The Saudi government is facing a conundrum when dealing with temporary marriages (Nikah Misyar, for Sunni Muslims). While there are multiple fatwas authorizing such marriages as permitted under Shariah law, it is against Saudi Arabia’s public policy. The government acts to discourage it — as with this article from Saudi Gazette — but appears to be unable or unwilling to directly counter religious statements. Whether moral suasion overcomes biological drives and convenience, with a religious blessing, will be an interesting thing to watch.
Grappling with the surge in temporary marriages
Saudi Gazette report
THE Saudi Charitable Society for the Welfare of Saudi Families Abroad (Awaser) has warned Saudi citizens against engaging in any temporary marriage contracts abroad.
Speaking to Al-Riyadh newspaper, Tawfiq Abdulaziz Al-Suwailem, chairman of the board of directors, said the society works with the ministries of social affairs and foreign affairs as well as Saudi missions abroad to crack down on Saudis who enter temporary marriages.
“There should be legislation and extensive media coverage of such marriages arranged by brokers outside the country. Saudi men should realize the consequences of these marriages.
Unfortunately, over the past 10 years, these types of marriages have spread and are out of control. They have been called tourist, summer and common-law marriages and they all have one common thing: they’re temporary and the disengagement ends with a divorce,” Al-Suwailem said.
The fact that so many unhinged fatwas make it into the public realm has led to a situation where satire is confused with reality.
Al Arabiya TV reports that an article appearing in a Moroccan satire paper alleging that Saudi Arabia’s Grand Mufti supports cannibalism as a way to show “togethernesss” needed a blunt denial from the Grand Mufti himself. Of course the Arab media isn’t the only one that mistakes satire with facts. Articles appearing in the American satirical paper The Onion are sometimes picked up by major media.
But when real life takes on bizarre aspects — be they in laws or fatwas — a little confusion is understandable. It’s just not very good journalism.
Saudi Arabia’s Grand Mufti Sheikh Abdulaziz bin Abdullah al-Sheikh has denied issuing a fatwa (religious edict) which allows a hungry man to eat his wife, or parts of her body, in the case of famine or if eating his wife would result in saving his own life.
Over the past few days, several pro-Iranian media outlets, such as the online portal of Al Allam news channel and Lebanon’s al-Jumohouria newspaper have carried the story without backing it with any evidence or specifying where or when such a fatwa has been issued.
The unsubstantiated fatwa attributed to the Grand Mufti claims that such sacrifice is the ultimate way of showing subordination and love to her husband as a “way for their two bodies to become one.”
Writing at Asharq Alawsat, the paper’s Editor-in-Chief argues that the current conflict in Yemen is not sectarian, but geo-political and is focused on the Houthis as a rebellious group acting as a puppet of Iran. He distinguishes this from the situation in Iraq where sectarianism is very much at issue.
Houthis, not Shi’ites
Operation Decisive Storm, which is being backed by most countries across the world, is not a battle against the Shi’ites. Although this is certainly how the Houthis want to portray things, along with all other parties in their orbit, from Iraq’s Popular Mobilization forces and Hassan Nasrallah’s Hezbollah to, of course, their common backer: Iran. However, in reality, this is not a war against the Shi’ites, but a war against a rebel group that is being sponsored by a state whose strategy is based on exporting sectarianism across the region. This same country is portraying itself as the “grand protector” of Shi’ites everywhere—politically and doctrinally—as if these Shi’ites don’t have homelands of their own that can protect them from the lies of the Persian state.
There is a cacophony of sectarian discourse being put forward by Tehran’s agents in the region. Can you believe that Hezbollah’s Hassan Nasrallah or Houthi leader Abdul Malik Al-Houthi are complaining about sectarianism? We have even heard similar statements from commanders in Iraq’s Popular Mobilization forces. In other words, commanders of a military force that is formed along sectarian lines are now accusing others of sectarianism. I can only say that those in glass houses shouldn’t throw stones!
Saudi Arabia and its Gulf allies for decades dealt with Zaydi former president Ali Abdullah Saleh, in addition to supporting the Shi’ite religious authorities in Yemen, while Riyadh also enjoyed excellent ties with former Syrian President Hafez Al-Assad, who was an Alawite. Gulf states do not frame their relations with other states according to sectarian or religious identity, although this is clearly something that the mullahs’ regime in Tehran is doing. Gulf states have never targeted their Shi’ite citizens or dealt with them any differently, even if they are minorities. Rather, Gulf states have granted them the exact same rights as the rest of their citizens, as opposed to Iran which deals with its own Sunni community as second-class citizens, oppressing them and depriving them of their rights, and even preventing them from building houses of worship. Gulf states have never committed any violations against their own citizens, whatever their sectarian or doctrinal identity. The same cannot be said of the Shi’ite militias in Iraq and how they are dealing with the country’s Sunnis, and this is something that is happening in full view of the Baghdad government.
The Washington Post runs an analysis of Saudi Arabia’s assertive role in Yemen. It notes the way the Kingdom once supported the Shi’ite government of Imam Yahya Hamiduddin, but shifted gears following the Imam’s death. Now, the piece says, the Saudis and their coalition partners are seeking to restore peace in Yemen and thwart Iranian ambitions.
For Saudi Arabia, struggles in Yemen have deep roots
RIYADH, Saudi Arabia — In the two weeks since Saudi Arabia launched a bombing campaign in Yemen, the kingdom has barely slowed the advance of Shiite rebels who appear to be digging in for a long fight.
But so far, Saudi commanders have projected no outward signs of concern that the campaign is falling short.
“We should not be impatient for the results,” Brig. Gen. Ahmad Asseri, the spokesman for the Saudi-led coalition, cautioned on Friday.
Saudi Arabia’s determination is rooted in something deeper than overcoming insecurity on its borders and the fear that rival Iran could take advantage of it through perceived links to the insurgents. Saudi Arabia’s leaders — backed by its powerful Islamic religious establishment — also have taken on a special role as guardian of both its southern neighbor and the wider Arabian Peninsula.
“This is a blessing .?.?. but it also places a responsibility on all of us,” King Salman told a gathering of the nation’s political and armed forces elite at his Riyadh palace last week.
Saudi Gazette translates a piece from the Arabic daily newspaper Al Jazeera in which the writer argues that it’s time to end lashing as a criminal punishment in Saudi Arabia. Lashing is a discretionary punishment, he says, and is not required. Further, it goes against international agreements the Kingdom has signed concerning the use of physical punishment. Jail and fines are a sufficient remedy to the crimes for which floggings are used.
He argues, too, that it’s time for Shariah law to be codified.
Restrict discretionary punishment to imprisonment and fines
Muhammad Al-Asheikh | Al Jazeera
Muslim jurists have divided Shariah punishments into three types: Hudud, Qisas and Ta’zir. Hudud are those forms of punishment set by Almighty Allah and which must not be transgressed; Qisas are those that are carried out in retaliation for crimes and Ta’zir are those forms of punishment administered at the discretion of the judge for a crime for which no specific punishment has been ordained in the Holy Qur’an.
Muslim rulers grant judges the power to act in a legal capacity and the right to review discretionary rulings. If judicial rulings are in the interest of people and society, then the ruler will sanction them. If he feels that they are not severe enough or vice versa, then he has the authority to make changes.
Shariah focuses on the overall interests of society. The objective and purpose of legal rulings of any type is to allow justice to prevail and to enhance stability, security and peace.
Lashing as a discretionary form of punishment is left to the judge who will decide the number of lashes. There is an interesting principle within Shariah: “There can be no Ijtihad when an explicit text exists in the sources.”
In addition to making clear that military action in Yemen against Houthi rebels is an international effort, Saudi Arabia’s government is also trying to underline their view that this is a geo-political effort against Iranian expansionism, not a sectarian war. Asharq Alawsat reports on comments by the Ministry of Defense stating that the operation has closed off air re-supply from Iran to the Houthis.
Riyadh, Asharq Al-Awsat—Saudi-led airstrikes against the Iran-backed Shi’ite Houthi movement in Yemen have successfully cut off air supply lines to the movement from Tehran, Saudi Arabia’s Defense Ministry said on Sunday.
In his daily briefing on the progress of the air assaults—dubbed Operation Decisive Storm—Defense Ministry spokesman Brig. Ahmed Bin Hassan Assiri told reporters the Houthis had used a recent deal signed between Yemen and Iran’s civil aviation authorities to gain military supplies from the Islamic Republic.
Yemen and Iran’s civil aviation authorities signed the agreement in late February, following the Houthi coup, to operate 14 direct flights between both countries, via state carrier Yemen Airways and Iranian private airliner Mahan Air.
Assiri said the Houthis had amassed a large amount of weapons and ammunition from Iran since the deal was signed, but that these supply lines had now been successfully cut off, with weapons storage facilities also targeted throughout the country.
The border between Saudi Arabia and Yemen had now also been secured, he said.
In an op-ed at Al Arabiya TV, Khalf Al Habtoor reminds Iran that the Arab world can play the “support the oppressed!” game, too. He points to the Arab residents of Iran, particularly those in Khuzestan, formerly known as “Arabistan.” These Arabs, he claims, are being treated poorly, as second-class citizens at best. Might they not warrant increased attention and support by Arab states?
He draws parallels — without actually naming names — with the way Iran argues for support of the Houthis in Yemen and calls for Arab, particularly GCC, support for the independence of Arab-occupied portions of Iran.
Arab Ahwaz must be liberated from Iran
Khalaf Ahmad Al Habtoor
Whenever the Arab world is discussed, forgotten are the five million Arabs struggling to survive under the Persian yoke in an Arab region bordering Iraq and the Arabian Gulf, rich with oil and gas. Once an autonomous area, separated from Persia by the Zagros mountain range, under the governance of Sheikh Khazaal bin Jabber – whose family had ruled for over a century – it was grabbed by Shah Reza Pahlavi in 1925 with a nod and a wink from Britain eager to preserve its relationship with Iran due to its oil interests.
Formerly known as Arabistan, the Iranian occupiers wasted no time in changing the name of this new Iranian province to Khuzestan, rejected by its Arab residents even today. Arabs and Persians have little in common and as Sir Arnold Wilson, a British colonial administrator, once said: Arabistan is “a country as different from Persia as is Spain from Germany.”
Although Arabistan provides Iran with 80 percent of its oil requirements as well as half of its gas, its sons are exploited and oppressed; their human rights tramped upon, their very identity in danger of being obliterated. Iran’s policy of ethnic discrimination combined with its Persian resettlement endeavors has resulted in turning the Ahwazi Arabs into an economic and social underclass.
As could be expected, Saudi media is heavy with reporting on the military intervention in Yemen that’s being led by Saudi Arabia. Reports focus on the international aspect of the operation, as shown in this infographic from Al Arabiya TV…
The Al Arabiya TV story pre-dates the move of Yemen’s President Hadi’s move to Saudi Arabia from Aden, where he’d taken refuge after fleeing Sana’a.
Of interest is the deployment of Egyptian Navy assets who presumably will work in coordination with the Royal Saudi Navy to interdict possible Iranian attempts to supply Houthi forces. All GCC states, excepting Oman, which borders eastern Yemen, have committed aircraft to the operation. Morocco, Sudan, and Jordan have as well.
The name “Decisive Storm,” rather than the earlier “Determination Storm” seems to have been settled upon.
Dina al-Shibeeb, Al Arabiya News
Allies with their fighter jets on Thursday joined Saudi Arabia in its “Decisive Storm” military operation, targeting Houthi rebels who had vowed to dislodge President Abdrabbu Mansour Hadi.
Al Arabiya News Channel reported that Saudi Arabia deployed 150,000 soldiers, 100 fighter jets and navy units in Yemen after Hadi pleaded with its Gulf ally for help against the Houthi rebels, who were advancing toward the southern city of Aden – where Hadi is based – to remove him from power in an attempted coup.
The Royal Saudi Air Force took control of Yemen’s airspace early Thursday, and destroyed four Houthi jets and its surface-to-air (SAM) missiles.
Reports also emerged that top Houthi leadership: Abdulkhaliq al-Houthi, Yousuf al-Madani, and Yousuf al-Fishi were killed and the head of the Revolutionary Committee for the Houthis, Mohammed Ali al-Hothi, was wounded.
Saudi Gazette/Okaz report that the expansion of the mataaf of the Grand Mosque in Mecca — the area in which pilgrims circumabulate the Kaaba — is nearly finished. Pilgrims will be able to walk around the Kaaba on three levels, greatly increasing the number who can partake in the ritual at the same time. The three levels will be finished by Ramadan, the report says, with only the roof needing completion. That will be done by next year.
Expanded mataaf to be ready for Haj
Khalid Al-Himaidi | Okaz/Saudi Gazette
MAKKAH — The new mataaf (the circumambulation area) in the Grand Mosque will have a capacity to handle 105,000 pilgrims an hour, according to a senior official.
Sultan Al-Qurashi, General Director of Projects at the General Presidency of Grand Mosque and Prophet’s Mosque Affairs, said the expansion of the Grand Mosque project is in its third and final stage.
“Once the project finishes, pilgrims and visitors to the Grand Mosque will be able to circumambulate around the Kaaba on three floors: the basement, ground floor and first floor. These three floors will be ready by Ramadan. We are also opening the roof which will be ready by the next Haj season,” said Al-Qurashi.
An interesting op-ed in Saudi Gazette from Khaled Batarfi. He discusses Islamic banking, finance, etc. with Pr. Mohammed Al-Faisal and learns that while there are economic tools in use across the Islamic world, there is no underlying theory about an “Islamic economy.” Worth reading.
‘Islamic Economy is a baseless theory’
Dr. Khaled M. Batarfi
WHEN I asked Prince Muhammad Al-Faisal, the pioneer of Islamic Banking, about the concept, he explained: “What we have today is a baseless theory.
You can’t have a comprehensive economic theory devoid of social justice. The implied question here is: How can we build an economy to serve society?
“That is what I have been concentrating on lately, trying, without much success, to motivate economists and religious scholars to do due research,” the founder of Prince Muhammad Al-Faisal Award for Islamic Economy Research, complains.
“Some think Islamic Banking represent Islamic Economy. But we must realize the difference between a) the financial services and b) the general economic theories controlling them.
“I am not knowledgeable enough to conduct such research. Experts and scholars in economic and Islamic fields should gather to formulate a unified basis and set of principles defining the philosophies of Islamic Economy,” he recommends.
The Saudi justice system, often decried as harsh and even barbaric, has its elements of mercy as well, a story in The New York Times reports.
A serious issue with the system is that it is erratic. The same crime, adjudged in different courts by different judges, can result in widely varying sentences. Much depends on the sensibilities and sensitivities of the sitting judge. Uncodified laws and the lack of a requirement to rely on legal precedent can result in wide disparities in results.
This is a factor taken into consideration by appeals courts and, ultimately, the King who can issue pardons.
But there are also mechanisms through which the harshest penalties can be avoided. The story reports on just such a case, involving a clear case of murder, in which the miscreant’s life was spared by the daughter of the victim.
If nothing else, the article does a good job of portraying the complexity of a system based on tradition, custom, and religious law.
Saudi Justice, Harsh but Able to Spare the Sword
BURAIDA, Saudi Arabia — The murder that almost cost Bandar al-Yehiya his head started with an old debt to a close friend.
Struggling to raise the cash, Mr. Yehiya invited the friend to his home and offered him a rifle as payment. But when the friend refused, Mr. Yehiya got angry and shot him in the chest, leaving him dead on the living room couch, the slain man’s brother, Faleh al-Homeidani, said.
Mr. Yehiya confessed to the murder, so under Saudi Arabia’s strict interpretation of Islamic law, he would face the punishment that has made Saudi justice notorious around the world: beheading in the public square.
But the execution never happened.
Saudi Arabia’s justice system is regularly condemned by human rights groups for violating due process, lacking transparency and applying punishments like beheading and amputation. Criticism has grown as Saudi cases have made news abroad: a liberal blogger caned for criticizing religious leaders; activists jailed for advocating reform; a woman held without charge for more than two months for driving a car.
In many conservative Muslim states, men do not talk to women other than their relatives. They may not even shake hands with them. Foreign male diplomats are taught to wait to see if a woman extends her hand for a shake before extending their own. Female diplomats are taught to not even bother if the interlocutor is male.
Saudi Gazette translates a piece from the Arabic daily Al-Riyadh in which the writer — a Saudi woman — points out to the patent unfairness and illegality of the way government officials (and others) refuse to deal directly with women, insisting that only males enter their offices (or office buildings). Some refuse to speak with women even on the phone. Or how some doctors will speak only to males in discussing medical concerns of patients… even if the woman is the patient.
It’s truly a backward approach to life and one the Saudis are going to have to come to terms with if they’re not going to continue leaving themselves open to complaints and criticisms like those made by the Swedish Foreign Minister.
‘Sorry, I don’t talk to women’
Dr. Hatoon Ajwad Al-Fassi | Al-Riyadh
I added the word “sorry” to the title of this article even though government officials do not normally bother to use this word. I have previously written regarding how women are not allowed to enter government buildings and are forced to stand outside on the street. I now intend to discuss how government officials treat women once they manage to enter government offices.
I know of a woman who went to a hospital with her husband. The hospital’s management subsequently asked her to leave because women are not allowed to stay the night with their husbands. Only male family members can do so. This woman asked the consultant to keep her posted on her husband’s health. He, however, refused to speak to her in person or over the phone, and said he would only talk with male family members. He insisted on dealing with her like this even though what he was doing was against the rights of patients.
Another example is that of a mother who called her son’s school to ask how well he was doing. The teacher refused to talk to her and said he would only to talk to the child’s father. What if this woman were widowed or divorced?