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Women’s Shoura participation ‘Shariah-compliant’

Top scholars back King Abdullah’s landmark decision, say Islamic history replete with examples

Last updated: Thursday, January 24, 2013 1:08 AM

Saudi Gazette report


RIYADH — A number of prominent Islamic scholars have commended the decision of Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Abdullah to appoint 30 women in the Shoura Council and said it was within the Shariah rules.

Speaking to Al-Riyadh Arabic newspaper, the scholars were unanimous that the King’s decision was a Shariah compliant move especially that it contained detailed Shariah controls.

They said the Islamic history is replete with instances in which women were consulted and their opinions adopted.

The scholars cited in this connection the advice of Um Salamah, wife of the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him), when he complained to her that his Companions would not release themselves from their Ihrams after the Hudaibiyah Pact with the Quraysh of Makkah under which the Muslims were prevented from performing Umrah that year.

Um Salamah advised the Prophet to take off his Ihram and shave off his head leading his followers by example. The Prophet did and the Companions followed suit.

The scholars also cited the example of Sayidah Khadija who was able to pacify the Prophet when he came frightened and sweating from the Hera Cave after the first revelation was made to him to deliver the message of Islam.

Sheikh Ayyadh Bin Nami Al-Sulami, professor of contemporary Fiqh (jurisprudence) at Imam Muhammad Bin Saud Islamic University, said the royal decree was in line with the principles of the Qur’an and Sunnah on which the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia was established.

“The opinions of the women members are important on a variety of social issues. They will enrich the discussions and researches of the council,” he said.

Al-Sulami was happy that under the royal decree, the women members will have separate offices, separate seats to sit on during the sessions and special entrances to the council’s building. “This will ensure them the freedom of movement,” he said.

He commended the choice of the women members and said it was based on thorough consideration to their fields of study, specializations and experiences.

Sheikh Abdullah Bin Abdul Wahid Al-Khumais, professor of Shariah at Imam University, described the King’s decision as historic. “This is a good gesture by Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques within his efforts to uplift the country,” he said.

He said he had noticed during his lectures that “the female students were more capable of research and discussions than male students, especially in scientific matters.”

Dr. Ghazi Bin Ghazay Al-Mutairi, a staff member of the university, said Islam endeavors to enrich the lives of Muslims through the use of mind and education. He cited the verse No. 9 in Surat Al-Zumar (Groups), which reads: Say: “Are those who know equal to those who know not?” and said the focus here is on education and mental abilities regardless of the gender.

He said according to this verse, “we cannot dismiss women from participating in public life with their opinions and bright minds.”

Sheikh Khaled Bin Rashid Al-Abdan of the College of Dawa at the university, described the King’s decision to appoint women in the Shoura as very wise and said women have been consulted and asked to give their views since the time of the Prophet (pbuh).

He hoped that the women members would realize the hopes and aspirations of the King and also respond to the needs and requirements of the nation.

Al-Abdan was confident that the women members would enrich the deliberations of the council through their various specializations in medicine, education, media and others and said the royal decree has made them full-fledged members of the council with the same responsibilities, rights and duties as that of the male members.

Sheikh Bandar Bin Fahd Al-Suwailem, professor of litigation at the Supreme Judiciary Institute, said the participation of women in the Shoura Council is a reflection of the care and concern the leadership is giving to the country’s human wealth.

He said when men and women brainstorm any issue together, good ideas will emerge to serve the public interest. “Through this decision the Kingdom is telling the entire world that Islam is not against women and that it is keen to benefit from their ideas and experiences in various walks of life,” he said, adding, “The Kingdom’s strong adherence to Islam does not prevent it from keeping pace with the contemporary developments.”

Sheikh Ibrahim Bin Mohammed Abu Abaah, a member of the Shoura Council, expressed happiness over the appointment of a number of women in the council. “It is a good thing that women will participate with men in the discussions and considerations of issues,” he added.

He recalled a number of incidents during which women were consulted in issues of public interest and said King Abdullah had consulted a number of scholars in the Senior Board of Ulema and outside before he made the decision.

Abu Abaah said women are capable of discussing all economic, social and administrative issues with eloquence and logic. “There is no difference between men and women in this aspect,” he said.

Dr. Ahmed Omar Hashim, former rector of Azhar University in Egypt, said when he appointed women in the Shoura Council, King Abdullah meant to enable them to assume their appropriate positions in society. “This is a correct decision which targets the public interest,” he said.

Recalling his past experiences as a former member of the Egyptian parliament, Dr. Hashim said the presence of women in the consultative council is important as they are more capable than men in discussing issues of concern to the woman. “The women membership in the Shoura Council does not contradict the teachings of Islam,” he added.

Dr. Ibrahim Bajm, adviser to the Grand Mufti of Egypt, described the King’s decision as wise and Shariah compliant. “This is a historical day for women in Saudi Arabia,” he said.

Dr. Najm reiterated that all Egyptian scholars strongly back the King’s decision and said throughout the history of Islam women held top political positions and were appointed judges and members in consultative councils.

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