Khazanah (Treasure) for Edition 36:
Polemics on Women’s Leadership
by: Raudlatun Miftah 

Book Title:  Women’s Fiqh; Pros and Cons on Women Leadership in the Context of Classical and Contemporary Islam
Writer:  H. Moh. Romzi al-Amiri Mannan
Publisher: Pustaka Ilmu Yogyakarta
Publishing Year: 2011
Total Number of Page: 251 pages

The issue of women is always an interesting topic to discuss, especially in terms of women’s leadership (imamah).

Speaking of women’s leadership, we recall the 3rd Indonesian Islamic Congress pioneered by MUI 3-7 November 1998 held in the hajj dormitory of Pondok Gede, Jakarta. The resolution came out of this congress was a recommendation which stated President and Vice President of Republic of Indonesia should be men. Pros and cons were launched by religious leaders regarding the possibility of women to become a leader.

This book publication is an attempt to answer pros and cons on women’s leadership in the context of Islam, either classical or contemporary. This book was written by H. Moh. Romzi al-Amiri Mannan who is also known by his nickname, Romzi. As one of the caretakers of Pesantren Nurul Jadid Paiton Probolinggo, who is also a lecturer at IAIN (State Islamic Institute) Nurul Jadid, Kyai (male pesantren leader) Romzi is very adept in contextualizing the sacred book, especially fiqh, since he is graduated from Pondok Pesantren al-Munawwir Krapyak Yogyakarta. This fiqh book on women was written as one of his final assignments for his postgraduate study at Darul Ulum University, Jombang, in Islamic Law.

Leadership in terms of fiqh siyasah (Islamic Jurisprudence on governance and politics) is known with terms al-khilafah and al-imamah (h.1), a leader is an imam. A leader meant by the writer here is “a person who undertakes the activity to influence other people in his surroundings under certain circumstances, thus they are willing to work responsibly in order to achieve a targeted objective.” Based on this definition, it is understood there is no gender discrimination for being a leader. But in this book, the writer would like to elaborate more the pros and cons on women’s leadership in the framework of classical and contemporary fiqh.

The assumption came out of this book is women cannot be the head of a country or the single policy holder, but they can be a leader in a smaller scope, such as the chair of the representative assembly council, or the school headmaster. The argument stated by Romzi refers to Al Qur’an Surah al-Nisa’ verse 34, interpreted by Muhammad Rasyid Ridha in viewing the position of men as a leader. Since men are better and more essential than women, they are entrusted to carry on responsibility as a Prophet. In this book, the writer revoked the interpretation stated by Quraish Shihab on leadership.

If we look deeply into the content, this book is divided into four sections. The first section is about the issues of imamah in classical and contemporary fiqh.  The definition of imamah versus khilafah is elaborated, as well as verses regarding pros and cons on women’s leadership in Islam, thus we are able to define the principle of women leadership by considering both sides.

The second part of this book is about leadership in a global context. It is starting from the definition of leadership, followed with types of leadership, either parliamentary or presidential, leadership requirements, women in leadership (women’s position before Islam), similarities and difference of men and women in leading a country according to ushul fiqh.

The third part of this book is about validity prerequisites of women in becoming the leader of a country. This part is very interesting with subtopics discussed, it also contains the verses allowing and prohibiting women as the leader of a country, as well as Hadith of the Prophet saying that a society or community led by a woman will not be happy. In this section, it is also revealed historical facts regarding women’s involvement in politics, including the reign of a Queen named Shajarah al-Durr from Dynasty of Mamalik, the leadership of Queen Bilqis in the country of Saba’, as well as the leadership of several women presidents in Muslim countries such as Benazir Bhutto in Pakistan and Begum Khaleda Zia in Bangladesh. But as reported by writer, the fact above shall be considered as deviation, because a fact is not a law, even if the fact itself opposes the law.

The fourth part is the closing, in which a conclusion is drawn regarding pros and cons on women’s leadership in context of classical and contemporary Islam. According to pessimist groups among classical scholars such as Ali al-Shabuni, Ibn Kathir, Musthafa al-Shiba’i, Ibn Hazm al-Juwaini, they said it is obligatory for men to become a leader in field of domestic matters as well as public affairs. This causes a long debate on women becoming the head of a country, while contemporary scholars share their different point of views, such as Yusuf al-Qardawi, Wahbah al-Zuhaili, Abu al-A’la al-Maududi, allowing women to become a leader in context of legislative councils like at the House of Representative Assembly, or to be a judge, mufti and woman mujtahid. But the optimist group is more up to a hermeneutical (takwil) context, and not to textual (zhahir) comprehension as embraced by the classical scholars.
The writer tries to compare the two-different point of views as stated above. But the writer here tends to incline himself to the contemporary scholars, who still differentiate men and women’s territory.

The conclusion taken after reading this book is the new perspective in regard to classical and modern scholars on women’s leadership as the head of a country. The writer still cannot leave his male mindset so he thinks domestic field still belongs to women only, while public affairs are handled by men. The same point of view regarding women’s leadership, the writer is too rigid in narrating his standpoint, while the actual context is certainly different from those old times. Woman can be a leader as long as she has an adequate capability and skills to lead.  Hasn’t the history proven to us there are still lots of women leaders who are righteous and successful in bringing welfare for their people? Wallahu a’lam bi al-shawab. [] Raudlatun Miftah


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