, this is a gender construct relating to the obligations and responsibilities of men, and not simply about rights.

Unfortunately, this kind of reading that emphasizes the aspect of obligations, rather than rights, is not very popular in the community. The fikih that we currently use, Kiai Husein Muhammad explained, is a product of medieval Arabic culture, which granted greater leeway to men based on their situation and condition. Methodologically, there are certain principles that should be upheld throughout the ages: the humanitarian ideals of Islam, the ideals that place males and females on an equal standing as humans. Since the death of the Prophet Muhammad, nearly all religious teachings are interpretations. And interpretations are closely linked to time and space, so the interpretations of religious texts, even (interpretations) of the hadith of the Prophet, are products of culture, while in fact they (should) constantly refer to the ideals of Islam.

To achieve a reading of religious texts that is fair to both women and men, a new methodology is needed – a method that is willing to read the changing reality in society. Women nowadays are better educated and more self-reliant. Consequently, a method for reading texts is needed that is friendlier and more sensitive toward women. In this way, the texts will be able to read the special needs of women, which have to date been covered up by the misogynistic power of the texts.

Such efforts are often accused of being a Western agenda that promotes immorality. Lena Larsen said that this egalitarian approach that is undertaken in rereading the concepts of qiwamah and wilayah does not promote immorality. Rather, these efforts are simply to protect the family, especially children and wives, who are vulnerable to unjust treatment.

The efforts to perform reconstruction or deconstruction of texts are not easy. Over many centuries, the existing theological ideas and interpretations have become sacralized. Thus, a significant investment of time and thinking is needed in this regard. But this does not mean it is impossible.

One of the initiatives that has been undertaken by Rumah Kita Bersama is the publication of the book Fikih on Guardianship: Re-reading the Rights of Guardianship for Protection of Women from Forced Marriage and Child Marriage. Muhammad Noor says that this book produced by Rumah Kita Bersama is important. In his opinion, this book can be used as a reference by judges and those who provide direct support to the community in handling cases of family law, especially child marriage and forced marriage. (Aida, Lies)

Seminar on criminalising and participatory trends in family laws in Muslim majority countries, Van Volenhoven Institute, Leiden, 15-16 Nov 2018

BERDAYA Report from MAKASSAR: Youth Initiative for Child Marriage Prevention

Around 30 adolescents participated in the BERDAYA Training Program for Child Marriage Prevention held by Rumah Kita Bersama on 1-3 June 2018 in Makassar, South Sulawesi. During the third day of the training, the participants were appointed as Child Marriage Prevention Ambassadors in their respective areas. They were asked to work in a group to come up with ideas and initiatives to campaign for child marriage prevention in their residential areas, Tamamaung and Sinrijala administrative villages.

Radiana was the guide for various competitions during the 73rd Indonesian Independence Day at RT.08, Sukaria 13, Tamamaung, Makassar.

Child Marriage Prevention Campaign at the People’s Party/Pesta Rakyat

The first group consists of the participants who live in Jalan Sukaria, Tamamaung Administrative Village. They initiated a child marriage prevention campaign during the 73rd celebration of Indonesia’s Independence Day. For the event that was held from 16-19 August 2018, the group formed a committee, made a budget plan, and created an event concept outlining various competitions for the adolescents, children, and mothers to be held as a part of the People’s Party.

Nearing the event, the group was busy preparing. They distributed tasks among them. Some were tasked with gifts, while others collected donations from people around the area. The community was excited that the adolescents were bringing back the People’s Party which had not been held in the area for quite some time. Interestingly, the group received a lot of help from mothers who live in the area. Children also enthusiastically registered to join the competitions. The girls were also busy practicing a dance to be performed during the event. Everyone was delighted!

Radiana is one of the most active adolescents at the committee. Radiana organized her friends and the children who wanted to participate in the competitions. Sri Dewi Permai, the event’s chairperson, was also seen busily preparing for her speech and the event report a couple of days before the event. “I don’t know what to say, this is my first time delivering a speech in front of a large audience,” Dewi stated nervously.

The competitions started on 16 August 2018. People gathered at Jalan Lorong Sukaria 13. Radiana and her friends, with the help of the mothers, prepared the equipment needed for the competitions. Cracker eating contest, marble-and-spoon race, and sack race were among the competitions held on the first day of the event. The wave of excitement continued on the second day as children aged 6-12 years, adolescents aged 13-16 years, and mothers joined a balloon dance. The third day of the event saw continuous excitement as people participated in a sitting-on-a-balloon competition. The group took the chance to campaign against child marriage during this competition. Each of the balloons had a secret note containing messages to support child marriage prevention which the participants had to read out loud once the balloons popped.

The group of mothers also celebrated and assisted the Child Marriage Prevention
Ambassador to prepare and enliven their activities

During the last day of the event, the stage was set and the traditional costumes for the dancers were ready. Our ambassadors enthusiastically prepared themselves to campaign for child marriage prevention during the night of the People’s Party.

Lorong Sukaria 13 was teeming. The men climbed the stage to put up the event’s banners. Children were seen arranging chairs while the adolescents were busy preparing gifts and the mothers were preparing snacks. All of them worked together enthusiastically. Ibu Ramlah, the wife of the village head, was also busy welcoming people. The women sat in front row while the men occupied the back row. As the children were really thrilled, they only wanted to sit right in front of the stage. The long-awaited party was finally held!

Tulolona Dance of Sulawesi was performed to open the event. Radiana and Neneng, in their green-colored Baju Bodo clothing, were the event’s masters of ceremony (MC). They invited their friend, Dewi, to deliver her speech and event report outlining the budget they managed. The head of the village, Muhammad Ridwan, gave a speech and opened the event. In his speech, he expressed his appreciation for the spirit and work of our ambassadors. He hoped that such an activity would strengthen the harmony in the communities.

The winners of each competition were announced during the party and each of them proudly went to the stage to claim their gifts.

In the middle of the event, our ambassadors took the chance to campaign for child marriage prevention. They presented data and facts on child marriage in Tamamaung taken from research conducted by Rumah Kita Bersama in 2017 in Tamamaung and Sinrijala Administrative Villages. The presentation was supplemented by national data on child marriage. Our ambassadors further presented information on the definition of a child and of child marriage as well as factors contributing to child marriage and its impacts. The event was concluded with a Tari Kipas dance performed by six girls.

The Ambassadors for Child Marriage Prevention giving information about child marriages facts

A Creative Campaign, Statements Stitching

Our child marriage prevention ambassadors who are students of Tut Wuri Handayani Junior High School in Tamamaung Administrative Village had a different idea to campaign for child marriage prevention in their school. Initially, they wanted to run the campaign by gathering students and teachers in the school hall. However, this idea was met with mockery as soon as their friends learned about the topic. This was indeed a common reaction to this topic.

On 3 August 2018, seven young people gathered to discuss how they were going to implement their child marriage prevention training’s follow-up plans, as they were worried that their initial idea would result in bullying. They agreed that they needed a better idea. Finally, they came up with an idea to campaign creatively with stitching. On the same day, they also came up with the idea to stitch the statement that reads ‘I need a diploma, not a marriage certificate’ on to their clothes. They believed that this statement would serve as a powerful reminder for them and others to prevent child marriage. The statement was also addressed to their teachers to gain their support for child marriage prevention in school.

 

 

On 19 August 2018, our ambassadors met again at the home of Ade, one of the ambassadors. They selected their cloths and distributed tasks between them. Interestingly, this stitching activity was not exclusively done by the girls, as a couple of boys also turned up to help.

 

Activity embroidering statement

For them, stitching is an easy and interesting activity to do as they are accustomed to doing it during their craft lesson at school, but it was only then that they realized that stitching could be used in a campaign. They planned to display their works on the wall of their art room. They intend to meet their school’s headmaster to get permission and support for their campaign. (Sartika Nasmar)

PHOTO GALLERY OF BERDAYA: TRAINING OF PARENT CAPACITY BUILDING IN CHILD MARRIAGE PREVENTION, CIREBON, 18-20 AUGUST 2018