Connect with us

Uncategorized

The Rosa Parks of Saudi Arabia: Women Challenging the Ban by Driving

Hena Zuberi

Published

on

I learned how to drive at the age of 13, in a golden Toyota Corolla, on the dusty roads of Khartoum.  It was empowering,  when my dad gave me the keys of the tiny, bright red Suzuki FX, a car I had to share with my sister; the deal was I had to drop my brothers and sisters off at school on the way to Kinniard. We had a driver for my mom ,who never drove, but my father wanted his daughters to be self-reliant. He showed me how to fix a flat and pointed out every trusted auto mechanic on the route back and forth from school. Have driven in the crazy streets of Lahore, Dubai, New York, Los Angeles, amongst other places. I am a ‘conservative’ Muslim woman; I drive my children to Quran class, to school, to the grocery store, to visit elders in the community, to the masjid school where I teach.  Always took it for granted until was struck with severe vertigo and was at the mercy of others to chauffeur me around for a few weeks. Take away the ability to move from a human being and you have put her or him in a virtual prison. Saudi Arabian women have been in this virtual prison for years. They are not allowed to drive. Every Muslim country in the world lets women drive, except Saudi Arabia. Why? No one except the Saudi Arabian government knows. There is no Islamic reasoning for it. Since there were no ‘cars’ 1400 years ago, Muslim scholars turn to permissibility of an action by looking at the closest general mode. Here it is transportation. Women used horses and camels to travel during the time of Prophet Muhammad (SAW). There is stories of the Prophet’s wives, daughters and sahabiyaat riding horses. Most Saudis, themselves, don’t claim the ban to be Islamic.

The debate to allow women to drive cars has been ebbing and flowing in the oil-rich conservative kingdom for many years. (globalvoices.org) The religious authorities have always viewed this license, if granted, as something that will ruin women and the whole of society. There are some Saudi scholars for example, Abdel-Mohsin al-Obaikan – one of Saudi Arabia’s senior religious figures and another well-known cleric, Mohsin Awaji that say that Islamic law does not prevent women driving. Everything depends, they say, on the context. There are road safety issues, steps need to be taken to prevent harassment of women drivers etc.  Liberals, along with a lot of Saudi women, say it is a basic right that women should naturally have, especially those who cannot afford to employ a driver. Why it is a divide amongst liberals and religious authorities.? This is a women’s issue, one that affects women, let them decide. Driving is not a “right”, it is a privilege that should be earned by proving that you can drive safely and revoked if misused ie. drinking while driving, speeding, texting, regardless of whether you are a man or a woman.

But wait it is a male issue too, Saudi men spent countless hours chauffeuring their female relatives back and forth from doctor’s appointments,  to school, to college, to hairdressers to the mall.

Weddings are a nightmare.

“Usually, I’m too tired” to enjoy the festivities, Auda says, “because I’m preparing the whole day for the wedding. You have to take the dresses from the dry cleaners. You have to get the gifts, pick up the hairdresser for the girls. Drive the hairdresser back.  “Sometimes, for example, there is a hairdresser working at home on five women, and there is another five who want to go to salons. You can imagine the headache. You are tired because you are driving three to four hours before the wedding.”

By limiting this privilege just to men what has Saudi Arabia gained? Women are still allowed to sit in a car often with a non-mahram driver, which if looked from a deen perspective is worse. This editorial in the Saudi newspaper suggests that the myth of Saudi taxi drivers molesting Saudi women is so encompassing that no self respecting Saudi woman will get into a taxi for the fear of losing her reputation. Comments under the editorial further fuel that myth. The editorial does inform the readers that many more Saudi women are working out of necessity but are not able to save any money because they spend it all on hiring private drivers or taxis.

Such views are dysfunctional and display a distrust of both Saudi women and men. Qatar is a conservative Muslim society, so is Kuwait but women drive in both places. Are Qatari or Kuwaiti women any less virtuous than Saudi women? Of course not

Najla Hariri is a mom who has been driving around Jeddah for the past few days taking her children to school. Her feat stormed the Internet, and on Twitter, the long debate continued between those who refused what Najla had done and those who praised her courage and struggle to prove that society is wrong in banning women from driving cars. (globalvoices.org)

 

Hariri reacted kindly to the praise she got in comments through her Twitter account saying [ar]:

أعزائي، جعلتم مني رائدة ورمز، أنا لست أي من ذلك، انا أم وجدت نفسها في احتياج لأخذ زمام المبادرة، ففعلت من غير بطولات ولا انجازات

You have made me a leader and an icon, when I am not any of that. I am just a mother who found herself in need to do something, so I did what I’ve done without looking for heroic acts or achievements.

In an interview with Arab News, she ridiculed “the social belief that Saudi women are treated “like queens” as they are driven around by their male relatives or drivers, saying “this is a big lie. We are always under their mercy to give us a lift,” she said.

Saudi blogger Fouad Al-Farhan wrote a comment [ar] on what Mrs Hariri had done, saying:

ما قامت به الأستاذة نجلاء حريري من قيادة سيارتها يوم أمس في جدة وتوصيل أطفالها هو حق حلال ومشروع ومصادرة الحق ظلم

What Mrs Najla Hariri has done driving her car in Jeddah to give a ride to her children is a legitimate [Halal] right and taking this right away is unfair.

Another Saudi tweep, Abdulrahman Kattoa, praised what Najla did, describing [ar] her as another Rosa Park, the African-American civil rights movement activist:

ما يكسر حاجز الخوف إلا الشجعان زي ما كسرت الأمريكية في الباص الاضطهاد العنصري في أمريكا

No one breaks the fear wall except the brave, just the way an American woman broke racist oppression in a bus

Kuwaiti columnist Abdullah Zaman wrote a tweet in English to Mrs Hariri praising her courage:

Najla, I envy you for what you did today. You got the guts to be a symbol of the will in the women’s world.

Saudi political activist Waleed Abu Alkhair pointed out [ar] the importance of what Mrs Hariri had done:

باختصار سياقة نجلاء حريري لسيارتها في وسط جدة ووقت الذروة ولمسافة طويلة دون أي مضايقات يبدد ما يشاع عن مجتمعنا أنه سوف يؤذي المرأة إن ساقت

In short, Najla Hariri driving her car in the middle of Jeddah City during the rush hour for a long distance without getting harassed, should end what has been rumored in the society about women getting hurt if they would drive.

A campaign “Teach me to drive to protect me” is scheduled to start on June 17th- here is their facebook page.  The duplicitous  part about this farce is that there is nothing in the Saudi traffic laws that prohibits Saudi women from driving-they are just not issued drivers licenses and there is a driving ban.   They can own cars just not drive them. The drama is so ridiculous that the same religious figures who support women’ s rights to drive have to navigate the religious minefield by issuing nonsensical fatwas ie. give breast milk to adult male drivers to make them mahram, which is clearly against Islamic law as breast milk is haram after the age of 2. But a right to transport oneself on/in a mode of transport that is not haram, is clear and straightforward, no fatwa can be issued.

The ban on driving was unofficial at first but was introduced as official legislation after 47 Saudi women drove cars through the streets of the Saudi capital, Riyadh, in the 1990s in an attempt to challenge authorities.  To get around this issue, the women of June 17 are asking all drivers with international drivers licenses to drive. They are also offering driving lessons to women in rural areas.  Manal Al Sharif- one of the organizers of the event was stuck without a ride, unable to get in touch with her mahram, her brother, she is a single mother of a five year old and could not find a taxi at 9 o’ clock at night. She says she was harassed by every car that passed by. She was desperate to get home to her son.

“We want to live as complete citizens, without the humiliation that we are subjected to everyday because we are tied to a driver,” her Facebook message reads. “We are not here to break the law or demonstrate or challenge the authorities, we are here to claim one of our simplest rights.”
As I write this: Manal has been arrested by the religious police and is in jail in Khobar. She posted a video on Youtube. [youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pPSFxKPC2GI&feature=player_embedded#at=34[/youtube]
MSNBC describes the video made by al-Sharif and her friend:

Dressed in a headscarf and the all-encompassing black abaya all women must wear in public, al-Sharif said not all Saudi women are “queens” who can afford to hire a driver. She extolled the virtues of driving for women, saying it can save lives, and time, as well as a woman’s dignity. Al-Sharif said she learned how to drive at the age of 30 in New Hampshire.  “We are humiliated sometimes because we can’t find a taxi to take us to work,” she said.

@monakareem Mona Kareem
RT @Safarzo: Manal was arrested not 4 violatin the law but 4 “violating culture.” Ppl, is there ANYTHIN in Saudi thats not against culture.
omar9944 omar johani An unsung hero in Manal’s saga, her bro! Accompanied her when she drove, had his wife babysit Manal’s son. Saudi guys #TakeNote! #FreeManal

The following announcement from the campaign was originally released in Arabic, and can be found here. Translation by Ziad Abu-Rish and Khuloud of Jadaliyya.org

Us women in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia are the ones who will lead this society towards change. While we failed to deliver through our voices, we will not fail to deliver through our actions. We have been silent and under the mercy of our guardian (muhram) or foreign driver for too long. Some of us barely make ends meet and cannot even afford cab fare. Some of us are the heads of households yet have no source of income except for a few hard-earned [Saudi] Riyals that are used to pay drivers. Then there are those of us who do not have a muhram to look after our affairs and are forced to ask strangers for help. We are even deprived of public transportation, our only salvation from being under the mercy of others. We are your daughters, wives, sisters, and mothers. We are half of society and give birth to [the other] half, yet we have been made invisible and our demands have been marginalized. We have been deliberately excluded from your plans! Therefore, the time has come to take the initiative. We will deliver a letter of complaint to our father, the King of Humanity and the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques calling on him to support the Women of June 17.

Not all women in Saudi think this initiative is the solution, one commenter called Fatima at the Jadaliyya website says:

I support an initiative to help Saudi women improve our situations but I think the real problem is not a driving license, it’s the men we agree to marry. A driving license just gives men more excuse to neglect us because we can now do all the shopping and take the children everywhere with us and so on. The men abdicate responsibility. The better fight would be in the process of selecting a husband; select one who supports our independence and will pay for our driver. I don’t see how a license helps women who can’t pay for a taxi. They still won’t be able to buy a car? A chauffeur is something most people of the world covet. So called supporters are working to deprive us of this luxury. Be careful.

From MM author Mariam E., whose opinion I greatly respect,  some sage advice for our Saudi sisters:

In every country, women face challenges. Perhaps a look into the lives of women in less fortunate countries would let us women realize that not being able to drive is of little significance. By being unable to drive, we are not being forced to do something haram, such as remove the hijab. It is something we can be patient with, like our Prophet (sallaAllahu alayhe wasallam) commanded us. We can respectfully disagree with the scholars who passed the fatwa, but we should still keep in mind that they have more wisdom and knowledge of the situation in their own societies. The argument that women are ‘forced’ to ride alone with non-Mahrams is quite weak, as it goes back to a deeper issue, one of taqwa.  A woman who fears Allah will avoid riding with a non-Mahram alone regardless of the situation.  Generally in life, things do not always come as we please, hence, the command of taqwa that is sides with a promise from Allah to give us a way out and make things easy for us.

 

To choose to drive or not. This is a privilege that every man or woman should have who can do it safely and responsibly. Praying for my Saudi sisters may Allah give them this freedom and grant them the hikmah to use it for the betterment of their deen and dunya.


Hena Zuberi is the Editor in Chief of Muslimmatters.org. She is also a Staff Reporter at the Muslim Link newspaper which serves the DC Metro. She serves on the board of the Aafia Foundation and Words Heal, Inc. Hena has worked as a television news reporter and producer for CNBC Asia and World Television News. A mom of four and a Green Muslim, she lives and preaches a whole food, organic life which she believes is closest to Sunnah. Active in her SoCal community, Hena served as the Youth Director for the Unity Center. Using her experience with Youth, she conducts Growing Up With God workshops. hena.z@muslimmatters.org Follow her on Twitter @henazuberi.

115 Comments

115 Comments

  1. Avatar

    AnonyMouse

    May 22, 2011 at 5:20 AM

    A major argument touted by the anti-women-drivers folks is that “allowing women to drive will cause fitnah!” Which of course is rubbish, because if anyone has any clue about Khaleeji culture, they’ll know that the women go to “fitnah-fied” places like the mall and what have you, regardless of whether they can drive or not.

    Forbidding women to drive doesn’t restrict the chances of fitnah increasing; it simply puts Muslimahs in unnecessarily difficult and occasionally dangerous situations.

    As a woman who doesn’t know how to drive, I know how frustrating it is to want to go to the English-language Islamic centre, but am unable to because my husband is at work and I don’t know anyone else who can give me a ride (buses and taxis being out of the question).

    • Avatar

      Marvin

      May 22, 2011 at 3:21 PM

      I don’t think there’s any points to ‘not driving’ that many women will agree to. However, I heard one say she did not want to drive because she knew once she was able to drive–she would be expected to handle more choirs (go grocery shopping with the kids, pick up the kids from school, take kids to appointments, shop alone, etc).

      Yes, I will be the first to admit this may seem trivial in the larger context. However, I caution you–to be careful what you ask for. You just might get it!

    • Avatar

      Ibn Masood

      May 23, 2011 at 3:24 AM

      I want to point out a strange sense of hypocrisy (intellectual, not Eman) building up in us Western Muslims.

      If we prefer people from Muslim countries to not comment on Western issues (because they simply do not understand our situation), we should not comment on their issues either.

      We simply do not understand the cultural, social, political, religious and other factors associated with complex cultural issues.

      Too many of us Western Muslims think that we can hold an opinion on any issue that we prefer. We can if we want to, but sometimes its good to hold back and say: I’ll let someone who knows more about this issue than me handle the problem.

      Originally from Canada, and I’m living in KSA right now… and I’ll just say… let them handle their own problems. We don’t have the background or intellectual authority to comment on their issues.

      • Avatar

        Ibn Masood

        May 23, 2011 at 3:32 AM

        Just to highlight the sensitivity of this topic amongst Saudis in KSA to the sisters here:

        Are you comfortable with scholars in Saudi Arabia giving you religious guidance on what clothes to wear here in US/Canada/UK?

        The answer is obviously going to be no (with a small minority yes lol). So please leave it to them just as you wish them to leave it to our scholars.

        Each people and their ulema are more knowledgeable of their own circumstances than the other. That’s why even many KSA scholars have mentioned about issues such as the Egypt protests: their Ulema are best able to judge it.

        wAllahu A’lam.

        • Avatar

          Ejaz

          May 23, 2011 at 1:41 PM

          I do see the hypocrisy as well; never do these same individuals challenge so many un-Islamic laws that are prevalent in the West. Instead, they will say, “obey the law of the land.” Yet these Muslims have the audacity to say that the people who are breaking a law of the country are doing something good. Remember, Shaykh bin Baaz (rahimahullah) gave the fatwa that they can’t drive and he gave reasons for that. I personally don’t agree with the opinion but he had his reasons. The law foribidding women from driving is not a religious law but a civil law. We should do some research and see what the rationale of these savants was.

          At any rate, instead of breaking the law, women should petition the government to allow them to exercise the “privilege” of driving. They can write a paper which mentions the benefits and the harms and submit it to the Ministry of Internal Affairs. If the benefits are indeed greater, than nothing stops them from doing this. I am not sure how you can compare this law to the law of segregation in buses that Rosa Parks challenged.

        • Hena Zuberi

          Hena Zuberi

          May 23, 2011 at 4:33 PM

          Brother most of the article has views from Saudi Arabia- even the scholars who I quote supporting the women’s right to drive are Saudi-

          Many Muslims do look to Saudi scholars for guidance for the whole world and use their religious opinions to shape Muslim society else where in the world.
          I don’t know if we say don’t comment, we can have a personal opinion

          Your point that people/scholars of each country know their people best is well taken and I am still coming to terms with this idea of each scholars to each country, perhaps it is my naivete but isn’t the deen is the deen is the deen especially in this world of migration and influx of ideas via internet and TV, culture itself is constantly changing from one generation to the next, so shouldn’t some issues remain constant and universal?

          JazakAllah Khair for your input

          • Avatar

            Abu Sumaiyah

            May 24, 2011 at 2:47 AM

            As-salamu alaikum

            First, as an English instructor, I noticed you really need to brush up on your use of the English grammar, subject verb agreement, third person singular verb use, etc. You as a writter should be more cautious about your editing process.

            Second, I agree that your comments are really not needed. This issue does not have anything to do with Muslims living in the west. You can twist how it does relate to you in any fashion that pleases you, escept that ti doesn’t. Period.

            Also, as a Canadian living in Saudi, for several years now, while there are many women and even men who want the women to drive, it is by no means a majority. I understand why women are not allowed to drive and on some level I agree with it. on aother level, I disagree. However, this is not my place to say. Just the other while etaching TOEFL to a group of young Saudi’s, the issue of women driving came up. They asked me my point of view, and I simply said so long as it si widely accepted and enforced it should be respected.

            Also, I would like to come to the point by brother Ibn Masood. I hav read fatawa by Saudi scholars that state that the only acceptable clothing for the Muslim women is the saudi abayah. Now as women living in Canada, are you goin to take this opinion as authentic? The saudi abayah, as my wife tells me is uncomfortable and not very practical as women are always trying to keep it up as it falls off the head onto the sholders easily.

            Also, in Saudi if you wear any other hashion of thobe or different colors other than white you are considered to be wearing your pajamas. So should Muslims in the west who find this funky kinds of thobes cool to wear to the masjid stop wearing them because Saudis claim it si your pajamas? No.

            In summary, stay to what affects your life. What hapens in saudi does not affect you. If women get to drive it does not change your life. I have taught English to many Saudi women, and they enjoy having a male driver. They enjoy living like queens. Granted not all women can afford the 2,000-3,000 riyal salary of a driver, an overwhelming number CAN. That is why the practice continues. If people couldnt afford it, then the men would be doing something about it.

            So if you feel the need to continue to talk about issues that have nothing to do with you then I suggest the following:

            women: wear only the saudi abayah ( I can provide them at good rates), oh that reminds, dont wear a shirt with pants, a sauid lady told that to my wife last week

            men: dont wear that moroccan, lebanese, syrian thobe to the masjid. you shouldn’t wear pajamas to the masjid.

            Follow these rules and we’ll all be fine

          • Avatar

            Ibn Masood

            May 24, 2011 at 3:19 AM

            Ukhti Kareemah,

            Yes Islam is global, but the problems of a people can often be difficult to understand for another person. This is why usually the best faqih to ask for advice is a local faqih/a faqih who understands your culture/mentality best (unless its for fiqh issues that do not change from time and place such as basic salah fiqh, hajj/umrah fiqh etc etc). There are many stipulations in usul ul fiqh that address differences arising from cultural variations.

            It’s like many of the opinions that came from Saudi Arabia commenting on our life here with strong language i.e. it being haraam to study in mixed universities, hijrah, issues of clothing and food etc. They fueled a very ultra-conservative and a very ultra liberal divide/movements in the West that damaged the da’wah of Ahlus-Sunnah here for over two decades.

            The dynamics of Saudi culture are drastically different from our own. By writing such peices and putting them in the public sphere, we may be causing problems over there that we do not understand. We can have opinions (even I have one on this issue), but here we’re talking about publishing these opinions and labeling them as authoritative. I teach English here to Saudi Youth, and after having become quite close to them I am sure that some of them may benefit in their deen from this article, but many would read an article like this and instead of extracting the deen benefits from it, they may actually become secular in their world view and further distanced from the deen. Middle Eastern society is a chaotic scene at the moment, and we would do best to leave our brothers and sisters to figure out these problems themselves.

            And yes the Saudi scholars comment on this issue via both sides. But the Saudis are capable of figuring it out on their own, they know their culture best and how to deal with this issue. There are religious and knowledgeable sisters there too who comment on this and even they have mixed opinions. Even if it ends up that women do eventually drive in KSA, it is best they carry it out at their own pace.

            It is a human problem that we are very quick to judge other cultures, but sometimes fail to understand or even acknowledge the ramifications that our own cultures have on our understandings. When you put Shariah into the mix, you’re playing with people’s Eman now… so its best to let each people and their Ulemaa’ deal with their own problems and keep your aakhirah safe. For us, our time is more wisely and constructively spent dealing with the many issues we have in our own lands.

          • Avatar

            M.D.

            June 14, 2011 at 4:03 AM

            Salam Brother Abu Sumaiyah,

            I could not help but notice the following:

            First, as an English instructor, I noticed you really need to brush up on your use of the English grammar, subject verb agreement, third person singular verb use, etc. You as a writter should be more cautious about your editing process….

            Sounds like big words coming from a small man. During the course of your monologue, you managed to misspell a number of words, failed to capitalize proper nouns, and used fragment sentences. Examples are below:

            – writter (Are you kidding me!)
            – escept (Perhaps you were trying to escape?)
            – ti (You may have dyslexia. Get it checked out.)
            – si (Might be useful when you teach Spanish.)
            – etaching (Teaching TOEFL has been known to illicit rampant itching.)
            – hav (Don’t forget the “e” next time.)
            – hashion (So, that’s what the call it in Canada.)
            – hapens (Remember the “pp”.)
            – You didn’t capitalize the names of countries.
            – “Period.” (This is a fragment sentence.)

            Before you start criticizing someone, its best to take a look in the mirror first.

      • Avatar

        Danyah Taha

        May 24, 2011 at 8:53 AM

        Dear Brother,
        The problem here in saudi arabia is that the scholars do not listen to us women and our demands. they don’t get the whole picture they follow this rule not to listen to women because its like listening to shaytan. we want international pressure to be put on them. we have tried and failed many times to get them to listen to us. they will sometimes listen to our men but not often, as they live in their own bubble and feel superior to the rest of us with their so called wisdom.

        • Avatar

          Ibn Masood

          May 25, 2011 at 12:50 AM

          Abu Sumaiyah: The ability to communicate with knowledge, gentleness and wisdom is more important than the quality of one’s English. Harshness more often than not leads to greater problems than it solves. Please be careful about how you write.

          Sr. Danyah: Agreed ukhti, but you have to be careful. Change, especially for societies that are rigid on a certain system, must come slowly. Otherwise you risk upsetting the social order and causing chaos. I agree completely with what you have said, Saudi men have this strange problem where they see women as nuisances, but the change has to come at a pace that is productive for Saudi Society.

          And international pressure won’t help… why? Because it’ll either be rejected as ‘advice of the kuffar’ or non-Muslims will actually try to influence the situation to their own preference (they always have an agenda of their own). The change must come from the people of knowledge amongst the Muslims themselves, and I feel it is coming slowly inshaAllah.

          Even Umar ibn Abdul Aziz (rahimahuAllah), the fifth righteous khalifah, who reversed the condition of the ummah in a matter of years, lamented that real change requires patience, perseverance, wisdom and time.

          • Avatar

            Danyah Taha

            June 20, 2011 at 7:35 PM

            you may have a point brother ibn masood but i do not want this matter to be forgotten about. its a real problem living day to day waiting and waiting and being at another persons mercy. incredibly humiliating when some foreign driver is giving me attitude because he knows that i am at his mercy. and the dangerous conditions us women are put in daily is not fair. i’ve been patient now its time to put pressure on our leaders.

  2. Avatar

    FabMirza

    May 22, 2011 at 5:28 AM

    I wish my wife could drive one day and share my resposnibility shoulder to shoulder. Life starts at 6 in the morning and ends at 10 night. She is so dependend on me even she has to wait for me to bring water and milk for the babies. If she could allow to drive half of lifes burden will be shrouged off easily and we could spend quality time.I pray for the day when women take steering and reshap the soceity. Good luck sisters Allah is with you.

  3. Avatar

    varisha

    May 22, 2011 at 5:52 AM

    I wear hijab & drive in India, and there are ppl who luk at me gawking! “Muslim veiled women drive??” they think!

    But I have seen that a very prevalent concept here is that ‘women can’t drive’…women are bad drivers….even if the problem was with the man who was too busy ogling at the female driver to watch out!
    Even if Saudi women get the license to drive, im sure they will be faced with the next hurdle and that is that letting women on streets has increased accidents etc….which just might be the result of saudi men who will be looking amazingly at women drivers rather than looking on the road.

  4. Avatar

    varisha

    May 22, 2011 at 6:20 AM

    But yes, with that I don’t mean they shouldn’t be allowed to drive….they should be & men must learn to live with it & learn to lower their gaze better, rather than putting the onus on women all the time for attracting! They are following hijab! what other kind of covering do you want to remind you to lower your gaze !

    Go sisters go! Take your right inshaAllah. :)

  5. Avatar

    Gbolahan

    May 22, 2011 at 7:10 AM

    Assalam ALeaykum

    Is this Muslimmatters or the Washington Post?

    With statements like these “by issuing nonsensical fatwas” and “the all-encompassing black abaya all women must wear in public” (emphasis mine) I have a feeling that this article was culled from the Washington Post or maybe even http://www.foxnews.com and not written by a Muslimah who knows she will accountable for everything she says or do.

    Note:

    I don’t have an issue with women driving and it is certainly not a cardinal of faith.

    • Avatar

      Sana'a

      May 22, 2011 at 11:22 AM

      If you read the article clearly, she is a) talking about a fatwa that was suggested over a year ago that women should breastfeed their adult male drivers in order to make them mahram, and if you do not think that such a fatwa is nonsensical, then may God help us… and b) “the all encompassing….” excerpt is quoted from MSNBC about the video, not the author’s own words…

      Please relax and re-read before you start making judgmental comments like that.

      Wasalam

  6. Avatar

    umm Ibraheem

    May 22, 2011 at 7:33 AM

    Would like to share my experience of living in what is the only country in the world where women can’t drive.

    By not being able to drive women are facing a bigger fitna, being alone with a male driver. I have been in Jeddah for a year now and have a full time driver as my husband travels a lot. This has made my life very easy and have the same independence as I had in the UK,if not more. I travel mainly with my kids in the car, however the are regular instances when I am alone in the car with the driver and I am very uncomfortable with it.

    If we forgo the driver then it means moving back to the Uk and I don’t wish to do that as Myself and the kids are benefitting immensely from the Islamic environment here.

    I don’t know what the immediate solution is.

  7. Avatar

    Rachel

    May 22, 2011 at 8:03 AM

    Gbolahan – The description of the abaya was a smart decision as this article has been read by many around the globe who do not have to conform to such strict Muslim rules. As for Fox News, they want all women barefoot and pregnant (an American expression for forced submission) so they wouldn’t write an article like this. As for the description of the fatwa – it is not stating that ALL fatwas are nonsensical, merely that the specific fatwa described is illogical, which it is. As for allowing women to drive – it will enable them to better fulfill their role as productive human beings.

    • Avatar

      Gbolahan

      May 22, 2011 at 10:35 AM

      Rachel–Are you a scholar? Have you read the Fatawa? Do you know that some scholars of the past also held similar opinions plus the some of wives of the prophet?

      About the Abaya, please what is strict about it? Millions of muslims all over the world wear it because you Americans find it strange so it becomes right to define it wrongly

      • Avatar

        sebkha

        May 22, 2011 at 12:38 PM

        Good grief.

        all-encompassing: adjective
        1. including everything; universal

        all the word means is fully covering, comprehensive. Which it is. It’s a fully covering, comprehensive garment. That’s the whole point of wearing it. There is nothing controversial about the word, unless you don’t have a clue what it means, and willfully refuse to consult a dictionary when you encounter words or terms you don’t understand. And I don’t believe she was implying there was anything strict about an abaya, in and of itself, but rather that there are strict rules in place enforcing its wearing in certain areas, that are not paralleled anywhere else on the planet. That’s all.

        And please do share your evidences of the practice of supplying grown men with breast milk being supported by past scholars and wives of the prophet. (saws).

        • Avatar

          Gbolahan

          May 22, 2011 at 2:00 PM

          Sebkha,

          I will ignore you attitude and answer you questions.

          I do not also agree with the opinion of breast feeding grown men but I won t call it nonsensical.

          The issue of breast feeding grown up men is not new in Islam and this was the opinion of Aisha (May the peace and blessing of Allah be on her) and some earlier scholars

          Find below links to some Fatwas of Shaykh Ibn Baz on this issue.

          http://www.alifta.net/Fatawa/fatawaDetails.aspx?View=Page&PageID=4399&PageNo=1&BookID=14

          http://www.alifta.net/Fatawa/FatawaChapters.aspx?View=Page&PageID=4415&PageNo=1&BookID=14

          http://www.alifta.net/Fatawa/FatawaChapters.aspx?View=Page&PageID=5001&PageNo=1&BookID=14

          • Hena Zuberi

            Hena Zuberi

            May 23, 2011 at 4:39 PM

            Brother everyone one of the fatwas you posted, the shaykh says breastfeeding applies only to first two years and does not apply to grown men.

            How would you describe those fatwas?

            FYI- I love wearing my all encompassing abaya

          • Avatar

            Gbolahan

            May 23, 2011 at 10:16 PM

            Hena,

            Somehow I couldnt reply on your thread, I guess someone locked it down mistakenly.

            Hena, like I said earlier I dont agree with the opinion of breast feeding grown men, I believe that Aisha’s Itijihad that the ruling is general and is applicable to all is the weakest of the three opinions but I would never call it nonsensical.

            The fact that you called the opinion nonsensical, even though it has a base wthin our religion is my problem and to make matters worst no one on this forum (that I have seen) seems to want to call you to order.

  8. Avatar

    Rasha El-Shibini

    May 22, 2011 at 8:18 AM

    I am totally against the driving ban for women,
    I mean I wonder where does the logic come from?

    I am sure that in our holy prophet’s day (SA3WS) women rode horses,surely this is the same principle, women travelled, women had their own business.

    I disagree if anyone ever brings religion into the reasons behind this,as this is purely a cultural block in the wall that we Islamic women face on the road to equality.

    Its a double standard, men need to trust their women as they trust their men.

    Some people misbehave already, the variable in this is not whether they drive or not. If people want to do bad, they will no matter their transportation method.

    And the worst thing is, people are making money off this artificial handicap. I don’t know what the solution is, but mothers, make sure your sons understand that one day they need to accept this for the good of a better future for women. Education is the best tool you have.

    • Avatar

      Nahla

      May 22, 2011 at 12:34 PM

      well said Rasha :)

  9. Avatar

    muslim woman

    May 22, 2011 at 8:21 AM

    Assalaam alaikum,
    I am pretty amazed at articles like this.

    Is it part of the sunnah to support civil disobedience?

    I am in favor of letting women drive in Saudi Arabia, I live there but driving here is no picnic, and I certainly won’t be driving on the highways if I can drive. Allowing women to drive should be done slowly within the proper channels of the government with some limitations on age and need until the mentality of many change .

    • Avatar

      Rachel

      May 24, 2011 at 7:36 AM

      Slowly could take many more generations before it even reaches the trial stage. Women have waited many years for progress but there has been only feet dragging. Also, they are only encouraged to drive in this instance if they already know how (holding an international driving license). This is peaceful and goal-oriented. I live in the United States and I drive; however, when I have ridden in a manual car as a passenger (I do not know how to drive a manual) I worried what I might do if something happened to the driver and I needed to go for help. What would you do if stranded and needing to go for help? What would you do if you had no one to take your children to classes and you could not afford the added expense of cab fare but already owned a car? Women continue to suffer and be placed in dangerous and uncomfortable situations when every other single Muslim country allows women to drive. This needs to stop.

  10. Avatar

    muslim woman

    May 22, 2011 at 8:23 AM

    Assalaam alaikum,

    Is it part of the sunnah to support civil disobedience?

    I am in favor of letting women drive in Saudi Arabia, I live there but driving here is no picnic, and I certainly won’t be driving on the highways if I can drive. Allowing women to drive should be done slowly within the proper channels of the government with some limitations on age and need until the mentality of many change .

    • Avatar

      Nahla

      May 22, 2011 at 12:37 PM

      Salam Aluykum ,

      I totally agree !

      rules must be set and women should drive within certain limilts … don’t forget that punishments should be taken into consideration too!

    • Avatar

      someone

      May 22, 2011 at 7:57 PM

      why, are woman intellectually deficient or mature at a slower rate then man. the fact is if you find highways challenging, then that is just you, only you. If anything woman are much safer drivers then man. Is fast and furious based on a gang of lawless woman? no
      This is not a debate about who are better drivers and who are not, at the end of the day this is a priveledge that is only extended to portion of the population. I’m not the biggest fan of that country expecially the horrendous treatment that foreigners have to suffer. If they treat their foreign workers that way then I am not suprised woman are treated like second class citizens. Allah knows best, i hope i did not offend anyone but i do say this with the outmost respect. After the 100th news article at one point you stop making excuses.

      Wa Alaikum Wa Salam

  11. Avatar

    SAHIL.GOUR

    May 22, 2011 at 9:35 AM

    I am Indian and living in Saudi Arabia from last 3 years and looking the Saudi government rules.If Saudi citizens are thinking that they can stop all sins and corruptions not to give the driving permission,they are wrong because already they(ladies) are doing whatever they want except driving.They are bearing all the sins by Saudi men.there is no system and rules in Saudi Arabia specially in Riyadh and Jeddah.so what is the problem if the Saudi women are asking about their right.They dont have heart and feeling only men have?Nobody cant respect of that rules which made only for men not women.i shame too much up to Saudi law.

  12. Avatar

    'Uthmaan

    May 22, 2011 at 10:11 AM

    My understanding about the reason women have been disallowed from driving in Saudi Arabia is that, although it was initially allowed, the scholars there concluded that there was too much fitnah as a result and therefore closed the door to it by applying the principle of Sadd’l Dhara’i (“blocking the means”). This was explained by Ustadh AE in his series of classes on al-Adab al-Mufrad. He pointed out the importance of taking into account the context when issuing fatawa, in the sense that fatawa are not necessarily static, but can vary depending on time, place and circumstances.

    Just as we don’t appreciate scholars from foreign lands, who do not understand our contextual reality here in the West, telling us what to do, perhaps we should likewise offer them the same courtesy and realise that they understand their context better than we do and are capable of issuing appropriate rulings accordingly, taking into account their own reality and circumstances.

    • Amad

      Amad

      May 22, 2011 at 12:50 PM

      I think that the argument about consistency (their scholars for them and ours for us) is a good one. Hard to argue with that.

      I do think that this legacy of the ban is probably one that most Saudi residents dislike but turning back the clock on any long-standing issue should be done carefully and thoughtfully. One has to consider the unintended conseqiences.

      Btw this is one of the reasons in addition to a ton of other idiosyncrosies that made me strongly not consider Saudi as a place to move in middle east (preferring Qatar). For me the Saudi society has become one that is holy on the outside and intensely hollow on the inside.

      Wallahualam

      • Avatar

        Umar

        May 22, 2011 at 7:30 PM

        Assalamu alaykum Amad,

        I found your view about Saudi society being holy on the outside and hollow in the inside quite interesting. May I ask, what made you feel this way?

        • Amad

          Amad

          May 22, 2011 at 10:17 PM

          Having relatives and friends who have lived, are living in Saudi, that’s my 2 cents– may be wrong, may be right.

          A lot of Saudi youth are hooked to satellite TV and internet and there is a lot of filth that comes through these channels. Outside, there are strict covering and segregation rules, some of the latter quite ridiculous.

          There is a lot more on top of this, but the chasm created by what people are doing inside their homes and what they see outside, seems to be creating a very dual society.

          again, my 2 cents.

          • Avatar

            F

            May 22, 2011 at 11:13 PM

            Interesting Amad. I would guess that of all the khaleej countries, Saudi is the only ‘real’ society because it contains genuine institutions, large local population, powerful and indigenous clergy, and a growing sense of realization that reform is necessary.

            Compare this to bribed populations of other Gulf countries with toothless religious authorities who are not even local, lack of judiciary and no desire by anyone to change the status quo.

            Just my observations.

          • Avatar

            umm Ibraheem

            May 24, 2011 at 10:04 AM

            Please can you tell me which of the segregation rules in Saudi you’ve found to be ridiculous?

    • Avatar

      Abû Mûsâ Al-Ḥabashî

      May 23, 2011 at 12:04 AM

      Just as we don’t appreciate scholars from foreign lands, who do not understand our contextual reality here in the West, telling us what to do, perhaps we should likewise offer them the same courtesy and realise that they understand their context better than we do and are capable of issuing appropriate rulings accordingly, taking into account their own reality and circumstances.

      This is exactly what was going through my head when skimming this piece. It’s double standards to reject fatâwa from foreign scholars on the basis that they “don’t understand our reality” but then to condemn them for fatâwa that actually pertain to their particular countries. If anyone is interested, here are the fatâwa passed by Sh. Bin Bâz and Sh. Ibn `Uthaymîn on this issue.

  13. Avatar

    AustralianWoman

    May 22, 2011 at 11:08 AM

    In all honesty, until now the concept of denying an entire gender the “right to drive” had never entered my head. What on Earth is the point? How inconvenient and insulting!

    I am completley over the fact that there are STILL men in this day and age abusing the rights of women in other parts of the world. Apparently they don’t even have some stupid religious context to blame it on either.

    My moral support is with you Women of Saudi! Drive your cars. In terms of equality, I’d say not acting like these men have, as childish children denying things simply because they’ve the power to do so, gives Saudi women the lion’s share of sensibility and intelligence. If anything, it seems to me the men in power need to be proving their right to equality when they carry on with such hateful nonsense.

  14. Avatar

    Sana'a

    May 22, 2011 at 11:25 AM

    Great article, mashallah

  15. Avatar

    Tariq Ahmed

    May 22, 2011 at 11:55 AM

    I am not in favor of dictating to the Saudis what is proper for their country. They have scholars, no doubt of it. Let their scholars advise them. They have people of clean hearts, let them advise each other. They have the intellect, the wisdom, and the authority to help themselves.

    From us they can use our prayers. Allah guide them and ease their affairs.

  16. Avatar

    Mohammed

    May 22, 2011 at 1:01 PM

    There shouldn’t be that much fitnah while driving…..just tell the men and women to lower their gazes :)

  17. Avatar

    salah

    May 22, 2011 at 1:03 PM

    I was born and brought up in jeddah and I very much am aware of the implications of women driving, If anybody has driven a car in saudi they can understand what I am trying to say, A person who is driving safely is more in danger then a crazy driver because no one follows any rules in saudi, for you to avoid accidents you will have to drive like others. A person can cut through you and next thing you will discover is BANG you hit someone, I have driven in saudi and i myself feel unsecured and unsafe whilst driving.
    I can guarantee that if suppose women were to allowed to drive for a month they themselves will it up, its just the adventure and fun of driving that’s enticing them towards all this silly row.
    If the rules and regulations where as that of Western countries and everybody is discipline in the way they drive then it can be understood. Also, young shabaab are hungry over there, they flirt on the roads when women are seated at the back seats I have seen myself wa Allaah young guys throwing in paper slips with mobile no on them whilst the vehicle is in motion, so can you imagine the consequences and the repercussions of women and young girls driving, one should understand that Saudi arabia is a very different country in many respects, it is incomparable with any other gulf or middle east country leave alone western countries. The Scholars are much aware of the situations over there and are blessed with insight.

    If you take the polls in saudi after having left them to test drive for a day in saudi, majority of them will come to a conclusion that everyone is in danger.

    wa Allaahul Must’aan

    • Avatar

      Rachel

      May 24, 2011 at 7:44 AM

      So what you are saying is that Saudi men have no self control. From how they drive, this is obvious. Should they not then be banned from driving? Instead let only the controlled, thoughtful women drive and force the men to take a back seat – literally – to reduce their inappropriate behavior. Overnight the streets of Saudi Arabia would become a much safer place to drive and women would be allowed to better fulfill their role as productive wives…mothers…women in society.

  18. Avatar

    Omar

    May 22, 2011 at 1:30 PM

    What people don’t seem to understand is this is actually a hole the Saudi government has dug for themselves. Their total segregation on any sort of interaction between men and women has driven both of the sexes to various non-halal extremes.

    Furthermore, admitting that woman should be allowed to drive puts them in the position of actually admitting that their system was flawed and incorrect, and it will only be a matter of time till it spreads to various other aspects of life.

    Whats ironic is they hide behind a veil of Islamic law and Shariah, when in reality a woman being alone with a non-mahram driver who sees her comings and goings is much worse then some guy on the road trying to get her phone number or harass her (which still happens anyways).

    Basically, women driving is only the cover for what is a very flawed cultural way of thinking and might not change since it would mean some drastic changes need to occur in all of Saudi Arabia.

    • Avatar

      someone

      May 22, 2011 at 8:09 PM

      “Furthermore, admitting that woman should be allowed to drive puts them in the position of actually admitting that their system was flawed and incorrect, and it will only be a matter of time till it spreads to various other aspects of life.”

      who knows it might unravel into something much better for the society itself.

  19. Avatar

    Siraaj

    May 22, 2011 at 2:51 PM

    I believe the reason many Muslims in Saudi Arabia and scholars outside of it reject the fatwa is because the reasoning behind it has not been properly demonstrated in any verifiable fashion. There have been no studies that correlate women driving vehicles with an increase in social decay.

    I don’t disagree with the idea that the scholars of an area are better able to appreciate their social context and pass fatwas accordingly – the problem here is that no one, including Saudis themselves, are able to understand what it is these scholars are seeing, or understand what it is about Saudi women and culture is so unique vs the rest of the world.

    My own concern is that the continuation of this fatwa in the face of mounting criticism and counterarguments takes on the emotional quality of hyper-madhabism, where a group of scholars and followers will grasp at any reason to justify what their forefathers / predecessors came with, even if no longer seems to make sense.

    As I mentioned earlier, more would be added to the discussion if a correlation (or causation) could be demonstrated between women driving and social immorality.

    Siraaj

    • Avatar

      Omar Q.

      May 22, 2011 at 3:58 PM

      Well its pretty hard to actually demonstrate a correlation when Saudi Arabia (and maybe Taliban Afghanistan?) is the only country where men and women are so segregated.

      Their reasoning, in my understanding, is that the “social decay” they anticipate is more related to men not being used to seeing women everywhere rather than issues from women actually driving.

      Sadly, the only way to actually prove this would be through allowing women to drive and I doubt they plan on instituting a trial period to see how things go.

      • Avatar

        Siraaj

        May 22, 2011 at 6:51 PM

        Exactly my point – if you don’t have proof that something is harmful, how can it be ruled against? I mean, blocking the means to evil is understood, but what is the evidence that this is blocking the means to evil? Or that it can be a great help? It seems like it’s complicated matters and made them worse.

        Siraaj

        • Avatar

          Inqiyaad

          May 24, 2011 at 2:37 AM

          As Salaamu ‘alaikum,

          Brother Siraaj, I believe the evil that could result from something does not have to be demonstrated tangibly. It might be the case to declare something haraam. But, not when something is just being avoided in a particular setting. I say this based on the statement of Rasulullah sal Allahu ‘alaihi wa sallam, regarding his desire to rebuild the K’abaah on the foundations laid by Ibraheem ‘alaihi al-salaam. He decided otherwise, based on fear of something that could result. I believe there are many other similar rulings by Rasulullah sal Allahu ‘alaihi wa sallam and the khulafaa rashideen.

          Besides, isn’t the argument for allowing women to drive (at least in this article) based on anecdotal evidence? Also, I think it is a bit too much to ask from anyone to seek a well-controlled study before making any decision.
          Allahu ‘alam

        • Avatar

          Muhammad

          June 14, 2011 at 10:25 AM

          Umar (ra) chopped down the “famous tree” based on his understanding of a problem that might arise in the future. Scholars dont need to give you a report and show you the correlation in order to be correct in their ijtihaad.

          Your lack of foresight does not imply a lack of understanding on their part

      • Avatar

        suhail

        May 23, 2011 at 11:33 AM

        So you are saying the segregating men and woman is not correct in Islam? Mixing with the sexes is halal within islamic law? Am i reading this correctly? Please tell me so if i am not looking at your comment correctly.

        • Avatar

          ANMB

          May 23, 2011 at 5:33 PM

          Q & A by Sheikh Muhammad Moktar al-Shinqiti

          Name: Linda-la –

          Profession:

          Question: As-Salamu `alaykum! What is the difference between a fatwa and advice, as fatwas do not have any legal obligations?

          Answer: Wa `alaykum As-Salamu wa Rahmatullahi wa Barakatuh.

          In the Name of Allah, Most Gracious, Most Merciful.

          All praise and thanks are due to Allah, and peace and blessings be upon His Messenger.

          Fatwa is a non-binding, legal opinion, while advice is more moral and educational opinion rather than legal counseling. There is a third category called “hukm”, which is a binding verdict issued by a judge.

          You can also read:

          Fatwa: Significance and Concept

          Allah Almighty knows best.

          from cached islamonline [dot] com

  20. Avatar

    Yasir Qadhi

    May 22, 2011 at 4:34 PM

    Salaam Alaikum

    This is a multi-faceted issue – it straddles not only religious and social but also political dimensions. It is impossible to discuss the reality of the situation without fully comprehending the changes taking place in Saudi society in the last decade, and the political significance that this one issue holds in light of that change.

    The issue of women driving has become a pawn in the struggle between the mainstream religious clergy and the (mainly Western educated) Saudi liberal class (many of whom occupy powerful positions in the government). It is no longer *just* about the legality of women driving, or the issue of ‘prevention of greater evil’. Those issues might have been the main trump card invoked in the 70s and 80s, but that time is long gone. These days, the social and political repercussions of such a move (in particular, the effects on the intra-Saudi struggles for the future of Saudi society) far outweigh any outdated reasons to ban women driving. The issue, in the eyes of both camps, is far greater than that: who gets to control the future of Saudi society, and how much role will scholars have in that identity? In the eyes of many people (and I am not agreeing or disagreeing, I’m just narrating what I know from having lived there), if women are allowed to drive, it will signal once and for all that Saudi scholars do not have the authority to dictate such mores on the people.

    In any case, after having lived in Saudi Arabia for more than a decade (with my wife), I do have a personal opinion and I do believe that it is not helpful to prohibit women from driving. I also feel sad that this issue has become a politically charged one, with ramifications far beyond allowing a woman to drive. It is a mistake that this issue was made that sacrificial pawn, and I do not know what they can do to change that perception.

    Nonetheless, I am not a Saudi, and I leave it to the people of that land to decide their own affairs. I am entitled to my opinion, but I can’t force it on them!

    Yasir

    • Avatar

      Siraaj

      May 22, 2011 at 6:55 PM

      But that sounds like the scholars of the area aren’t maintaining the ruling for reasons related to believing this is the correct ruling, but for political reasons (which I’m sure many would say scholars in the US do the same when they make public statements related to the religion and Muslim community stances on a variety of issues).

      Would it be fair to say that if I were to ask the scholars of those region privately what they really thought, they would say, “We don’t believe in this ban,” or would they maintain their position as though they truly believe it’s the right ruling?

      Siraaj

      • Avatar

        ivoryTower

        May 23, 2011 at 4:08 PM

        Scholars too are politicians except that their political power comes from the power to interpret Divine Will on all matters, great or small. Therefore it is naive to expect rulings dealing with socio-political matters to be apolitical.

    • Hena Zuberi

      Hena Zuberi

      May 23, 2011 at 3:02 PM

      JazakAllah Shaykh Yasir for answering my question that why and how this social issue has become a struggle for power in Saudi society.

      Ofcourse it is their country and they have the right and the knowledge to address this issue, the scholars as well as the people. It is hard to separate Saudi Arabia from Islam and gets frustrating when all things Saudi become all things Islam for Muslims and non-Muslims.

      This was my personal opinion as well and did not reflect all MM authors’ POV.

  21. Avatar

    eithne halliday

    May 22, 2011 at 5:25 PM

    I want to wish the women who take part in The Rosa Parks day all the best, the most important thing is that they drive in a safe manner and show the other drivers how to behave on the road. When you sit behind the wheel of a car it is like sitting in a killing machine if you are not competent.
    The Saudi government would do well by making sure that everyone had to pass a driving test before being allowed on the road be it male or female to ensure the safety of all.
    I have been to Saudi Arabia and Riyadh many times and the horror of being driven by the son of my friends who was only 14yrs makes me tremble. When in the car there were competent drivers with valid driving licence but just because they were female they could not drive.
    There is no justification for this ban on women driving, the only thing that stands out is the power and control that men hold over females would be taken from them. Every human being should have equal treatment regardless of what sex they happen to be, one can not survive without the other and they can complement each other in so many ways throughout life.
    My experience in Riyadh was an eye opener and made me so glad to fly back to the 21st century.
    Good luck to you all taking part, just wish I could be there to support you. LOL XXXXXX

  22. Avatar

    Coorled38

    May 22, 2011 at 9:17 PM

    Someone made the comment that all the women that can drive should drive on that particular day…after all…the govt cant arrest all of of them…can they?

    My answer is…look just over the causeway to Bahrain…that little island with a native population of barely 550,000 and the govt is doing it’s level best to arrest any and ALL who they even suspect had a hand in the protests or anything related to it. So…yes…they can arrest ALL of them…if they feel there is a point to be made. Absolute power corrupts…to the very heart of man.

  23. Avatar

    ahlam

    May 22, 2011 at 9:27 PM

    If I was living in Saudi I would be annoyed but I would still think twice as the rates of accidents are ridiculously high!

    However,it is true as Shaykh Yasir said, that this issue is complex and is a struggle between the self-styled Saudi Liberals and their ‘arch-enemies’ :the ”Religious-Police” and/or Scholars. Newspapers like The Nation/Al-Watan (often derided by average saudis/conseratives as ”Al-Wathan or ”The Idol”) is owned by the liberal class and in it they often publish sensationalized stories about the latest horrors of the religious police. Last I read,one story was on the confiscation of apparently unislamic books during a book fair held in Riyadh and they had mentioned that these mutawaa’ came in storming and were shouting at a Minister who was in charge of the book fair (of course,it was dramatized as I had seen the video of the chief mutawaa speaking calmly with the Minister)

    Also, if anyone heard of Al Waleed ibn Talal, a wealthy prince who is well-known for wanting to liberalise Saudi society and unfortunately religion is last on the list for him and those like him. He is famous for the entertainment company Rotana, which produces nothing but trashy pop-music and videos on TV aimed at the Arab world.

    So,you have the Liberal class trying to out-influence and the Mutawaa’ ,at the moment I think the Mutawaa have the support of the ordinary Saudis and the King even though the King himself is trying to make slow cultural reforms ever since he got in power.

    I sincerely hope that the Scholars take up this driving issue so that they do not lose credibility and trust to the Liberals who are picking up the Women’s Rights issue, among others, as a way to gain more support from the public for their worldview. And Allah knows best.

    • Avatar

      ahlam

      May 22, 2011 at 9:34 PM

      Sorry if I may have gone off-topic, but the dynamics in Saudi society interest me.

      • Hena Zuberi

        Hena Zuberi

        May 23, 2011 at 3:03 PM

        No problem alham- jazkAllah for your insight

  24. Avatar

    Safia Farole

    May 22, 2011 at 9:30 PM

    Hena, this is a fantastic article! Thank you for publicly raising the concerns that many of us Muslim women have had over Saudi women not being allowed to drive.

  25. Avatar

    Abu layth

    May 23, 2011 at 12:05 AM

    I feel that Saudi’s and every country that has a stable country should be content and fear Allah. They dont know how good they have it. Where I am from Somalia that has not had peace in the past 3 decades is in ruins between the Transitional government and Those crazy wacko’s who claim to be representing Islam. My family has been through alot and these arab countries need to sit down and count their blessings the horror stories of the civil wars and the extremist still haunt my families.

    • Hena Zuberi

      Hena Zuberi

      May 23, 2011 at 1:12 PM

      Brother Abu Layth,

      Jazaillakh for your thoughts-
      Alhamdulillah for the blessings of stability in a country- it is when we look at blessings that we have and look at others who are deprived of those blessings that we can make sincere dua for them.
      wasalam

  26. Avatar

    umm Ibraheem

    May 23, 2011 at 12:14 AM

    It is not so easy to ‘un ban’ driving. My husband works with some of the local ministries in Saudi and said the legislation to let women drive has been in the process for some years now. However, they need to train women police force, mechanics, driving examiners/ instructors to keep in line with the gender segregation. in other words a whole female workforce to support the structure of women driving has to be developed before women are actually allowed on the road.

    The idea is to start letting females in smaller cities drive first before moving to the main cities. Women over 35 years old and expat women with licences from other countries will be he first ones to drive.

    In my experience, Saudi Arabia is a modern country, where the women are far less conservative than women in the sub continent culture. I don’t think mainstream society is against women driving it’s just a matter of getting the legislation sorted.

  27. Avatar

    ANMB

    May 23, 2011 at 11:27 AM

    I believe that while women should be allowed to drive, yet understand that the men would be concerned with facts such as these:

    Saudi Arabia Has the Highest Road Accident Death Toll in the World
    Benjamin Joffe-Walt – The Media Line | March 15th, 2010
    www [dot] greenprophet [dot] com [backslash] 2010 [backslash] 03 [backslash] saudi-arabia-death-toll-driving [backslash]

    KSA should educate the public about proper driving skills, the government should ENFORCE the driving laws, and youth should earn the privilege of driving from their parents, and the parents should reward acceptable behaviors and allow them to suffer the consequences of violating the laws.

  28. Pingback: Women Challenge Saudi Arabia’s Driving Ban

  29. Pingback: Manal al-Sharif: an inspiration. | elementaryvwatson

  30. Avatar

    ANMB

    May 23, 2011 at 5:38 PM

    Asked if there were laws against women driving, he said that there were fatwas issued against women driving, but not applied to the legislative authority.

    “This is similar to the fatwa that considers smoking prohibited; yet cigarettes are sold in the market and smoked by people.

    arabnews [dot] com [backslash] saudiarabia [backslash] article422616 [dot] ece

  31. Avatar

    ummu shakir

    May 23, 2011 at 6:36 PM

    Why a muslim women driving a car goes around where is the custodian? why they do not do what Allah prescribed to them? Believe me these women are negleted by them. I would not make such choice.

    A mother

  32. Avatar

    Mohammed Khan

    May 23, 2011 at 11:21 PM

    A detailed answer on why Saudis prevent women from driving:

    http://www.islamqa.com/en/ref/45880/driving

    Point #7 is interesting.

    • Avatar

      Coorled38

      May 24, 2011 at 2:26 AM

      Basically all his “reasons” were because women driving would affect men some how. As for #7…a clear reason to keep women from driving…cause young men are surely more deserving of that privelidge then a mere woman.

      It is impossible to ever believe Saudi will join the rest of the world in viewing women as equal and deserving of their rights when the mere thought of a key in their hand sends the sheiks into spasms self righteousness. Just say what you really mean…we dont trust women to drive because we dont trust OURSELVES (us muslim men) to handle that with anything resembling muslim behavior.

      Now that was easy…wasnt it?

  33. Avatar

    Inqiyaad

    May 24, 2011 at 2:18 AM

    As Salaamu ‘alaikum,
    Sister Hena, I find the article problematic in several ways.

    1. You state that, “There is no Islamic reasoning for it (driving ban).” Then you present your argument about the rule of legality of things in general and drawing parallels when considering declaring something as haraam.

    However, it is perfectly within Islam to desist from doing something that is halal or even recommended in situations where there is a potential for evil. In the words of the scholar whom you quoted, “Islamic law does not prevent women driving. Everything depends, they say, on the context.”

    For example, Aishah radiAllahu ‘anha said (as reported in Sahih Bukhari), “Had Rasulullah known what the women were doing, he would have forbidden them from going to the mosque.” Accordingly, this driving ban thing could fall under at least two concepts in ‘Islamic’ fiqh, (a) Preventing the means to evil or (b) preventing the greater of two evils’. I don’t know overlooking these concepts was intentional or naivity (as you yourself suggested in a comment here). If it was naivity, you are safer leaving the discussion on these topics to people with more knowledge.

    2. The emotions you have invested in this are pretty clear from the twitter quotes to your statements like,

    “This is a woman’s issue, one that affects woman, let them decide.”

    And, “Praying for my Saudi sisters may Allah give them this freedom.” Well it could have been said another way if emotion was sidelined while writing this article. I would suggest, ‘Praying for my Saudi sisters may Allah make things easier for them’, considering that a ban on driving might become a big inconvenience ‘at times’.

    In the meanwhile, as sister Mariam said, sabr is also a viable option.

    Also, if emotions are kept aside we could see the point that Umm Ibraheem is making, “a whole female workforce to support the structure of women driving has to be developed before women are actually allowed on the road.” Perhaps this also answers Siraaj’s question about how Saudi society is different from other societies. Some scholars might see the development of these structures as a greater problem and investment than the inconvenience faced by some women.

    3. Whom are we supposed to believe? Najla Hariri and Manal Al-Sharif (the latter clearly does not understand the purpose of a headscarf) or those who told Karen Hughes, “just because they were not allowed to vote or drive that did not mean they were treated unfairly or imprisoned in their own homes”, as reported by NYtimes.

    4. I estimate that you picked each one of those twitter quotes for a reason. Is someone going against the rules (that are established and supported by scholars) such a positive and heroic thing?

    5. I understand that you are naïve about the role of local scholars, but please don’t display your naivety by writing a blog! More importantly, it is better to follow what Rasulullah sal Allahu ‘alaihi wa sallam said, “Whosoever believes in Allah and the Last Day, then let him speak good or remain silent.” In fact, doing otherwise NOT ISLAMIC.

    6. You write that, “the same religious figures who support women’ s rights to drive have to navigate the religious minefield by issuing nonsensical fatwa’s……But a right to transport oneself on/in a mode of transport that is not haram, is clear and straightforward, no fatwa can be issued.”

    Then it is not the problem of scholars who are supporting the ban. It really is a problem of those scholars who are against the ban. Let them issue a ‘sensical’ fatwa, who is stopping them? And, who is forcing them to issue non-sensical fatwas in the first place?

    The only valid argument that I would agree with is that the goal of this specific law has not been achieved because women are still being exposed to non-Mahram men in the form of taxi drivers and chauffeurs. Even then, as sister Mariam said, muttaqi men and women can avoid this scenario as well by being considerate of the others needs and their limits.

    P.S: Want to point another thing, unrelated to the topic of this post but, that was mentioned. I am not convinced with the idea of an adult becoming a Mahram by breastfeeding at an age of more than 2 years. But your statement, “as breast milk is haram after the age of 2”, is clearly wrong. I will give you a couple of hints to figure why it is wrong. What about children who cannot be weaned by 2yr or the husband?

  34. Avatar

    Abez

    May 24, 2011 at 7:14 AM

    I’m sure some women must like being driven around (those whose husbands can afford to hire them drivers), and to be honest I would love to have a driver too- if she was female. As it is, I’m not comfortable riding in a car with a non-mahram man, and I’m not sure what justification people put in place in order to necessitate that happening to the women who have drivers. Allah Aalim

  35. Avatar

    umm Ibraheem

    May 24, 2011 at 9:57 AM

    I don’t understand why the issue of women not driving concerns so many that live out side of Saudi. As For expatriates we have chosen to live here, knowing fully the implications on our lives of such a ban. Allah’s land is vast enough to move to a country where driving is permitted.

    The real problem is for the local Saudi women and most of them seem happy enough being driven around, this is the way they have grown up. I don’t think many people are so pro Saudi on this forum that they wish to make the comfortable lives of these women even easier. Yet the ban hits a raw nerve with everyone.

    There are much bigger social issues to be resolved for Muslim women all over the world, yet everyone is infatuated with this issue.

    Before the ban is lifted we have to solve a far greater problem, that of maniac driving in Saudi. If driving continues the way it is and suddenly a large amount of inexperienced female drivers are let loose, we will have horrendous road accidents. I personally think safer driving needs to be introduced and implemented before lifting the driving ban.

    Before we moved to Saudi, I had well meaning people trying to convince me not to go because it is such a backward country as women can’t drive.

  36. Avatar

    anon

    May 24, 2011 at 12:25 PM

    I don’t have the foresight of the ulema and mashaAllah I have a great love for the Sh. Bin Baaz (rahimullah) and Sh. Ibn Uthaymeen (rahimullah) (http://islamqa.com/en/ref/45880), and I am in absolutely no position to argue against the textual evidence they present, but I can definitely say that sisters in these United States (and the rest of the world where they own a car) should be grateful to Allah for the legal ability to drive themselves around without fear of arrest or molestation at the hands of the authorities

    I do understand where they are coming from but yes not having lived anywhere else I don’t see why sisters shouldn’t be allowed to drive. However as was stated by our teacher Yasir Qadhi (who gets mad love too, hafidullah) I wanted to add allowing women to drive in Saudi would have major repercussions that would include a change of dress (because driving with the full “sunnah” face veil requires a higher level of skill than driving without it, initially it would be a road hazard, don’t even begin to kid yourself)

    This may be potential for them to earn money (they are going to have to be driving somewhere, right?), it will also cause them to speak amongst men (road rage, just like the rest of us, although to me that would be highly entertaining to watch on Youtube and I absolutely support them driving inshaAllah, just to see this) and it would lead to less dependence on men (eventually breaking it completely for some sisters) to meet their needs as well which will either cause (some/most) men to step up their (weak) game and treat women better or live the single life, Allahu alim. It is a small step in a major direction that would shift society. However I don’t know if it will lead to a further decay in piety (please spare me the nonsense that Saudi Arabia is not any more or less holier than where you sit RIGHT NOW because it isn’t except for the land of the Kaabah and where the Prophet(sallalahu alayhi wa sallam) established masjid an Nabawee…because piety is a personal quality and people are on different levels of piety no matter where they live. Allahu alim, I don’t mean to be offensive or disrespectful to any brothers or sisters but just wanted to say if this changes it will cause alot of other changes (don’t know if it would be positive or negative).

  37. Avatar

    Abu Kamel

    May 25, 2011 at 3:57 AM

    Bismillah

    As salam alaikum

    This issue has become a global topic again (it gained attention in the early 1990s as women wanted to drive when American troops were ‘occupying’ Arabian land at Saudi miltiary bases).

    This time, its as a result of the “Arab Spring” which the Western media have spinned to be ‘pro democracy’ and ‘pro civil society’.

    Thus, Western media highlights womens issues in the Muslim world to promote Western ideological predominance and guidance whether it hurts and divides families, oppresses various individuals, or promotes corruption and social degradation.

    It is utterly naive and irresponsible to simply parrot Western media reports and ideological solutions to Muslims among Muslim about Muslims. And by Western, I mean secular humanist, liberalist, capitalist, advocating secular civil society.

    Generally speaking, the advocacy of women’s issues in the Muslim world also entails disenfranchising and disempowering Muslim men and the Muslim family. By empowering ‘women’ contrary to Islam, the authority of the Muslim family is neutralized, as promoted by the ideological guidance of the West which recognizes the individual as the pillar of society.

    Islam recognizes the family as the pillar of the society and the individual, whether man or woman, are components of the family. Thus, we all have parents to whom we must obey and care for and we have responsibilities to family which we must uphold, including spouses.

    According to Western ideology, whether you call it capitalism, secular humanism, liberalism, civil democracy, the individual is center of society and parents, family, spouses, are succumb to the individual’s rights and power.

    Western political forces are pressuring countries of the GCC to implement Western – ie. secular civil society- as they accomodate Western expats within their workforces and force out Arab expats. And this women’s driving issue is just one such issue.

    As is sometimes said : one can often defend against one mighty blow from an enemy, but few defend against 1000 tiny cuts. Thus, death of resistance by 1000 cuts.
    Or, as its called in America, women’s driving is a “wedge issue” by which proponents of Western ideological leadership gain power.

    That is the bigger picture in Arabia. Its not just about women driving. I personally support women driving according to Islam, but I support Arabia being a complete Islamic state, not a monarchy.

    Were there to be changes, it should be solely for Islam and justice and the worship of Allah, not to serve Western interests. It should be systemic and for the greater implementation of Islam and in defense against those seeking to destroy Islam.

    I welcome all responses and I seek Allah’s forgiveness for any misguidance.
    And Allah knows best.

  38. Avatar

    Mansoor Ansari

    May 25, 2011 at 11:52 AM

    Having grown up in Saudi & having a mother who is one, hopefully my two cents count. In Saudi, those against the ban in this particular movement are ultra-liberals who want to remove all facet of religion from daily life. The Saudi women in my family don’t really care if they can’t drive as they all have drivers and can get from one place to another.

    I would been for lifting the the ban if they were individuals who couldn’t afford drivers but that’s not the case. These r the ones who drive around in S-class & 7-Series.

    What would help? A good public transport system, that would really help those in need.

    My wife is a Bahraini & she drives in Bahrain & US. But I would not let her drive in Saudi even if they allow women to drive tomorrow. The society is not ready for this from my experience and my mom,sisters, aunts don’t want this rite now and would say they are not too conservatives at the same time.

    The biggest question is travelling without mahram… those who r asking abt religious justification here you have it. A road trip from Dammam to Riyadh is abt 31/2 hrs and from Riyadh to Jeddah is abt 9 hrs… (driving at 100 mph), should women would be travelling alone for such long distances?

    FYI: Women do drive in remote areas and it’s safe for them and the tribal men in these areas do not harasses them & the driving habits in these places r not insane like in the cities.

    • Avatar

      Coorled38

      May 25, 2011 at 2:43 PM

      Mansoor…you use your own female family members having no desire to drive as representative of all women in Saudi? Your statement that these are just ultra liberals cannot possibly be substantiated..that is a gross generalization. Allowing women to drive has absolutely NOTHING to do with religion…or lack there of. It’s all about controlling half the population because, apparently (as you and others state) the other half CANT be controlled…or at least nobody bothers to raise them with the belief they do have control of themselves if only they choose to behave themselves. Since there are very few consequences for men in Saudi who misbehave towards women…I dont see that bit of self awareness happening any time soon.

      Your whole posts smacks of Saudi being some sort of untamed jungle environment where women just arent safe to drive, travel, do much of anything simply because there are unleashed Saudi men on the loose. Such a sad description of Saudi men if that is true…and from what so many say about it (myself included since I have been there and I can attest to much of what is said about how they act towards women) we know it is accurate…to a point.

      Instead of preventing Saudi women from living a complete and fullfilling life in which SHE is the captain of her own destiny and desires…why not focus on raising Saudi men with the understanding that Saudi women have this right? Seems the easier route to take…raise good Saudi men while they are still boys…then most of the problems that country has would dry up in a generation or two.

      • Avatar

        umm Ibraheem

        May 27, 2011 at 2:51 PM

        Saudi men are not untamed, they are just not used to interacting ‘freely’ with women. When my husband was away for 2 months and I was living by myself here in Saudi, there were incidents when I had to speak to men and they were very uncomfortable about it and would only do so if my son was present. I really respect this. The only women they freely interact with are female family members. Saudi men are far more respectable towards woman than men living in the West.

        • Avatar

          Coorled38

          May 27, 2011 at 5:52 PM

          .” Saudi men are far more respectable towards woman than men living in the West.”

          I find this comment interesting in so many ways. It is Saudi men themselve who are withholding basic rights from the women there that you claim they are behaving more respectable towards. Treating them like children that require an adult with them at all times. Preventing them from leading a life of self autonomy and restricting what they can do, where they can do it, and with whom they can do it with…so to speak. How is that in any way respectable?

          • Avatar

            Inqiyaad

            May 28, 2011 at 9:18 AM

            @Coorled36
            I find your posts even more interesting than that statement. After lecturing Mansoor on ‘gross generalizations’ and how one’s personal opinion can’t be representative of others, you turn around to do just that.

            If you feel that you are imprisoned or somehow incomplete without driving, or that the protective care of your family is disrespecting then that is your perception. Other women might not share your opinion or miserable outlook toward relationships. Above, I have shared a link to an article in NYTimes about what more women told the US ambassador on her famous middle-east trip.

            Besides, Mansoor never claimed that his family was representative, just that there are women who disagree with this whole ‘imprisoned and exploited’ paradigm.

    • Avatar

      sebkha

      May 25, 2011 at 3:03 PM

      who wouldn’t want to stand outside in 43 degree heat waiting for public transport! yippee.

      what kind of distances does your wife drive in bahrain and the u.s.? who’s to say that any large number of women are going to be traveling these big, long distances all the time, by themselves? the utter majority are going to be doing what women everywhere do-pick up their kids from school, drive over to a friend’s house a few km away for a cup of tea, etc. what on earth makes you think that huge numbers of saudi women driving by themselves are going to be putting km on their cars that rival those of long haul truckers? anyways, whenever i drive anywhere of any substantial distance, i’m either with my husband or my parents, and it’s nice to be able to alternate drivers. it’s no fun arriving at your destination completely exhausted because you’ve had to do all the driving, and everyone else is rested and ready to go. divvying up the driving can make things a little more fair, and more comfortable for everyone anyways.

  39. Avatar

    Abu Kamel

    May 26, 2011 at 12:20 AM

    If the issue is about transportation, then a public mass transit system is essential in every Muslim metro area in the world. And there can be innovative engineering to address issues such as desert conditions. Taking the Emirati Masdar City model, mass transit systems underground and light rail or high speed connecting urban areas above ground. Women’s only cars and locations can be allocated.

    But let us NOT pretend there is NO global campaign supported overtly and covertly by liberal ideologues and their powerful backers to alter Arabia to their political models. And women are used as pawns in their campaign. And then once accomplished, women become mere instruments to other designs of this cabal, not all altruistic and idealistic. Take a good look at France: legalizes all sex outside of marriage including homosexual sex, adultery, fornication, porn, prostitution, has high rates of sexual violence against women, has mainstreamed sexual exploitation of women in every facet of commerce, has a multi billion dollar women’s fashion industry dominated by men ( eg. bikini was invented by French designer), but they attack niqabi and hijabi women to uphold liberalist ideals.

    And let us also not pretend that Western governments are using the interests of nonMuslim Western expats to push forth secular, civil liberalized reforms throughout the GCC. The news is that GCC countries are being pushed to apply American security standards to their Arab expat populations. Those that don’t meet the American approval are being forced to return to their home countries, such as an Egyptian who has resided in Qatar for 20 years but may not meet American standards will have his visa revoked, or not renewed.

    Any real changes in the Saudi kingdom should be based on a systemic plan towards greater Islamization and development of Arabia and the entire Arabian Pennisula towards a singular Islamic state.

    As for driving and women according to Islam, I agree with Mansoor: long distance travel, which fiqh defines as over 50-70 kms from one’s home, some argue less, requires a mahrem or his equivalent. And in the Saudi kingdom, there are still many places which are unwelcoming to travellers. According to my Emirati and Saudi friends, much of the south of the Saudi kingdom was unsafe for lone men to travel, even locals. It was common for local Arabs to travel in ‘caravans’ of cars/SUVs/ etc for safety as recent as 20 years ago.

    And as the economies of the region falter, oppressive regimes harden, economic disparity, and corruption permeates and calcifies, this can be expected again.

  40. Avatar

    UmmKhalid

    May 27, 2011 at 6:05 AM

    assalamu alaykum

    I am Canadian living in Saudi, and I can understand why women would not be allowed to drive here. First of all, it is not a necessity. Men here are encouraged to take care of their wives and families, so the women do not have any real need to go out driving. The roads are dangerous and can hardly accomodate the amount of traffic as it is, so what if we doubled that number? The men are in need of driving because of their obligation of working to provide for the family and attending the prayers in the masjid. So let them drive and be grateful that you don’t need to go out everyday risking your life on the roads.

    • Avatar

      umm Ibraheem

      May 27, 2011 at 10:43 AM

      I fully agree with you sister. I am also a westerner living in Jeddah for the past year, and there is no dire need for driving to be introduced. The conditions on the road are horrendous and putting an inexperienced part of the population will make things worse. Even if driving for women was to be introduced I cannot see myself driving here in my lifetime. I personally think this is an issue only for the residents of KSA to be discussing, I cannot see it being of any concern to people outside the kingdom as they cannot relate to the lifestyle or priorities here. Just another excuse for Saudi bashing as many of the forum readers love to do.

      • Avatar

        F

        May 27, 2011 at 11:24 AM

        Going by that argument, no one outside of France should speak about the niqab ban either because after all who understands the society and the French culture more than those living in France. Correct?

        • Avatar

          umm Ibraheem

          May 27, 2011 at 2:29 PM

          Niqab is an issue of fard or sunnah depending on which viewpoint one takes. It is ignorant to put women driving, which is neither fard or sunnah act in the same category as one of Allahs commands.

          In the UK, for example, the law states the age of consent for a girl is 16 years, so if a girl marries before that the law is being broken. However in Islam it is allowed for a girl to be me married once she has reached puberty, usually this is before 16 years. I don’t see any one trying to oppose this rule as they respect the laws of the country.

          • Avatar

            Hobbit

            May 27, 2011 at 3:30 PM

            Can you read? Its about discussing the Niqab “ban” (an act carried out by the French govt) not the niqab itself or whether its status is comparable to the legality of women’s driving or not.

            Anyways, the point is a red herring. Its one thing for someone to have an ill-informed opinion due to not having lived in some place and another for someone to have the right to express an opinion.

          • Avatar

            Inqiyaad

            May 28, 2011 at 9:21 AM

            @Hobbit
            I am glad you can read. But, Umm Ibraheem’s arguments are being framed in a certain context. The context is Islamic (why would that be irrelevant on Muslimmatters?). What she is saying is that the scholars might comment on these issues (ex. niqab) as they might see it as a non-negotiable (fard) aspect (as pointed out in the link posted by Mohammed khan and Anon). As for things that are not set in stone, they have already extended the courtesy long before you asked for it.

            Also, not expressing an ill-informed opinion might be the right thing to do! At least I would not take issue with that advice.

        • Avatar

          Inqiyaad

          May 28, 2011 at 9:15 AM

          @‘F’, I think the position of Saudis (Scholars, Government, and people) has been more consistent than that of French or the West in general. The west always loves to lecture others about freedom, equality, and rights of individuals. If these so called non-negotiable ‘ideals’ do not suit them, they can be discarded by invoking ‘national security’, ‘to maintain public order’, ‘preserve culture’, or even ‘it’s not about what you can, it’s about sensitivity toward others’.

          Returning the favor of an unwanted lecture on ‘freedom’ and exposing the hypocrisy might not be such a bad thing.

          Above, Mohammed khan and Anon have posted a link to the explanation by some scholars about their reasoning for the decision. And if you read closely, you will find what you are looking for, “With regard to other countries, the matter should be referred to trustworthy scholars for they know their countries’ situation best.”

          • Avatar

            Burqa Barbie

            May 31, 2012 at 8:10 AM

            ” they can be discarded by invoking ‘national security’, ‘to maintain public order’, ‘preserve culture’”
            Muslim countries do this as well. Try exposing hypocrisy in your own post.

    • Avatar

      Coorled38

      May 27, 2011 at 12:22 PM

      If it wasnt a necessity…you wouldnt have so many Saudi women (and men) trying to get the cultural attitude about women driving changed. Obviously it is a necessity to someone…

      And let us not pretend for a moment that men are out driving their cars merely due to work and prayer obligations…have you watched any youtube videos of just what Saudi men do while driving their cars…the roads there are dangerous because they act like their cars are toys…and nobody enforces traffic rules. The country needs to enforce rules on men more so than on women, in my opinion, then maybe being a woman in Saudi wouldnt be so dangerous.

      • Avatar

        UmmKhalid

        May 27, 2011 at 1:58 PM

        Yes. The men would love for the women to drive, so that they can sit at home and relax instead of fulfilling their obligations.

        • Avatar

          Hobbit

          May 27, 2011 at 2:15 PM

          @UmmKhalid
          Please stop dodging the questions raised by Coorled38 and pretending as though the only reason women aren’t allowed to drive is because there’s some great underground conspiracy by men to unleash their laziness on the rest of the world.

          People drive for the same reason they walk, run or cycle. Its a means of access to the outside world , albeit a faster one than the ones mentioned above. whether its for work, play or otherwise is beside the point. The state doesn’t have any right to tell people (men or women) how to divide their time.

          • Avatar

            Inqiyaad

            May 28, 2011 at 9:24 AM

            @Hobbit
            I think you missed the sarcasm. She was just trying to contrast the picture painted by Coorled36 of Saudi men. Also, that she can see why men would want to overturn this ban as it places a lot of responsibility on them that otherwise might be shared by women. From her own experience, she cannot see why women would want to overturn this.

      • Avatar

        umm Ibraheem

        May 27, 2011 at 2:31 PM

        So you tube videos are representative of a whole nation of drivers? Come and live here for a few years then talk.

        • Avatar

          umm Ibraheem

          May 27, 2011 at 2:41 PM

          Muslim men in the Uk generally have an easier life than compared to when they move to KSA. In the Uk they will not be obliged to do school run, weekly grocery, doctors and hospital appointments, dropping and picking from kids after school clubs etc……the list goes on, the wife is usually taking responsibility for all his. However, once they move to KSA all responsibility is on them, and these duties are fulfilled after work or during weekends, btw, everything here in KSA open till 12am so its very easy to have a life after work.

          Women here generally tend to be only responsible for running of household and kids and MashaAllah any spare time she has is devoted to the ample opportunities available here for learning Quran and deen.

          Why would anyone want to change this?

          • Avatar

            Apricot

            May 27, 2011 at 3:32 PM

            As-salamu Alaykum,
            I am a woman who does not drive and am blessed to have a husband who takes care of all outside errands, even when he is very busy. He became ill a couple of years ago, though, and could no longer do those errands for almost a year. Sometimes he would have to go to the hospital in the middle of the night, and I had to call various people to help us. It was a very difficult situation. People are usually more than happy to help the first, second and third times, but it gets hard when you are constantly asking for help from outside sources. This experience made me reflect more on all the women out there who really don’t have someone to help them take care of basic everyday tasks. Not every woman is married or has a father or brother to help her out. My own mother was divorced and had to depend on herself for everything. We didn’t have a car when I was little, and it was pretty hard to get around. That was in the United States, in a city with a poor public transport system. I don’t know what the proper solution is in Saudi Arabia, but people need to at least understand that some women really need to drive. You cannot just keep talking about drivers and husbands as though every woman has these at her disposal.

  41. Avatar

    UmmKhalid

    May 28, 2011 at 12:23 AM

    Saudi is not like other countries. The women here are given more rights than any country I know of. Because of this, I think it is fair to give up the right to drive. If you don’t like it, it’s simple, don’t move here. Women here will have their husbands provide and do errands for them. If anything happens to her husband- for example, if she gets divorced or her husband dies, then the responsibility will go back to her father and brothers. No one says ‘oh poor so and so, his daughter is grown up and still being a burden on him.’ This is just the way it is. Men are expected to care for their daughters, mothers, and sisters, whether they are young or old.

    • Avatar

      Apricot

      May 28, 2011 at 7:23 AM

      As-salamu Alaykum,
      Well, again, Umm Khalid, not everyone has a husband, brother or father to take care of her. I live in a Muslim country and the men here are generally keen to take care of the women in their families. But we can’t really ignore the many women who do not have that support, even within a Muslim country. Yes, your father can take care of you to a point, but not if he is deceased or very ill. Not all women have brothers, and some women are the sole breadwinners for their families, taking care of their elderly parents and younger siblings. Again, I am a woman who does not drive, and I depend on my husband for almost everything…but it is wrong for me to assume that everyone is like me. They are not.

      • Avatar

        Inqiyaad

        May 28, 2011 at 9:29 AM

        @Apricot,
        I agree with you that not everyone would have a husband, father, brother or son to take care of. ‘Undue difficulty’ is a valid argument. But that might be overturned by arguments for, ‘greater of two evils’ or ‘for greater good’.

        More important to me is that women are still being exposed to non-mahram taxi-drivers and chauffeurs. I personally feel that putting forward these Islamically compelling arguments and working within the country’s framework might be more beneficial than spouting out hollow arguments about ‘freedom’. Umm Ibraheem has shared how this process has been initiated already. It might take longer, but InshaAllah we can be patient.

        • Avatar

          Coorled38

          May 28, 2011 at 12:10 PM

          Inqiyaad….Mansoor kept prefacing his comments with “my mother and sisters” etc…meaning he was using his female family members as representative in backing up his comments. The way he phrased his comments was as if his family members not wanting to drive was the norn..rather than the exception.

          As for generalizing…Im sorry but the laws and culture in Saudi that keeps one half of the population in perpetual childhood is not a gross generalization. When you treat women as if they need constant handholding…when you feel you must speak for them, sign for them, act on their behalf for everything…when you limit where they can go, when they can go there and then readily brand them with less than lovely names when they happen to misstep…and when you send texts to their keepers when they attempt to leave the country (just to make sure he is aware of it and she isnt doing something without his permission) and when something as simple yet dire as a medical procedure requires his signature and permission…then YES…how is that “caring and protecting” your female family members? That is removing all responsibility for themselves from them…the same we do for children.

          I do not have a miserable outlook on life simply because I point this out…I dont live there (though I have been there) but I have lived among Muslims for over half my life…and when I hear the pisspoor excuses as to why Saudi feels it needs t o extend all this “care and protection” towards it’s own women…they are just that…excuses. Let the women take care of themselves in areas in which they are perfectly capable of doing so. What are the men so afraid of if they give their women a little freedom (mind you I said “a little”).

          • Avatar

            Inqiyaad

            May 30, 2011 at 12:35 AM

            @Coorled38
            I still don’t see that Mansoor was arguing, “Because my family members don’t want to drive, other women should not want to drive either.”

            But I do see that you are laboring the point that the protective care of your family is disrespectful to you then how can it not be (disrespectful) to the other women? Your statements like, “what are men so afraid of if they give their women a little freedom?” do indicate your conviction that your thoughts are representative of all women and that you represent them all.

            No, you have the right to hold your opinions and speak them out. However, if you are suggesting that fathers, brothers, and husbands are always trying to subjugate their daughters, sisters, and wives then that definitely is a miserable outlook toward relationships. If you are suggesting that any and all protective emotions they display are a facade to further an agenda then that also is a miserable outlook. Also, it might be a little bit delusional if people think that someone outside the family, and not their own family, has more concern for their welfare.

            I find your assertions, for example, “something as simple yet dire as a medical procedure requires his signature and permission”, “you feel you must speak for them, sign for them, act on their behalf for everything”, to be a misrepresentation.

            As for requiring a ‘mahram’s’ company for travel beyond a certain distance, I am not ashamed to tell you that our religion provides for this. Considering the number of girls and women (even above the age of 18) that are trafficked for prostitution, it does serve as an effective second layer of protection.

            Your monotonous attempts at dismissing any other possibility as an excuse and framing this within the ‘imprisoned and exploited’ paradigm are not only piss-poor but also emetic.

          • Avatar

            Burqa Barbie

            May 31, 2012 at 8:05 AM

            ” If you are suggesting that any and all protective emotions”
            You mean possessive…

          • Avatar

            Coorled38

            May 30, 2011 at 1:41 AM

            Inqiyaad…”I find your assertions, for example, “something as simple yet dire as a medical procedure requires his signature and permission”, “you feel you must speak for them, sign for them, act on their behalf for everything”, to be a misrepresentation”

            You declare this a misrepresentation but do not explain why you feel it is. How is it a misrepresentation if it is the truth? Ask any Saudi women if this is a true fact or not then tell me Im misrepresenting this.

            My thoughts were my thoughts…in no way did I indicate they were the collective thoughts of all women….however…having lived there for 23 years I believe I can speak with some experience in such matters…also….because I am female and was subject to the laws and culture..I do believe i can speak with more authority than any male who has an opinion about what muslim women do or do not think, feel, or believe.

            And I did not say that I believe fathers, brothers and sons are ALWAYS trying to subjugate their females…I am saying that the culture, customs and laws in Saudi do do that to ALL females who live in that country…and because the men of that country…the fathers, brothers, and sons (generally speaking) do NOT rebel against that culture, customs, or laws…then they are abetting in the oppression of their own women. Silence means acceptance…but considering 255,000 men have Liked the facebook page that states any Saudi woman that tries to drive on June whatever should be beaten with an egal…then I guess they arent exactly being silent about it.

            Your attempt at describing my comment as pisspoor or emetic only reflects on yourself and your narrowmindedness concerning other people’s comments. I am not commenting based on things I have read, seen on Foxnews, or been told by haters of all things Islam or Arab…I lived there for 23 years and I know what I am talking about. Whether you choose to accept my right to say so with any authority is completely within your rights…but that does not mean what I have to say has no basis or merit.

          • Avatar

            Inqiyaad

            May 30, 2011 at 1:47 PM

            @Coorled38
            The onus is on you to provide evidence with specific cases and their incidence. And not, ‘go ask any Saudi women’. If you still want me to do that, you must be ready to accept my experiences as the norm. In my experience, I haven’t seen anything like that happening. In fact, I have seen otherwise.

            I only want you to return the favor of ‘recognition of authority of a female who has lived/continues to live’, to other females who have commented here and continue to do so in other forums.

            You say that, “My thoughts were my thoughts” and then you return to the regular business, “…subjugate their females…I am saying that the culture, customs and laws in Saudi do do that to ALL females who live in that country.”
            If you find a certain culture, custom, or law as subjugating, it is not necessary that any and ALL females will find it to be so.

          • Avatar

            Burqa Barbie

            May 31, 2012 at 8:03 AM

            “If you find a certain culture, custom, or law as subjugating, it is not necessary that any and ALL females will find it to be so.”
            The subjective doesnt replace the objective.

          • Avatar

            Coorled38

            May 30, 2011 at 3:37 PM

            Yes…go ask any Saudi female. If she answers in the positive it merely means she has “owners” that have allowed her to have a certain amount of freedom where others do not. It doesnt mean the laws and culture is not there…it means her “owner” has chosen to ignore them…but at anytime he chooses to enforce them then the laws and culture are on his side. That is not a generalization…male ownership of females in saudi is a fact…turn on any tv or read any newspaper. Heck they even act like they own their housemaids and can do whatever they want with them without fear of punishment. In that regard, some saudi women seem to have this belief as well…but that extends to ownership of slaves and off topic.

            Saudi women who say…oh we dont need the right to drive because our men provide us with drivers…we get driven wherever we want whenever we want etc etc” are choosing to ingore the fact that not all women in Saudi have this luxery and not only struggle to afford drivers…but ignores the base issue…SOME saudi women WANT to drive…so why shouldnt they be allowed too? The excuses are many and varied but at the end of the day they are just excuses.

            Having said all that…if you or any other female that lives in saudi happens to love the way things are done there then that is wonderful and good for you…but definitely most absolutely not ALL females that live in saudi love the way things are done there…hence…these acts of “rebellion” that are now making headlines (not as if they havent always been happening).

  42. Avatar

    Abu Ayesha

    May 28, 2011 at 1:27 AM

    Maybe it is weakness of faith (even though I still disagreed with the prohibition of women driving when I was practicing the Sunnah) but I cannot find any of the reasons put forth by the Saudi ulema, acceptable.

    I’ve just finished reading the fataawa of the Allamah of this century Sheikh Bin Baz Allah Yarhamuhu and I do not find the reasons for the fataawa very convincing.

    Like I said, it might just be my weak Eemaan and lack of understanding.

    May Allah guide us all. Aameen

  43. Avatar

    H

    May 30, 2011 at 2:30 PM

    Salaam
    I find Coorled38’s arguments here to actually be pretty convincing. I was born and raised in the U.S. and I am trying to reverse some of the extremely liberal teaching that has been forced down my throat. So I now see the wisdom in some of teachings of the Hadiths and Ulema’s on the rights of women. With that being said, anyone who says that the Saudi government’s laws on driving and other laws that restrict what women can do are helpful and are correct is delusional. It makes no sense for women to have drivers. The whole thing is just silly and if you think otherwise, than I don’t know what to say. Also, when you guys are saying that the men need to take care of the women and have obligations and such, you are assuming that this system of placing responsibility on the men works itself out. You are assuming that the men will not take advantage of this situation and leave the women powerless. You do not have to be Muslim to see that what the government is saying does not make sense. There is no reason for a ban on driving.

  44. Avatar

    Coorled38

    May 30, 2011 at 5:04 PM

    http://www.saudigazette.com.sa/index.cfm?method=home.regcon&contentID=20110530101912

    A report done by the haia…who claim that women between the ages of 20-25 are still “girls” and that they are classified as runaways if they choose to leave the family home and live somewhere else….and that they deserve to be incarcerated in womens detention centers for fitna etc. Only in Saudi are full grown women considered runaways who have no right to chose for themselves where they will live…and punished for that.

    How can we imagine for a minute the culture will let them drive, consider them mature and adult enough to drive, when they cant even choose where they live at the oh so young age of 25?

  45. Pingback: Being a Female in the Kingdom: Women Drivers in Saudi Arabia | The Institute of Middle East Studies

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

featured

Lessons From Surah Maryam: 1

Shaykh Furhan Zubairi

Published

on

Alhamdulillah, it’s a great blessing of Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) that He has given us both the opportunity and ability to come here tonight to study and explore the meanings of His words in Surah Maryam. I’m truly grateful for this opportunity. May Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) accept this effort from all of us and place it on our scale of good deeds.

Alhamdulillah, in our last series we were able to complete the tafsir of Surah Al-Kahf. InshAllah, in this next series, we’ll be exploring the meanings, lessons, and reminders of Surah Maryam. Tafsīr is an extremely noble and virtuous discipline. The reason why it’s so noble and virtuous is that it’s the study of the divine speech of Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He). As mentioned in a hadith the superiority of the speech of Allah over all other speech is like the superiority of Allah over all of His creation. There’s nothing more beneficial and virtuous than studying the Quran. And by doing so we’ll be counted amongst the best of people. As the Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) said, “the best amongst you are those who learn the Quran and teach it.”

All of us need to build a stronger relationship with the Quran. The Quran is full of wisdom and guidance in every single verse and word. It’s our responsibility to seek that guidance, understand it, contextualize it and more importantly act upon it. Tafsīr is such a unique science that it brings together all of the other Islamic sciences. While exploring a Surah a person comes across discussions regarding Arabic grammar and morphology, rhetoric, Ahādīth, fiqh, sīrah and all those studies that are known as the Islamic Sciences. One scholar described the Quran as an ocean that has no shore, بحر لا ساحل له. The more we study the Qur’ān the stronger our relationship with it will become. We’ll become more and more attached to it and will be drawn into its beauty and wonder. The deeper a person gets into tafsir and studying the more engaged and interested they become. They also recognize how little they truly know. It develops humility. That’s the nature of true knowledge. The more we learn the more we recognize we don’t know. May Allah ﷻ allow us all to be sincere and committed students of the Qur’ān.

Surah Maryam

Surah Maryam is the 19th surah in the Quran. It is a relatively long Makki surah made up of 98 verses. Some commentators mention that it’s the 44th Surah to be revealed, after Surah Al-Fatir and before Surah Taha. It has been given the name Maryam because Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) mentions the story of Maryam (as) and her family and how she gave birth to Isa 'alayhi'l-salām (peace be upon him) miraculously at the beginning of the Surah. Just like other Makkan surahs, it deals with the most fundamental aspects of our faith. It talks about the existence and oneness of Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He), prophethood, and resurrection and recompense.

The Surah is made up of a series of unique stories filled with guidance and lessons that are meant as reminders. One of the main themes of this Surah is mercy… It has been mentioned over 16 times in this Surah. We’ll find the words of grace, compassion and their synonyms frequently mentioned throughout the sūrah, together with Allah’s attributes of beneficence and mercy. We can say that one of the objectives of the Surah is to establish and affirm the attribute of mercy for Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He). That’s why all of the stories mentioned also have to do with Allah’s mercy.

Another objective of the Surah is to remind us of our relationship with Allah ﷻ; the concept of Al-‘Ubūdiyyah. These are the two major themes or ideas of this Surah; the concept of Rahmah and the concept of ‘Ubūdiyyah (Mercy and Servitude).

The Surah can be divided into 8 sections:

1) Verses 1-15: The surah starts with the story of Zakariyya (as) and how he was given the gift of a child at a very old age, which was something strange and out of the ordinary.

2) Verses 16-40: mention the story of Maryam and the miraculous birth of Isa 'alayhi'l-salām (peace be upon him) without a father and how her community responded to her.

3) Verses 41-50: The surah then briefly mentions one part of the story of Ibrahim 'alayhi'l-salām (peace be upon him), specifically the conversation he had with his father regarding the worship of idols. The surah then briefly mentions a series of other Prophets.

4) Verses 51-58: Mention Musa and Haroon 'alayhi'l-salām (peace be upon him), Ismail 'alayhi'l-salām (peace be upon him) and Idrees 'alayhi'l-salām (peace be upon him) to show that the essence of the message of all Prophets was the same

5) Verses 59-65: compare and contrast the previous generations with the current ones in terms of belief and actions.

6) Verses 66-72: Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) addresses the Mushrikoon rejecting their false claims regarding life after death and judgment.

7) Verses 73-87: continue to address the Mushrikoon and warn them regarding their attitude towards belief in Allah and His messengers. They also mention the great difference between the resurrection of the believer and the resurrection of the non-believer.

8) Verses 88-98: contain a severe warning to those who claim that Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) has taken a child. They also express that Allah is pleased with the believers and mentions that one of the objectives of the Quran is to give glad tidings to the believers and to warn the non-believers.

Story

From various narrations, we learn that this surah was revealed near the end of the fourth year of Prophethood. This was an extremely difficult time for Muslims. The Quraysh were frustrated with their inability to stop the message of Islam from spreading so they became ruthless. They resorted to any method of torture that they could think of; beating, starving and harassing. When the persecution became so severe that it was difficult for the Muslims to bear it, the Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) gave permission to migrate to Abyssinia. “For in it dwells a king in whose presence no one is harmed.” 10 men and 4 women migrated in the 5th year of Prophethood secretly. After a few months, a larger group of 83 men and 18 women migrated as well. This migration added more fuel to the fire. It enraged the people of Quraysh.

Umm Salamah [rahna]narrated, “When we stopped to reside in the land of Abyssinia we lived alongside the best of neighbors An-Najashi. We practiced our religion safely, worshipped Allah without harm and didn’t hear anything we disliked. When news of our situation reached the Quraysh they started to plot against us…” They decided to send two delegates to persuade An-Najashi to send the Companions back by offering him and his ministers’ gifts. The plan was to go to each minister with gifts and turn them against the Muslims. So they went to each minister with gifts and said, “Verily, foolish youth from amongst us have come to the country of your king; they have abandoned the religion of their people and have not embraced your religion. Rather they have come with a new religion that neither of us knows. The noblemen of their people, from their fathers and uncles, have sent us to the king asking that he send them back. So when we speak to the king regarding their situation advise him to surrender them to us and to not speak to them…” The minister agreed.

Then they went to the king, offered him gifts and said the same thing… The ministers tried to convince him as well. An-Najashi became angry with them and said, “No, by Allah, I will not surrender them to these two and I don’t fear the plotting of a people who have become my neighbors, have settled down in my country, and have chosen me (to grant them refuge) over every other person. I will not do so until I summon them and speak to them. If they are as these two say I will give them up, but if they aren’t then I will protect them from these two and continue to be a good neighbor to them as long as they are good neighbors to me.”

al-Najāshī then summoned the Prophet’s ﷺ Companions. When his messenger informed the Prophet’s Companions that they were to appear before the king, they gathered together to discuss what they should do. One of them asked, “What will you say to the name (al-Najāshī) when you go to him?” They all agreed on what they would say to him, “By Allah, we will say what our Prophet ﷺ taught us and commanded us with, regardless of the consequences.” Meanwhile, al-Najāshī called for his priests, who gathered around him with their scrolls spread out before them. When the Muslims arrived al-Najāshī began by asking them, “What is this religion for which you have parted from your people? You have not entered into the fold of my religion, nor the religion of any person from these nations.”

Umm Salamah [rahna] narrated, “The Person among us who would speak to him was Jaʿfar ibn abī Ṭālib [rahnu] who then said, “O king, we were an ignorant people: we worshipped idols, we would eat from the flesh of dead animals, we would perform lewd acts, we would cut off family ties, and we would be bad neighbors; the strong among us would eat from the weak. We remained upon that state until Allah sent us a Messenger, whose lineage, truthfulness, trustworthiness, and chastity we already knew. He invited us to Allah – to believe in His oneness and to worship Him; to abandon all that we and our fathers worshipped besides Allah, in terms of stones and idols. He ﷺ commanded us to speak truthfully, to fulfill the trust, to join ties of family relations, to be good to our neighbors, and to refrain from forbidden deeds and from shedding blood. And he ﷺ forbade us from lewd acts, from uttering falsehood, from wrongfully eating the wealth of an orphan, from falsely accusing chaste women of wrongdoing. And he ﷺ ordered us to worship Allah alone and to not associate any partners with him in worship; and he ﷺ commanded us to pray, to give zakāh, and to fast.” He enumerated for al-Najāshī the teachings of Islam. He said, “And we believe him and have faith in him. We follow him in what he came with. And so we worship Allah alone, without associating any partners with Him in worship. We deem forbidden that which he has made forbidden for us, and we deem lawful that which he made permissible for us. Our people then transgressed against us and tortured us. The tried to force us to abandon our religion and to return from the worship of Allah to the worship of idols; they tried to make us deem lawful those abominable acts that we used to deem lawful. Then, when they subjugated us, wronged us, and treated us in an oppressive manner, standing between us and our religion, we came to your country, and we chose you over all other people. We desired to live alongside you, and we hoped that, with you, we would not be wronged, O king.” al-Najāshī said to Jaʿfar [rahnu], “Do you have any of that which he came with from Allah?” Jaʿfar [rahnu] said, “Yes”. “Then recite to me,” said al-Najāshī. Jaʿfar [rahnu] recited for him the beginning of Surah Maryam. By Allah, al-Najāshī began to cry, until his beard became wet with tears. And when his priests heard what Jaʿfar [rahnu] was reciting to them, they cried until their scrolls became wet. al-Najāshī then said, “By Allah, this and what Mūsa (as) came with come out of the same lantern. Then by Allah, I will never surrender them to you, and henceforward they will not be plotted against and tortured.”

Describing what happened after the aforementioned discussion between al-Najāshī and Jaʿfar [rahnu], Umm Salamah raḍyAllāhu 'anha (may Allāh be pleased with her) said, “When both ʿAmr ibn al-ʿĀṣ and ʿAbdullah ibn abī Rabīʿah left the presence of al-Najāshī, ʿAmr [rahnu] said, “By Allah tomorrow I will present to him information about them with which I will pull up by the roots their very lives.” Abdullah ibn Rabīʿah who was more sympathetic of the two towards us said, “Don’t do so, for they have certain rights of family relations, even if they have opposed us.” ʿAmr said, “By Allah, I will inform him that they claim that ʿĪsā ibn Maryam is a slave.”

He went to the king on the following day and said, “O king, verily, they have strong words to say about ʿĪsa (as). Call them here and ask them what they say about him.” al-Najāshī sent for them in order to ask them about ʿĪsa. Nothing similar to this befell us before. The group of Muslims gathered together and said to one another, “What will you say about ʿĪsa when he asks you about him?” They said, “By Allah, we will say about him that which Allah says and that which our Prophet ﷺ came with, regardless of the outcome.” When they entered into his presence, he said to them, “What do you say about ʿĪsa ibn Maryam?” Jaʿfar raḍyAllāhu 'anha (may Allāh be pleased with her) said, “We say about him that which our Prophet ﷺ came with – that he is the slave of Allah, His messenger, a spirit created by Him, and His word, which he bestowed on Maryam, the virgin, the baṭūl.”

al-Najāshī struck his hand on the ground and took from it a stick. He then said, “ʿĪsa ibn Maryam did not go beyond what you said even the distance of the stick.” When he said this, his ministers spoke out in anger, to which he responded, “What I said is true even if you speak out in anger, by Allah. (Turning to the Muslims, he said) Go, for you are safe in my land. Whoever curses you will be held responsible. And I would not love to have a reward of gold in return for me hurting a single man among you. (Speaking to his ministers he said) Return to these two (men) their gifts, since we have no need for them. For by Allah, Allah did not take from me bribe money when He returned to me my kingdom, so why should I take bribe money. The two left, defeated and humiliated; and returned to them were the things they came with. We then resided alongside al-Najāshī in a very good abode, with a very good neighbor.”

The response was simply amazing in its eloquence. A believer puts the needs of his soul before the needs of his body. Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) starts the Surah by saying,

Verse 1: Kaf, Ha, Ya, ‘Ayn, Sad.

Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) starts Surah Maryam with a series of five letters. There are many different saying or explanations regarding these five letters. The most correct opinion is that these are from the broken letters. There are 29 different Surahs in the Quran that start with the broken letters. Only Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) alone knows the meanings of these letters. They are a secret from amongst the secrets of Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He), meaning that no one knows what they truly mean. Only Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) knows their meanings so they are from amongst the Mutashaabihat, those verses whose meanings are hidden.

However, we do find that some great Companions, as well as their students, sometimes gave meanings to these words. For example, it’s said that it is in acronym and each letter represents one of the names of Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He). Kaf is for Al-Kafi or Al-Kareem, “haa” is for Al-Hadi, “yaa” is from Hakeem or Raheem, “’ayn” is from Al-‘Aleem or Al-‘Adheem, and “saad” is from Al-Saadiq. Others said that it is one of the names of Allah and it’s actually Al-Ism Al-‘Atham or that it’s a name of the Quran. However, these narrations can’t be used as proof or to assign definitive meanings. They offer possibilities, but no one truly knows what they mean.

Now the question should come to our mind that why would Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) start of a Surah with words that no one understands?

1) To grab the attention of the listeners.

2) To remind us that no matter how much we know there’s always something that we don’t know.

3) These letters are the letters of the Arabic language and the Quran was revealed at a time that was the peak of eloquence of the language and it was their identity. The Quran was revealed challenging them spiritually and intellectually. The Arabs never heard these letters being used in such a majestic way.

4) To prove the inimitable nature of the Quran.

Allah then starts the story of Zakariyya 'alayhi'l-salām (peace be upon him). Zakariyya 'alayhi'l-salām (peace be upon him) was one of the Prophets sent to Bani Israel. He was the husband of Maryam’s paternal aunt. He was also one of the caretakers or custodians of Baitul Maqdis.

Continue Reading

#Islam

When Faith Hurts: Do Good Deeds = Good Life?

Loving Allah and trusting the Wisdom and Purpose in everything He throws your way- even if it hurts. It is a time to learn.

Zeba Khan

Published

on

hurts, hardship. Allah, test, why Allah is testing me

The Messenger of Allahṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) said that the faith in our hearts wears out the way our clothes wear out. Deterioration, maintenance, and renewal are part of the cycle.  That’s life with all that hurts. That’s normal.

But what happens when that’s life, but life is not your normal? What happens when it feels like life isn’t normal, hasn’t been normal, and won’t be normal for a foreseeably long time?  For some of us, refreshing faith becomes secondary to just keeping it.

It’s easier to say Alhamdulillah when you are happy. It’s harder when you’re not. That’s human nature though. There’s nothing wrong with that, but there is something wrong with what we teach about faith that can leave us unprepared for when Allah tests it. I believe that our discussions about faith tend to be overly simplistic. They revolve around a few basic concepts, and are more or less summed up with:

Faith = Happiness

Righteousness = Ease

Prayer = Problem Solved

Good Deeds Equals Good Life?

Basically, the TLDR is Good Deeds = The Good Life. None of these statements are technically untrue. The sweetness of faith is a joy that is beyond any other gratitude, for any other thing in this world. Righteousness in the sight of Allah will put you on the path to the good life in the afterlife. Making dua can be the solution to your problems. But when we say these things to people who have true faith but not happiness, or righteous behavior yet distressing hardship, we’re kind of implying that that either Islam is broken (because their prayers seem unanswered), or they are broken (because their prayers are undeserving of answers.) And neither of those is true either.

Allow me to elaborate. I think it’s safe to say that there is not a single parent who has not begged Allah to make their sick or disabled child well again. Yet, our Ummah still has sick and disabled children. Through history, people have begged Allah for a loved one’s life, and then buried them – so is prayer not equal to problem solved?

Many righteous people stand up, and are then ostracized for their faith. Many people speak truth in the face of a tyrant only to be punished for it. Many of us live with complete conviction, with unshakeable belief in the existence and wisdom and mercy of Allah, and still find ourselves unhappy and afraid of what He has willed for us.

Are We Broken?

No, but our spiritual education is. In order to fix it, we have to be upfront with each other. We have to admit that we can be happy with Allah and still find ourselves devastated by the tests He puts before us, because faith is not a protection from struggle.

Has anyone ever said this to you? Have you ever said this to anyone else?

No one ever told me. It was hard for me to learn that lesson on my own, when I pleaded with Allah to make my son’s autism go away, and it didn’t. Everyone told me –Make dua! The prayer of a mother for her child is special! Allah will never turn you down!

It was hard trying to make sense of what seemed like conflicting messages- that Allah knows best, but a mother’s prayer is always answered. It was even harder facing people who tried to reassure me of that, even when it obviously wasn’t working.

“Just make dua! Allah will respond!”

I’m sure people mean well. But it’s hard not to be offended. Either they assume I have never bothered to pray for my son, or they imply that there must be good reason why Allah’s not granting to my prayers. What they don’t consider is that allowing my test to persist – even if I don’t want it to- is also a valid response from Allah.

I have been told to think back in my life, and try to determine what sin caused my child’s disability, as if the only reason why Allah wouldn’t give me what I asked for was because I was so bad I didn’t deserve it. As if good deeds equaled the good life, and if my life wasn’t good, it’s because I hadn’t been good either.

Bad Things Happen to Good People

You can assume whatever you like about my character, but bad things do happen to good people, even when they pray. You can try your hardest and still fall short. You can pray your whole life for something that will never come to you. And strength of faith in that circumstance doesn’t mean living in a state of unfulfilled hope, it means accepting the wisdom in the test that Allah has decreed for you.

That’s a bit uncomfortable, isn’t it.  When we talk about prayer and hope, we prefer to talk about Zakariyyah 'alayhi'l-salām (peace be upon him) – who begged Allah for a child and was gifted with one long after anyone thought it even possible. But we also need to talk about Abu Talib.

The Prophet Muhammad ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) was raised by his uncle Abu Talib, and in his mission to preach Islam he was protected by Abu Talib.  But Abu Talib died without accepting Islam, was there something wrong with the Prophet, that Allah did not give him what he asked for? Was he not good enough? Did he not pray hard enough? Astaghfirullah, no. So if Prophets of God can ask for things and still not get them, why are we assuming otherwise for ourselves?

Making a Bargain with Allah

If we can understand that faith is not a contract for which we trade prayers for services, then maybe we can cope better when fate cannot be bargained with. Maybe it won’t have to hurt so bad – on spiritual level – when Allah withholds what we ask for, even when we asked for the “right” things in the right way and at all the right times.

Life is not simple. Faith is not simple. The will of Allah is not simple, no matter how much we want it to be, and when oversimplify it, we create a Muslim version of Prosperity Gospel without meaning to.

If you’ve never heard of it, prosperity gospel is a religious belief among some Christians that health and wealth and success are the will of God, and therefore faith, good deeds and charity increase one’s wellbeing. Have faith, and God will reward you in this life and the next. That’s nice. But it’s too simple. Because the belief that Good Deeds = The Good Life doesn’t explain how Ibraheem 'alayhi'l-salām (peace be upon him)’s father tried to have him burnt alive.

Yusuf 'alayhi'l-salām (peace be upon him)’s brothers left him for dead in the bottom of a well. He grew up a slave and spent years in prison for a crime he did not commit. Aasiya 'alayhi'l-salām (peace be upon him) – the wife of the Pharoah – one of the four best women in the history of womankind – died from her husband’s torture.

Good people are not guaranteed good lives. Islam is what we need, not a system of practices that we use to fulfill our needs.

When we limit our understanding of faith to a simplistic, almost contractual relationship with Allah, then we can’t even explain the things that Allah Tested His own prophets with.

Nor can we understand, or even begin to cope with- what He Tests the rest of us with either. We have to be real in our talk about faith, because otherwise we set each other up for unrealistic expectations and lack of preparation for when we face hardship. Faith is not protection from hardship. Faith is part of hardship. And hardship is part of faith.

Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) asks us in the opening of Surah ‘Ankabut,

Do people think once they say, “We believe,” that they will be left without being put to the test? We certainly tested those before them. And ˹in this way˺ Allah will clearly distinguish between those who are truthful and those who are liars.

Allah says in Surah Baqarah, ayah 155: “And most certainly shall We try you by means of danger, and hunger, and loss of worldly goods, of lives and of the fruits of your labor. But give glad tidings to those who are patient in adversity.

tests, hurts, faith , hardship

Allah Tests Everyone Differently

Allah tests each of us differently, but in every single case – every single time – a test is an invitation to success. Hardship is the process through which we prove ourselves. Experiencing it– and then drawing closer to Allah through it –is how faith is tested as well as strengthened.

If we can change how we perceive hardship, then we can also change how we perceive each other. On our cultural subconscious, we still see worldly failure as being equivalent to spiritual failure. So when we see people who are homeless, we assume fault. When we see people facing depression or divorce, we assume fault. We even look at refugees and victims and special needs children and we look for fault. Because if it’s that bad then it’s has to be someone’s fault, right?

Fault is how we place blame. Blame is how we know whose mistake it is. But the will of Allah is never a mistake, it’s a test.  Instead of faulting each other for what Allah tests us with, we could respect each other for the struggles we all endure. We could see each other with more compassion for our challenges, and less aversion when Allah tests us with dealing each other.

So when you’ve done things the right way, but the right things aren’t happening. Or you’ve been charitable to others, and they’re being evil towards you. Or you’ve earned only halal, but haram- it’s been taken away from you, remember this- your faith is being tested. Allah tests those that He loves. When He raises the difficulty level, Allah is extending a direct invitation for you to climb higher.

So How Do We Succeed When Faced With Failure?

The first thing to do is redefine failure. There is only one true failure in this life, and that is dying on the wrong side of Siraat ul Mustaqeem, because if close your eyes and wake up in Jahannam, no success in this life can compensate for that.

I find that helpful to remember, when I fail to stay fit because I can’t exercise without hurting myself, when I fail to fast in Ramadan because it’s dangerous for me to do so- when I fail to discover a cure for my family’s personal assortment of medical issues through rigorous internet “research,” none of that is my failure either. And I can feel a lot of different ways about these situations, but I do not feel guilty- because it’s not my fault. And I do not feel bitter, because my test is my honor. Even when I do feel scared.

Being scared in not a failure either. Neither is being unemployed. Being unmarried is not a failure. Being childless is not a failure. Being divorced is not a failure. Nothing unpleasant or miserable or unexpected is a failure. It’s all just a test, and seeing it as a test means you have the state of mind to look for the correct answers.

Not even sin is failure, because as long as you are alive, your sin stands as an invitation to forgiveness. The bigger the sin, the greater the blessings of repenting from it.  Everything that goes bad is the opening of the door for good. A major sin can be the first step on a journey that starts with repentance and moves you closer to Allah every day thereafter. Sin only becomes failure when it takes you farther away from Allah, rather than closer to him.

Jahannam is the Only Failure

Addiction is not a failure. Depression is not a failure. Poverty is not a failure. Jahannam is the only failure. Everything else is a gap in expectations.

You assumed you would have something, but it’s not written for you. You assumed you’d ask Allah for something and He’d give it to you, but what is that assumption based on again? That good deeds are the guarantee to the good life, and that prayer equals problem solved?

Allah has all the knowledge, Allah has the wisdom, Allah is the best of Planners – how are you assuming that your wishes supersede His will? Even when you put your wishes in the form of a prayer?

They don’t. It is absolutely true that Allah may choose to rewrite Qadr itself based on your prayers – but that’s still His choice. Allah has always, and will always be in control of this world. And that means your world too. If you still think you’re in control, you will find it really, really hard to cope the first time you realize you’re not.

When we understand that we don’t get to control what happens and what doesn’t, we can then release ourselves from the misplaced guilt of things going wrong.  Lots of special needs parents struggle with guilt. I meet them often – and every single parent has asked the question- directly or indirectly-

What did I do for my child to deserve this?

Can you hear the presumption in there? That the parents were good, so why did something bad happen? They were expecting for good deeds to equal the good life.

There’s a second presumption in there too, that their life choices were a determining factor of what happened to their child. That is a presumption of control. And as long as you try to hold on to that presumption of control, there is the constant feeling of failure when it just doesn’t work the way you think it will.

I am not proposing that we lose hope in Allah and despair of His Mercy. I am in no way insinuating that Allah doesn’t hear every prayer, hasn’t counted every tear, and isn’t intimately aware of your pain and your challenges. Allah hears your prayers, and in His wisdom, sometimes he grants us exactly what we want. In His Wisdom, sometimes he grants us exactly what we need.

Even if we don’t see it.

Even if it scares us.

Even if it hurts us – because Allah has promised that He will never, ever break us.

hurts, hardship, special needs

Allah Tests Us in His Mercy

I am proposing that we put trust in the wisdom of Allah, and understand that when He tests us, that is part of his mercy, not a deviation from it. When He grants something to us, that is part of His mercy, and when he withholds something from us, that too is part of His Mercy, even if we don’t like it. Even when we ask Him to take it away.

The third thing I would like to propose, is that we correct our understanding of – Fa Inna Ma’Al usri yusraa, Inna Ma’al usri yusra.

So verily, definitely, for sure- with hardship there is ease. Again, Inna – for sure, with hardship there is ease.

I’m sure lots of you have said this to people you loved, or to yourself when you’re struggling with something and you’re just trying to get through it. But did you mean that this hardship will end, and then things will be good again? Like as soon as things have been hard for a while, Allah will make them easy again?

Would you believe that’s not really what that means? Ma’a means with, not after. With this hardship, there is ease. And maybe you’re like aww man, but I wanted the ease! I want the hardship to go away and Allah I’m ready for my ease now!

But that hardship, will bring you ease. Allah does not tell us what the ease will be, or when it will be- but He says it’s there, so trust Him. Even if you can’t see it right away, or in this life –it will become apparent.

I can tell you some of the ease I found with mine.

Learning When It Hurts

When my son was diagnosed with autism, my husband and I had to drop everything. We dropped our plans to save, to travel, and to live the charmed life of neurotypical parents whose only fears are that their children may grow up and NOT become Muslim doctors. We spent our earnings and our savings and our time and our nights and our tears and Alhamdulillah, we learned patience. We learned perspective. We learned compassion.

We really learned what we thought we already knew – about unconditional love and acceptance. We learned to be bigger than our fears, and smaller than our own egos. We learned to give and take help. We learn to accept what wisdom our cultures could offer us, and respectfully decline what did not. We learn to set boundaries and make rules that did justice by our children and our family, regardless of whether they were popular. With hardship comes ease.

When we couldn’t afford therapy for my son, my husband and I founded a not for profit organization in the UAE that provided it for my son and dozens of other people’s sons and daughters. Three and a half years ago I left that organization to seek better educational opportunities for my son here in the US, but it’s still running. The seed that our challenges planted has grown into something beyond us. With our hardship came ease for ourselves and others as well.

When I was diagnosed with Ehlers-Danlos syndrome, my health issues were upgraded from challenging to permanent. I had to rethink how I lived, how I planned, how I dressed, and even – my relationship with Allah. But if I had never been sick, I would never have started writing. When it hurt, I wrote. When I was scared, I wrote. When I was lonely, I wrote. And by and by the grindstone of fear and sickness and frustration sharpened my skills. Where I am today both spiritually and professionally – is actually a direct result of both autism and chronic illness. With hardship comes ease.

I don’t like my hardships, but I don’t have to. You don’t have to either. Being a good Muslim doesn’t always mean being a happy Muslim. It just means being Muslim, no matter the circumstances.

That means loving Allah and trusting the Wisdom and Purpose in everything He throws your way – even if not loving everything He throws your way. You may hate your circumstances, and you may not be able to do anything about them, but as long as you trust Allah and use your hardships to come closer to him, you cannot fail, even if this life, you feel as if you never really succeeded.

hurts, depression, faith , hardship

Faith Wears Out In Our hearts, The Way Our Cothes Wear Out on Our Bodies

The hardship that damages and stains us is Allah’s invitation to repair, renew, and refresh ourselves. Our test are an invitation, an opportunity, an obstacle – but not a punishment or divine cruelty. And when we know that those tests will come, and some may even stay, then we can be better prepared for it.

Trust Allah when He says that He does not burden any soul with more than it can bear. He told us so in Surah Baqarah Ayah 286. Remember that when you are afraid, and Allah will never cause your fear to destroy you. Take your fear to Allah, and He will strengthen you, and reward you for your bravery.

Remember that when you are in pain. Allah will never cause your pain to destroy you. Take your pain to Him, and He will soothe you and reward you for your patience. Take it all to Allah – the loneliness, the anxiety, the confusion. Do not assume that the only emotions a “good Muslim” takes to Allah are gratitude and happiness and awe. Take them all to Allah, uncertainty, disappointment, anger — and He will bless you in all of those states, and guide you to what is better for you in this life, and the next, even if it’s not what you expected.

The struggles in your life are a test, and whether you pass or fail is not determined on whether you conquer them, only on whether you endure them. Expect that they will come, because having faith is not protection from struggle. Faith is protection from being broken by the struggle.

I ask Allah to protect us all from hardship, but protect us in our hardships as well. I ask Allah to grant us peace from His peace, and strength from His strength, to patiently endure and grow through our endurance.

Ameen.

Continue Reading

#Islam

What Does Sharia Really Say About Abortion in Islam

Abortion is not a simple option of being pro-life or pro-choice, Islam recognizes the nuance.

Reem Shaikh

Published

on

The following article on abortion is based on a research paper titled ‘The Rights of the Fetus in Islam’, at the Department of Sharia at Qatar University. My team and I presented it to multiple members of the faculty. It was approved by the Dean of the Islamic Studies College, an experienced and reputed Islamic authority.

In one swoop, liberal comedian Deven Green posing as her satirical character, Mrs. Betty Brown, “America’s best Christian”, demonized both Sharia law as well as how Islamic law treats abortion. Even in a debate about a law that has no Muslim protagonist in the middle of it, Islam is vilified because apparently, no problem in the world can occur without Islam being dragged into it.

It is important to clarify what Sharia is before discussing abortion. Sharia law is the set of rules and guidelines that Allah establishes as a way of life for Muslims. It is derived from the Qur’an and the Sunnah, which is interpreted and compiled by scholars based on their understandings (fiqh). Sharia takes into account what is in the best interest for individuals and society as a whole, and creates a system of life for Muslims, covering every aspect, such as worship, beliefs, ethics, transactions, etc.

Muslim life is governed by Sharia – a very personal imperative. For a Muslim living in secular lands, that is what Sharia is limited to – prayers, fasting, charity and private transactions such as not dealing with interest, marriage and divorce issues, etc. Criminal statutes are one small part of the larger Sharia but are subject to interpretation, and strictly in the realm of a Muslim country that governs by it.

With respect to abortion, the first question asked is:

“Do women have rights over their bodies or does the government have rights over women’s bodies?”

The answer to this question comes from a different perspective for Muslims. Part of Islamic faith is the belief that our bodies are an amanah from God. The Arabic word amanah literally means fulfilling or upholding trusts. When you add “al” as a prefix, or al-amanah, trust becomes “The Trust”, which has a broader Islamic meaning. It is the moral responsibility of fulfilling one’s obligations due to Allah and fulfilling one’s obligations due to other humans.

The body is one such amanah. Part of that amanah includes the rights that our bodies have over us, such as taking care of ourselves physically, emotionally and mentally – these are part of a Muslim’s duty that is incumbent upon each individual.

While the Georgia and Alabama laws in the United States that make abortion illegal after the 6-week mark of pregnancy are being mockingly referred to as “Sharia Law” abortion, the fact is that the real Sharia allows much more leniency in the matter than these laws do.

First of all, it is important to be unambiguous about one general ruling: It is unanimously agreed by the scholars of Islam that abortion without a valid excuse after the soul has entered the fetus is prohibited entirely. The question then becomes, when exactly does the soul enter the fetus? Is it when there is a heartbeat? Is it related to simple timing? Most scholars rely on the timing factor because connecting a soul to a heartbeat itself is a question of opinion.

Web MD

The timing then is also a matter of ikhtilaf, or scholarly difference of opinion:

One Hundred and Twenty Days:

The majority of the traditional scholars, including the four madhahib, are united upon the view that the soul certainly is within the fetus after 120 days of pregnancy, or after the first trimester.

This view is shaped by  the following hadith narrated by Abdullah bin Masood raḍyAllāhu 'anhu (may Allāh be pleased with him):

قال رسول الله صلى الله عليه وسلم: إن أحدكم يجمع خلقه في بطن أمه أربعين يوما ثم يكون في ذلك علقة مثل ذلك ثم يكون في ذلك مضغة مثل ذلك ثم يرسل الملك فينفخ فيه الروح..

“For every one of you, the components of his creation are gathered together in the mother’s womb for a period of forty days. Then he will remain for two more periods of the same length, after which the angel is sent and insufflates the spirit into him.”

Forty Days:

The exception to the above is that some scholars believe that the soul enters the fetus earlier, that is after the formation phase, which is around the 40 days mark of pregnancy.

This view is based on another hadith narrated by Abdullah bin Masood raḍyAllāhu 'anhu (may Allāh be pleased with him):

قال رسول الله صلى الله عليه وسلم: إذا مر بالنطفة إثنتان وأربعون ليلة بعث الله إليها ملكاً، فصوره، وخلق سمعها وبصرها وجلدها ولحمها وعظمها…

“If a drop of semen spent in the womb forty-two nights, Allah sends an angel to it who depicts it and creates its ears, eyes, skin, flesh and bones.”

Between the two views, the more widespread and popular opinion is the former, which is that the soul enters the fetus at the 120 days (or 4 months) mark, as the second hadith implies the end of the formation period of the fetus rather than the soul entering it.

Even if one accepts that the soul enters the fetus at a certain timing mark, it does not mean that the soul-less fetus can be aborted at any time or for any reason. Here again, like most matters of Islamic jurisprudence, there is ikhtilaf of scholarly difference of opinion.

No Excuse Required:

The Hanafi madhhab is the most lenient, allowing abortion during the first trimester, even without an excuse.

Some of the later scholars from the Hanafi school consider it makruh or disliked if done without a valid reason, but the majority ruled it as allowed.

Only Under Extreme Risks:

The Malikis are the most strict in this matter; they do not allow abortion even if it is done in the first month of pregnancy unless there is an extreme risk to the mother’s health.

Other Views:

As for the Shafi’i and Hanbali schools of thought, there are multiple opinions within the schools themselves, some allowing abortion, some only allowing it in the presence of a valid excuse.

Valid excuses differ from scholar to scholar, but with a strong and clear reason, permissibility becomes more lenient. Such cases include forced pregnancy (caused by rape), reasons of health and other pressing reasons.

For example, consider a rape victim who becomes pregnant. There is hardly a more compelling reason (other than the health of the mother) where abortion should be permitted. A child born as a result in such circumstances will certainly be a reminder of pain and discomfort to the mother. Every time the woman sees this child, she will be reminded of the trauma of rape that she underwent, a trauma that is generally unmatched for a woman. Leaving aside the mother, the child himself or herself will lead a life of suffering and potentially neglect. He or she may be blamed for being born– certainly unjust but possible with his or her mother’s mindset. The woman may transfer her pain to the child, psychologically or physically because he or she is a reminder of her trauma. One of the principles of Sharia is to ward off the greater of two evils. One can certainly argue that in such a case where both mother and child are at risk of trauma and more injustice, then abortion may indeed be the lesser of the two.

The only case even more pressing than rape would be when a woman’s physical health is at risk due to the pregnancy. Where the risk is clear and sufficiently severe (that is can lead to some permanent serious health damage or even death) if the fetus remained in her uterus, then it is unanimously agreed that abortion is allowed no matter what the stage of pregnancy. This is because of the Islamic principle that necessities allow prohibitions. In this case, the necessity to save the life of the mother allows abortion, which may be otherwise prohibited.

This is the mercy of Sharia, as opposed to the popular culture image about it.

Furthermore, the principle of preventing the greater of two harms applies in this case, as the mother’s life is definite and secure, while the fetus’ is not.

Absolutely Unacceptable Reason for Abortion:

Another area of unanimous agreement is that abortion cannot be undertaken due to fear of poverty. The reason for this is that this mindset collides with having faith and trust in Allah. Allah reminds us in the Quran:

((وَلَا تَقْتُلُوا أَوْلَادَكُمْ خَشْيَةَ إِمْلَاقٍ ۖ نَّحْنُ نَرْزُقُهُمْ وَإِيَّاكُمْ ۚ إِنَّ قَتْلَهُمْ كَانَ خِطْئًا كَبِيرًا))

“And do not kill your children for fear of poverty, We provide for them and for you. Indeed, their killing is ever a great sin.” (Al-Israa, 31)

Ignorance is not an excuse, but it is an acceptable excuse when it comes to mocking Islam in today’s world. Islam is a balanced religion and aims to draw ease for its adherents. Most rulings concerning fiqh are not completely cut out black and white. Rather, Islamic rulings are reasonable and consider all possible factors and circumstances, and in many cases vary from person to person.

Abortion is not a simple option of being pro-life or pro-choice. These terms have become political tools rather than sensitive choices for women who ultimately suffer the consequences either way.

Life means a lot more than just having a heartbeat. Islam completely recognizes this. Thus, Islamic rulings pertaing to abortion are detailed and varied.

As a proud Muslim, I want my fellow Muslims to be confident of their religion particularly over sensitive issues such as abortion and women’s rights to choose for themselves keeping the Creator of Life in focus at all times.

Continue Reading

Trending