JEDDAH – Scholars and researchers have criticized the fatwa (edict) of a scholar calling for the demolition and restructuring of the Grand Mosque in Makkah to prevent men and women mixing during the rites of Tawaf, Sa’i and prayers.
The edict was recently issued by Dr. Yousuf Al-Ahmad, a professor of Islamic jurisprudence at Imam Muhammad Bin Saud Islamic University in Riyadh.
Al-Ahmad has denied that he wants the entire Grand Mosque to be demolished, but has stuck to his belief that men and women should be separated while performing the rituals of Haj and Umrah.
Tawaf is the circumambulation of the Ka’ba; while the Sa’i is the hastening of pilgrims between the hillocks of Safa and Marwa.
Scholars and researchers have argued that mixing of sexes is permissible and rejected the edict and said it can cause divisions among Muslims and create sedition.
Some scholars also denounced the edict as having no basis in the Holy Qur’an and the Prophet’s Sunnah and said it could be considered an innovation in Islam.
Al-Ahmad had previously aired the same views during a talk show on the Al-Bedayia television channel.
‘No basis in Shariah’
Dr. Saleh Bin Dhabin Al-Marzouki, Secretary of the Al-Fiqh Academy, an affiliate of the Muslim World League, said: “In essence, the Tawaf should not be looked at as a means for intermingling but as a ritual for which Muslims are rewarded.”
Al-Ahmad’s edict, he said, has no basis in Shariah because during the time of the Prophet (peace be upon him) men and women prayed in the same mosque without partition.
He said the Prophet’s (pbuh) deeds and words have been ordained by Almighty Allah and should be followed strictly by all Muslims. It was thus not advisable to isolate, separate or confine women in special or separate floors at the Grand Mosque because this contravenes the Prophet’s Sunnah.
Sheikh Saleh Bin Ghanim Al-Sadlan, professor of postgraduate studies at Imam Muhammad Bin Saud University in Riyadh rejected the situation where individuals are allowed to issue edicts. The Board of Senior Ulema is the only authorized body to issue rulings on such matters because collective opinion is not like an individual’s opinion, he said.
“During the pre-Islamic era men used to circumambulate the Holy Ka’ba with women. But men usually did so close to the Holy Ka’ba while women moved at the extreme edge of the Al-Mataf.”
He said Islam allows women and men to move together in Tawaf because they are Muslims devoting themselves emotionally and spiritually to worship Allah. They would, therefore, have few thoughts of earthly matters or other issues that can spoil their holy ritual, Al-Sadlan said.
He rejected arguments that the mixing of men and women at gates of entry to the Grand Mosque and during the rituals of Tawaf and Sa’i has the potential for leading to sinful behavior. These kinds of arguments are sinful in themselves, he said.
He said that the mixing of men and women during worship should not be considered as an excuse for allowing intermingling in general.
Al-Sadlan emphasized that the act of intermingling seen during worship such as in the Tawaf and praying in mosques, or entering or exiting the mosque, are acts reinforced by genuine Islamic values and morals.
This kind of intermingling is very limited. These are not the same as men and women meeting in shopping malls, or when a woman meets her boss alone in his office, he said.
He said those who use intermingling in worship to argue for general mixing of men and women are trying to exploit this to “satisfy their ulterior motives and Satanic lusts”.
Dr. Shaban Muhammad Ismail, professor of postgraduate studies at Umm Al-Qura University in Makkah, also denounced the edict.
He said the mixing of men and women in the Sa’i and Tawaf is permissible because it is an act of worship. “Does this man (Al-Ahmad) want to add to the Prophet’s deeds or modify them?” he asked.
Commands of the Prophet
Ismail said Almighty Allah forbids Muslims from going against the commands of the Prophet, as ordained in the Holy Qur’an: “Whatsoever the Messenger (Muhammad) gives you take it, and whatsoever he forbids you, abstain from it”. (Qur’an 59:7)
This shows that it is strictly forbidden for any Muslim to amend or add a single letter or word to the Prophet’s deeds and commands.
Dr. Muhammad Al-Nejami, a member of the International Fiqh Academy, described the edict as “painful and sorrowful”. He said a person calling for the demolition of the Holy Ka’ba is neither a preacher nor a scholar and people should not give any consideration to his opinion.
Dr. Issa Al-Ghaith, a judge, said he never thought that someone would ever call for the demolition of the Holy Mosque. “I never thought that the matter would be taken to such an extent. This shows that there is a great need, now more than ever, to come up with strict rules to protect the religion and the country from these dangerous views.”
He also warned that the youth could be affected by these calls.
He prayed for Allah to guide the “deviant” Muslims to the right path and to enable the country’s leaders to take firm action against them.
Commenting on reports in the media about his ruling, Al-Ahmad said: “The only thing I raised is the expansion of the Al-Mataf area in order to accommodate more worshippers.”
He said the word “demolition” was an interpretation of his comment by the media. “Is it possible or logical for anyone to call for the demolition of the Holy Haram?”
Regarding women, Al-Ahmad said: “I don’t think anyone would agree for his wife or female relative to be pushed by men during the Tawaf. In order to maintain her dignity and preserve her rights, I asked for the expansion of the Tawaf area and for allocating special places for them to perform their rituals in ease and comfort.”
He said he based his suggestion on a scientific study he conducted after he obtained his doctorate degree. The study looked at the importance of the expansion of the Tawaf area and handling of the mixing phenomenon of the genders because of overcrowding.
He said his proposal can be found in the root of “Shariah principles” which is aimed at producing an integrated vision and project for the expansion of the Holy Mosque, including ensuring it benefits from modern engineering. – Okaz/SG