An ultraconservative Saudi scholar has a surprisingly stark warning for any faithful Muslim man who feels entitled to his wife’s sexual services during the Covid-19 crisis: “If you’re leaving the house then dream on.”
Abdullah Muhammad Al-Mutlaq, an adviser to the Saudi royal court and member of the council of senior Islamic scholars, appeared on a live-call in television show broadcast amid the global pandemic.
One viewer’s domestic dilemma prompted an unusually forward-thinking response by the cleric.
”My husband never stays at home and couldn’t care less about the measures in place. I’m terrified he’ll give me the virus. When he asks me to sleep with him, I’m going to refuse because I’m scared for myself and my kids. Am I falling into sin?”
Al-Mutlaq responded: ”If he isn’t listening to you and if he isn’t staying at home, you’ve got no reason to be worried [by rejecting his advances]. You should avoid him and keep away from him. He must […] self-isolate for 14 days.”
The promising suggestion offers a glimmer of hope within Saudi Arabia’s religious authorities, whose ranks are dominated by proponents of dogmatic literalism.
While the cleric’s response challenges archaic interpretations of prophetic wisdom, commentators believe the dangers of sexual partner violence facing married women in patriarchal societies, such as Saudi Arabia, will be more acute during lockdowns to combat the coronavirus pandemic.
In an oft-quoted tradition attributed to Muslim Prophet Muhammad, it is said that a woman who refuses to have sex with her husband ”will be cursed by the angels until dawn”.