"…God will rise up, to (suitable) ranks (and degrees), those of you who believe and who have been granted (mystic) knowledge" (QS. 58:11).
Likewise, a person's faith and knowledge can only be obtained through their social conditions and surroundings, desires, livelihood and ability to work hard in all areas.
"That man can have nothing but what he strives for" (QS. 53:39)
This is the education process. Every person has the right to receive an education. At present, those that have control over education and resources in general have an obligation to help others. This means, parents are obliged to educate / help their kids, the rich the poor and most importantly the state to its people.
Although education is an equal right to all persons, the reality is quite different. Often, the less fortunate or lower status groups of society are not given the same opportunity to education, as those people of a higher status. If we look at women for example, because the social position of women in Indonesia is considered lower than that of men, their ability to access education is more restricted. This is despite the fact that the female population is greater than the male population. Statistics collected from BPS (the Central Bureau of Statistics) between the year's 1980-1990, show that the average rate of females attending school is much lower in comparison to that of males.
What's more, it seems, the higher the level of education, the smaller the number of females attending. If we look at results from primary school through to senior school, males dominate the education system in Indonesia. For primary school children, figures comparatively concerning females and males attending school were: 49.18% and 50.83%, junior high were 46.64% and 53.56%, while senior high were 41.45% and 58.57% and at university level 33.60% and 66.40%. It is apparent that the number of females attending university or having the opportunity to attend university is very low.
The lack of opportunity for females to attend school and access an education impacts heavily on their position within the social, political and economic spheres of society. In parliament, only 8% of parliamentary members are female. This is the same in the regional parliaments, for example, in Malang there are only 4 women out of a total of 45 members of parliament, and in the city of Cirebon there is not one female representative in parliament (see Journal Perempuan, no.23, 2002, p7-16).
The lack of opportunity for females to obtain an education is a factor contributing to the imbalance of females and education. Another imbalance is the stereotype concerning the education granted to females and, what is even more concerning, is the continuation of the use of these unjust educational materials. These gender imbalances thus become the responsibility of all people, especially that of the nation state to its people. The male dominated society in Indonesia bares the responsibility for continuing the injustices and imbalances concerning women and education. Religion and its teachings are also a major element contributing to the responsibility of gender imbalance. Religious texts thus need to be addressed frequently, especially the text of the Hadith.
Several texts from the Hadith hinder the activities of females to acquire an education. These teachings and historical narrations must be stopped immediately. Moreover, texts written within the holy books, as well as, that in teaching curriculums should be criticized and corrected regularly by those knowledgeable on the issues. The Hadith for example, says that women must stay in their houses to look after and care for their husbands. At present, several religious scholars also use the text of the Hadith as a tool for obstructing or prohibiting women from obtaining or entering higher levels of education. This has already been documented by Syekh Muhammad al-Ghazali in Sunnah an-Nabawiyyah (1992:51). Several famous religious teachers have copied and adapted the text of the Hadith, but it must be noted that these texts degrade the position of women, which can not be justified.
Texts of the Hadith like this will prevent women from obtaining knowledge and an education. Texts of this type need to be criticized on a regular basis. An example of this is the prohibition of women to be involved in activities in the mosque. When women are forbidden or restrained from taking part in praying at the mosque they are being denied the right to access and obtain knowledge, education and information as well as their right to participate in religious ritual. Evidence of this is revealed in the text of the Hadith when the prophet expressed:
"It is better for women to pray in their houses rather than to pray in the mosque"(Riwayat al-Baihaqi,Sunan al-Kubra, juz III, hal 132)
Although this text is a chronological outline of history like that clarified by Ibn Khuzaimah, Ibn Hibban, al-Haytsami and as-Suyuthi, it is in contrast with the texts of other Hadis that are considered more powerful and even in contrast with certain historical facts. In other texts for example, that narrated by Bukhari, Muslim and at-Turmudzi, the Prophet said:
"What's more, if your wife asks permission to go the mosque in the evening you should not obscure that"
"Don't obstruct of hinder a woman who wants to go to God's mosque" (see Ibn al-Atsir, juz XI, pg 467, Hadith no 8698).
With arguments like these, and the presence of many other arguments similar to these, Imam Ibn Hazm az-Zhahiri has said that the Hadith and its act of banning women from going to the Mosque is not only a weak justification but cannot be justified fullstop.
Education Rights for Women
Everyone has the right to an education both females and males. According to the Hadis:
"Every Muslim person has an obligation to demand and obtain knowledge" (Riwayat Ibn Majah, al-Baihaqi dan Ibn Abd al-Barr)
Al-Ajluni had documented that religious scholars' opinions differ greatly concerning the status of the Hadith. Ibn Abd al-Barr says that many of the texts are weak, while al-Iraqi and al-Mizzi believe the words of the Hadith are strong and indeed worthy. Every Muslim person means just that, every Muslim person whether they are female or male. Where the Hadith demands the right for all Muslims to gain knowledge, it includes females' as well as males. The whole community has the right to obtain knowledge via education.
In the notes of Imam Bukhari, the prophet's wife Aisyah binti Abi Bakrra, praises the women who were always studying:
"The greatest women are those form Anshar, those that are never ashamed to always be studying about religion" (Riwayat Bukhari, Muslim, Abu Dawud and an-Nasai, see Ibn al-Atsir, Juz VIII, pg. 196, Hadith no: 5352).
So those who are brave and feel that their education rights and opportunity to an education are not the same as that of males, can face the prophet.
There is another Hadith text from Abi Sa'id al-Khudriyy that says:
" A group of women approached the prophet and said to him: " those who are males seem to have already moved beyond us females, is it true that you can devote some of your time to us, females? The prophet was prepared to devote time to teach, caution and give advice to the women".
In another documentation, there was a female who went to the prophet for advice, he said to her:
"Oh Prophet, males have received powerful teachings from you, is it true that you can allocate specific time for the teaching of females, to teach to us what it is you hear and receive from God? The prophet responded: " yes, gather here today, at this place" Following this the women gathered together at the place arranged by the Prophet and studied about the knowledge the Prophet had obtained from God"(Riwayat Bukhari and Muslim,See Ibn al-Atsir, juz X, pg 359, Hadith no: 7340).
Females have the same education rights as males. There is no valid reason to downgrade a woman's right to education. The right to education also includes the right to bring up and teach children. In the notes of many religious scholars of the Hadith women were the first persons actively involved in the teaching and narrating of the Hadith. It has been noted that almost 1000 women have become teachers or more precisely narrators of the Hadith. Examples include: Aisyah and Asma bint Abi Bakr, Hafshah bint Umar bin al-Khattab, Khansa binti Khidam, Umm Salamah, Umm Ayyub, Umm Habibah ra and many more. It is strange that when the number of women becoming ilmuwan are becoming smaller, when the Islamic world is becoming bigger, both in the political and social spheres. In the third century of Islam for example, there were only ten well-known women noted as being Islamic teachers or conveyors of Islamic information.
This means that the problem of education for women has not only derived from the texts of the Hadith, but from Islam itself, which, everyday positions women in a marginal position in regards to study and education. The struggle for women to gain an education thus dates back to the beginnings of Islam.
Education must be looked upon as a social institution or regulation that has contributed to the continuation of the gender imbalance. Religious teaching materials are another contributing factor, which have also influenced this patriarchal society.
In comparison to the Koran, the Hadith can be said to hold greater imbalances between the role of men and women. According to the Hadith, women have been created from the crooked broken bone of a man, and possess minority rights. For example, women are considered not valid to become intellectuals, leaders or witnesses, are not able to go anywhere without a member of the family, and they must submit to the higher authority of their husbands. There is even a text that says women are a source of bad luck. Matters pertaining to these meanings of the Hadith need to be reread thoroughly so that various sections can be rejected as they are not only transmitting negative connotations, but are also in contradiction with meanings of the Koran.
Aisyah bint Abi Bakr ra has already given an example criticizing the Hadith concerning the interpretation of females being bad luck, which was narrated by Abi Hurairah ra and validated by Imam Bukhari and Ibn Hajar al-Asqallani. They did not want to receive the texts of the Hadith because it is in contradiction with teachings of the Koran:
"No misfortune can happen on earth or in your souls but is recorded in a decree before we bring it into existence: that is truly easy for God" (QS 57:22)
There is no Hadith text that says women are a source of bad luck, this has come directly from the mouth of the prophets wife (see al-Asqallani, Fath al-Bari, VI/150-152).
From this, Aisyah ra teaches us that the matters pertaining to the Hadith must be in align with the teachings of the Koran. Several principles relating to matters concerning male and female relationships from the Koran are as follows: (1) that men and women are created from the same entity; (2) that a good life can only be developed with both a man and a woman with positive work and consent on behalf of both sides of the marriage; (3) possess the same obligation, respectively in both the political and economic sphere; (4) build a peaceful and loving life together; (5) to settle any matters of problems in a respectful and peaceful way. These principles can become the base for many of the texts of the Hadith that are so often seen as treating women in an unjust way.
Matters pertaining to the meaning behind the texts of the Hadith must be taken in context with ones surroundings and time period. For example, concerning the concept of 'women to be accompanied by family members', does not mean that women are unable to carry out any activity at all. The concept represents a protective element on behalf of a woman's family members emphasized by the prophet respectively to all families. At present, the protection element forms an obligation of not only the people but also the state. Women must be given the opportunity to carry out activities in a positive way and for this reason all area must be given protection.
The prophet himself, while expressing the obligation of male family members to protect their female family member counterparts addresses the need for females to fulfill the Haj alone. The Prophet did not forbid, nor put women at fault for wanting to fulfil the Haj, but rather support the cause by saying "accompany your wife to make the Haj", in fact it is males that need to support the Prophet by aligning themselves with his commands.
The concept of 'devout woman' should not only be taken in accordance with the relationship between a woman and her husband, because all women possess a variety of relationships. These relationships include that with god the creator, with family and with her community. The Prophet said:
" Would you like me to reveal the attributes of a good person? A devout woman: is a woman who satisfies, who follows and abides by the rules of Islam, who looks after ones self and the wealth of their partner",
This has been expressed with reference to those who are poor. At the time, they paid a visit to the Prophet and complained that many of the commands/directions of the Koran were directed to those who are rich. For example, the Haj to Mecca, the giving of alms and shadaqah (see full Hadith text Sunan Aabu Dawud, ch 11/126, no 1664). Those who are poor feel they don't own enough to be charitable. Within this context the prophet said that devout women are a source of wealth or savings. Meaning that to help a needy person, to comfort the sick, or to give an opportunity to a less fortunate person was also a means of obtaining merit from God.
Along with the many bias texts from the Hadith, teachings and instructions of the Hadith must be strengthened and made clearer to strengthen the socio-political position of women, by the use of texts which indeed do strengthen the position of women. Texts like this include: the struggle of Siti Khadijah ra and several other females, relationships between male and females, the rights of women within marriage and divorce, the socio-political activities of women that lived during he time of the Prophet, and about the heavenly life that every woman bares. One of the important books in regards to this issue is that written by Abd al-Halim Muhammad Abu Syuqqah, 'pembebasan perempuan pada Masa Kenabian; Studi tentang Perempuan dan Ayat-ayat al-Quaran dan Teks Hadis yang ditulis Imam Bukhari dan Muslim' (The Liberation of Women at the Time of the Prophet; A Study about Women and the Verses of the Koran and Hadith, written by Imam Bukhari and Muslim). This book can become a base for the strengthening and reinforcing of the position of women concerning the texts of the Hadith.
When social and political structures delegate women to a lower position we must defend them and all those people whom are unable to defend for themselves. In one text of the Hadith, the prophet says that to fight for the justice of women is also to be considered as an act of jihad (holy war). Education is the precise field to be worked in to carry out any sort of defense mechanisms for the role of women and struggle for justice. Education is the key instrument to initiate any form of social change. Education paves the way for people to know their abilities and strengths, raises questions about pre assumed issues, look for the truths and to struggle for the truths. Education is a strong social and political base for all women. Education for women has and continues to be a struggle. Aisyah ra, Kartini, Rohana Koedas as well as women in general, want and demand justice, justice for both men and women.