March 8th is a celebration for a worldwide Women’s History Month. It is an appreciation for women’s contribution to society’s progress. For instance, American women were struggling to pursue a higher education as society believed that they were incompatible in developing their intellectual skills.
It was not until 1972 in which Title IX of the Education Codes of the Higher Education Act Amendments prohibited gender discrimination in federally funded institution. Seeing it as a door to opportunity, women began to become involved in an advanced education.
For Muslim women, we are fortunate that we didn’t have to wait until 1972 for our status, rights and role to be recognized because Islam already set systematic guidelines as mentioned in the Quran and through the practice of Prophet Muhammad (peace be on him).
The Qur’an highlights four statuses for Muslim women: spiritual, intellectual, economic, and social. These vouchsafed conditions automatically refute a dogma that Western people have toward Muslim women as being oppressed and uneducated.
Spiritually, both men and women will enter Heaven if they do good works. As the Qur’an states, “But whoso does good works, whether male or female, and is a believer, such shall enter Heaven,” (4:25).
Intellectually, Muhammad (peace be on him) encouraged men and women to pursue knowledge. He said, “It is it is a duty for every Muslim man and every Muslim woman to acquire knowledge.”
Muhammad’s (peace be on him) wisdom is a forthright rebuttal to every description or reports that media has toward Muslim women as an uneducated group. All religious extremists are like a wolf that hides under the blanket and act as a grandma to the Little Red Riding Hood. The religious extremists use Islam as their blanket to hide their ignorance of Islamic wisdom and their hunger for power.
Economically, the Qur’an addresses fair guidelines for both men and women regarding their income. “Men shall have their share of that which they have earned, and women a share of that which they have earned…” (4:33).A husband must share his income to support the family while a wife is not obligated to do so because financial support is the husband’s responsibility.
Although Muslim women are misrepresented in mass media, they are actually contributed in building an educated society by being involved in science, mathematics, technology, and engineering; subjects that once were thought incompatible for women.
Intan Suci Nurhati, Ph.D., is a member of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community and a scientist. As a postdoctoral associate at Singapore-MIT Alliance for Research and Technology (SMART’s) , her research focuses on how humans changed tropical climate and marine chemistry by examining nature’s own collection such as corals and trees.
Nurhati’s ongoing fieldwork projects include coral record of past marine environments and climate variability in the Southeast Asia, Indian Ocean, and Kuwait.
Nurhati received her bachelor degree from Wesleyan University with honors in Earth and Environmental Science with a double major in Economics. Then she continued her studies at
Georgia Institute of Technology and received a doctorate in Earth and Atmospheric Sciences and Certificate in Environmental Public Policy.
She said that one of the most significant achievements was when she received a full scholarship for her undergraduate degree in the U.S.
Nurhati is one of many great women whose contributions not only benefit the society but she also removes misconception that a Muslim woman is subjugated under the so-called Islamic law that has been misunderstood by the religious authorities and biased coverage from the Western media . Nurhati uses hijab or veil as a part of the religious mandate and she also contributes her knowledge and skills for the benefit of the earth and mankind.
Khalida Jamilah is a first year student at UC Berkeley.