On the season of “change” in “our” kingdom

It was a couple of days ago. A member of executive council of our Association forwarded a clip to members. Minutes later, same clips were forwarded to me through other platforms. 


When I opened the video clip sent to us all by our brother from Maiduguri, I saw images of brethren in Saudia. I saw men in flowing white garments and the big Kufiyyah or Shamagh on their heads. They were greeting one another, showing love and affection in the traditional Arab custom; kissing one another on the cheeks, hugging and backslapping. It was a large congregation in a big hall. But as it is customary with such clips, there was no audio. The video clip did not also last more than ten seconds. Thus there was no way I could make sense either of the images in the video or the congregation in the hall.

Now when I clicked on yet another one from another platform, the latter unfolded for my contemplation the full disclosure and description of the event and the actors in the clip I mentioned above. Unlike the previous one which only showed people greeting one another, the second clip of the same event showed a large congregation of men who were seated around small tables in groups of three to four. They were men playing cards. It was an event that marked the beginning of the legalization of betting (or is it gambling?) in Saudi Arabia. I refused to accept the possibility that the event was meant to mark the emergence of “Las Vegas” on the land of Prophet Muhammad (saw).


Beyond belief! Yes. In fact, I dismissed the clip, in line with Donald Trump, as “fake news”. But I became wizened up when I was reminded that we are now in the season of change even in Saudia. Change is on the way for gender equity. Yes. Unlike before when it was forbidden for women not to drive, it has been decreed that by the end of this year, my sisters in the kingdom would be able to hop behind the wheel and enjoy the pleasure of driving themselves around as they wish. Change is on the way. Unlike before when women were not allowed into stadia in the kingdom, by the end of this year, all that would change. The General Sport Authority, the country’s governing body for sports had already decided that families shall now be welcome to watch major events in the country’s sporting arena.

Yes. The little we know of Islamic jurisprudence actually shows that some of the restrictions against women were borne out of cultural necessities not strictly prescribed by the original sources of Islamic law. I always argue that if records that show that women owned and rode horses and camels during the time of the Prophet are true therefore forbidding them from driving cars in today’s world becomes extremely slippery. In fact in an Hadith reported by Imam al-Bukhari and Muslim, the Prophet ( said:  “The best women among the camel riders are the righteous women of the Quraysh”. Thus one would argue that granting to women today in the Kingdom the authorization to drive cars is in keeping with the sovereignty of that country to prescribe laws that would guarantee order and decorum for its society.

I guess the same argument could apply to the decision that by the end of this year, the country’s biggest stadia will begin to “accommodate families”. But the concern of Muslims across the world over the ‘opening up” (al-Infitah) of the kingdom to Western cultures have of recent become deep when musical concerts, the like you would see in New York and London begin to be held in parts of the kingdom. Concern is being expressed over the decree that says that corporate organizations shall be given licenses to operate casinos and film houses in certain parts of the Kingdom.

Recently, Shaykh Adil al-Kalbani issued a fatwah to the effect that previous legislations that rendered listening to Jazz music nugatory in Islamic legal framework is in and by itself a nugatory since the former were hinged on no clear provisions from the Quran and hadith. This has occasioned an intervention, in verse, from Shaykh Saud Shuraym, Imam of al-Haram and Dean of Faculty of Islamic Law, Umm al-Qurah University. While Shaykh al-Kalbani gave preference to the literal meaning and provisions of the law, Shaykh Shuraym called attention to the social and cultural implications of opening the door to the patronage and enjoyment of music particularly in a world where the thought and the taught, where the divine and the sacred are daily being desecrated by the unceasing in-road of modernity and Westernism. Interestingly, Shaykh al-Kalbani has also done a riposte in verse to Shaykh Shuraym restating his position on this contentious issue.

While the conversations around Jazz go on, I say welcome to the season of change. I pray that no matter how seismic it may appear, may the Almighty continue to preserve the Din and its noble and eternal principles for the UMMAH (aamin).


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