Found a treasure in the bookstore today: a book about 40 outstanding females in Islam, written for children. This is quite a surprise since most narratives about Islamic figures are filled with men and more men, with the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh)’s wives Khadijah and Aisyah as the usual exemptions. This book is not perfect, of course, as in the book title, the women are still labelled with their status as someone’s daughter (“Putri”) or mother (“Bunda”) instead of being independently awesome as they are.
This book may serve to counterbalance the explosion of Disney princesses with all their gowns and balls and magic and pre-Frozen infatuations of Prince Charming, but it gives plenty of knowledge for adults like me as well. Khadijah and Aisyah are of course mentioned, along with well-known figures written in Al-Quran such as Eve, Hajar and Sarah (Ibrahim’s wives), Asiah (Pharaoh’s Queen, who adopted Musa as.), and Queen Bilqis. Of the lesser-known females, I only recognized the sufi Rabiah al-Adawiyah because I quoted her in my wedding invitation.
However there are names I’ve never heard or read before (pardon my ignorance) such as fighters in wars such as Ummu Haram, Nasibah, Ummu Hakim, and Khaulah binti Azwar; soldier-and-orator Asma binti Yazid; hadith and Al-Quran experts Amrah an-Najjariyah, Muadzah Al-Adawiyyah, Karimah al-Marwaziyah, Hafsah binti Sirin, and Nafisah binti Hasan; as well as Fathimah Adziyah, mother of Imam Syafii, and Ummu Bukhari, mother of Imam Bukhari.
No reason to believe that women are secondary in Islam, really; it is the strong patriarchal environment in most muslim communities that tainted the interpretation of Islam to be heavily biased for men’s benefits. This is my opinion, of course, you can have different opinions if you would.
The child in my tummy is a boy but I will read the stories about these fierce muslimahs for him, so he will grow to be a man who respect and support women as much as he respect and support all other human beings.
40 Putri Terhebat, Bunda Terkuat by Tethy Ezokanzo. Penerbit Kalil (an imprint of Gramedia), Jakarta, Indonesia, no year of publication.