Imam believes a woman's most important role is at home with her family. 

Education for the nation

Saudi Arabia spends an average of 10% of their

annual GDP on education; double the sum allocated

by most western nations. The country realised early-on

that it could not fully modernise on oil-wealth alone, and

that its future prosperity depended on schools and

universities. 

Girls are entitled to exactly the same educational services as boys, this means free primary, secondary and higher education, financial stipends during university years and the possibility to take apply for fully funded scholarships for post-graduate studies at international universities (although families may request that they are accompanied by a brother).

 

Critics will draw attention of course to the fact that some subjects

still seem to remain off-limits to women. Female campuses are

notably absent in engineering, electronics and certain science faculties.

 

The reasons for this disparity relate to societal bias, but also

  to present demand for these subjects and the ability of related industries to absorb a female workforce which

must be physically segregated from their existing male

colleagues.

 

However, as the push for 'Saudi-isation' in all

sectors gathers momentum, it seems certain

that more doors are soon to 

open. 

What would the world look like if women were in charge?

In every country that a woman becomes president, the country doesn't succeed. Even when a woman is a manager, she is not really  happy, and neither are the women who work for her. Women are emotional, men, by nature, are more level-headed. Being emotional is no bad thing by the way, you need that in life too, but for the big responsibilities, I prefer a man to be in charge. 

 

The Teacher

Imam, 35, Dammam

On the role of women

Life is completed by opposites, not equals; everything needs black and white. Men and women are like this. 

 

A man for example, cannot control the home. Men are the same everywhere in the world; they love themselves! They cannot give themselves to another like a woman can. Women give to their families without stopping from dawn until night. You know, the Koran doesn't give a woman any instructions on looking after children, because it's already written in her heart.

And it's the most important role. When a follower asked the Prophet (PBUH), who you should obey, he answered "your mother", when the follower asked, who came next, he answered "your mother", when he asked who came next, he answered again, "your mother". Only on the fourth time he answered "your father"

So I don't agree that a woman can take any job. A part-time job, or being a teacher, this is fine, but a woman is the heart of the home, she is the warmth, she is the rest. If she is away too long, it hurts her children, it hurts her husband.

 

On girl's education

For girls and boys it's exactly the same, the same subjects, the same text books, the same hours. Of course there are a couple of differences: the girls have some cooking, some sewing, they don't do sports.

 

There's nothing in the Koran to say a woman shouldn't do sports, it's more to do with the clothing. A woman should not wear something tight, something short. That's why we don't have this in our history, in our culture. 

But I think it's a good idea, for the girls to do more exercise. I'm sure it's coming, maybe in five years, we'll see it in the syllabus. 

On why girls and boys need to be separated

I don't like mixing them in the same classroom, they are different. Boys want to be in a competitive environment, they like being communal, but a girl no, she wants the teacher to take care of her only; they need different kinds of attention.

 

Then after the age of twelve, they're just thinking about sex. Boys start to see girls in a different way, and they learn quickly you know! They learn how to play with girls emotions, and then the girls they're tired, they're upset, they cannot focus on their studies. And then the teacher is trying to teach while all of this is going on. So no, it's better not to mix.  

On marriage

For me, I don't need to meet the man, but I want to know everything.  Not only about the man, but also about the family. How do you say it? The apple doesn't fall far from the tree. 

A man will lie to you, at the beginning he is all springtime and roses, and every woman is emotional; we will believe it all. Often it happens that after marriage, things are not the same.

But if you know his family, if you do your research, if you know how his father treats his mother, you can get a good idea of how this man will be as a husband. 

Romantic love? I don't see the benefit. I know that's how it is in the movies and the love songs, but when people marry for love, is is always successful? No. Better to ask about him. 

On the veil

When Allah made the man and the woman, he made the man like the woman, not the woman like the man, so the man wants the woman; wherever the woman goes, the man is following behind! So Allah protects her with hijab.

I know some people say Saudi women are not happy because they wear this. Some Saudi women themselves, when they see movies from America, Paris, Malaysia, they feel that in these places women are happy. Of course they're not. Why are they happy? They have the same problems as everybody else. ​

She thinks if she goes outside without the abaya she will be happy too. But happiness does not come from wearing or not wearing an abaya! it comes from your heart and your mind. You have to put rules for yourself to be happy. 

This interview is an extract from the book Queens of the Kingdom, Simon & Schuster (2019)