IAIS Malaysia

Past Events

Seminar on Women’s Leadership In Islam

Co-organisers:  International Institute of Advanced Islamic Studies (IAIS) Malaysia and Pertubuhan Ikram Malaysia (IKRAM)

Speakers: Professor Dr. Mohammad Hashim Kamali, YBhg. Datin Paduka Hajah Che Asmah Ibrahim, Associate Professor Dr. Raihanah Haji Abdullah

Day/Date/Time: Thursday, 15 May 2014, 02:00pm

Venue: International Institute of Advanced Islamic Studies (IAIS) Malaysia

women's leadership[click for more pictures]


2:00pm – 2:30pm Registration of participants

2:30pm – 2:35pm Welcoming Remarks by the Moderator, Associate Professor Dr. Mohamed Azam bin Mohamed Adil, Deputy CEO, IAIS Malaysia

2:35pm - 3:05pm Presentation by by Professor Dr. Mohammad Hashim Kamali

3:05pm – 3:35pm Presentation by YBhg. Datin Paduka Hajah Che Asmah Ibrahim

3:35pm – 4:05pm Presentation by Associate Professor Dr. Raihanah Haji Abdullah

4:05pm – 4:45pm Q&A session

4:45pm Concluding remarks by the moderator and adjourn the seminar


Speakers Profile

mhkProfessor Dr. Mohammad Hashim Kamali is Founding Chairman and CEO of the International Institute of Advanced Islamic Studies (IAIS) Malaysia. He was Professor of Islamic Law and Jurisprudence at the International Islamic University Malaysia (1985-2004), and also Dean of the International Institute of Islamic Thought and Civilization (ISTAC) from 2004 to 2006. Dr Kamali was previously Assistant Professor at the Institute of Islamic Studies, McGill University, Canada (1980-84). He was a Visiting Professor at the Capital University, Ohio (1991), and the Institute for Advanced Studies (Wissenschaftskolleg) of Berlin respectively (1999-2000). He served as a member and sometime Chairman of the Constitution Review Commission of Afghanistan (2003) and as a UN Advisor on constitutional reform in the Maldives (2004 and 2007), the constitutions of Iraq (2004-2005) and Somalia (2010). Professor Kamali is a member of the Shari’ah Advisory Council of the Securities Council, Malaysia, and serves on the advisory boards of 13 local and international academic journals; addressed over 200 national and international conferences, has published 22 books and over 170 academic articles. He is Senior Fellow of the following: Royal Academy of Jordan; Institute of Advanced Study Berlin and Afghanistan Academy of Sciences.

He is author of a seven-volume work on fundamental rights and liberties in Islam published by The Islamic Text Society of Cambridge, UK.  His Principles of Islamic Jurisprudence; A Textbook of Hadith Studies; and Shari’ah Law: An Introduction are widely referenced texts in leading English-speaking universities worldwide. He is an original signatory of A Common Word Between Us and You (2007), and features in a book entitled, The 500 Most Influential Muslims in the World, jointly published in the US and Jordan (2009 and 2010).  He is recipient of several distinguished awards for his academic works including the King Abdullah I bin Hussein International Award 2010 from His Majesty King Abdullah of Jordan.

Kamali’s works are translated into Bahasa Malaysia, Bahasa Indonesia, Farsi, Pashto, Dari, Arabic, Bengali, Bosnian, German, Italian, Turkish and Japanese. He is listed in a number of leading Who’s Who in the world.

CHE ASMAH IBRAHIM DATIN PADUKA CHE ASMAH IBRAHIM: Born in Alor Star, Kedah on June 24th, 1963, Che Asmah received her Bachelor of Science degree in Chemical Engineering from the University of Missouri (Columbia), USA in 1985 and subsequently pursued her Master of Science in Environmental Impact Assessment from the University of Wales, Aberystwyth, Wales, UK in 1996.

Being a retired civil servant, she brings with her 28 years of working experiences in environmental management specialising in the area of air pollution; waste and hazardous waste management; environmental legal requirements and policies; and environmental governance. She headed the Air Division and Hazardous Substances Division at the Department of Environment (DOE) Headquarters, in Putrajaya, where her responsibilities  focused mainly on policy development. Her 7 years experience leading the DOE’s Selangor State office as a States Office Director prooved her leadership qualities and credibility in managing the whole spectrum of environmental management ranging from increasing public awareness and stakeholder engagement; developing and excuting enforcement strategies; pollution prevention, control and abatement; integrating environmental consideration into development projects; all the way to the handling of prosecutional matters. She therefore, has the advantage of having excellent understanding on environmental legal requirements and policies in Malaysia. Due to her vast experiences over the years, she became a reference point for views and opinion by various stakeholders on environmental issues including the local media.  

At regional and international level she also carries with her a wide experience and exposure in negotiation meetings on Multilateral Environmental Agreements including the Basel Convention on Transboundary Movement of Hazardous Waste, Montreal Protocol, ASEAN Haze Agreement and Minimata Convention. She possesses hands-on experience in overseeing the implementation of bilateral international projects in Malaysia with major global environmental players such as the USEPA, GTZ, CSIRO and JICA where she was entrusted as the Project Director in ensuring the successful implementation of these projects.

Apart from her official duties, she is also active in social development & charity work, especially in providing opinion and insights on women issues locally through her involvement with Pertubuhan IKRAM Malaysia (IKRAM), where she is currently the Deputy Head of Women’s Wing. She is also passionate for humanitarian and social work in helping the needy locally and abroad. Proactively, utilising her annual leave, she participated in a humanitarian mission to Gaza, Palestine with Islamic Relief Malaysia (IRM) in 2012 and recently in 2014 to Jordan for the Syrian humanitarian mission. In addition, she is also being entrusted as one of the trustee in Hidayah Centre Foundation board, another NGO dealing with new Muslim reverts’ development.
In 2010, she was bestowed with Dato Paduka Mahkota Selangor (DPMS) by HRH The Sultan of Selangor which carries the title ’Datin Paduka’ for female recipient, in appreciation for her contribution  particularly concerning the Selangor state’s environmental management.

RaihanahAbdullahAssociate Professor Dr. Raihanah Abdullah received her PhD in Law from the International Islamic University, Malaysia. She is an Associate Professor at the Department of Shari’ah and Law, Academy of Islamic Studies, University of Malaya, Malaysia.  

Her interest of research and publications are related to Islamic Family Law, Islamic Law and Gender and Islamic Law and Society. Among her current co-authored International publications are Zaleha Kamaruddin and Raihanah Abdullah, 2008, Protecting Muslim Women Against Abuse of Polygamy in Malaysia: Legal Perspective. HAWWA: Journal of Women of the Middle East and the Islamic World, 6(2):176-201; Abdullah R, and Khairuddin S. 2009. The Malaysian Shari’ah Courts: Polygamy, Divorce and the Administration of Justice. Asian Women, 25(1): 21-32 and also Raihanah Abdullah, Wirdati Mohd Radzi, Fuadah Johari and Golam Dastagir, 2014. “The Islamic Legal Provisions for Women’s Share in the Inheritance System: A Reflection on Malaysian Society”, Asian Women, 30(1): 29-52. Her current research is to look into the role of women in building peace and harmony.

She was the Head Department of Shari’ah and Law during 2006-2007 and Director of the Centre for Civilizational Dialogue from 2011-2013. She has been awarded as a fellow of the Freeman Foundation at the Salzburg Global Seminar, Schloss Leopoldskron, Salzburg, Austria in October 2008. Her message of congratulations to the Institute of Oriental Philosophy, Tokyo, Japan in celebrating their 52nd anniversary was published in Seikyo Shimbun, the 3rd largest newspaper, with about 6 million circulations in Japan on the February 4th, 2014.  She was invited by the King Abdullah Bin Abdulaziz International Centre for Interreligious and Intercultural Dialogue (KAICIID), Vienna Austria with other 500 religious leaders around the globe to participate in the Global Forum on ”The Image of the Other: Interreligious and Intercultural Education”, which was held on 18 and 19 November 2013 in Vienna, Austria.  

She is also actively involved in Muslim women’s NGOs especially in enhancing legal awareness for Muslim women in Malaysia. She is a member of the Association of Shari’ah Lawyers, Malaysia. She has been appointed by several Government agencies as one of the consultants in the Family Support Division under the Department of Shari’ah Judiciary Malaysia and also as an expert panelist in dealing with Muslim women issues (PISWI) under the Department of Islamic Development Malaysia. In 2011 at the 38th Session of the Council of OIC Foreign Ministers in Kazakhstan, she was elected as one of the first group of 18 commissioners in the Independent Permanent Human Rights Commission, Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC), representing Malaysia until 2017. She is also a registered Shari’ah lawyer practicing at the Shari’ah court in Malaysia. Currently she has been appointed as the Deputy Dean of Humanities Research Cluster, University of Malaya.


On 15 May 2014, IAIS Malaysia organized a seminar on Women’s Leadership in Islam in collaboration with Pertubuhan IKRAM Malaysia. The speakers were Professor Mohammad Hashim Kamali, CEO of IAIS Malaysia; Che Asmah Ibrahim, Deputy Chairman of the Women Committee, IKRAM; and Associate Professor Dr Raihanah Abdullah, associate professor at the Department of Shariah and Law, Academy of Islamic Studies, University of Malaya.

The first speaker, Prof Hashim Kamali defined leadership in a broad sense to include intellectual leadership, a domain which even historically has witnessed significant contributions by women, such as in the sciences of hadith. The renowned hadith scholar, Ibn Hajar al-Asqalani enlisted over 170 female hadith scholars, one of whom even mastered a number of other disciplines. A study by Jalal al-Din Suyuti reveals that no woman has been involved in hadith forgery.

Attempts to preclude women from leadership have invoked scriptural arguments—a strategy which Kamali deconstructed in detail. Verses that may have been misunderstood or misinterpreted include the one proclaiming that “men have a degree over women” (al-Baqarah 2:228) (which must actually be read in the light of another verse, al-Tawba 9:71 declaring that men and women are protectors (awliyya’) of each other) and that “men are caretakers (qawwamun) of women” (al-Nisa’ 4:34) (which actually goes on to say that this is only because the men provide by way of maintenance (nafaqa)).

This recognition for female leadership must nonetheless confront cultural impediments. Towards this end, progress is being made, as seen in the case of Afghanistan. The 2004 constitution of Afghanistan secures women’s rights among others by imposing a quota on women for women in the representative assembly. Yet women themselves demand for higher quota, from one female representative to two representatives from each province.

The second speaker, Che Asmah Ibrahim, explored the concept and importance of leadership in Islam. Concurring with Kamali, Che Asmah added that throughout Islamic history, female participation in public life and decision-making has always been recognised. An example is when the second caliph, ‘Umar al-Khattab decided to lower the rate of dowry (mahr) for marriages but swiftly retracted this policy following objections from the womenfolk. To be sure, classical scholars did exclude women from certain offices, but even then this has less to do with any innate qualities or traits of women than with the specific functions that these scholars assigned for the office, such as the caliph’s duty to lead military expeditions and to lead the Friday prayer congregation. Asmah insisted on equity over equality, for the latter seeks to homogenize or uniformize male and female by means of a “one-size-fits-all” formula whereas the former takes into account the peculiar strengths and distinct qualities of each gender. In practical terms the former often means imposing male standards upon female, when in fact men and women may exhibit different leadership styles, which itself calls for greater awareness, training and education to understand the different ways in which the different genders lead.  

Imposing quota as with the case in Afghanistan may not necessarily be productive. While acknowledging the possible benefits of the quota system, she nevertheless questioned if this will not offend women’s pride i.e. they hold their positions, not because they are qualified leaders but because they are women (to fulfill the quota requirement).  

Asmah also explored the challenges faced by women, such as the lack of role models, balancing home and work, challenging social stereotypes (sometimes the worst enemies of women are women themselves: for instance, based on their own testimonies, female workers are more comfortable with male subordinates and superiors than with female ones, perceiving female bosses in extreme terms, either too soft or too rigid, nowhere in the middle). By way of recommendation, Che Asmah proposed for the adoption of a national level Muslim Women’s Charter.

The third speaker, Raihanah Abdullah, examined the contemporary trends, issues and challenges of Muslim women leadership in Malaysia. She stressed that, while female participation in the economy is clearly visible and encouraging, women nevertheless seemed to gravitate more towards “soft” professions, such as teaching, nursing and health care. Women are also less visible as leaders—except in some non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and even then as head of their “women committee”. Still more worrying is the status of women in Islamic institutions in Malaysia, none of which (she claimed) can boast of female leadership. However, in 2010, three women were appointed as Shariah court judges. Although an earlier state fatwa in Terengganu (1986) declared it impermissible, the National Fatwa Council (2006) allowed it. Women leadership faces further challenges such as cultural stereotypes, balancing work and home, and creating a work environment conducive to women’s safety and growth. [Tengku Ahmad Hazri, IAIS Malaysia]

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Contact Information

International Institute of Advanced Islamic Studies (IAIS) Malaysia
Jalan Elmu, Off Jalan Universiti 59100 Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
Tel: +603-7956 9188  Fax: +603-7956 2188 / +603-7956 2966  Email: reply@iais.org.my

Quotable Quotes

We can never obtain peace in the outer world until we make peace with ourselves (Dalai Lama).

Humour Without Malice

During a Q&A session, a scholar was asked, "Will we get cigarettes in Jannah?" to which he replied, "Maybe, but you'd have to go to Jahannam to light it".


God is Kind Gentle [rafiq] and loves Gentle kindness; He bestows in return for kindness that which He does not bestow for harsh-violence. (hadith)

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