The man of the hour

Great controversy is brewing in Saudi Arabia and it all starts and ends with Sheikh Ahmed Al Ghamdi. Al Ghamdi is a 47 year old PhD holder in administration and strategical planning and also has spent 15 years studying Islam.

The whole issue began when Okaz Newspaper published a lengthy article last December written by Sheikh al Ghamdi in which he proclaimed that there is no such thing as gender segregation in Islam. He stated that what we are at today is based on extremism and cultural considerations. Moreover he points out that the very thing that we have been prohibiting is practiced in most Saudi households with the presence of maids. Anyhow this is not the first time that a Saudi sheikh has written about the illogicality of gender segregation. Sheikh Ahmed Bin Baz wrote about it and so did the judge Eissa al Ghaith. Although both got an earful, their articles were eventually forgotten. The difference with Sheikh al Ghamdi is that he is head of the Makkah PVPV commission. And as everybody knows, maintaining gender segregation is one of the highest callings of the PVPV. So for Sheikh al Ghamdi to come out and say that this form of segregation is Islamically baseless, it becomes an issue of conflict of interests. And then he tops his gender segregation article with another article on not banning shops from business during prayer time. Going around shopping areas to insure that they close during prayer is another main component of a PVPV member’s job description. As one journalist points out, Shiekh al Ghamdi may be free to write what he thinks but as an employee of the PVPV, he shouldn’t be publishing things that go against their policies and practices.

For the PVPV and the whole ultra conservative majority, to have one of their own, someone who they had given a high position in their hierarchy go against their beliefs is a slap in the face. Attacks on Shiekh al Ghamdi’s character, credentials and articles were on every one of their TV channels and papers. Some claimed that he was paid to write what he wrote. And then a group of influential muttawas got together and decided to invite Sheikh al Ghamdi to a televised debate. He came onto to the show and it struck me as more of a trap. Insults were thrown at him right and left. The opposing debaters instead of discussing al Ghamdi’s points kept calling him a mere accountant who doesn’t know what he’s talking about. Another claimed that al Ghamdi was blasphemous towards the Prophet (PBUH). The call-ins were a confirmation of my belief that the whole show was a set up. Again a bunch of sheikhs called in and insulted al Ghamdi and then HRH prince Khalid bin Talal called demanding that al Ghamdi be fired from his PVPV post and called him an embarrassment to Saudi Arabia. This lead to a flurry of news organizations reporting that a PVPV sheikh was fired for not believing in gender segregation. The next day it was learned that Al Ghamdi was still at his PVPV post.

The following week sheikh al Ghamdi was again invited to the show to debate the issue. The second show was an improvement on the first. The debaters were given three uninterrupted minutes to state their case and everyone tried to avoid personal insults. The call-ins too were more balanced with some calling in in support of al Ghamdi. On both shows I was impressed by how confident and articulate al Ghamdi was. In comparison, the other two shiekhs seemed baffled and unprepared.

However the outcries against him haven’t subsided and his job at the PVPV is still up in the air. The afternoon of April 25th, a statement was released to the newspapers that a routine shuffle has resulted in the demotion of sheikh al Ghamdi, and then a couple of hours later all newspapers were requested not to publish the statement. And up to the writing of this post no news of whether or not Sheikh al Ghamdi will be allowed to keep his job has come out.


Filed under Culture, Fatwas, Gender Apartheid, Women driving

42 responses to “The man of the hour

  1. This reminds me of Dr. Mohammad Al-Ahmari. He was insulted and some people even pronounced takfeer on him after some articles he wrote in which he expressed his opinions on politics and some Islamic issues. It’s really an issue. Saudis labeling and insulting each other for their different opinions..

    I know many of our strict laws have to do with our culture although many claim they are based on Quran and Sunnah, but for many Saudis who blindly follow sheikhs, this can be confusing. Gender segregation has always been there in Arabia , now all of a sudden , there is no such thing as gender segregation in Islam. Saudis owe sheikhs and the Saudi government a good explanation of this.

    • The Saudi government and Sheikhs owe Saudis a good explanation of this**** 😐

      • Marcus

        Why would anyone want to cover their women and why would any woman accept this vile practice?
        Maybe you should ask yourself what you want and go out and take it instead of being led by this male dominated society which suppresses its women and its men… Rules like this only show how fearful the men are of the women, its very clear and simple to see… The men are scared and if they are scared, there is no love…

        Love is the key.. you wont go far wrong with Love.. thats for sure..

      • I am getting really tired of you. My comment policy is that people are allowed to comment and not argue. You are not a Muslim and you are not Saudi.
        Not everything in Sahih Bukhri is considered an absolute fact. Al Bukhri rated hadiths from weak to correct. Weak hadiths are stories that are told about the Prophet (PBUH) by people who are unknown or have been known to lie before.
        If you want to know what is believed by the general public of Saudi Arabia, this is it:
        Ayisha MIGHT have been nine but the emphasis is that she is the ONLY VIRGIN. The Prophet’s other wives were women well into their adulthood who were either divorcees or widows. Some of them were older than the Prophet (PBUH). Take it or leave it. Topic closed and you are unwelcome to comment on my blog. Start your own blog where you can spread your candy-coated hate.

  2. Usman

    Who has the final say on keeping his Job? He might not be alone. Somebody might be backing him or he would have been fired by now due to such a radically different stance. Also, looks like he acted as “sleeper cell” and waited until he could reach an influential post to get his voice heard and have is opinion some impact. Otherwise why continuing the job while denouncing it’s goals.

    Anyway, Good News!

  3. yuisef youahn

    Sheikh Ahmed Al Ghamdi should be killed right away

    • ChiaraLivia

      …and you should be put in permanent custody of a mental hospital

    • Marcus

      yuisef youahn,
      hi there, I hope I find you well and good and enjoying a wonderful day in peace.

      Why do you say this man should be killed, what has he done to deserve such an end?

      Love to you..

      • Hafsa

        im replying to ur previous comment:

        “Why would anyone want to cover their women and why would any woman accept this vile practice?
        Maybe you should ask yourself what you want and go out and take it instead of being led by this male dominated society which suppresses its women and its men… Rules like this only show how fearful the men are of the women, its very clear and simple to see… The men are scared and if they are scared, there is no love…

        Love is the key.. you wont go far wrong with Love.. thats for sure..”

        marcus, it seems to me that ur some sort of country hick who has never even left his backyard to go venture out into the real world. u r always leaving comments from which it is obvious that u r extremly ethnocentric and seem to believe that only UR culture and ur way of life is acceptable. u have to understand that there r different cultures and practices throughout the world n though they seem odd to u, u have no right to go around saying that theyr r wrong. u say things like “saudi women r prisoners” and when they “rise up and feel the wind on their faces they will be liberated”. thats BS n shows how ignorant u are. there is nothing wrong with islam. in fact, it is a beautiful religion when practiced with LOGIC and moderation. so go take ur ignorace somewhere else becuz no one over here wants to hear it. it is very annoying.

      • Marcus..

        You sound like another idiot who has no idea about the people of Middle East. Our cultures and our thought. And if you did, then you sound like a fool who thinks that his culture is superior.

        LOVE? that the heck is LOVE? If you love your wife you take her for a walk in a bikini? What kind of a NUT does that?
        You protect, cherish and take care of what and who you love.. that is love. So, you have no idea what love is.

    • People shouldn’t be put to death just because they say something you don’t agree with. Did you even listen to what he had to say? Whether you want to admit it or not, life here in KSA IS based on extremism – yet Islam is not about extremism, is it? Your comment is far more offensive, intolerant and radical than anything Sheikh Al-Ghamdi said.

    • somo

      and you should go to Tora Bora mountains .There are many people who will love you there.

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  5. sarah

    about time someone influential in saudi spoke up about such things which have been contorted to make it seem as if it is part of Islam and not saudi culture. mabrook!

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  7. Coolred38

    Funny how someone is moral, speaks with authority and has a stellar rep…just so long as he agrees with what YOU think on every issue. If and when he states a different opinion..he is suddenly the worst society has to offer and should be run out of town. Nice.

    • Coolred
      Yes I believe in anyone who has the academic integrity as to publish and publicize their findings even at the cost of losing their job and being condemned by so many. I’m sorry that my admiration for sheikh Ahmed al Ghamdi’s courage offends you.
      I would never have guessed that you supported the eradication of freedom of speech, gender segregation and complete closure of businesses for every prayer time.

  8. Thanks Eman for pulling this all together for us. I am surprised about Prince Khaled bin Talal as everything I had read about him to date and for the post I did on him suggested he would have been supportive of gender desegregation. Hmmm maybe more politics involved…

    I hope this is the beginning of a series of prominent people speaking up and of an evolution in the making.

    Thanks again.

  9. The religious organization in Saudi Arabia consists of large number of people and therefore it is possible for all of them not to agree on a particular issue and difference of opinion does exist in Islam. However, the Saudi population in general has greatly supported the ideas and views of scholars who say what the people want to hear. If a scholar says segregation is necessary and provides authentic reference from the quran and sunna people would ignore him because they don’t like segregation. However on the contrary if he says its permissible while providing weak or no reference at all, people will applaud him for he says what they want to hear. This isn’t a fair response by the public. We have the right to chose if we want to practice islam or not but we cannot beleive whatever we like.

    Saying that bukhari hadees are not authentic to support your opinion is not right. There is not a single scholar who would say that.

  10. Question:

    Is he arguing for desegragation in everyday life or desegragation within prayer as well?

  11. Enrica

    Hello everybody,
    isn’t that a good news? Someone from the “inside” of the muttawas is starting to present doubts about the legitimacy of gender segregation. I hope this is going to be the real start to a new way of perceiving relationships between sexs.
    All the best

  12. UN

    are not we living in end of times where Islam will become stranger as it started and have not strangers been given glad tidings and are not hypocrites given glad tidings of deepest depth in hell

  13. Greetings, I would like to get in touch with Sheikh Ahmed bin Qassim al-Ghamidi to discuss a topic, but I am not sure how to get in touch, so if you are reading this please contact me. Regards

  14. WOW

    it takes alot of courage and self confidence to say this!
    I admire that !!
    he is risking his life though.

  15. Hey… You cab bring this idiot with you too if you want to. I have a guest house he can in live in with you!

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  22. Abdullah

    Sister You are mistaken! Sahih Bukhari is all sahih/true correct hadiths hence the name! There are no weak hadith in Bukhari and Muslim insha Allah. So please do not say that

  23. wow! it saddens me to see how the Muslim masses are ruled with fear and intimidation. Islam came to proclaim freedom of beliefs, and freedom of speech. Also, it is pretty obvious if you read the Quran and read our history that the Quran says one thing regarding men and women’s interactions, but historically our peoples have been going completely bonkers on this issue. The real example was the Prophet pbuh, who freely allowed women to participate in discussions and debates, and nobody wrote their query on a piece of paper which was then handed down to another person who then read it to the Prophet pbuh as is the practice in many religious institutions and gatherings. Please wake up and keep in mind the example of Prophet Ibrahim AS, whom Allah SWT held up as a model believer. Why? because he refused to simply follow what was being done for generations. He used his own mind to critically analyze his society’s beliefs and rituals and was thus able to save himself and his wife and children. We need to do the same because people attach the name “islam” to something, doesn’t mean it is really from God. God is loving and loves His people (both men and women) to be free.

  24. Muqadim Muhammad Talha A. A.

    If you are contending on issue refer back to Allah and His prophet, says the Quran. Let the Saudi authority and her sympathizer(s) provide a single ayat(verse) and tradition(hadith) that says female should be segregate from the male in right. Or to confine them or deny them of some privileges.

    All the hijab verses in the holy Quran, none is meant to be or refers to dress code, except the one solely applied to the wives of prophet(S.A.W.). For they were totally different from the other women, asserted by the Quran. Therefore, is all saudi women are prophet(s.a.w) wives as to be authomatically subjected to the application of a very clear verse meant for the prophet(s.a.w) wives and daughters.

    Tradition and Quran only enjoins a dress of bashfulness both for women and men alike, while there is nothing like segregation during the Prophet(s.a.w) time.

    This only emanated during the caliphate of Umar(r.t.a.). The arab seized this opportunity to protect and promote their old culture and attitude of pre-Islam. They have to bear in mind that Islam, for the fact it started from arabia, is not a religion of the middle-east but for the whole world, hence, their islamic application should also reflects and accomadates the generality of Islam for the mankind.


  25. The lack of knowledge here is truly amazing. Women being covered is a cultural thing not religious. Arab tribes passed their days looting. That is well known. The reason they covered their women is that the Arab code was to take anything except their women. It’s about Arabian raiding and has nothing to do with Religion. The Saudis have distroted so much of Islam that it is hardly recognisable sadly these days.

  26. ola sou Ricardo do Brasil acreditei enviar essa mensagem na finalidade de fazer um amigo e ser ajudado por uma pessoa muito rica meus sonhos são pequenos mas o primeiro que gostaria de realizar é montar um consultorio de dentista para minha esposa não seu se chegara ao conhecimento do sheik mas se chegar por favor me ajude email grato por me dar essa oportunidade . hoje gastaria 100.000,00 reais para montar esse consultorio tratariamos de dente de toda sua familia abraço

  27. Hanan

    Habibi Ahmed ana Hanan itisil fini halan0033616412405

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