By :  Umdah El Baroroh

The terminology of ulama’ in Indonesia came from Arabic language, a plural form from the word ‘aliim, which means the knowledgeable person. There are two words which are kognated with ilm that is utilized to address the knowledgeable person namely aalimun  which is become isim fa’il (subject form) from the word ‘alima, and ’aliimun  which have similar meaning with ’aalimun or part of shighat mubalaghah. The plural form from the word ’aalimun is’aalimuuna, namely jamak mudzakkar salim (the plural form which address to male meaning with the addition of letter waw and nun in the back of the word.While the plural forms of ’aliimun is’ulama, namely jamak taksir (the plural form which had been changed from its single form). Although ulama is a plural form which addressed to the man who have reason, but in Arabic languange when the word  had been mentioned, it also include two sexes completely, the men and women. So, when the term ‘ulama is said,  so ill will address both to men and women. 

But when the term is absorbed to Indonesian language, there will be litte difference. When ‘ulama in Arabic language literally can include two sexes directly, but in Indonesian language the term of ulama have connotation to certain sex, namely men. Therefore what people will understand when we say ‘ulama it will refer to a knowledgeable man or a man who have knowledge. In addition to that, ulama in Indonesian language will become a tittle and a call for one specific person which beside from his/her intellectual capacity, also have good ethics and attitude. They usually also have several students or pupils, who stay in his/her house or not. Usually in Indonesia, an ulama have a pesantren (boarding school) which become dormitory and learning place for the students. 

How About Women ? 

The process of development of a scientific discipline, such as language or other disciplines, usually are influenced by culture and social context that happened at that time. The  standardization of ulama in Indonesia which almost addressed to on certain gender, also can be separated by those influence. Although in term of capacity, there will be met several names which are capable to bear the such tittle. 

Moreover in Saudi Arabia, a place where the term of ulama came also face the similar transformation of meaning. Even probably the transformation situation is harder then what happened in Indonesia. This can be separated from the influence of local culture which is still to misogynic in perceiving women. Regardless of the cultural facts mentioned above, it is still relevant to explore the historical wisdom, especially Islamic history in giving opportunity and access for women in the intellectual matter. 

The amazing attention as mentioned above can be explored from the hadith sheets which had been written by the muhaddithiin (the people of hadith). Among them were Imam Bukhari and Muslim. The two ulamas narrated so many hadiths regarding the active role of women in the scientific matter during the Prophet era. Even though, we are familiar with some of their names who also narrated the hadiths, such as Aisha, Ummu Salamah, Asma’, and etc. In the discipline of hadith, there is no difference about quality of the hadith which is narrated by women and men. Purely, the capacity will be seen from the the quality of the people who narrated the hadith and the linkage of narrators of the hadith itself, not their gender. Nail al-Authar affirmed : 

“There is none of story from an ulama (Islamic scholar) who rejected a hadith from a woman, merely because she is a woman. There are so many hadiths which are accepted by the ulamas from a female Prophet’s companion. Those facts can’t denied even by ordinary people who does not understand  about hadith at all.” 

Al Dzahabi in the Mukadimah Al Mizan said that from the such number of women who narrated hadiths, none of them known as a liar.  The Prophet himself said, “Take half of your religion from the Humaira” (HR. At Tirmidzi). The situation showed that women had the same position in narrating the hadith as men. The wives of the Prophet taught very much of knowledge they knew from the Prophet directly to the Prophet’s companion. As did by Maimunah when she explained Prophet’s manner in his prostration in the prayer. 

عن ميمونة قالت : “كان رسول الله صلى الله عليه وسلم إذا سجد خوى بيديه يعني جنح حتى يرى وضح إبطيه من ورائه، وإذا قعد اطمأن على فخذه اليسرى”.

The Prophet himself had amazing attention to women’s education. It can be seen from one of his hdith narrated by Bukhari and Muslim from Ibu Juraih:

عن جريح عن عطاء عن جابر بن عبد الله قال: قام النبي صلى الله عليه وسلم يوم الفطر فصلى فبدأ بالصلاة ثم خطب فلما فرغ نزل فأتى النساء فذكرهن وهو يتوكأ على يد بلال. وبلال باسط ثوبه يلقي فيه النساء الصدقة.

(From Juraij, from Atha’, from Jabir the son of Abdillah said : “The Prophet was standing, then began his prayer, and continued with his khutbah (sermon). After the sermon had been finished,  he got off  and came to the female jama’ah (followers of the prayer) and then taught him about zakat (alms) and lied on Bilal’s hand, while Bilal spread his clothes). 

The hadith above, showed that the Prophet intended to go to female jama’ah after getting off from the rostrum to give specific explanation. Juraih, the narrator of the hadith asked to Atha’  : Do you know that the Imam has an obligation to teach them (female jama’ah)’. Atha’ replied : “Actually it should be done by the Imam, but they might be not doing it”. 

In another hadith, The Prophet responded well to the will of a female companion who needs a a specific space to receive lectures from the Prophet as he did to men. 

عن أبي سعيد قال: جاءت امرأة إلى رسول الله فقالت: يا رسول الله ذهب الرجال بحديثك. فاجعل لنا من نفسك يوما نأتيك فيه تعلمنا مما علمك الله. فقال: “اجتمعن في يوم كذا وكذا، في مكان كذا وكذا “. فاجتمعن فأتاهن رسول الله فعلمهن مما علمه الله ثم قال: ” ما منكن امرأة تقدم بين يديها من ولدها ثلاثة إلا كان لها حجابا من النار” الحديث…

(From Abu Said, he said  : A woman came to Prophet Muhammad and said  : “Oh Prophet, those men went bringing your hadith. So make a day when we can come to you and teach us what Allah had taught you.” The Prophet replied : “Do meet here today, in this place!”. Then they met together and the Prophet came to them and taught the lesson that had been taught by Allah to him. Then the Prophet said : “None of you who gift 3 children (the children had passed away when they was young), except she will be covered from the hellfire”).

The hadith above showed that women involvement in education sector in the Prophet era. The Prophet himself gave attention to them. Still in the same literature, we will find women’s role in the Prophet era, whether science, social politics and so on. 

Abu Syuqqah, a muslim thinker from Egypt, made a research on the track record of women in the Prophet era carefully. His research had been published in 6 volumes of book entitled ‘Tahrir al Mar’ah fi Ashr al Risalah’. In the acknowledgement he told that the research had been motivated when he make a study on the hadiths of Bukhari and Muslim which he did with his teacher, Nashiruddin al-Albani and found some hadiths regarding women’s active role in may education, social, worship, political, and family area which had been on the contrary with the stories he had heard and conveyed before. So, he did a serious studies and research on the two famous hadith book which are known with its validity in the hadith discipline : Shahih Bukhari and Muslim; and collected all hadiths which narrated women’s life in the Prophet’s era. 

The result as we see in the book Tahrir al Mar’ah as mentioned above. There are thousands of hadiths which recorded women’s life and their active role during the Prophet era. Furthermore, some hadits explained about the fluid interaction between men and women, far from the description which are spread by the da’i (preachers) in the mosque pulpit. Among of the hadiths can be seen in the following ; 

عن قيس بن أبي حازم قال: (دخل أبو بكر على امرأة من أحمس يقال لها زينب بنت المهاجر. فرأها لا تكلم فقال: ما لها لا تكلم؟ قالوا: حجت مصمتة، قال لها: تكلمي فإن هذا لا يحل، هذا من عمل الجاهلية. فتكلمت فقالت: من أنت؟ قال: امرؤ من المهاجرين. قالت: أي المهاجرين؟ قال: من قريش. قالت: من أي قريش أنت؟ قال: إنك لسؤل، أنا أبو بكر. الحديث…

From Qais bin Abi Hazim, he said : “Abu Bakr came into a woman from Ahmas ethnic, her name was Zainab binti Al-Muhajir. He saw the woman silent and didn’t say a single word. Then he asked a question : “Why she does not speak?”. Then the people said ,” She did a promise (nadzar) to go to Hajj/pilgrimage by not speaking.”. Then Abu Bakar talked to the woman : “Speak up. Because of it (nadzar or a promise not to talk to everyone in the Hajj) is not allowed and part of behavior of the Jahiliyah/ignorance people”. Then he said and asked to Abu Bakar : Who are you?” “Someone from Muhajirin”.”What kind of Muhajirin?” “From Quraish”. “From which Quraish are you””. Impatiently, Abu Bakar replied :”Actually you are a talkative woman. I am Abu Bakar.” (Al Hadith)

Following The Prophet’s Sunnah 

The hadith above described straightforwrd and clearly about  women’s natural and humanist life during the Prophet era. Unfortunately, the such hadiths are often covered with anothe hadith which only one spoken by the Prophet in a certain context, even it’s validity is still questinable. Because, sometime a hadith is reproduced because of a certain motive. So that the valid hadith which take side on women become unpopular. While the hadith which marginalized and dicredited women become more popular and always spread in all events. For example hadith on the women’s lack of intellectuals,  the women’s creation from a crooked ribs, or women’s voice as aurat (shameful thing). And that situation what happened after the Prophet passed away. Freedom, respect, and equality which were owned by women in the Prophet era started to be ignored immediately, furthermore will turn to the Jahiliyah (ignorance) era. Women experienced discriminations again in manya areas, marginalized, and their rights were neglected. The slavery, concubinage practices, deprivation, and isolation prctices become a common tradition. Then equality which had been figthed by Prophet Muhammad throgh his prophetic mission become neglected at all. 

In the golden age of Islam, science and knowledge developed widely, the civilization came into the top point, but women still didn’t find their position. Therefore it will be difficult to find women intellectual or female scholar (ulama) from so many male figures who expert in the scientific area. The modern world which had been struggling for human rights issues had done some deconstructions of the such social situation and imitated the Western style as its role model, therefore fastly or slowly women position started to uplift. The such efforts had influenced the Islamic world to rethink about the religious policies which had been understood in unequal way. The coming of reformist figure, both which specifically concerned on women issues or not, had shown the influence. 

Although there are some Western influences in many aspects, but it doesn’t mean that we should imitate at all to make the change. The egalitarianist tradition from the religion, should be continued to appear, especially which rooted from its sources, for example the Quran and the Sunna. Therefore, the reform that we do will not separated from its root. So that what we do is not a reformation completely, but it is more a follow to the Sunna (good tradition) of the Prophet. The imitation to the sunna (good tradition), should not be limited only in the physical appearance for example to wear the Arabian robe, to lengthen the beard, to wear turban, etc.But more than that is by performing integrity of the morality and behaving the good manner as done by the Prophet who forward respect to other people, equality and justice, we should hold as the principle of reformation. Therefore the figure of the Prophet as uswah (role model) can be really implemented in the life of the ummah (society). Wallahua’lam bisshawab. Allah kwows best! {}


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