By Tariq A. Al-Maeena
20 December 2017
As the year 2017 slides into 2018, one thing that is obvious to me is the decline in outrageous Fatwas (religious edicts) that used to spring up constantly in times gone by. Going back in history, callous individuals used religion as a tool to promote their brand of morality. To sway the poor and uneducated, they would often appear in the guise of holy men and preachers of knowledge and peddle their personal beliefs in the form of holy edicts.
We in this country have not been strangers to such phenomena. In fact, in the past three or four decades, edicts or Fatwas, as they are called, took on extreme and sinister guises. These Fatwas are supposedly derived from interpretations of the Hadith, the sayings of Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him). Clerics were quick to issue edicts based on their personal interpretations and understanding. In many cases, these were actually nothing more than ill-thought-out expressions of cultural identity.
To summarize some of the ridiculous Fatwas of the past supposedly based on the sayings of Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) would take many pages, but here are a few examples. In May 2007, a fatwa was issued by an Islamic cleric in Egypt, which said that a female worker should breastfeed a male colleague to establish a maternal bond between them, in order to overcome the Islamic law against the illegal private seclusion of men and women. The cleric based his fatwa on a flawed interpretation of a Hadith by Prophet Muhammad (pbuh).
In 2011, a Saudi preacher said that there would be “no more virgins” if the female driving ban was lifted, and that relaxing the ban would also see more Saudis of either sex deviate toward homosexuality and pornography. Allowing women to drive would also “provoke a surge in prostitution and divorce”. Within 10 years of the ban being lifted, there would be “no more virgins” in the country. On the same subject, in 2013, another Saudi sheikh issued a fatwa that, women who drive risked damaging their ovaries and producing children with clinical problems. “If a woman drives a car, not out of pure necessity, that could have negative physiological impacts as functional and physiological medical studies show that it automatically affects the ovaries and pushes the pelvis upwards,” he stated.
In 2014, a senior Saudi cleric who is a member of the Kingdom’s Munasaha program which reprograms and rehabilitates the thought processes of Saudis that had previously been lured into following Al-Qaeda doctrines shared his concerns that “whoever dies in the land of infidels could go to hell”.
Expressing his opposition to the hundreds of thousands of Saudis who flock out of the Kingdom during the school holidays, the sheikh also asserted: “Travelling abroad is forbidden in the Shariah except when dictated by necessity and under certain conditions. Among these conditions is that the traveller has to be of devout faith, a strong believer and to have solid religious ‘immunity’ against all evil desires.” He elaborated: “Whoever fears for himself falling for what is forbidden, such as drinking alcohol, should not travel except when it becomes an extreme necessity.”
The sheikh did not simply stop there. He added that “God does not love” it when Muslims seek to live among the nonbelievers and that even travelling to other Islamic countries is best avoided although it is “less undesirable”. “Travelling to the land of infidels for the sake of doing business or studies is forbidden except in extreme necessity.”
Such is the divisive nature of these interpretations of Hadith that it finally compelled the Kingdom to counter this rising menace. In a Royal decree recently, Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Salman Bin Abdulaziz ordered the establishment of an authority to scrutinize interpretations and applications of Hadith, which are accounts of the sayings, actions or habits of the Prophet (pbuh) that are used by preachers and jurists to support teachings and edicts on all aspects of life. This newly formed authority’s primary purpose would be to “eliminate fake and extremist texts and any texts that contradict the teachings of Islam and justify the committing of crimes, murders and terrorist acts”.
Terrorist groups such as Daesh (the self-proclaimed IS) and Al-Qaeda have used interpretations of Hadith numbered in the thousands to recruit jihadists, justify violence and to urge supporters to carry out attacks, which are acts that vilify Islam. The Kingdom is taking positive measures to stamp out such acts.
This is a welcome move that should finally put an end to the rubbish that has been spouting from the mouths of some extremists cloaked as preachers. Islam has suffered enough from the actions of these divisive and intolerant people. Let 2018 be a year of the glorification of Islam.