Ayat-Ayat Cinta [AAC] (2008), film is an adaptation from a novel by Habiburrahman El Shirazy which has the same title. Offers mix reading between religious and gender. It tells a story of an Indonesian religious student- Fahri, who is studying in a prestigious religious university in Egypt: Al-Azhar. Fahri is shown as a person who is popular among the female students. Thus, his sincerity, standing up for the women and has moderates values brings him admirers.
It is these characteristics as I observed lends itself to a gender reading, which I will discuss later. Despite the fact that Ayat-Ayat Cinta centre on Fahri, the film clearly distinguishes issues of woman.
Women in AAC are conceptualised as Maria, Nurul, Noura dan Aisyah. These women represent four different types of woman but have one in common: they all admire Fahri. They all want to be Fahri’s wife. But as we all know, Fahri who is conceptualised as an ideal figure to these women only choose one: Aisyah.
Aisyah to Fahri is `a perfect wife candidate’. At such, she is chosen by his well known religious teacher – Syeikh Usman, Aisyah is shown as a woman who embraces a deep devotion for Islam, she comes from a wealthy family, and most of all, Aisyah is of course a beautiful woman– hides her beauty behind her veil: her beauty mesmerised Fahri, as for the first time she reveal her faces to him. Her characteristics serve as a mechanism that manages to construct Fahri’s status and image of an ideal figure.
Instead of Nurul an average girl – not as beautiful as Aisyah dan comes from a family that not as rich as Aisyah. Or Noura, a girl who has lost her virginity to her `father’, as she was raped and later we learned that she is pregnant. Or even Maria, Fahri’s Christian friend and who admires him dearly.
Indeed, Fahri decision to wed Aisyah does consequence of heart broken and frustration among others. Thus, leads to jealously, anger and a revenge feelings. Certainly, these `selfish’ feelings trigger hence drive the AAC’s narrative. Noteworthy, these feelings to a certain extent signify a certain threat and harm towards Fahri.
Soon, we see that Fahri, who holds an ideal figure image, is shattered by these women’s selfish feelings since none of them are willing to accept that neither Fahri is no longer avalaible nor accept Fahri’s love only for Aisyah alone.
Nurul, through his parents, seek for Fahri’s consents when they –Nurul’s parents- propose the marriage proposal to Fahri, since they are worried about her heart broken condition that has influenced her states of mind. Certainly, Fahri rejects the proposal since he is already married to Aisyah. Furthermore, Nurul is just a friend to him.
As for Noura, she is a much braver woman. She takes her selfish feeling further by making a false accusation of rape towards Fahri- the person who has helped and saved her from his brutal and evil `father’ – which consequences her of outside marriage pregnancy. This false accusation then illustrates a claustrophobic atmosphere that forms the film’s dramatic drive.
In her statement during her confessions in the court, later in the film, she tells the court that on that day –the day that she was rape- she was on the away to Fahri’s house. Since Fahri did not reply her `marriage proposal’ letter which she wrote `‘dear a man with a good heart. There is no one else in my life accept Allah. How I wish I could be your wife […]’ [my translation]. She then continues to confess to the court that `I love Fahri. My heart shattered when I knew that he is already married. I am afraid of a man who has raped me. But also I am afraid of losing my family’s love.’[my translation]
Likewise, Maria, who is also fail to overcome her heart broken feeling. To such a degree, her deep frustration emotion put her health in a critical state. Hence, consequences her of being in a coma after she was run by a car, as part of the conspiracy to frame Fahri by Noura evil `father’. Maria’s critical condition forms a hopeless future towards Fahri: as to set him free. Since Maria holds a key of truth which could reveal the real situation. The only solution to cure Maria’s deep frustration is by, Maria to be wed by Fahri. Fahri rejectes this idea at first, as I mentioned earlier, that he loves no ones but Aisyah alone. Moreover, he admits that polygamy for him is a responsibility that could not be taken lightly. Thus, he is not strong enough to bare that responsibility.
In the light of the above discussion, Aisyah, Fahri’s wife, needs Maria’s help as to set Fahri free. Furthermore, she wants her unborn child to have a father. Noting this point further, Aisyah actually is the person who urges and persuades Fahri to wed Maria, as she expresses ‘there is a Muslim soul inside Maria’s body. Please marry her. Besides, your child needs a father.’ [my translation].
For me, her persuasions can be analysed into two levels. First, the level of selfish feeling. In this view, Aisyah’s persuasion can be seen as her way to `set Fahri free’ as to give her unborn child to have a father. Despite Fahri’s rejection, reasons and feelings. Second, the level of sacrifices. Here, in this level she forces herself to willing ask and let Fahri weds Maria since inside Maria there is a `Muslim soul’. Hence, that soul needs to rescue and to be cared for.
Indeed, the selfish feeling among AAC women has put Fahri as the prime victim that needs to be rescued. Rescues in a manner of denying his feelings and suppresses his `ideal figure’ ego which has been advised by a friend of his in the cell. The denial and suppression of his unconditional loves towards Aisyah, actually safe him. He agrees to wed Maria as to free himself so that his unborn baby has a father and save the `Muslim soul’ inside Maria’s body.
For Noura and Maria, their `woman’s’ capability of self expression has constructed a threat to the patriarchal society codes, such as towards Fahri’s marriage. Therefore they need to be punished as to ensure the safety of this society. However, despite their wrongdoing, Noura and Maria, at the end of the film, are not punished but, instead is forgiven by Fahri.
For Fahri, Noura wrongdoing: her false accusation towards him, is forced by fear of her safety from her rapist and fear of losing her family’s love if they knew that it was actually her fault, since she was rape while secretly went to find Fahri, alone.
However, as for Maria, she is forgiven due to the reason that she has redeemed herself by becoming a good wife to Fahri as well as a good companion to Aisyah. Her redemption and her seeking for Aisyah’s and Fahri’s forgiveness before she dies - as she realises that she has `harm’ their marriage- at the end of this film, has managed to put Maria at the same level as Aisyah in Fahri’s heart. Which we can see in the scene that follows, a montage of Fahri and Maria walks happily in a bright and spacious desert. This scene clearly signifies the acceptance of Maria in his heart and represents Maria as a good wife and Muslim. At this moment, Fahri’s image which has been shattered now reform: as an ideal husband to both Aisyah and Maria and as a new ideal figure to us.
In brief, Ayat-Ayat Cinta, tells the stories of women. The story serves as their self-expression of a long suppression which will circumstance a certain threat and harm towards the society.
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