Gender Awareness in Islamic Education The Pioneering Case of Indonesia in a Comparison with Pakistan

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This article analyzes the development of gender awareness in Islamic education in Indonesia and Pakistan in general, and the inclusion of a gender perspective in particular. The current situation in Islamic education is a result of their larger national contexts, not least concerning the factors focused upon in this study – educational reform, intellectual milieu, female student enrollment, political development and women’s rights movement. Methodologically the study is built on a combination of fieldwork and text analysis. Fieldwork has been carried out in Indonesia – Bandung, Banjarmasin, Cirebon, Jakarta, Makassar, Pontianak and Yogyakarta – but not in Pakistan. The concepts of ‘gender order’ and ‘gender regime’, or gender relation, inform the analysis of this article.
Indonesia has come a long way in this development, although local variations are considerable. In the front-line we have the gender-mixed institutions for higher Islamic education. Scholars at their respective PSWs engage in research with a gender perspective and results are applied in textbooks, curriculums, and methodological and pedagogical training. Pesantrens have experienced a process of reform where the establishment of madrasas and the involvement of NGOs constitute important features. Pesantren continues to be gender-segregated but patriarchal textbooks on gender roles in Islam have been increasingly questioned. The number of female students, teachers, researchers and administrators has steadily increased in all forms of Islamic education. The development of gender awareness in Islamic education has been facilitated by a more than century long process of educational reform and the growth of a liberal and progressive school of Islamic thought. The latter was unintentionally stimulated by the larger political climate that for many years depoliticized Islam but supported private religion and Islamic education. Additionally, Indonesia’s strong women’s movement became increasingly aware of the impact of religion on women’s rights and many activists incorporated that aspect in their struggle.
Pakistan still has a long way to go when it comes to gender awareness in Islamic education. The International Islamic University Islamabad provides an example of reformed higher Islamic education, but like all Islamic education in Pakistan it is gender segregated and gender issues and women’s rights in Islam are not explicitly on their agenda. The traditionalist Deobandi ideology initially dominated madrasas but currently we find a variety of ideological orientations and many have gone through a minor reform concerning methodology and curriculum, although most are still very patriarchal. Many female madrasas have been established and they have an increasing number of students, female teachers and administrators. However, the teaching pursues traditional Islamic values and patriarchal morals, which cements rather than challenges existing gender roles. Al-Huda is a new form of female Islamic school. It was initiated by a woman and is run solely by women, and the education is university like. The Islamic values pursued in teaching are similar to the madrasas, while the curriculum and methodology differ. The Indian sub-continent had a process of educational and intellectual reform at the turn of the twentieth century and modern educational Islamic institutions were established. However, this process has been hampered and the country was not ready to embrace the ideas of later modernist reformist thinkers. Because of the increasing Islamization of politics and law in Pakistan the strong women’s movement has become increasingly aware of the impact of religion, which has caused harsh internal debates among activists of different ideological leaning.
Traditionalist ulama and scholars educated in the Middle East have in both countries similarly questioned the Islamic knowledge and legitimacy of reformist scholars, women and men alike, and these opponents have been more influential in Pakistan than in Indonesia. The Indonesian gender regime in Islamic education is no longer fully male dominated, and the patriarchal content in Islamic educational material is occasionally questioned and exchanged. However, in Pakistan women’s impact on the prevailing male dominated gender regime and patriarchal content in Islamic education is at best seminal. Finally, the prevailing patriarchal Islamic gender order/s seem solid in Pakistan, but can be regarded as slightly challenged in Indonesia.


Research areas and keywords

Subject classification (UKÄ) – MANDATORY

  • Other Social Sciences


  • Gender, Islam, Islamic ethics, Islam in textbooks, textbooks, education, non-formal education, women, women's rights, Pakistan, Indonesia
Original languageEnglish
JournalStudia Islamika
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 2012
Publication categoryResearch