By Nuruddin Amin & Hindun Anisah

Mrs. A’izzah Amin Sholeh, known as Mrs. Zah is an elderly woman who pioneered rural women’s activism. She was born on August 14, 1940, in Jepara, Central Java, Indonesia. Mrs. Zah was raised by a family that cares for the well-being of society. Her father, KH. Haroen Syakur was the Rois Syuriyah (the highest leader) of the prominent Islamic organization Nahdlatul Ulama (NU) in the Bangsri district at Jepara. Her mother was also an activist and became the head of Muslimat NU (the women’s organization) under NU. Mrs. Zah went to secondary school in Jepara until year 2 and then she continued her study at the school of Nahdlatul Ulama organization called Nahdlatul Muallimat at Kauman, Solo, Central Java. During that time, she also learned religious knowledge from Kyai Zainuddin in the same city. 

On her 17th (1957), she married Kyai Mochammad Amin Sholeh, the son of the respected Sholeh Tayu from Pati, Central Java. He was the teacher of Mrs. Zah’s father (Kyai Haroen Syakur). At the beginning 0f 1960, Mrs. Zah and her husband Kyai Mohammad Amin established a boarding school called Hasyim Asy’ari. Nowadays, its students reach almost 2000. In the 1970s, Mrs. Zah, who has delivered 5 children from her marriage, followed the equivalence examination for a religious teacher in Kudus, Central Java. This exam has brought her to be a civil servant as a religious teacher until she retired. 


Establishing Religious Gathering

Since the 1960s, Mrs. Zah was establishing a gathering (halaqah) to study the Qur’an. At that time, about 30 women participated in the gathering that was held every Friday afternoon. At first, the gathering was addressed to the women who had just learned the Qur’an as beginners. In recent times, the religious gathering is still running well with 20 members who have mastered reciting the Qur’an. 

Mrs. Zah also established a religious gathering called Rolasan in the 1980s. At first, this gathering was a request from a person to do during the month of the Prophet Muhammad’s birthday. The women were very enthusiastic to follow this gathering and they decided that this gathering be held every day during the month and take turns of the venue for each member. This gathering, in fact, was held for almost 35 days. Until recently, the religious gathering has been held by taking a turn in the village. Mrs. Zah also created the funding called Badan Kotak Majelis Taklim (BKMT) which was used for the implementation and financing of the recitation. This body also mobilizes the members to participate in the religious gathering of Rolasan.  Up to now, the member of this religious gathering reaches almost 2000 women. The gathering is held every 12th of the Hijri year. During the Pandemic Covid-19, this religious gathering was postponed for a while to prevent the spread of the virus and the safety of the members.

Another gathering initiated by Mrs. Zah is the Association of female pilgrimage (IHM – Ikatan Hajjah Muslimat). This gathering was established in 1980 and its members are the women who have performed pilgrimages to Mecca. Currently, its membership reaches about 200 women pilgrims.

In 2000, Mrs. Zah also established a Qur’anic study gathering called Rebonan. The regular meeting used to be organized in each member’s home, but with the growth of its members, the gathering is to be held in the boarding school of Hasyim Asy’ari. The gathering is routinely running even during the Pandemic Covid-19. 


Strengthening the Prosperity of Rural Women 

At her 72-year-old of her age, Mrs. Zah still engages actively in the community to strengthen the prosperity of rural women. She initiated the saving and loan institution for the women merchants in her village. This idea arrived at her thought for many of these women merchants, about 50 %, have fallen into debt to the loan shark. Their debt grew each day that they could not pay for it. This situation is still going on and it is uneasy to fix their debt because of the pawnbroker. 

In addition, Mrs. Zah actively engages with the National Movement for Foster Parents (GNOTA- Gerakan Nasional Orang Tua Asuh) at the village level. She encouraged the wealthy family in her village to donate and help disadvantaged schoolchildren. They give financial aid to these children in need to keep their education. “This program has helped hundreds of children and has been running for almost 10 years now,” said Mrs. Zah. 

Mrs. Zah is getting older, she is 82 years old now. She is an elderly woman who became a respected figure and a pioneer. She is actively engaging with the community and religious gatherings once she is established. She also teaches her students in boarding school, visiting local holy places and strengthening the well-being of village women. Apart from those activities, she also accomplishes her days by getting closer to God, praying, and reciting the Qur’an intensively. 


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