Can women's rights, universalism and cultural relativism be reconciled? : Islamic and Saudi Arabian perspectives

Kazem, Sarah

September 2019

Thesis or dissertation

© 2019 Sarah Kazem. All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced without the written permission of the copyright holder.

Saudi Arabia is a state which was founded on an agreement between Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdul Wahab and Imam Muhammad bin Saud on the basis that Islam is the law and constitution of the country. In the light of this, the Saudi state has so far adopted Islamic law; more specifically, it adheres to the doctrine of Imam Ahmad Ibn Hanbal.

Women in Saudi Arabia, however, are deprived of some of their rights. For instance, a guardian has the right to prevent a woman from marrying and also has the right to force her to marry. Women in Saudi Arabia do not have equal rights with men to take up leadership positions (a woman cannot be a judge, for instance) and, furthermore, women do not have the right to pass their nationality on to their children as men can. In fact, the fact that women are deprived of these rights is because of customs and tradition which have a great influence in the country. For instance, they are the reason that many women are excluded from education and work; they were also the reason that women were prevented from driving cars. Customs and traditions have contributed to the misinterpretation of Islamic texts, especially those regarding women’s rights. Therefore, to reconcile women's rights in international law or, in particular, with the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW), the Islamic texts must be reinterpreted in line with the spirit of Islamic law, which seeks to raise the status of women.

This study aims to build a bridge between Islamic law, especially as applied in Saudi Arabia, and CEDAW. The study employs a reconciliatory approach using an interpretive technique which focuses on a contextual interpretation of Islamic texts.

Law School, The University of Hull
Shah, Niaz A.
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