Women – Poor in Their Own Granary

Men Mo, a Balinese woman in her seventies, will never forget the time in 2005 when the bombs shook Bali. She immediately realised how fragile her livelihood was. She could no longer obtain canang (tiny palm-leaf baskets), flowers and ducks for sesaji (offerings). Without worship, without the daily rituals that centre on the sesaji, for Men Mo there was no life.

Men Mo is a tiny, dark-skinned, illiterate woman from Pengubengan. Her given name is Luh Asih. She is the meme (mother) of Monastra, her eldest son, so by local custom she is called ‘Men Mo’, the mother of Mo. Luh Asih was born and has spent her whole life in Pengubengan Kauh, a traditional hamlet (banjar) that is part of the traditional village (desa adat) Kerobokan Kota Utara, not far from Kuta, Bali.

Everyone knows Kuta as the icon of Bali’s tourism, and a popular tourist destination since the 1930s. As tourism became a major industry, it expanded rapidly northward to the area where Men Mo and her husband Pan Mo live. Pengubengan changed very quickly. Farmland was sold to support the tourism industry, and the price skyrocketed. Like many other banjar, Pengubengan was a community of farmers, but the shift in the function of the land has changed the types of work available to the local people. None of Men Mo’s children work in farming. After gaining a high school education, they have become cogs in the tourism industry. They work in hotels, own warungs or small shops, or work as drivers or in restaurants. But not everyone in Pengubengan Kuah is able to pursue these new types of work. Older women feel the impact of the changes most, because all their knowledge and skill lies in the world of farming.

According to Men Mo, when she was young, Pengubengan was a vast, fertile rice growing area. As far as the eye could see, there was nothing but expanses of rice fields, with small shelters (kubu) marking the ownership boundaries. From before she was married, her only skills were rice farming and making jarit (woven coconut leaves), canang and banten for sesaji. After she married, she and her husband farmed the fields that they bought and those they inherited from their parents.

When they needed money for their children’s education, to prepare them for the many jobs opening up in the tourism industry, they sold off their land little by little, even though it was the source of their livelihood. Now, Men Mo and her husband are sharecroppers. They cultivate sixty ares (6000 square meters) of rice fields, owned by the same city dweller who bought their land from them. Their wage is one fifth of the rice crop that is produced, enough to meet their own needs. Men Mo and her husband are grateful that they don’t have to buy rice, but this security could be lost at any time if the owner decides to build on the land.

Tourism brought an income to many of the local families. Their homes have been renovated, and from the outside, their poverty is not obvious. But as Balinese, residents of a banjar, they have traditional religious and social obligations. But now, the materials for the rituals are not longer available from the natural environment and have to be bought with cash. Life therefore seems very fragile, as they experienced when Bali’s economy suddenly seemed to halt.

There is another process which brings impoverishment to the people of Bali – mortgaging of land. Once mortgaged, almost no one is able to redeem their farmland once it has been transferred to the moneylenders.

Bali may be the most dramatic example of such shifts in land use and its consequences for women. The rapid growth of tourism has forced Bali to choose between this industry and maintaining the agriculture sector. In fact, most people don’t really have a choice – they are essentially being forced to abandon their agrarian culture. Those who cannot survive are pushed into the interior, or become transmigrants or migrant workers. And yet it is Bali’s agrarian culture that is the heart and soul of its ‘Balinese’ – with its roots in religious rituals and traditions to maintain the balance between humankind, nature, and Sang Hyang Widhi Wasa (God). []

Launching on Fiqh on Child Marriage Book

Fikih Kawin Anak: Membaca Ulang Teks Keagamaan Perkawinan Usia Anak-Anak (Fiqh on Child Marriage: Rereading Religious Texts on Marriage in Childhood) book was launched on Thursday, October 8, 2015. The event was opened by the Director General of Islamic Community Guidance, Ministry of Religious Affairs, (Dirjen Bimas Islam) Prof. Dr. H. M. Machasin, M.A. with remarks by the Chairperson  of the Nahdlatul Ulama Executive Board (PBNU), K.H. Sulthon Fathoni, M.Si. Present were senior women’s activists, such as Ibu Saparinah Sadli, Ibu Syamsiah Ahmad, Ibu Tini Hadad, and Ibu Zumrotin K. Susilo, and also male activists, such as K. H. Husein Muhammad, a former commissioner of National Commission for Women (Komnas Perempuan). The event was also covered by Kompas in its Friday, 9 October 2015 edition.

The event was attended by a wide range of participants, not just activists, with a good balance of males and females. Rumah KitaB distributed 237 copies of the book at the launch, and interestingly, the chairperson of NU’s tanfiziyah (board) Prof. Makruf Amin, asked for 20 copies, because PBNU will be holding a fatwa session to support the government’s effort to raise the marriage age.

There was quite a  dynamic discussion on how to interpret the texts on child marriage in the launch of the book “Fiqh on Child Marriage: Re-reading Religious Texts on Marriage in Childhood”.

peluncuran fikih kawin anak

peluncuran fikih kawin anak peluncuran fikih kawin anak


In the introduction, the Director of Yayasan Rumah Kita Bersama, Ibu Lies Marcoes, M.A., explained that the purpose of this study is to complement social studies on child marriage, in which there is always a religious element used in justifying the practice. In the Constitutional Court’s rejection of the judicial review proposed by women’s activists seeking to raise the marriage age, and in other social/ political experiences that seek fulfillment of women’s reproductive health rights, it is always the case that religious arguments are used as an important foundation by both those supporting these efforts and those opposing them.

Thus, it was no exaggeration when Ibu Badriyah Fayumi, Lc, M.A., one of the resource persons, a female ulama who is highly respected for her excellent mastery of the classical religious text, said that if only the Constitutional Court justices had read the book Fiqh on Child Marriage, their opinions could well have been different and they would have understood and agreed that the marriage age needs to be changed in line with the needs of the current era. First, because the book has very strong religious references; second, because the book also contains data on the dire social and health consequences of child marriage; and equally important, the book examines the political practices of progressive efforts to raise the marriage age in Muslim countries elsewhere in the world.

At the book launch, the Director General of Islamic Community Guidance, Prof. Dr. H. M. Machasin, M.A. said that normatively, it is almost impossible for child marriage to satisfy the requirements for building a strong, healthy family with a proper vision. Fiqh cannot be applied as static law, because from the very beginning it has always been useful to seek solutions to social/religious problems relating to religious law, with a wide range of opinions. The problem is that it is always difficult for fiqh to resolve this diversity of opinions, and therefore the presence of the state is needed to build legal unification. Many efforts have been undertaken by the state, including the Marriage Law and the Compilation of Islamic Law (KHI). Both of these are political products and represent a compromise between fiqh and efforts to moderate Islamic law. Logically, both of these (the Marriage Law and KHI) can be reexamined when a new compromise is needed, for example with regard to raising the marriage age. And in his opinion, this book is an effort to provide a reference as a basis for why child marriage needs to be reexamined.

At the book launch, Rumah KitaB presented three resource persons, all of whom hold important positions, in MUI, PBNU and Muhammadiyah. Dr. Moqsith Ghazali, M.A. is from NU’s reconciliation commission and also a member of MUI; Ibu Badriyah Fayumi, Lc, M.A. is in a very strategic commission in MUI, the fatwa commission; and Ustadz Dr. Fahmi Salim, Lc, M.A., is in MUI’s dakwah (outreach) commission, and also holds a position in Muhammadiyah, with a very conservative and textualist perspective. Nevertheless, with their respective approaches, they appreciated and agreed with the efforts made by Rumah KitaB in offering to reexamine the texts related to child marriage.

Their suggestion was to prepare a very short version of the book, like a policy brief, as a handy reference for judges and decision makers, such as KUA (Religious Affairs Offices), in rejecting the practice of child marriage.


Tafsîr Bismillâh-i al-Rahmân al-Rahîm

Ahmad Yasin bin Asymuni al-Jaruni, Tafsîr Bismillâh-i al-Rahmân al-Rahîm, 65 pages, published and interpreted to pesantren version by al-Ma’had al-Islami as-Salafi Hidayatuth Thullab of Petuk Islamic Boarding School (Pondok Pesantren Petuk), Semen Sub-district, Kediri District, no year of publication; obtained from Pondok Pesantren Petuk. [Koran Interpretation]

This book explains the interpretation of Basmalah. Basmalah is so important because some scholars believe that all previous divine scriptures sent by God to His messengers (the Torah, the Psalms, and the Bible) was summarized and recorded in the Koran. Surely what is recorded is the universal values and the values of monotheism (tauhid) which confirms the existence and oneness of God—eventhough there are different ways and patterns in the aspect of worship and servitude to God, the one purpose is to worship and serve God.

While the Koran is summarized in Surat al-Fâtihah, surat al-Fâtihah is summarized in the Basmalah. And the Basmalah is summarized in one dot over the letter “Ba” located in the very beginning of the word Basmalah. The Basmallah is so significant that all Muslims’ activities should be started with the word. The author does not only interpret Basmalah only in itself (literally), but also discuss a number of issues related to the Basmalah, different ways of pronouncing it, and disclosing its privileges. [Mukti Ali el-Qum]