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King Mohammed of Morocco on Women’s Rights

King Mohammed, VI of Morocco

King Mohammed, VI of Morocco

My friend Joe Grieboski, Founder and President of the Institute on Religion and Public Policy, forwarded me this message by King Mohammed of Morocco on women’s rights sent on July 17. The text is as follows:

Praise be to GodPeace and blessings be upon the Prophet, His Kith and Kin
Honourable Counsellors, Preachers and Supervisors,

Ever since I assumed the « Imamat Udh’ma » (Supreme Commandship), bound by the unbreakable tie of « Be’ia » (allegiance), I have been endeavouring to lead our great people on the path of progress and dignity, ensuring that each member of the community enjoys full citizenship. I have sought, above all, to help the citizens improve their living conditions and achieve sustainable development, while grooming the younger generation to keep up with the dynamics of creativity and innovation.

However, it would have been impossible to achieve what has been accomplished so far, without the uncompromising efforts we have made to fight all manifestations of backwardness, exclusion and marginalization. But our conscience will not be at peace until God rewards our endeavours with resounding, unmitigated success. True are the words revealed in the Holy Book : “Verily Allah helpeth one who helpeth Him. Lo ! Allah is strong, Almighty ”.

The name I have chosen for the march designed to give shape to the comprehensive project I have initiated for a renovated, highly civilized society is: “Caravan for Human Development”. The process is moving forward and, – with the help of God – we are about to achieve the targets we have set and the ambitions we have nurtured.

As you are aware, any attempt to achieve human development is bound to be
incomplete, unbalanced, unproductive and even useless, unless it accommodates the dual dimension of the human being, by attending to his material as well as spiritual needs.

The untiring efforts we have expended, together with the mega projects we have initiated to improve the social and economic condition of the Moroccan citizen, can only be matched by our endeavours to enhance his spiritual, cultural and religious dimension through sweeping reforms covering all bodies and institutions dealing with religious affairs.

The most prominent of these is the “Ulema” institution whose Supreme Council I chair, and which now has local branches in each province and prefecture of our Sherifian Kingdom. In fact, it has expanded its scope of action beyond the country’s boundaries, to reach out to our beloved community abroad, whom we have endowed with its own Ulema Council to attend to its religious affairs and to protect its doctrinal and national identity.

We are keeping track, with the utmost interest, of the results achieved by this extension, which is having a positive impact on the lives of our citizens there, as well as on their spiritual and doctrinal security. The Council seeks to shield their tenets, by refuting specious claims and casuistic arguments that are put forward, and by fending off the threats of extremism, radicalism and ostracism.

As part of the mandate entrusted upon me as Amir Al Muminine, I have been endeavouring to protect religious institutions. I have been monitoring the situation in these institutions, especially in mosques and places of worship where believers go to pray and to search for enlightenment and guidance.

In this regard, I call on them to renew their discourse and improve their performance, as they must keep pace with the dynamics at play within the Moroccan society, and with the intellectual and cultural evolution underway, in addition to the need for them to adjust to the sweeping changes taking place in the world.

I have issued instructions to improve the material, moral and social condition of those in charge of these institutions. I want them and their families to be provided with the means to lead a decent life. They must be offered refresher courses in jurisprudence and academic fields.

In this connection, I have, in coordination with the minister for Waqf and Islamic Affairs, entrusted the Supreme Council of Ulema, with a mandate to supervise the retraining of « Al A – imma » (prayer leaders). It shall see to it that the academic background of «Al A – imma » as well as their performance in the fields of education and counselling are upgraded and brought in line with their status as models who advise people about religious matters, social conduct and pious behaviour. This mission lies with the Council, according to the spirit and the letter of the Ulema’s charter whose adoption I announced in the speech I delivered in Tetuan on the occasion of the holy “ Night of Al-Qadr” (Night of Destiny) last  Ramadan.

I am confident this programme, under which “Al A – imma” are expected to be trained and supervised by our best Ulema – men and women  alike -  will have a profound impact, and will be highly productive in redefining  the mission assigned to the mosque and in upgrading the role it should play in providing education and enlightenment.

Ladies,

In the midst of the sweeping reforms undertaken in the religious field, I am particularly keen to see women play a major role, as they can enrich the programme with a wide range of services they can offer, especially in upgrading family life, improving women’s environment, counselling young girls and instilling in them a sense of patriotism and pride about the nation’s longstanding, sacred values, along with a strong commitment to Islam’s tolerant ideals and immutable tenets.

We have thus taken steps to make sure women scholars join and interact with learned male counterparts and Ulema. We have made the Supreme Council of Ulema, as well as the local councils, accessible to them, as full-fledged members of the Ulema’s institution.

In addition, we have given them an opportunity to join their brothers, the Ulema, and participate with them in the Ramadan Hassanian Lectures. They have thus been able to display their academic competence, proving that they did not fare less convincingly than their brothers, the Ulema. Their performance has been most gratifying to us, and has confirmed our good opinion of them.

We have been focusing on women’s issues and rights, seeing to it that women get the place they deserve within the family and securing recognition for their pivotal role in society, thus complying with the very essence and tenets of our tolerant religion Islam was the first religion to address women’s issues, enhancing their status and ridding them of various shackles. Islam helped women recover their position in society.

Their parity with men was embedded by the Almighty in the holy Koran, wherein a verse says : “And they (women) have rights similar to those (of men) over them in kindness”. Along the same lines, my ancestor, the Prophet – peace and blessings be upon Him – said : “Women are full sisters of men”.

We have endeavoured to uphold the rights of citizens and to make justice and equity prevail, trying, in our liberating, emancipating policies, to seek guidance from the good examples set by my grand-father, the late virtuous Imam and Reformer, Mohammed V, together with his successor, my revered father, His Majesty King Hassan II – blessed be their souls.

They had both come to realize that the Umma could not get over its handicap and recover its freedom and dignity, unless its members, men and women alike, availed themselves of science and knowledge, and unless Moroccans were freed from the shackles of ignorance and illiteracy.

This is why they were both keen to dismantle the fictitious barriers that had been erected by sterile traditions and customs, impeding women’s access to school and education. Eventually, the two late Monarchs reopened the gates of learning and enabled women to acquire knowledge in the various fields of science, jurisprudence and the arts, and to make a significant contribution in all areas.

Thus brilliant women ulema, majoring in Islamic legal studies, graduated from Al – Qaraouine University. Thanks to their endeavours and perseverance they were awarded the highest university degrees, including the “Alimiya Diploma” which was granted only to those who displayed complete mastery and outstanding skills in Islamic law studies.

Honourable Ulema, Preachers and Supervisors

We expect this important forum, which enjoys our endorsement and support, to come up with a new image of “women Fiqh scholars”, who combine the old and the new, and make the past and the present converge. We look forward to the contribution these enlightened scholars will make towards achieving comprehensive spiritual security and fostering a balanced Islamic revival. They will ensure this process is always in line with the Malekite Sunni Rite, and remains within the boundaries of the “Imama Al Udh’ma”, which is based on mutual allegiance and on the firmly established pact between the Guardian and the subjects.

Consequently, you are called upon to participate effectively in the fight against backwardness and exclusion. You must take an active part in enlightening hearts and minds, freeing them of deficient thinking and flawed creed, and shielding them from the propensity to indulge in extremism and ostracism.

It is, therefore, incumbent upon you, as ulema and supervisors, to make every effort to strengthen the faith of believers. You should try to become an effective force, going from place to place, mending what should be mended and rekindling religious and patriotic fervour. While performing your mission, you must always display strong attachment to the immutable values and identity of the nation, as well as a deep commitment to its specific doctrinal characteristics.

May God guide your steps. I wish you every success in your debates so that you may conclude your meeting with the adoption of plans and programmes for women’s religious guidance and supervision. I am confident these projects will be up to our expectations. They will hopefully encourage more and more Moroccan women to take interest in, and seek guidance from the wisdom and the virtues of religion.

“ I desire naught save reform so far as I am able. My welfare is only in Allah. In Him I trust and unto Him I turn (repentant). True are the words of God.

Wassalamu alaikum wa rahmatullahi wa barakatuh.

As Grieboski, points out: “There are some wonderful quotes and bold statements, particularly the middle section which address women’s issues and “dismantling the fictitious barriers” to their equality as well as the basis for equal protection in Islam.”

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Anthony Clark Arend is Professor of Government and Foreign Service at Georgetown University and the Director of the Master of Science in Foreign Service in the Walsh School of Foreign Service.

Commentary and analysis at the intersection of international law and politics.