Abdulateef Al-Mulhim
Abdulateef Al-Mulhim
Commodore, Royal Saudi Navy (Retired)

We really need to designate a day of the year to express our gratitude toward womenfolk or to stress the importance of women in society? I don’t think so. To me every day of the year should be women’s day, as she is a mother, a wife, a daughter, a sister, a friend and a coworker. A woman plays different roles in our lives and therefore setting aside only one day to pay rich tributes to womenfolk is not enough.

Women are not minorities on this planet. They are half of the human race. But, the world decided to have a day to celebrate a women’s day, March 8.

Last week I was alerted about a conference, which was held in Riyadh. Dr. Amal Yahya Almoallimi, in charge of the women’s section at King Abdulaziz Center for National Dialogue, encouraged me to attend the conference but I wasn’t able to make it due to prior engagement. I was really enthusiastic about attending the event, which I thought would highlight the role of Saudi women in our society.

Issues related to Saudi women attract huge attention worldwide mainly due to the misconceptions about our society. Unfortunately, many of our own actions have contributed to the negative or should I say wrong image.

In a very short span, Saudi women have achieved much more than many of their counterparts in other parts of the world. So, why is talking about women in Islam or women in Saudi Arabia attracts so much interest?

When the first verses of the Holy Qur’an were revealed to our Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him), he got terrified upon seeing Angel Gabriel. He left the cave and went straight to his wife Khadija (may God be pleased with her) and she comforted her husband. We all know these details but many of us don’t realize the fact that our prophet (peace be upon him) did not hesitate in sharing his problem with his wife. He treated her as her friend and she was the first one to get to know about the revelation. His relation with her was based on love, respect and care. It was the most loving, happiest and sacred marriage in the history.

At the end of the day, it was a woman who proved to be the pillar of strength in one of the most defining moments in the history of Islam and may be in the history of mankind. But, what did we learn from Islam and Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) about the treatment of women and its role in the society?

With the passage of time, instead of treating women according to the teachings of Islam, we began treating them according to our respective tribal traditions. That is the cause of many social problems we are facing today. By doing so, we changed the status of women as our equals into objects that need to be protected. But, protected from what? Is it to be protected from men? Why don’t we teach men to respect women?

We always hear about women abuse and women mistreatment and this act is not confined to a specific group, faith or society. It is an international problem. We have to be fair to the Saudi society. Here, you don’t see women waking up at four in the morning to walk miles to carry water back to her home. And we don’t see women being dragged into immoral acts. We don’t see overworked women at sweatshops. As a matter of fact, some view Saudi women as spoiled because there is are housemaids in every home. But, there are things that have to be done for the well being of Saudi women. It is important to introduce reforms to ensure women’s rights. Many who oppose the reforms are mixing up between women liberation and women rights. And we have to understand that it was Islam that introduced women’s rights such as inheritance or the right to be separated from the husband if there is a lack of fulfillment of marriage duties.

Islam protects a woman’s right and those who oppose the idea of giving women their due rights in fact don’t want to follow Islam.

Now, Saudi women are being noted for adaptation to progress. Saudi women have succeeded in many fields and it is important to open more venues for them. It is important to form new rules to protect them and not to isolate them.

Written by Abdulateef Al-Mulhim. Every Day is Women’s Day reprinted with permission of Arab News and Abdulateef Al-Mulhim.