Saudi scholars support role for women in Shura Council

January 26, 2013

Saudi religious scholars have held up the view that women are entitled to become members of the Shura (Consultative) Council and challenged those opposing the move to produce religious evidence to the contrary.

King Abdullah Bin Abdul Aziz this month appointed 30 women to the Shura Council in a landmark breakthrough for the advisory body launched in 2004. The decision by the monarch, seen as a leading reformer in the conservative kingdom, was hailed as a positive step and was warmly welcomed by the society.

However, a small group of hardliners expressed skepticism about the merits of appointing women to the council and claimed that religion did not condone allowing women to take up high positions.

Top religious scholars have sought to question this line of thinking.

“Women are the sisters of men and the royal decision to allow women to enter the Shura Council was based on this premise,” said Shaikh Abdullah Al Munai, member of the Senior Scholars Commission. “Women can participate alongside men in a wide range of activities and historically, Khadija, the wife of the Prophet [PBUH] was engaged in commercial activities. There is no issue with women chairing their own companies, for instance, and the presence of women in the Council will help them to express their views and convey them easily and smoothly,” Al Munai said, quoted by local Arabic daily Al Sharq on Friday.

Abdullah Fadaaq, a senior member of a religious think tank, also said that Islam did not bar women from becoming members of a parliament. “Some women have produced outstanding scientific research and it does not make sense at all to deprive them of certain positions because they were women and to allow men who do not have enough insights into the topic to take the positions,” he said, quoted by the daily. “Women can also become judges especially in matters that are related to women,” he said.

Adel Bu Khamseen, a religious researcher, also backed the move to give women representation in the Shura. “According to the Shiite sect, there is not a single conclusive evidence that bars women from assuming service and executive positions. Jurists have unanimously agreed that women should not hold top state position such as rulers of a state or presidents. However, they can take up lower positions such as ministers, director, member of parliament. In fact, there are interests that can be served better by the presence of women in parliament. Women are closer to the feminine community and can therefore give valuable advice on issues related to women,” he said.

Bu Khamseen insisted that women are qualified to become members of the parliament, “regardless of whether they are elected or appointed.”

Religion researcher Abdullah Al Sahreef has openly challenged those who opposed the presence of women in the Saudi Consultative Council “to produce the religious evidence that supports their claims”, charging that they were opposing the move based on their personal views and not on religious grounds.

“Islam has made it clear that men and women were equal in rights and duties and all are required to comply with the religious texts,” he said. “The presence of women in the Shura is critical from a religious viewpoint because they will be consulted on issues of concern to women as the nation-building process continues,” he added.



About the author

Born August 3, 1960 in Monastir, Tunisia
Media career:
  • ABC News (Tunisia)
  • Bahrain Tribune
  • Gulf News
  • Bahrain Television News
Teaching career:
  • Monastir (Tunisia)
  • University of Bahrain
  • MA  Mass Communications, University of Leicester
  • BA  in English & US literature and studies, University of Tunis

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