In the heart of the capital of the Islamic world, Mecca, the Islamic Jurisprudence Academy discussed a number of issues that are of concern to Muslims worldwide. In a “surprising” move, the Academy issued a fatwa (religious edict) sanctioning Zawaj al Misyar, or a marriage without the couple living together in the same house, where the husband is not financially responsible for his wife. This type of marriage remains controversial; a number of jurists regard is as merely a way to legitimize sexual relations. Lately, much discussion has occurred about the various types of marriage, including al Misyar and al Mutaa (where a date of expiration for the marriage is added to the marriage contract).
Instead of focusing on a trivial issue such as the al Misyar marriage, the Academy ought to have examined the numerous problems that arise as a result of divorce and the injustices inflicted on women by their menfolk as the former try to leave a failed marriage, filled with humiliation and oppression, and discussed ways to guarantee their rights to see their children. Despite the meetings taking place in full view of the public, the matters outlined above were ignored. Instead, fatwas that satisfy a number of men were discussed at length. Readers who are familiar with front-page adverts for sexual stimulators and cures for male sexual problems in Saudi newspapers might be under the impression that there are no concerns more pressing that sex and justifying it! Yet, the real challenge rests in the necessity and the importance of developing fatwas about the family to do justice to women and end practices that oppress them.
This unequal treatment of women which disregards their rights as human beings and as mothers contributes, to a large extent, to the consecration of a troubled society. As such, more problems are to be expected. Divorce and its aftermath has become a cancerous ill that has ravaged Saudi society. To date, it is discussed solely in academic and media circles. The real challenge is to develop religious edicts that are clear and decisive and give women their rights.
The latest decisions taken by the Islamic Jurisprudence Academy, especially those related to Zawaj al Misyar, reveal the shortcomings of certain aspects of jurisprudence and its detachment from facing social challenges according to its real importance and priorities. If the Islamic Jurisprudence Academies continues to disregard important issues, problems the Muslim faces will continue to be denied. This will prove very costly.