Spotlight: Indonesian Muslim women preachers and Qur’an reciters

Having been a niqabi Pakistani Jamaat-e-Islami girl, who read Maudoodi’s Purdah, for a good few years of my youth, when I first met Indonesian Muslim women at the International Islamic University, my mind was blown. Was it really possible to be a Muslim woman like these? It was the beginning of me breaking the singular mold of Muslim womanhood as I’d learned of it.

This is not to generalize about Indonesian women, but really, all the young women at the IIU were professionally active, diligent, tidy, humble, put-together, graceful, all had trained singing voices, and all recited Qur’an beautifully. All were devout (the ones who chose to attend the university) yet none of them ranted. None of them were religiously irritable. Again, not to say they are all like that.

So I am excited to watch and share this wonderful film by Syarafina Vidyadhana about Mamah Dedeh, the Badass Preaching Mom of Indonesia.

Indonesian Muslim women have a special place in my heart because of this beautiful tradition of female religious leadership as well as for the long-standing tradition of women Qur’an reciters like Maria Ulfah (Juz ‘amma is here) covered by scholars like Anna Gade and Anne Rasmussen.

So when we teach and learn about gender and Islam, I hope we break the mold and get out of the box and look toward Southeast Asia sometimes.

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