Abdurrahman Wahid
: a biographical and gender-based analysis

  • Adele Katherine O'Connor

    Student thesis: Masters by Research - CDU


    The central focus of this study is to explore from biographical and gender perspective, the influence of four women on one of Indonesia's most renowned religious and political figures of the twentieth and twenty-first centuries, Abdurrahman Wahid (b. 1940). These women are Wahid's mother, Solichah Wahid Hasyim (1922-1994); sister, Aisyah Hamid Baidlowi (b. 1941); wife, Sintah Nuriyah Wahid; and second-eldest daughter, Zannuba Yenni Wahid, (b.1974).

    Wahid's mother was his primary influence and as such the personal and political inter-relatedness of this relationship is the focus of Chapter One. Their lives are looked at in relation to the family unit, Nahdlatul Ulama (NU), Muslimat organization, gender issues, and Suharto regime. Wahid's trip to the Middle East (1963-1971) inspired him intellectually and gave rise to his status as Indonesian intellectual and neo-modernist. As a result, he became increasingly overtly political and ambiguous toward the Suharto regime particularly from 1988, the year his mother made her final exit from the Indonesian Peoples Representative Council (DPR).

    Chapter Two constitutes much briefer biographical portraits of the other three women. They have supported Wahid in many different ways and have contributed positively to Indonesia 's social, religious and political development (particularly from a gender perspective). The researcher has dubbed these four women (including Solichah Hasyim) the female inner circle, neo-modernists and Muslim feminists (as defined by Karam) because they are the women closest to Wahid and are open and progressive in their thinking.

    The relationship between Wahid and Indonesia 's first female president, Megawati Sukarnoputri was bound to fail primarily because of their differing backgrounds. Megawati was blocked by People Consultative Assembly (MPR) members from becoming president, in 1999 because o her gender and even though Wahid espoused he would support a potential Megawati presidency, he decided to side with the majority of MPR representatives. This was despite the fact that he believes in the concept of women as leaders. Due to Wahid being elected on a gender-based ruling, because of his position within the family and the closeness he had with his female inner circle, he underestimated Megawatt's willingness to side with parliamentarians and military personnel in July 2001. This is the focus of Chapter Three.

    The final chapter provides a comparative gender analysis on the thinking of Wahid and his female inner circle, based on their interpretation of Islamic law. Their views on issues affecting women are similar. The degree to which these women have impacted on Wahid's gender world-view is significant. They all share a neo-modernist perspective on gender, peppered with nuances. These factors enhance further Wahid's relationship to these women.
    Date of AwardDec 2003
    Original languageEnglish
    SupervisorDennis Shoesmith (Supervisor)

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