This month a new reality show will start airing in Malaysia. Solehah, which means “pious one,” is a reality show where women compete to be named the best preacher. Contestants will be judged on their religious knowledge, personality, and oratory abilities.
What makes this show unusual is the fact that women are competing in a field usually reserved for men. There is already a hit reality show called Imam Muda in Malaysia where men compete to be the best imam. Women can give dawah (call to Islam) but men are often at the forefront. This show, however, demonstrates the role that women play in communicating the faith.
Women have always participated in the Muslim community. In the early Muslim community, women and mem had access to the Prophet Muhammad and would study with him. In other words, knowledge was not reserved for men but was a right for all believers. Moreover, we know that women played a central role in preserving religious knowledge. Ayesha, the Prophet’s wife, is responsible for relaying many hadith.
Thus, a show like Solehah is important because it reflects the historical role of Muslim women and provides them with a space to participate. This is an explicit goal of the show, according to the television station airing the program, “Solehah aims to be a show that provides religious education informally while acknowledging the role of women in the development of Islam.”
What do you think of Solehah? Can it change the gender dynamic in the Muslim community? Do you think that a show like this can air in the Middle East or is this a Southeast Asian phenomena? Please share your comments below.