The Dilemma of Sharia Law & Gender Equality: Why Saudi Women Can’t Drive

Today, in the twenty first century era, one can assume that the world is more civilized and advanced than ever before. However, such assumption apparently does not apply when living under strict Islamic Sharia Law as in Saudi Arabia. Our dilemma has to do with a Saudi woman, Manal Al-Sharif, who allegedly posted a video of herself, on face book and Youtube, driving a car in Khubar, Saudi Arabia. Unfortunately for her, such boldness caused her to get arrested and was detained in jail by Saudi authorities. Her crime was; driving without a license.

Up until this point, many may assume that the authorities have every right to stop a driver who has no license and even detain them for the purpose of protecting other members of the society. The only problem with such alleged crime is that there is no law that allows women to drive in the first place, so how can they detain someone on the grounds of such a law that does not exist.  Apparently when your law is based on Islamic Sharia, then you are empowered to do so, as did these Saudi authorities, and hence our real dilemma.

Our issue in this article is not whether someone should or should not get arrested for driving without a license. Our issue is the lack of a law that allows capable and mature women from driving a car in Saudi Arabia, especially when we are dealing with a country who is considered one of the wealthiest oil producing countries in the world, if not the wealthiest. In fact, one has every right to ask, how can such country still live under 7th century conditions with some aspects of their daily life while the rest of the world is living way into the 21st century. Once again, the answer to this puzzling dilemma is very simple; it’s Sharia Law.

One should not be surprised at all to find that under Islamic sharia law, women (both Muslim and non-Muslim) are a mere object and are inferior to men, and as a result, they can be treated as such by stripping them away from their basic rights.

Now, let’s turn our attention to the real justification by sharia law as to WHY women can’t drive.

One can find the answer to this dilemma by simply investigating the sources of Sharia Law, both the Quran and the Hadith, and examine their view on women.  In fact, the life of women in Muslim countries like Saudi Arabia can’t be understood apart from reflecting on the Qur’an first, and then hadiths (traditions) as the real culprit, for such laws have been created for the sole purpose of degrading women and not the other way around.

Let us examine for instance one of the passages found in the Quran which deals with the status of women and their relationship to a man. In Q 3:14 one is shocked to read that WOMEN are placed at an equal ground with cattle, horses, gold, silver, and wealth:

Beautified FOR MEN is the love of things THEY COVET; WOMEN, children, much of gold and silver (wealth), branded beautiful horses, cattle and well-tilled land. This is the pleasure of the present world’s life; but Allah has the excellent return (Paradise with flowing rivers, etc.) with Him. (Underline emphasis ours).

Putting it simply; women, cattle and a host of other things are created for man’s pleasure and utilization. Furthermore, the Quran makes it clear that Men and Women are not EQUAL. Such declaration can be read in Q 2:228 below:

Women have such honorable rights as obligations, but their men have a degree above them.”

One of the reasons why the Saudi government utilized to prevent women from driving is the weakness of women and their lesser degree below men. Not only in a physical manner, but also in financial as well as we read in the passage below in Q 4:34:

Men are the managers of the affairs of women for that God has preferred in bounty one of them over another, and for that they have expended of their property. Righteous women are therefore obedient, guarding the secret for God’s guarding. And those you fear their rebellious admonish; banish them to their couches, and beat them. If they then obey you, look not for any way against them.”

The verse above is very clear in its reasoning as to why women are at a lesser status than men. Some of these reasons include the fact that men are the providers for the women and their household. In other word, since the man is the one who is to work and provide, then the woman can’t be at an equal ground with him. The only problem with this logic is that many women today do work and provide as well. In fact, Ms. Al-Sharif is a working woman herself. Using the Quranic logic in Q 4:34, does not that make her now equal with men.

Another problem with Q 4:34 is the command for men to beat their wives. However, one must ask; for what reason? The answer might be shocking: for only fearing their rebellious. In other word, they do not have to be rebellious to earn a beating; all that has to happen is for the man to fear that they may be rebellious. A clear indication that the men are superior in their logic, reasoning, and sense of judgment over women. In fact, some of the Saudi men plan to put this verse to work by launching their own counter campaign called “Iqal,” which represents the head band worn by men to hold down their head cover. Their intent is to beat any woman who dares to drive with the Iqal. But why are we not surprise to read about this since their own Quran commanded them to do so. Put another way, their intent is not to stop women from fulfilling their desire to drive on June 17th; rather, it is to send a clear message that women are nothing more than a herd of animals that will be stopped by beating them. The only way you can control animals that get out of control, or shall we say, the only way Muslim men understand how to communicate their superiority over women.

With passages as these how can a Muslim woman have any hope whatsoever of being treated equally with her male counterpart, never the less to be allowed to drive a car. The Quran makes it very clear that women are not at an equal ground with men at all levels. In fact, they are nothing more than an object of sexual pleasure, a cook, a baby sitter, a housekeeper, but never an equal partner. This is why a woman like Al-Sharif if makes any attempt to seek such equality, or even a partial one, she will find herself in a world of trouble with the authority and society as well.

If you have reached this point in the article you must be outraged by this analogy of calling women; a herd of animals. Your outrage is well founded; women are human beings who deserve respect and dignity. They have rights like everyone else. They should be allowed to drive, shop, work, and do all other activities that they are able to do and desire to do, as long as they are doing so within the boundaries of their culture. Ms. Manal Al-Sharif posted a video of herself driving while wearing the hijab (head covering) which is according to the customs of Saudi Arabia. In other words, she did not violate any cultural boundaries. Yet despite all of that, she was never the less still detained and found herself at the mercy of the male authorities to decide her fate.

In light of the previous facts, the question remains: Why is it a crime for Saudi women to drive? It is indeed a puzzling dilemma that demands an answer.

Unless the Islamic authorities in Saudi Arabia provide the rest of the world with a clear explanation as to why allowing women to drive may pose a threat to society, we will maintain our stance that such prohibition is nothing more than an attempt of indignation and humiliation against women for the purpose of exhibiting male domination under Islamic Sharia Law. A point, which the author of this article is determined to DRIVE home in total support of Muslim women’s rights in general, and Saudi women in particular.

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One Comment

  1. Posted June 28, 2011 at 11:24 pm | Permalink

    Fantastic post, stick with it!

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