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The Center for Southeast Asian Studies organizes and sponsors a number of events such as lectures, film screening, workshops, symposia, conferences, exhibits, and performances throughout the year.  Several of these events are in collaboration with other U-M units, and are often free and open to the public. To see what we have planned for this semester, please visit our 2020 Lecture Series page.

CSEAS Friday Lecture Series | Women Issuing Fatwas in Indonesia: Gender, Authority, and Everyday Legal Practice

Nor Ismah, Deputy Director of the Institute of Southeast Asian Islam at Sunan Kalijaga State Islamic University in Indonesia and 2023-2024 Gosling-Lim Fellow at the University of Michigan
Friday, April 5, 2024
12:00-1:00 PM
Room 110 Weiser Hall Map
Attend in person or via Zoom. Zoom registration at

Nor Ismah introduces a novel approach to examining fatwas (Islamic legal opinions) within the context of Indonesia, with the aim of contributing to the broader field of Islamic Studies on fatwa-making. It advocates for a redirection of research attention towards women's fatwa-making, emphasizing their lived experiences and the specific locales where they issue fatwas. By integrating Islamic studies frameworks with anthropological research and gender studies, my presentation challenges the conventional concentration on male-dominated institutions, highlighting the grassroots level practice of issuing fatwas, particularly by women.

She contends that fatwa-issuing institutions exhibit gendered structures that marginalize women from significant roles and recognition as Islamic scholars. Consequently, an exploration of women's fatwa-making necessitates an examination of various interaction sites between female muftis and those seeking fatwas. These interactions unveil dynamic shifts in women's experiences, religious authority, and everyday fatwa-making practices influenced by context-specific resources. The active participation of women disrupts traditional norms, challenging gendered structures within fatwa-making institutions.

Additionally, it signifies the evolution of doctrinal changes and ethical practices, transforming fatwas from static outcomes into a dynamic and inclusive realm of interaction, innovation, and Islamic authority. The presentation argues that the success observed in Indonesia holds paramount importance for a comprehensive understanding of Muslim women's experiences in contemporary Muslim society. To achieve a holistic perspective, the study recommends shifting the focus away from the Middle East and expanding research to encompass Muslims in other regions, particularly Southeast Asia, where the most populous Muslim country is situated. This shift is envisioned to offer a well-rounded depiction of the diverse experiences of Muslim women beyond the conventional geographical center of Islam.

Nor Ismah is Deputy Director of the Institute of Southeast Asian Islam at Sunan Kalijaga State Islamic University in Indonesia. She holds a Master’s degree in Southeast Asian Studies from the School of Pacific and Asian Studies at the University of Hawaii at Manoa, completing her studies in 2012 with the support of the Ford Foundation International Fellowship Program. From 2016 to 2023, she pursued her PhD studies at the Leiden University Institute for Area Studies (LIAS), sponsored by the Indonesia Endowment Fund for Education under the Ministry of Finance of the Republic of Indonesia. Nor Ismah’s research focuses on Islam, women's knowledge production, and media. In recognition of her scholarly achievements, Nor Ismah was awarded the Co2libri Early Career Researcher Fellowship at the Institute of Asian and African Studies, Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin in 2023. She received the prestigious 2023-2024 Association of Asian Studies Gosling-Lim Postdoctoral Fellowship in Southeast Asian Studies, which is hosted by and has brought her to the Center for Southeast Asian Studies (CSEAS) at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor.

If there is anything we can do to make this event accessible to you, please contact us at Please be aware that advance notice is necessary as some accommodations may require more time for the university to arrange.
Building: Weiser Hall
Event Type: Lecture / Discussion
Tags: Asia, indonesia, Southeast Asia
Source: Happening @ Michigan from Center for Southeast Asian Studies, International Institute, Asian Languages and Cultures