Tuesday, May 08, 2012

Saudi women: Pampered or oppressed?

Samar Badawi, pictured, served seven months in jail for refusing to return to her abusive father. She fell foul of Saudi Arabia's guardianship laws but was released after an online campaign. Samar Badawi, pictured, served seven months in jail for refusing to return to her abusive father. She fell foul of Saudi Arabia's guardianship laws but was released after an online campaign. 

Jeddah, Saudi Arabia (CNN) -- Samar Badawi, a 30-year-old mother of one, has served seven months in jail. Her crime? Disobeying her father.
Badawi, 30, fell foul of Saudi Arabia's guardianship laws, which require women to gain permission from their father, husband or even adult son for many daily activities.

In a case that was highlighted by Human Rights Watch, Badawi was physically abused by her father from the age of 14 after her mother died of cancer.
At the age of 25, she decided to "stand up for herself" and ran away to a women's shelter.

She was jailed for seven months after her father brought a "disobedience" case against her and she refused to return to his home.
Badawi was released last year after an online campaign, and eventually got a ruling to transfer her guardianship to her uncle.
She also successfully filed a suit against her father's refusal to allow her to marry.
"I went in a broken woman," she said. "I was very hurt when I went to prison. But I came out victorious and was very proud of myself that I was able to handle those seven months. It wasn't easy."
Badawi added: "When I was alone, I would remember the injustice, from my father, from the judge who was horrible to me.
"I would remember my son. I would remember how even society didn't spare me -- I was insulted a lot and despite the insults, I stayed quiet, I didn't respond. In these moments I would cry."
The problem is that there is no legal culture here

Samar Badawi
Despite her own trauma, Badawi does not call for a change in the law, but rather for better awareness.
"Our laws are fair, very fair," she said. "If not for the law, I would not have been able to escape the difficult situation I was in.

"The problem is that there is no legal culture here. Women here, from various backgrounds, aren't aware of their rights, there is no awareness.
"That's why I wish that law would be taught in schools from an early age."

Badawi was presented with an International Women of Courage award by U.S. First Lady Michelle Obama and U.S. Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton on March 8. Presented annually, the award recognizes women who have show exceptional courage and leadership in advocating for women's rights.
Women's rights is a hot issue in Saudi Arabia, and there is a surprising range of views, from both women and men.

Aside from the guardianship laws, women are not allowed to drive, an issue that grabbed headlines around the world last year when many women challenged the law by getting behind the wheel.
One of those was Najla Hariri, who drove her son to school one day after her driver failed to show up for work.

She continued to do so several times after that, but can no longer drive after she and her husband were both forced to sign legal pledges that she would not drive again.

"What is more upsetting to me than having to sign the pledge is that my 'guardian' was summoned," she said. "I reject the whole idea of his being my 'guardian' because I'm a 47-year-old woman, I should be my own guardian."
Bring me a poor woman who talks about these things and I'll say ok, maybe she needs this
Rawda Al Youssef
For Hariri, there is far more to campaign for than driving.

"Saudi women are facing many problems -- divorced women, women in judicial limbo, women who have been abused, issues with inheritance distribution -- we have many problems.
"So we started calling for the establishment of a 'personal status law' to protect these rights," she added.

Hariri said the rights she wants are those already given to women in the Quran and the Sunna, the teachings of Prophet Mohammed.

But not everyone agrees. Rawda Al Youssef runs a campaign called "My Guardian Knows What's Best For Me" in favor of the controversial system.

She argues that Saudi women are lucky to be looked after and that guardianship reinforces the family as a foundation of society.

"The relationship between men and women inside the family is a complementary relationship and not an equal relationship," said Al Youssef. "The man serves the woman and supervises her affairs inside the home and outside the home."

For Al Youssef, women who campaign for more rights are a pampered minority with no real problems.
"Saudi women -- specifically those who are talking about women's rights -- these come from a social class that is well-off and pampered.

"Bring me a poor woman who talks about these things and I'll say ok, maybe she needs this, but those who talk about women's rights ... these are women who have everything they need and all they're missing is to be able to take their passport and travel as they want, or to drive a car.
"They didn't think about the needs of the poorer class."

While Al Youssef believes there is no appetite from either King Abdullah or society at large for greater women's rights, Samar Fatany is convinced of the opposite.

Fatany, a radio journalist and writer on women's issues who was one of the first women employed in government 30 years ago, believes change will be inevitable, though gradual.
"I think Saudi women really have a great opportunity and a window for change and progress that we really need to take advantage of," she said.

"I think King Abdullah has been a great supporter of women, he has been the champion of women and as a result the whole nation has changed and given great support to women."
Fatany added: "It takes an educated person to know a different way of life, that it doesn't have to be that way.

"If you are a person who is isolated and this is a lifestyle that you know, it doesn't occur to you that there's another way, that you don't have to accept that. This doesn't have to do with religion.
"It is not un-Islamic to drive, it's is not un-Islamic to work, it is not un-Islamic to demand for your rights."

Cleric Sheikh Adnan Bahareth, who insisted on being interviewed over the phone because he did not want to appear on camera with a woman, argued that Saudi women were lucky not to have to drive.
"Men are slaves for women today," he said.

Sheikh Bahareth said if women could drive: "It will add more tasks on a woman's shoulder. She will have to go to the souk on her own, she will have to get the food, she will have to drive the kids to and from school.
"We want to lessen these burdens on the women."

Imam Malik: A star among scholar

Malik bin Anas, known as Imam Malik, is a prominent name in Islamic history. He was not only a great scholar of Hadith, but also a jurist after whom was founded one of the four Islamic schools of Islamic jurisprudence: the Maliki school. 

He was 13 years younger to Imam Abu Hanifa and 103 years elder to Imam Bukhari. He compiled the first compendium of Hadith named Al-Muwatta. He was the most leading personality of his time in Madinah and was called Imam Darul Hijrah due to his remaining in Madinah the majority of his life.

He was born in Madinah to Anas ibn Malik and Aaliyah bint Shurayk Al-Azdiyya in 93 AH. His family was originally from the Al-Asbahi tribe of Yemen, but his great grandfather Abu 'Amir came to Madinah in 2 AH, embraced Islam and settled down there.

Born into a well-to-do family, Malik did not need to work for a living. He was highly attracted to the study of Islam, and ended up devoting his entire life to the study of Hadith and Fiqh.

Living in Madinah gave him access to some of the most learned minds of early Islam. He memorized the Holy Qur'an in his youth. He studied under various famous scholars like Hisham ibn Urwah, Ibn Shihab Al-Zuhri, Imam Abu Hanifa and Imam Jafar Al-Sadiq — one of the descendants of the Prophet (peace be upon him).

Malik lived with the immediate descendants and the followers of the Companions of the Prophet (pbuh). Imaam Zahabi said: "There remains no scholar in Madinah after the Tabi'een comparable to Imam Malik's knowledge, jurisprudence, eminence, and memorization." Thus, Imam Malik became the Imam of Madinah, and one of the most renowned scholars of Islam.

He learned Hadith from Abdur Rahman ibn Harmuz, Nafi ibn Zakwan and Yahya ibn Saeed.
Imam Malik said: "I did not start to give lecture in Fiqh and Hadith until I was declared eligible to do so by 70 teachers of Hadith and Fiqh."

Imam Malik believed that fatwa is a sensitive, precise and important action that can have far-reaching results, and was extremely careful about giving it to the extent that if he was not sure about a matter, he would not speak about it.

While narrating Hadith, he used to wear elegant and expensive clothing, usually wearing white and frequently changing them.

Imam Malik had great love and respect for Madinah. He remained in Hijaz throughout his life and never traveled outside. He went for Haj only once while fearing that he might die outside Madinah and be deprived of its blessings. Even when he attained old age and became very weak, he never rode on any mount in Madinah. He felt that it was against respect to ride on the very land where the Prophet (pbuh) is buried.

Imam Malik compiled Al-Muwatta in forty years. It is the first legal work to incorporate and join Hadith and Fiqh together and was received with wide praise. Imam Bukhari said that the soundest of all chains called the 'Golden Chain of Narrators' of Hadith transmission was "Malik, from Nafi, from Ibn Umar."

Imam Malik's teachings were not essentially different from those of Imam Abu Hanifa. His main sources were primarily the Holy Qur'an, and then the Hadith of the Prophet (pbuh) of which he preferred those which had been collected and narrated by the scholars of Hadith of Madinah. Next, he would refer to Ijma' (consensus), and then Ta'amul i.e. customs of the people of Madinah such as practices of the Sahabah that represent the true spirit of Islam. Lastly, he relied on 'Qiyas' (analogy) and 'Istislah' (public interest).

It is reported that Imam Malik wrote 100,000 Hadiths by his hand. Imam Malik said: "I showed my book to 70 scholars of Madinah and every single one of them approved it, so I named it 'Muwatta' (The Approved One)."

It is the first Hadith work arranged into juristic sections and organized accordingly.
According to some of the great scholars of the past, Imam Malik was widely regarded as the scholar of Madinah. The Prophet (pbuh) had said: "Soon people will beat the flanks of camels seeking knowledge, and they shall not find a single person more knowledgeable than the erudite scholar of Madinah
. (Jami Al-Tirmidhi).

Imam Malik was held high in the eyes of other great scholars, such as, Imam Abu Hanifah, who said, "My eyes have never fallen on anyone faster in understanding, correct in answering, and examining as Imam Malik."

Imam Ahmed bin Hanbal said, "I have compared Imam Malik to Awza'i, Hammaad, Aal-Hakim, Thawri, Laith, in knowledge, but he is the leader in Hadith and Fiqh."

The number of Imam Malik's students was in the thousands. Qazi Iyadh has mentioned that over 1300 narrated Hadith for the great Imam.

Some of the most famous teachers whom he studied with were: Mohammed bin Shihaab Al-Zuhree; Ja'far ibn Mohammed Al-Sadiq; Nafi' ibn Sarjis Al-Daylami; Mohammed ibn Munkadir and Ayyoub Al-Sakhtiyani.

Imam Malik protected the Shariah and courageously upheld it. When the governor of Madinah demanded and forced people to take oath of allegiance to Khalifah Al-Mansour Abbasi, Imam Malik issued a fatwa that such an oath was not binding because it was given under coercion. He based this opinion on the Hadith: "The divorce of the coerced does not take effect." He gave unbiased decisions and never bowed to political authorities. He supported Muhammad Zakia Alawi by issuing a Fatwa against the Abbasid Caliph Mansoor, for which he was arrested and was publicly flogged seventy times by Ja'far, the brother of Caliph Mansoor. When Mansoor heard about this, he asked Imam Malik to visit Iraq and to forgive him for the incident. Later, Imam Malik forgave him because of the Caliph's relationship with the Prophet (pbuh).

Once Caliph Haroon Rasheed invited him to his court to read his Muwatta but he declined to go and politely advised that "my regards to the Caliph, knowledge should be visited and not that it should visit the people". Later the Caliph, with his sons, came to his mosque and attended the discourse like others.

The Imam died at the age of 86. He was buried in the famous cemetery of Madinah, Jannatul-Baqee, near his tutor Nafi' Maula Ibn Umar (R.A.). He had left behind three sons, Yayha, Muhammad and Hammad.

May Almighty Allah reward him for his great services to the Ummah Islamiah.