Taliban ban on universities for women contradicts Sharia: Al-Azhar imam

Grand Imam of Al-Azhar Ahmed El-Tayeb said on Thursday that he deeply regrets the Taliban’s decision to ban women from universities in Afghanistan, adding that the decision contradicts Islamic Sharia.

In a statement, Tayeb said the ban imposed by the Taliban on women’s university studies contradicts with the Islamic Sharia’s call for men and women to seek education “from cradle to grave”.

Tayeb highlighted more than 2,000 quotes by Prophet Mohammad in this regard and the many pioneering Muslim women in the fields of science, education, and politics.

“This shocking decision to the consciences of Muslims and non-Muslims should not have been issued by any Muslim,” the grand imam said.

He said that he is warning “Muslim and non-Muslims against believing or accepting the allegation that it is banning women’s education is approved in Islam.”

“Indeed, Islamic firmly denounces such banning since it contradicts the legal rights that Islam equally guarantees for women and men.”

The Grand Imam of Al-Azhar called on the authorities in Afghanistan to reconsider their decision for “the truth is more deserving of being followed.”

Tayeb called on the Taliban to review the decision, reminding them of the Day of Resurrection, when money, prestige, and politics would not help.

Earlier this week, the Taliban announced banning women from universities in Afghanistan, triggering global condemnation and disappointment.

Taliban’s minister of higher education Neda Mohammad Nadeem said on Thursday that the ban came as women have not abided by the dress code and as some school subjects were not suitable for them.

Among the Islamic countries that have called for the decision to be overturned are Saudi Arabia, Qatar, the UAE, Turkey, Pakistan and Indonesia.

Pakistan’s Foreign Office spokesperson Mumtaz Zahra Baloch said Islamabad strongly believes “that every man and woman has the inherent right to education in accordance with the injunctions of Islam. We strongly urge the Afghan authorities to revisit this decision.”

Turkey’s Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu said on Thursday at a press conference that “the Taliban’s decision to ban women from universities in Afghanistan has no basis in Islam.”

He said: “Their decision is a source of serious concern,” and that “this ban is neither Islamic nor humanistic. Islam encourages education.”

Saudi Arabia, which until 2019 enforced sweeping restrictions on women’s travel, employment and other crucial aspects of their daily life including driving, also urged the Taliban to change course.

The Saudi foreign ministry expressed “astonishment and regret” at Afghan women being denied a university education and said in a statement the decision was “astonishing in all Islamic countries.”

The UAE Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Co-operation meanwhile said the decision jeopardized international efforts to engage with the Taliban in the interest of the Afghan people.

“The UAE reaffirms that this decision, as well as the earlier bans on girls from accessing secondary education, violate fundamental human rights, contravene the teachings of Islam, and must be swiftly reversed,” said the ministry in a statement.

Lana Nusseibeh, Assistant Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation and UAE Permanent Representative to the UN, said: “The decision is the latest example of the restrictions imposed on Afghan women and girls since August 2021 aimed at their erasure from public life.”

Indonesia, which has the largest Muslim population of any country in the world, said in a series of tweets on Thursday that it “is deeply concerned and disappointed with the decision of Taliban to suspend access to university education for women in Afghanistan”.

The ministry of foreign affairs said: “Education is a fundamental right for all men and women. Indonesia continues to urge Taliban to provide undisrupted access to education for women.

“Indonesia strongly believes that women’s participation in all aspects of society is crucial to the attainment of a peaceful, stable, and prosperous Afghanistan,” their statement read.