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Women Shaping Islam

Reading the Qur'an in Indonesia

Pieternella van Doorn-Harder

Publication Year: 2006

In the United States, precious little is known about the active role Muslim women have played for nearly a century in the religious culture of Indonesia, the largest majority-Muslim country in the world. While much of the Muslim world excludes women from the domain of religious authority, the country's two leading Muslim organizations--Muhammadiyah and Nahdlatul Ulama (NU)--have created enormous networks led by women who interpret sacred texts and exercise powerful religious influence. _x000B_In Women Shaping Islam, Pieternella van Doorn-Harder explores the work of these contemporary women leaders, examining their attitudes toward the rise of radical Islamists; the actions of the authoritarian Soeharto regime; women's education and employment; birth control and family planning; and sexual morality. Ultimately, van Doorn-Harder reveals the many ways in which Muslim women leaders understand and utilize Islam as a significant force for societal change; one that ultimately improves the economic, social, and psychological condition of women in Indonesian society.

Published by: University of Illinois Press

Title Page

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pp. iii

Copyright Page

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pp. iv


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pp. vii

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pp. 1-24

When I asked Ibu Chamama Suratno in the summer of 2001 if she feared any negative consequences from the increasingly loud and visible extremist Islamic groups that had come to dominate the Indonesian press, she responded: “Never! We will never succumb to fundamentalist Islam. It has no place in Indonesia; it is a Middle Eastern import. And we will debate...


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1. Discussing Islam, Discussing Gender

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pp. 27-49

The work of the women of ‘Aisyiyah and Muslimat NU cannot be separated from their environment; it sustains continual conversation with local cultures, with developments concerning women’s position generated by the state, and with trends within Islam. Islamic opinions concerning the status of women are not static but are influenced by historical conditions and...

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2. Competing in Goodness: Muhammadiyah and Nahdlatul Ulama

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pp. 50-83

Indonesia is a vast country, and “Indonesian Islam” comprises a variety of interpretations concerning the role of Islamic law, methods of interpreting the holy sources, and opinions about religious pluralism and local cultures. This chapter looks at some of the main representations of Islam in Indonesia. It tries to locate the organizations of Muhammadiyah and Nahdlatul...


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3. 'Aisyiyah's Jihad

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pp. 87-130

Ibu Uswatun’s hand was raised in a fist, and many of the thousands of listeners returned the gesture with fervor. As a preacher of ‘Aisyiyah, she was used to addressing large audiences, but not in her wildest dreams had she expected to air her political opinions in front of such a large crowd. In spite of the fact that she was a well-known preacher, her work had mostly been...

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4. Nurturing the Future: Nasyiatul 'Aisyiyah

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pp. 131-161

It was easy to choose Ibu Uswatun as a model to portray her organization, since it was her task in ‘Aisyiyah to “guide researchers.” In the beginning, she was present during all the hours I read the organization’s historical material and visited its projects. My map with notes holds more from and about her than any other ‘Aisyiyah member. Even though I talked with many other...


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5. Tradition Revisited: The Pesantren

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pp. 165-202

“Did you notice that not one man was present during the whole graduation ceremony? No man spoke, and all the female teachers used their own names. Not once was a man’s name mentioned!” A female teacher at an Islamic boarding school (pesantren) whispered this observation in my ear around midnight after a graduation ceremony for the women students who...

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6. Tradition in Action: Muslimat NU

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pp. 203-236

Speak to one Muslimat NU woman and you might find the dutiful spouse of an ultraconservative kiai. Engage another in conversation and you might find yourself speaking to a socially active member of Parliament in Jakarta. The first may have initiated the construction of a birthing clinic; the second may teach the Qur’an in her free time. Many Muslimat NU women, barely...

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7. Post-Tradition: NU Activists

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pp. 237-260

The young NU generation practices an amalgam of new trends of thought and interpretation of Islamic texts that have entered the NU discourse since the 1970s. These ideas, many of them proposed by Abdurrahman Wahid, were converted into action when P3M and the think tank Lakpesdam arose from the folds of established NU leadership. The young generation that...

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pp. 261-268

The women introduced in this book have to be extraordinarily creative in juggling the many demands emerging from their families, careers, society, and the Muslim organizations they belong to. I came to know them at a time when the Suharto regime was still firmly in power. Indonesian society and trends in Islamic discourse have since undergone seismic changes. ...


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pp. 269-292


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pp. 293-295


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pp. 297-315


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pp. 317-324

E-ISBN-13: 9780252092718
Print-ISBN-13: 9780252030772

Page Count: 336
Publication Year: 2006