Earlier this month, a clip emerged of the grand mufti in Saudi Arabia, who is the head of the Permanent Committee for Islamic Research and Issuing Fatwas, knocking down rumours that the country would ever abolish the Saudi guardianship system, which currently restricts adult women from rights afforded to Saudi men. Sheikh Abdulaziz al-Sheikh claimed that removing the guardianship system would be a crime against Islam’s teachings and said he saw no merit to the trending hashtags calling for the end of guardianship.
When asked if he was concerned with the recent opposition expressed on Arabic Twitter against the guardianship system, the Sheikh said that the tweets and hashtags were “a crime against Islam” and posed an existential threat to Saudi society. “This is an evil call that goes against the Sharia and the instructions of the prophet,” he responded sternly.
The guardianship system, as it stands now, treats women, in effect, as legal minors. That rule was put into place based on the Quranic interpretation that states that guardians should protect and care for their women.
“Men are the protectors and maintainers of women…” Quran’s Al-Nisa, 4:34.
In Saudi Arabia, the default guardian is the father, whose duty is to protect his daughter until her husband becomes her new guardian. This, of course, complicates issues if a girl is born to a widower or if the girl grows into a woman and never marries. In some cases, a son may become the legal guardian to his mother, thus becoming the authority over her.