Scholars Frustrate Extremists on Women Driving Issue

Saad Al-Matrafi, Arab News
Publication Date: 
Tue, 2005-05-31 03:00

JEDDAH, 31 May 2005 — A number of extremists have expressed their frustration at the reaction of some scholars to the matter of women driving which was ruled out at the Shoura Council Session last week.

The reaction of the scholars, which frustrated their followers, was of two kinds. Some of the scholars, such as Naser Al-Omar and Safar Al-Hawali, kept quiet and did not comment on the issue. Others, such as Salman Al-Oudah and Abdul Mohsin Al-Obaikan, said there were no religious objections to women driving but that the community was not yet ready for it. The scholars agreed that if women were allowed to drive at present, it might lead to situations which would result in behavior which violated religious laws.

In addition, some of the extremists referred to statements by the late Saudi scholars, Sheikh Bin Baz and Sheikh Ibn Othaimeen. They were among the most learned scholars in the Islamic world and their opinions and ideas are still respected in matters of religion. The extremists accused the present-day scholars of being less strict and less honest than the two sheikhs.

Some of them said that Ibn Othaimeen said in the late 90s that women driving was religiously prohibited. Arab News, however, listened to a recording of the sheikh’s speech and he never used the word “haram” (forbidden) when speaking of women driving. What he said was that for women to drive was a “mistake because it could lead to corruption.” His idea was that the community was not ready to accept women driving.

The extremists were particularly hard on Sheikh Al-Oudah for not commenting on what had earlier been published on his website.

On the website,, the sheikh said that every religious issue could be looked at from one of two perspectives. The first concerns matters which are clearly forbidden in the Qur’an or the sayings of the Prophet (pbuh). “Those issues we do not discuss and should leave them alone since they are known to be applicable in every time and place,” he said. The other perspective concerns issues which are not clearly prohibited in the Qur’an or in the sayings of the Prophet (pbuh). “These are left to scholars to decide upon whether something is acceptable or not,” said Sheikh Al-Oudah. He pointed out that something might be acceptable in one place but not in another due to the principle of “preventing a reason for argument.”

In response to the extremists, Sheikh Al-Oudah said that the scholars in the Kingdom had asked for keeping women from driving as part of the rule of “preventing a reason for argument.” Yet Sheikh Al-Oudah did not say whether the scholars from the Committee of Ulema in the Kingdom had made it clear whether women driving was religiously prohibited.

Another scholar whose comments frustrated some extremists was Sheikh Abdul Mohsin Al-Obaikan who stressed that the rejection of women driving was not because it was religiously prohibited but rather because the community was not yet ready for it. Al-Obaikan, who is also a member of the Shoura Council, said the issue of women driving was not discussed by the council because the matter was not within its authority to discuss.

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