Live Burial in Our Age

After the seventeenth century, with the rise of European colonial rule in many Muslim countries, women’s scholarship declined. The Sheikh explained its dilapidation, in part, by the more general decline in Muslim intellectual confidence. The madrasa system languished, so patriarchal customs filled the vacuum. Flabby leadership from the ulama, many of whom have turned to politics rather than scholarship, left Muslims ignorant of their own history. “Our traditions have grown weak,” the Sheikh once told me, “and when people are weak, they grow cautious. When they’re cautious, they don’t give women their freedoms.”

Male insecurity about what they saw as their own traditions meant women often suffered. A friend of the Sheikh’s was traveling with his wife in England, and when it came time for prayers, the couple stopped in the local mosque. The imam refused to let the wife pray there, claiming that women weren’t allowed to pray in mosques, even when they were far from home. Who finally gave the woman space to perform prayers? A Hindu merchant. “He opened his shop to let her pray there,” said the Sheikh approvingly.

Denying women access to the mosque, like denying them other rights, was simply clinging to customs, not faith, said Akram. In the case of education, he’d gone further: preventing women from pursuing knowledge, he said, was like the pre-Islamic custom of burying girls alive. Stifling their potential makes the current status quo no better than the jahiliyya, the Arabic term for pre-Islamic ignorance. “I tell people, ‘God has given girls qualities and potential,’” he said. “If they aren’t allowed to develop them, if they aren’t provided with opportunities to study and learn, it’s basically a live burial.”

Terjemahan

Mulai abad ke-17, saat kolonialisme Barat tumbuh di berbagai negeri muslim, tradisi keilmuan di kalangan muslimah menurun. Syaikh Akram menjelaskan pelapukan budaya ini sebagiannya terjadi akibat semakin kentaranya penurunan kepercayaan diri muslim pada aspek intelektualitas. Sistem madrasah melemah sehingga adat patriarkal mengisi kekosongan itu. Kepemimpinan yang mengendor dari kalangan ulama (karena) banyak dari mereka berpaling pada politik alih-alih keilmuan membuat para muslim abai terhadap sejarah mereka sendiri. “Tradisi kami melemah”, ujar Syeikh padaku, ” dan ketika orang-orang melemah mereka jadi penuh curiga. Jika mereka penuh kecurigaan, mereka takkan memberikan kebebasan pada perempuan.”

Perasaan tidak aman yang diidap para pria saat mereka menyaksikan kondisi tradisi mereka, membuat para wanita menderita. Seorang teman dari Syeikh pernah bepergian bersama istrinya di Inggris. Ketika tiba waktu shalat, mereka berhenti di sebuah masjid. Imam masjid tersebut melarang Sang Istri shalat di sana, beralasan bahwa perempuan dilarang shalat di masjid meski mereka sedang bepergian jauh dari rumah. Siapa yang akhirnya memberikan ruang pada wanita tersebut untuk shalat? Seorang pedagang beragama Hindu. Dia membuka pintu tokonya sehingga ia dapat shalat di sana, cerita Syeikh.

Melarang akses wanita terhadap masjid, sebagaimana penolakan terhadap hak-hak lain, tak lebih berdasarkan kebiasaan, adat, bukan iman, sahut Akram.

Lebih jauh lagi, dalam perkara pendidikan: melarang wanita menimba ilmu, sahutnya tak beda dengan adat pra-Islam yakni mengubur bayi perempuan hidup-hidup. Mengubur potensi perempuan membuat kondisi saat ini tidak lebih baik dari masa jahiliyah, istilah Arab untuk kebodohan pada masa pra-Islam. “Saya katakan pada orang-orang, anak-anak perempuan diberi Tuhan kualitas dan potensi tertentu”, sahutnya. ” Jika mereka tidak diizinkan mengembangkannya, jika mereka tidak diberi peluang untuk belajar dan mengkaji, pada dasarnya hal tersebut merupakan penguburan hidup-hidup.”

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