In the Name of God, the Compassionate, the Merciful
Perhaps inspired by the “Arab Spring,” women in Saudi Arabia are beginning to challenge the decades-old ban on their getting behind the wheel. According to the Associated Press:
A campaign to defy Saudi Arabia’s ban on women driving opened Friday with reports of some female motorists getting behind the wheel amid calls for sustained challenges to the restrictions in the ultraconservative kingdom.
It started after a 32-year-old woman, Manal al-Sharif, who was detained after posting a video of herself driving. She was only released when she reportedly pledged that she would not drive again.
It is about time. It baffles me as to how clerics can justify, based on Islam, that women should not be allowed to drive. They claim that having women driving may spread temptation because women will mix with men. But, this view is completely against the letter and spirit of Islam. There is nothing in Islam that says that women must remain at home and not participate in society at large, out of fear of temptation. If men and women practice Islam properly, there should be no problem at all when they interact in society.
The Prophet Muhammad’s own wife, Khadijah, was a very prominent businesswoman, and after he became Prophet, he did not mandate that Khadijah stay at home. Women were prominent members of society during the time of the Prophet, with some even fighting on the front lines alongside the Prophet (pbuh). His later wife, A’isha, even led an army during the civil war that ensued after the Prophet Muhammad’s death.
This is the reality of Islam and the tradition of the Prophet Muhammad. This ban on women driving has nothing to do with Islam. The fact that clerics in Saudi Arabia use Islam to justify such a repressive restriction is an aberration. It is high time for our sisters in Saudi Arabia to challenge this ban, based on the principles of Islam itself.
Although I don’t want to see upheaval where people will get hurt, I am in support of more freedom for Saudi women, and all people everywhere. Drive on, my sisters! May God help you in your struggle, your jihad.