Top Saudi Cleric Wants Women To Hold Positions Of Power In The Clergy

Currently, women in Saudi Arabia have to turn to male muftis to seek help in matters concerning religion and personal life.


In yet another good sign for Saudi women and their rights, a top religious scholar has called for the appointment of women as "muftis," an Islamic scholar who interprets and gives rulings on Islamic law or Sharia.

Sheikh Abdullah Al Mutlaq, who is a member of the Commission of Senior Scholars, floated the idea on television while addressing Saudi Arabia’s Grand Mufti Shaikh Abdul Aziz Al Shaikh.

“The appointment of women experts in the Sharia [board] would spare men from dealing with matters related to menstruation and post-partum depression and periods and would prevent embarrassment,” said Al Mutlaq. “Women are more knowledgeable and more capable than men in such issues."

The cleric also said female experts graduating from well-established Saudi universities will provide "ease and discretion" to women in need of counseling.

“In the past, we did not have women experts in Sharia so men had to answer queries from women. Now, we have many women with medical expertise and others who are well versed in religion and their specialties and can therefore contribute to issuing religious fatwas. Men have enough issues with which they can deal, so it is best to leave matters related to women such as menstruation and its relationship with prayers, fasting and pilgrimage to women,” he added.

In 2013, then-King Abdullah granted women seats on the country's top advisory political council.  However, when it comes to religion, women in Saudi Arabia still have to seek the help of male muftis in matters concerning personal life.

However, Al Mutlaq's suggestion to appoint Saudi women mufits will not only benefit women personally but also collectively as it will help them to get a foothold in a staunchly patriarchal society where men get to control women's lives.

On June 24, Saudi women will drive cars for the first time. But when it comes to women's rights, Saudi Arabia still has a long way to go. For instance, Saudi women still cannot travel abroad unless and until her husband gives her permission to do so — thanks to the controversial guardianship system. This gets a lot more complicated in cases where women try to escape an abusive relationship since the very person responsible for their ordeal is actually the one who controls their movement outside the country.

In a country where religious clerics were giving bizarre statements such as driving affects women's ovaries as recently as 2013, Al Mutlaq's suggestion is not only much-needed but also long-overdue.

Thumbnail/Banner Credits: Reuters

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