Amplifying Women Ulama’s Voices, Asserting Values of Islam, Nationhood and Humanity


The history of Islam shows that “female ulama” (women religious scholars) play an important role in the development of  Islamic thought and in society.  Female ulama as well as male ulama bring the Prophet’s mission to stand up and protect the dhu’afa and mustadh’afin (the poor and the weak). The  presence and the role of the ulama (religious scholars) is often mentioned as being the heirs of the Prophet (warathat al-Anbiya), that is to spread kindness and blessings for the entire universe (rahmatan lil-alamin) so as to create a peaceful, just and equitable life.

In carrying out this prophetic mission, female ulama  are often experiencing  various challenges, such as being denied, considered not legitimate,  and even facing violence. Therefore  various efforts  need to be done, like:  strengthening the expertise and knowledge of  female ulama, networking among them, affirmation and appreciation of their work, as well as strengthening their cultural existence.

In Indonesian context, the role of women ulama has been institutionalized as formal organization, that serve millions members such as Muhammadiyah and Nahdatul Ulama. The organization like Aisyiah and Nasyiatul Aisyiah, have been engaging women from Muhamaddiyah basis in women empowerment. Like Muhammadiyah, Nahdatul Ulama, claimed as traditionalist, is also active in promoting women empowerment and social changes under the leadership of two organizations called Fatayat and Muslimat. Other minority organization like Persistri, as wing organization of Persis (United Islam), is trying to respond to the need of women in gaining more knowledge and participating in social life. In the context of nation state, Indonesia female ulama developed productive collaboration with male ulama and practitioners during the fights for independence of Indonesia, and promote unity of the country, as well as preserving nationhood principles.

The institutionalization of the role of women ulama in global level shows different patterns but contributes to social justice. Some networks like Women Living under Muslim Laws and Musawwah are well-known in producing and disseminating new approach to Islamic text, which is more women-friendly. They bring together women ulama and practitioners to do collective action to promote Islam from gender perspective. Other networks such as Muslim Women Network, Jewish Muslim Women Network, African Muslim Environment Network, are engaging directly with women confronting violence against women, environmental degradation, education, health, radicalism and terrorism etc in the form of collective action. The Asian Muslim Action Network (AMAN), a network among progressive Muslim in Asia, also engages women ulama in responding to crisis during conflict and disaster.

Considering, dichotomist discourses surrounding religion and state, debate on individual or social piousness locally and globally, creates tension in day to day life. For instance the rise of symbolic Islam subjecting to women’s body such as formalization of dressing code of Muslim women, restriction on curfew for women, criminalizing sexual violence/rape survivors in public or domestic sphere, virginity test, harmful tradition such as child marriage and genital mutilation/ female circumcision, the rise of radicalism and extremism, violence in the name of religion that targeted poor women and minorities groups, restriction on freedom of expression and religions etc, those are the urgent call for Muslim (specifically women) to redefine and reframe the understanding of religion as way of life. In many situations, women are mostly targeted for victimization and instrumentalization in the politicizing of religion. This crucial situation is required women ulama and related actors to reflect and engage in critical dialogue on the teaching of Islam in separated with current socio-political economic and cultural context, including finding drivers to hinder achieving welfare and freedom of expression in the daily lives of Muslims.

Therefore, there is urgent need to revitalization of the role of ulama in bringing religion down to earth to promote humanity, women’s rights, and principles of nationhood. By amplifying the voices of women ulama on the ground, we facilitate critical dialogue on theory, conceptual framework, strategy, obstacle and challenges regarding Islamic teaching and the real work of women’s empowerment and advancement of the rights of women and girls in the national and global level. The 1st Women Ulama International Forum is part of Pre Congress activity that will gather women ulama from different continents, academia and practitioners to come together on a common platform for the future works of women ulama.


There are four objectives we would like to achieve:

  • Develop common knowledge about “ulama” from the perspective of history, socio political cultural context, roles and concrete contribution of women ulama in the advancement of women and human civilization
  • Facilitate a forum for women ulama overseas to share their experiences and analysis in promoting Islamic teaching in the field of women empowerment and social justice covering strategy, obstacle, and challenge in mobilizing community for social change
  • Build strong analysis on critical issues relating to violence against women, child marriage, migration, and preventing violence extremism from perspective of academia, ulama and practitioners of women empowerment
  • Identify strategies to further develop the knowledge base and sharpen analysis on these issues, to be used by advocates to influence policy and practice in the region
  • Contribute to the formulation of religious fatwa about contemporary issues on women and Islam on the basis of lived experience of women, Islamic texts, national and global instruments


The International forum will be held on, April 25, 2017 in IAIN Syekh Nurjati, Jl. Perjuangan Cirebon West Java-Indonesia.

If you are interested to joint with National Congress on Women Ulama in Indonesia, the forum will be held on April 25-27, 2017 in Pondok Pesantren (Islamic Boarding School) Kebon Jambu Babakan Ciwariangin Cirebon-Indonesia. This pesantren is managed by a female ulama, Ibu Nyai Hj. Masriyah Amva. The organizer will manage transfer participants to Pesantren Kebon Jambu.


We are expecting to have 200 participants representing women ulama, women activist, researchers, and media etc who have been working in the field of women empowerment and advancement of the rights of women and girls within Islamic perspective.


Participants of International Forum are required to arrange their own hotels, guest house or homestay near by the venue. Our team could help you to book the hotels or you could do by online booking. The detail information about hotels and other possible accomodation will be provided by the organizer.

However, we also provide free accommodation at Islamic Boarding School (Pesantren), with modest syle, where all participants of national congress on women ulama will stay during conference. The typical Pesantren style accommodation would be shared room with 10-20 people in a big room. It is located 30 minutes or 1 hour with traffic to the venue where international forum will take place. However, we shall provide detail information related to local transportation to venue and other places.


International participants who need visa to come to Indonesia, please indicate on the application form when you are filling the form. You also can contact the secretariat at to ensure that you will receive all related document needed.


There will be no registration fee. Participants of International Forum on Women Ulama are requested to download this application form and send it to Participants may apply registration online here too.

Participants who need visa to Indonesia should send  their application not more than March, 31st 2017. However, if you are free-visa participants, your application should be sent to the organizer by April 10th 2017.


This international Seminar are co organized by KUPI, Institute of Islamic Studies (IAIN) Syekh Nurjati Cirebon, and AMAN Indonesia.


The theme of the International Forum is “Amplifying Women Ulama’s Voices, Asserting Values of Islam, Nationhood and Humanity”. The seminar will lead thematic, cross-regional gathering to enable in-depth interactions between women ulama, researcher and practitioners regarding the work of women empowerment and advancement of women’s rights in the context of Muslim societies. The seminar will explore two sub-thematic area such as:

  • Women Ulama, Muslim Communities and States; In highlighting that women ulama across the globe have been promoting women-friendly interpretation of Islamic texts through intensive courses, preaching and direct intervention to deal with gender-based violence, women’s empowerment and conflict transformation. Moreover, the knowledge of religious texts and the use of religious discourses and practices to get legitimacy in the public sphere are often challenged by political and social context. This session tries to provide an exchange space for reflection of strategies and approaches as well as to reclaim meaning of “ulama” on the basis of prophetic ground works.
  • From Talk to Action: Women Ulama Promoting Peace and Justice; Poor governance and inadequate economic policies are mix factors causing conflict, religious tension and the phenomenon of violent extremism. UN Secretary General reported that in 19 conflict related countries, Gender-Based Violence (GBV) has been used as weapon of war to dehumanize women and defeat enemy. Moreover, thousands of women are forced into sexual slavery, exploitation and violence by Buko Haram, Al-Shabab, ISIS etc. There is growing recognition from expert and policy makers that a limited security-oriented approach is insufficient for addressing the condition that leads to rising of fundamentalism and extremism. Thus, a more holistic approach is needed, where not only civil societies is pro-active engaged with solution, the women ulama in many societies are becoming active agent to promote inclusive interpretation of religious texts and doing direct interventions in dealing with victim of GBV and promote more peaceful societies. Example from Africa, Asia, Europe and Southeast Asia would help forum in reshaping the new strategy and approach to response current situations that is intolerant and leading to violent extremism.


The conference will be a day-long event, and attended by a maximum of 150 participants from overseas. Approximately half will be women ulama; a quarter academics; and a quarter will be international and regional organizations. Around 10 people will be invited as resource person from different context such as Middle East, SEA, Europe, and South Asia.

The conference will be a plenary discussion where resource persons will provide presentation reflecting the theme and followed by question and answer. To conclude the session, summary of key points on the discussion will be presented before closing.



09.00-10.30 (Opening)

Opening: Sholawat team

  1. Welcoming Remark by Rector of IAIN Syekh Nurjati Cirebon (Dr. H. Sumanta, M.Ag.)
  2. Keynote Speech 1: “The Existence of Women Ulama in Islamic Civilization” (Steering Committee of KUPI, Dra. Hj. Badriyah Fayumi, Lc. MA)
  3. Keynote Speech 2: “The State and the Existence of Women Ulama in Indonesia”, (General Director of Islamic Education, Ministry of Religious Affairs of Indonesia, Prof. Kamaruddin Amin, Ph.D)


10.30-12.30  (Plenary 1: Women Ulama, Muslim Communities and States)

  1. Musawah: Reclaiming Space for women Ulama Through Movement Building – Zaenah Anwar (Malaysia)
  2. Challenges and Opportunities of Women Ulama in Engaging with OIC— Dr. Hj. Siti Ruhaini Dzuhayatin (Indonesia)
  3. Women Ulama: Working at the Communities Challeging Religious Extremism (Bushra Qadeem, PAIMAN, Pakistan )
  4. Facing Resistance: Personal Insight and Strategies of Women Ulama, Hatoon Al-Fasi (Saudi)

12.30-13.30 (Break, Praying, and Lunch)

13.30-15.30 (Plenary 2 : From Talk to Action: Women Ulama Promoting Peace and Justice)

  1. Women Ulama Under Syariah Law in Post Conflict Aceh – Prof Eka Srimulyani, Aceh Indonesia
  2. Engaging Women Ulama in Promoting Women’s Rights and Peace in Afghanistan -Roya Rahmani, the Ambasador of Afghanistan in Indonesia.
  3. Strengthening Community Resilience, Engaging Women Ulama in Responding ISIS in Kenya – Sureya Roble-Hersi, National Vice Chairperson, Maendeleo Ya Wanawake Organization, Kenya.
  4. Bokoharam: Islamism, Politics and Women’s Security in Nigeria, Fatima Akilu (Neem Foundation Nigeria)

15.30-16.00 (Concluding Remark by KUPI)

16.00-16.30 (Closing Remark, Minister of Religious Affairs, Lukman Hakim Saefuddin)

16.30 (Heading to Pondok Pesantren Kebon Jambu to join opening and cultural nights of the National Conference of Kongres Ulama Perempuan Indonesia (KUPI).