My fellowship at IIAS primarily aims to revise my PhD thesis, which was passed in March 2013, and turn it into a book manuscript on ‘Feminising Islam in Contemporary Indonesia: The Role of Progressive Muslim Women’s Organisations’. It  addresses the central question of how progressive Muslims women’s organisations have contributed to the reformation of Islamic law on gender and promoted women’s rights in contemporary Indonesia. The assumption that Islam prescribes different roles between men and women has posed a challenge on how to promote Muslim women’s rights without undermining religion. It uses progressive Muslim women’s organisations as case studies within two different time periods, before and after the so-called reformation in 1998, when Indonesian Islamic legal scholarship underwent a dramatic change. Unlike most of the literature on Islamic feminism, which often limits the focus to either its intellectual discourse or activism, this book draws on legal anthropological research and explores both Islamic feminist scholarship and activism in modern Indonesia. It will look at not only social action activities undertaken by these organisations but also their contributions through original progressive interpretations of the scriptures on which Islamic law is based. The book analyses how this progressive Islamic legal scholarship has developed within the context of wider debate on Islamic law in Indonesian late New Order and post-Soeharto’s periods.

The book discusses the role, strategies, and struggle of progressive Muslim women’s organisations in introducing a reform of Islamic law on gender. It discusses the implications of such reform for the relationship of women with Islam, civil society and the state in contemporary Indonesia. Drawing on extensive in-depth interviews, participatory observations, discourse analysis of Indonesian Muslim publication on gender issues, as well as historical and theoretical investigations, it will analyse how society deals with religious tradition and modernity in the largest Muslim country in the world.

This fellowship will further develop the thesis into a book by engaging in an intellectual debate on the contribution as well as the limitation of Islamic feminism to serve as a platform for women’s liberation and empowerment in the Muslim world, given its limited framework within one particular religion, while it often operates within plural socio-political contexts such as in Indonesia. It will also engage in a debate on the position of women in the region of Southeast Asia whether they have relatively higher position and more freedom than their Muslim sisters in other regions and how this has influenced the women’s movement in the region. Furthermore, the study will also highlight the distinctive nature of Islam in Southeast Asia which is arguably more cosmopolitan and moderate compared to the one in other Muslim regions such as Middle East and South Asia.  

Nur Hidayah is a lecturer at the Faculty of Islamic Law and Economics of Banten State Institute for Islamic Studies and Jakarta State Islamic University, Indonesia, since 2001. She earned her MA from Durham University, UK (2003) and PhD from Melbourne University in Islamic Studies (2013). She has pursued her research interests through further research and fellowships, including Indonesian MORA post-doctoral fellowship at the University of Western Sydney (UWS) in October-December 2013, SEASREP (2014-2015), KITLV and IIAS fellowships (2015-2016). She has written in some Indonesian Islamic journals and books concerning issues of Islam, shari`a law, gender, Muslim women’s movement, and empowerment.