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Injustice

Meet the Saudi-stones?

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This article appeared on Arab News online. Lubna makes a case for a Flinstone setting in Saudi. Even though I get where Lubna is coming from, I don’t quite see the Flinstones analogy. That would be more applicable if the case of the Amish or about some other Saudis, who as I have heard reject modern inventions (like the Amish). Regardless of the failures of the analogy and regardless of the unnecessary addition of cheekiness to the content, I applaud Lubna for bringing to light a case that, at face-value, smacks of injustice and complete insanity.

Fatima, the subject of the story, was married by the consent of her guardian, her father. She now has three children. She is happily-married, yet her half-brothers have discovered a lie made by her husband pre-marriage, and are seeking annulment! How is it that any lies that her husband may have made could make this a case for annulment? This just doesn’t make sense at all. The sceptic in me says there is more to the story. But if there isn’t, then this is case for clear condemnation and perhaps some action (like calling/emailing Saudi embassy perhaps?) We know that any negative press would make them buckle and free this sister from prison to be with her legally and Islamically established husband. And I concur with Lubna in her final point of her article, “Instead of harping upon the fact that the Western media insists on giving Islam a bad name, we would be well-counseled to realize that with judgments like these we do a pretty good job ourselves.”

So, for the geniuses out there (as well as the non-geniuses), what say you should we do? Another question to the more knowledgable brothers and sisters: is there any Islamic precedent at all for such a ruling on behalf of half-brothers (or even the father, if he was alive)? And FINALLY, I believe there is a HUGE positive in this otherwise tragic story, can anyone venture to guess what?

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Meet the Flintstones by Lubna Hussain
Friday, 2, February, 2007 (14, Muharram, 1428)

You would be forgiven if you thought that such a ruling had been administered in the Stone Age. In actual fact, when I read through the case, images of men dressed in Fred and Barnie-like attire and brandishing clubs came to mind. The word “yabbadabbadoo” being pronounced prior to the announcement of the verdict would not have appeared out of place.

The headline “Appeals Court Upholds Ruling in Controversial Fatima Divorce Case” appeared to be the biggest anachronism gracing the front page this week. After all, our palate has been spoiled by the liberal sprinkling of more fashionable and salubrious buzzwords such as “progress,” “reform” and “dialogue” spicing up our daily staple of newspaper fare. That’s what made such a pronouncement all the more ironic.

Those of you who haven’t been following the case merit an explanation. So here, in a nutshell, is what the furor is all about. A happily married couple, with three children, who expressed the singular desire to stay married, was divorced by the court in absentia against its will. How can someone be “divorced” against their will you may ask? Good question!

Here is the entirely ludicrous and pathetic explanation proffered in justification. Fatima was married to Mansour with the consent of her father. After her father passed away, her half-brothers automatically assumed the mantle of being her legal guardians if she ever got divorced. Several years and two children later, Fatima’s half-brothers claimed that Mansour had concealed his true tribal origins in order to win her hand and asked the local court to annul her marriage.

Did Fatima care about her husband’s tribal affiliations? No. Did she think that such an issue was important? No. Did she ever consider divorcing her husband upon these grounds? No. But what on earth am I talking about? Why am I even considering that Fatima may even have had an opinion on the subject? After all, Fatima is a woman. Her only real part in the saga is that she was married to Mansour. What gives her the right to decide to stay married to him when her half-brothers think that it’s more appropriate for her to bid her husband of so many years good riddance? How dare she even challenge their wise decision that would not only deny her the opportunity to continue her life as a happily married woman, but would also subject her to the mercy of her half-brothers who would subsequently assume total control of her life?

Fatima, as you can clearly see from the story, is one of those strong-willed ingrates who seem to think that they can get away with standing up to male domination. A blight on the face of womanhood!

I wonder if any of you can guess where Fatima is right now? The only sensible place for disobedient women who challenge the authority of their male guardians of course —prison. What’s even more bizarre and disgusting is that she chooses the option of languishing in prison over the golden opportunity of returning to the warm and loving guardianship of her half-brothers. This just goes to further prove what a boorish and unreasonable woman Fatima is.

So much for “progress,” “reform” and “dialogue.” How can we sit back in our ivory towers and allow such gross miscarriages of justice to continue? It is nothing short of appalling that such nonsensical illegitimate rulings are not only entertained, but upheld in a country that claims to follow the Shariah. Islam played a major role in abolishing these ignorant practices. To emphasize that all men are created equal in the sight of God, the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) presided over the marriage of his cousin to a slave. That is the true spirit of Islam. We are not expected to judge one another according to an accident of birth but rather for the qualities and merits of the individual. However, this basic principle seems to have been compromised in favor of a judge’s ruling that has been held above the word of God.

Once again, it sadly appears that the judicial system applies Islamic jurisprudence according to its whim and fancy. There are many very serious and dangerous implications of setting this legal precedent. How can a woman in this country be sure of being granted her supposedly inviolable Islamic rights when tribal considerations and male domination are seen as being of greater importance? Why is it that a woman’s opinion is of such little consequence when it is critical to the future of her and her children?

And more importantly, how is it that as a society we can tolerate such a backward, regressive and counterproductive attitude from our judiciary in light of the fact that it flies in the face of our religious beliefs? Does that mean that in some cases it is appropriate to refute the word of God?

What saddens me immensely is that I believe we are making sincere and earnest attempts to improve ourselves and impress upon the world that we are moving forward. However, retaining such archaic illogical procedures not only serves to undo all the good that we are doing, but actually sets us back much farther than whence we started. A pathetic story like that of Fatima will do us far more damage than any feel-good story of the improving condition of women we may seek to portray.

Instead of harping upon the fact that the Western media insists on giving Islam a bad name, we would be well-counseled to realize that with judgments like these we do a pretty good job ourselves.

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Abu Reem is one of the founders of MuslimMatters, Inc. His identity is shaped by his religion (Islam), place of birth (Pakistan), and nationality (American). By education, he is a ChemE, topped off with an MBA from Wharton. He has been involved with Texas Dawah, Clear Lake Islamic Center and MSA. His interests include politics, cricket, and media interactions. Career-wise, Abu Reem is in management in the oil & gas industry (but one who still appreciates the "green revolution").

13 Comments

13 Comments

  1. Philomantis

    March 18, 2007 at 4:08 PM

    She’s accurately stating that such rulings smack of the stone age (Pre-Islamic Jâhilîyyah, if you will), hence, the “Flintstones” parallel. Did you seriously not see that?

  2. Amad

    March 18, 2007 at 5:04 PM

    I would see that way, Philomantis, if she put it the way you have stated here. But I seriously doubt that is what she meant, I think she meant it more as a lack of modernization, while it is more a lack of Islamic understanding than anything else. Regardless, we still agree on the basic jahiliyah of this type of injustice. wallahualam.

    And since no one has ventured to guess what the positive is, I’ll state it anyway before this post (revived from the dead by Philomantis’s comments) becomes history: the fact that this article appeared in Arabnews, a Saudi paper, is testimony to the opening up of press a bit there in an otherwise historically closed-press system, and the freedom to report injustices and social ills is the first step towards addressing them. As a side-note, I was also hoping we could consider setting up a date/action-alert to call the Saudi Embassy and demanding that the sister be freedom or some other ‘pressure tactic’. If there is a lot of support for that kind of activity, we can gather pertinent contact information.

  3. ِAbu Bakr

    March 18, 2007 at 6:02 PM

    These Saudi newspapers are notorious for promoting their liberal agenda… a number of them are owned by princes… they deliberately play the conservatives and liberals against each other

    I’m sure whatever the case may have been, right or wrong, this story is probably an exaggeration of what actually happened

  4. anon

    March 18, 2007 at 6:25 PM

    An exaggeration?!?! This has been on newspapers all over the Arab world, not just “liberal” Saudi newspapers and they have all reported and confirmed the same story. Its not an exaggeration to say she was forcibly divorced and is now rotting in some jail cell for no reason other than the fact her brothers are idiotic morons.

    Regardless, it pretty acurately demonstrates the state of that country. They prefer to govern using backwards tribal and cultural norms than true Islam. This really is a Flintstones mentality IMHO. And this is the case not just in Saudi Arabia but basically every “muslim” country in existance today where generally it is the women who are at the receiving end of this type of “justice”.

    I would have to agree with Philomantis btw with regards to his analysis of Hussein’s article. I don’t think she was attacking Saudi’s lack of “modernization” at all, but rather their backwards cultural/tribal interpretations of Islam. I really didn’t read her article they way you interpreted it Amad. This statement kind of supports my and Philo’s view I think: “How can a woman in this country be sure of being granted her supposedly inviolable Islamic rights when tribal considerations and male domination are seen as being of greater importance” And to just to nitpick a bit more, I would also really have to disagree with your assessment as the Amish being more comparable to the Flintstones because of their lack of moderninity. There is a big differene in lacking moderninity and being backwards. The Amish may not be modern but they are most certainly not backwards. The Saudi rulers and those in charge of justice in that country are another story all together. I have nothing but respect for the Amish and frankly consider it to be a little insulting to them to even compare them in the same sentence to the Saudis and the flintstones for that matter.

  5. Umm Layth

    March 18, 2007 at 6:39 PM

    SubhaanAllaah @ the story!

    I’ve not lived in these muslim countries but everytime women speak about what happens there it seems women are the ones overlooked and stepped on.

    I agree with anon about the Amish as well. They are a people who have just chosen to do zuhd but are far from backwards and I think comparing them to these type of people, like the Saudis is injustice.

  6. Amad

    March 18, 2007 at 6:48 PM

    It is interesting that we have all the husne-dhan for Amish, yet very little for Saudis (who are still Muslims the last time I checked).

    Also, I was specific about the comparison (in terms of modernization and technology); no slight to the Amish was stated or meant, and to take it beyond this, is an unjustified stretch. Furthermore, I know that the writer wasn’t attacking the lack of modernization, and that was not my point. The Flintstones analogy did not work for me, because in my understanding, it implies technological backwardness, not backwardness in human thought (which is the real point of the author). If it works for some of the readers, that’s fine too… we’ll just have to agree to disagree. Finally, my disagreement of the analogy formed 2 sentences in the whole analysis, so let’s not lose focus on the crux of the post’s point.

  7. anon

    March 18, 2007 at 7:01 PM

    I didn’t mean to imply that I was criticizing all Saudis Amad. I’m sure the majority of them are truly good people who do their best to live according to the standards of Islam. I do have a problem, however, with the ruling elite, lawmakers, and those who interpret the law in that country and truly have nothing good to say about that group regardless of the fact that they are muslim.

  8. abu ameerah

    March 19, 2007 at 1:34 AM

    I am now convinced that the MUSLIM world (forget the kuffar for a moment) will not be happy until Saudia Arabia becomes a haven for sin and decadence like Dubai (UAE) for example.

    Trust me…i aint no Saudi apologist…however, there is something kinda “shady” going on if ya’ll catch a brothas drift.

    Tribalism is a problem everywhere. I wish people would spend more time putting the proverbial “smack down” on tribalism where is more of a problem….like say in Pakistan, for example.

  9. Ahmad AlFarsi

    March 19, 2007 at 2:34 AM

    Assalaamu alaykum,

    Question: Why is Saudi Arabia such an easy/frequent target for media criticism (or even Muslim “self-criticism”), where generally the injustices being criticized are more rampant in other Muslim countries?

    I certainly think there are hidden agendas involved. I am no lover of the Saudi ruling class either. But when we start talking about those “making and interpreting the laws,” it becomes uncertain who we are talking about. If we are talking about those making whatever secular laws… well so be it. But I pray that we are not saying that we “truly have nothing good to say about that group regardless of the fact that they are muslim” about the SCHOLARS there, who in my opinion deserve nothing but respect for their knowledge, and utmost husn udhDhunn if it ever comes to an issue where there seems to be injustice.

  10. Umm Reem

    March 19, 2007 at 10:56 AM

    In my humble opinion, ‘the fact that they are muslim’ is a praise in itself. A kind of praise that earn them 70 excuses…

  11. anon

    March 19, 2007 at 3:36 PM

    “Why is Saudi Arabia such an easy/frequent target for media criticism (or even Muslim “self-criticism”), where generally the injustices being criticized are more rampant in other Muslim countries”

    Excellent question and I like to call it the “Hypocrisy Factor”. IMHO I think it has to do with the fact that Saudi Arabia is the the birthplace/land of Islam. I think that a lot of people, both muslims and nonmuslim just automatically feel that as such it should be held at a higher standard than say places like Pakistan, etc. Is this the proper mentality to take with regards to it? Most probably it is not. We are all human.

    Its kind of like how many feel that as a country that heralds itself to be the great democracy of the world, the United States should also be held to a higher standard than countries like Egypt, (supposedly a democracy) and other “democracies” around the world. When Egypt tortures its citizens its viewed as being normal. “Oh, he was tortured? Who hasn’t been over there” is the general mentality people take towards it. Yet when America does the same and commits human rights violations it is viewed as being in a much worse light. When they deviate from the set of standards they are supposed to uphold or are the birthplace of it is viewed as being a sort of hypocrisy.

    Hence the rampant criticism of Saudi Arabia. Its not that its any worse than other Islamic countries. There are certainly others with many more problems. But its simply an easy target. The hypocrisy factor as I mentioned. Why can this country of all places not “get it right” Again, I’m not saying this is proper way of looking at it but I think this is how many people view it. Probably even myself in some way.

    And I must wholeheartedly and completely disagree with this statement: “‘the fact that they are muslim’ is a praise in itself. A kind of praise that earn them 70 excuses…” I’m not even going to get started on it:)

  12. Ahmad AlFarsi

    March 19, 2007 at 3:47 PM

    And I must wholeheartedly and completely disagree with this statement: “‘the fact that they are muslim’ is a praise in itself. A kind of praise that earn them 70 excuses…” I’m not even going to get started on it:)

    And I wholeheartedly disagree with your wholehearted disagreement :)

    Iman is praiseworthy. {Iman + hardly any good deeds and a ton of bad deeds} is more praiseworthy than {No Iman (i.e. kufr) + all the good deeds in the world}.

    If a person dies in the first state, he may or may not enter the hellfire, depending if Allah forgives his sins, but he will eventually be removed from the fire and enter Jannah by the mercy of Allah. If someone dies upon kufr (given he was not ignorant of Islam), his destination is eternal hellfire.

    Iman is praiseworthy, and a person with iman is more praiseworthy than any person without it. A Muslim, by definition, has eman. Therefore, the fact that one is Muslim IS a praise in and of itself. The praises mentioned for those having eman are all over the Qur’an and Sunnah.

    And finally, the Prophet sallAllahu alayhi wa sallam has instructed us to give our Muslim brothers 70 excuses. So there is no way to disagree with this.

    I hope I have unequivocally expressed my wholehearted and complete disgreement with your wholehearted and complete disagreement. :)

    Wassalaam

  13. anon

    March 19, 2007 at 4:28 PM

    I figured someone would reply to that last part of my comment and your reply is correct it pains me to admit :)

    My problem is that I have always had trouble accepting this concept:

    “Iman is praiseworthy. {Iman + hardly any good deeds and a ton of bad deeds} is more praiseworthy than {No Iman (i.e. kufr) + all the good deeds in the world}.”

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