Saudi Arabia is the second largest state in the Arab world and land to the two holiest mosques, making it a religious tourist destination. It has an estimated population of over 30 million, of which about 44.8% are women. Women are prohibited from partaking in many activities which are believed to violate their religious and cultural beliefs, as well as the safety of these women. Some of these practices are as follows.
Being in Public without a mahram
A ‘mahram’ is like a chaperon or male guardian who is usually a relative of the family. The duty of a mahram is to accompany a woman everywhere she goes. This practice is rooted from religions and cultures, which believe that allowing a woman to go around all by herself exposes her to sin and harm by strangers.
Interaction with opposite sex
Women are required to either desist or limit the amount of time spent with men whom they are not related to. It is an Islamic teaching that unlawful mixing among men and women of reproductive age shouldn’t be encouraged and as such, public buildings such as universities, offices, banks, have separate entrances for male and females. Failure to segregate will attract criminal charges against both parties.
Women Showing off their beauty
Women are considered jewels to their parents if not married, and if married then jewels to their husbands. Therefore, only a husband is expected to see and appreciate a woman’s beauty. Thus, dress code for women is governed by strictly following the Islamic law, such that women are forced to wear clothing that must cover every part of their body except the palms, face and feet.
Open an account
Because women in Saudi are not allowed to travel, conduct official business or undergo medical procedure without the presence and permission of a guardian, they are not allowed to operate an account without the the permission of the mahram.
Woman behind the wheel
The truth here is that there is no official law that prohibits women from driving in Saudi. And although Islamic scholars haven’t found any proof in Quran or Sunnah for its prohibition, individual fear and deeply held traditional belief prohibits it with the belief that female drivers undermine social values.
Swim in public pool or compete freely in sport
In accordance with the law which prohibits women from showing off sensitive parts of their body, swimming and sports activities which involve putting on exposing wears will go contrary to the law. As such, the saying “the best way to avoid a problem is not engaging in it in the first place” is practiced. No wonder the Saudi athletes who participated in the London Olympics for the first time where dressed in a modest way with most of their body covered according to Islamic teaching.
Aside the teaching of the Quran, Muslims must also adhere to the Sunnah (practices and teachings of the prophet (peace be upon him). Therefore, prohibiting women from engaging in activities which would harm them either physically or psychologically is not only restricted to Saudi alone but all Muslim societies. Other activities which are prohibited for women include entering a cemetery to buying a Barbie and even reading uncensored magazines. That is not to say that Islam in anyway hinders the progress of women. Islam encourages women to go to school, gain knowledge, get a job, and to have an opinion. It encourages women to rise above the level of being treated like trash, to being modest and intelligent women, who will be respected, protected and taken care of by anyone. It is rather sad that some Muslims maltreat women and falsely call it a teaching of Islam.
Well, we are not to judge what ever the Saudi government prohibits their women from doing as good leaders are known to make laws in favour of their citizenry. Moreover, looking at it from a positive view, it all aims at having a stable, happy society void of confusion as well as respect for Islamic, cultural and moral principles.