Abu Dhabi, Asharq Al-Awsat- Bahrain was shocked to learn last week that Bahraini female citizens were now working as “muezzin” [person who calls for prayers]. This was revealed by the Ministry of Justice and Islamic Affairs, through official documents, to the effect that there are three female muezzins who are working in two different mosques in Bahrain. This has led a deputy in Bahrain’s Parliament to threaten to question the Minister of Justice and Islamic Affairs, because he considers a woman working as a muezzin “a reprehensible innovation [bidah] that no Muslim has ever dared introduce before; so, how come that this is allowed to happen here in Bahrain by the ministry?”
In this respect, responding to a question asked in Parliament by the Salafi Deputy Sheikh Jasim al-Saidi, Minister of Justice and Islamic Affairs Sheikh Khalid Bin-Ali Al Khalifa, revealed the names of three women working as muezzins in mosques belonging to the Jafariyah [Twelvers; Shiite group] Religious Endowment Administration. According to the minister’s response, the first female “muezzin” is Mariam Hasan Ali. She works at the Sheikh Muhammad Mumin Mosque, which is one of the large mosques of the capital, Manama. The other two “muezzin” are Fawziyah Ali Hasan Rustum and Salwa Ahmad Sultan. They work at the Sheikh Darwish Mosque, in the area of Al-Diyah, near Al-Badi district, also in the capital Manama.
Contacted by Asharq Al-Awsat by telephone, Sheikh Jasim al-Saidi, who is a Salafi independent deputy in Parliament, said that he is surprised by the permission given by the Ministry of Justice and Islamic Affairs “to subvert the Islamic religion and its tenets by appointing women to the post of “Muezzin.” He considered that the admission by the ministry that female muezzin are part of its official staff is “a shame on all of us in Bahrain.”
Sheikh al-Saidi emphasized that “the issue has only one of two explanations: either the appointment to this job, which happens for the first time in the Arab and Islamic world, is merely formal and not genuine, or they were appointed as muezzin officially but without having to do this job, or they are indeed working as muezzin, and then this is a disaster, with the situation reaching such a level of laxity toward religion.” Al-Saidi stated that he is awaiting clarification from the Ministry of Justice and Islamic Affairs concerning the real function of the three women.
Calls by Asharq Al-Awsat to Jafariyah Religious Endowments Council in Bahrain were not immediately returned. As for Sheikh Jasim al-Saidi, he has asked the Ministry of Justice and Islamic Affairs to dismiss the female muezzins working in the two mosques in question. He stressed that a woman working as a muezzin is “a reprehensible innovation that no Muslim has ever dared introduce in the past.” He pointed out that a woman working as muezzin is not permissible, “dangerous, and badly affects the reputation of Bahrainis in Islamic circles.”
Al-Saidi threatened the minister of justice and Islamic affairs that he would question him in Parliament “if no rapid, immediate action is taken to correct this matter.” He added that he was surprised by the answer given by the minister of justice and Islamic affairs to a question he had asked about a request for a full and detailed inventory of all the mosques, funeral sites, Husayniyat [Shiite mosques] and places of worship in Bahrain. Al-Saidi also said that he is shocked by the presence of official documents proving that there are female muezzins who are performing this function. He stated: “This is a dangerous, reprehensible innovation that no one in the world introduced before us. All the Islamic doctrines agree that it is impermissible for a woman to occupy this post, and therefore the question is: How dare the Jafariyah Religious Endowments Administration employ three women as muezzin? And, does the Imamate Shiite jurisprudence authorize women to perform the function of muezzin? How come that these women have continued to receive their salaries all throughout the previous period of time? This proves that there is clear administrative corruption at the Ministry of Justice and Islamic Affairs, and the minister is politically responsible for this.”
Moreover, the campaign conducted by the Bahraini opposition, led by the Islamist Al-Wifaq [accord] Association, against what it calls political naturalization in Bahrain, has raised a great deal of controversy amid Bahraini parliamentarians. This was after the independent deputy Abdullah Bin-Khalaf al-Dawsari had said that “the ongoing uproar and the recent statements made by the secretary general of the Al-Wifaq Association, Deputy Ali Salman, concomitantly with the timing of the systematic incitement of the so-called anti-naturalization campaign, are fabrications and an attempt to turn facts upside down. It is disparaging to deep-rooted Arab families. It is a matter that is rejected politically and morally, as well as in the eyes of civilization and the press.”
Al-Dawsari refused to use the adjective “naturalized” toward those who have had their passports returned, “Whether they belong to the Al-Dawasir tribe or to the other Arab tribes. It is a disgrace and unfair to use the adjective ‘naturalized’ toward people who are loyal Bahrainis and who belong to Bahrain. They have been living on this land, like their fathers and grandfathers, under the rule of the generous Al Khalifa since the arrival of Sheikh Ahmad al-Fatih in 1783. They took up honorable positions against colonialist interference in the affairs of Bahrain in the twenties of last century, in extremely difficult political conditions.”
Al-Dawsari pointed out that some from the Al-Dawasir tribe and the other Arab tribes had immigrated to neighboring countries, leaving behind documented properties which prove “beyond doubt that they have been citizens of this island, like their fathers and grandfathers, for more than 200 years. These documents exist and are available for everybody to see.”
Deputy Al-Dawsari was surprised by the figures mentioned by Sheikh Ali Salman, who estimated that there are hundreds of thousands of them [those who have been naturalized], and said: “I do not know where Deputy Ali Salman has obtained these figures? And, who has been following up migrations from and to this island? And, who has supplied him with these misleading claims, which emanate either from ignorance or falsification and distortion of history in the interest of a certain group, to serve objectives that are no longer a secret to anyone.”