Tuesday, December 30, 2003

Combating Rising Crime

Society is to blame

Combating Rising Crime
Abid Khazindar • Okaz —

A report from the Saudi Arabian Monetary Agency (SAMA) says that the crime rate among unemployed Saudis has risen by 320 percent in a six-year period from 1990 to 1996. The report expects the rate to increase a further 136 percent by the year 2005. Once again, unemployment remains the main reason behind so large a figure.

My own estimate is that unemployment among Saudis of both sexes is something like 30 percent. By adding the large number of unemployed foreign workers in the Kingdom, who may number half a million according to one report, we find ourselves dealing with a colossal figure concerning the number of crimes being committed in the country.

According to one newspaper report, the number of murders dealt with by courts in 1999 was 616. That same year, 38 deaths sentences were carried out. This year — 2003 — the number of executions has been 50. Car theft remains the most common type of crime in the country, with many cases reported in parking lots where large numbers of vehicles are left at a time.

The solution to rising crime rates should not be confined to punitive and deterrent measures. Solving the unemployment problem represents the first step in any such attempt and this calls for a national program to train and qualify Saudi youth. Leading national companies and banks should contribute to this program, especially banks which have annual profits of some SR12 billion.

Practical steps are also needed to accelerate implementation of the anti-poverty strategy, for which SR100 has been allocated. We also have to handle the collection and distribution of zakah — alms — properly. With Saudi wealth estimated at SR900 billion, this would effectively eliminate poverty in the country.

As for the unemployed among expatriates, plans should be made to send them back to their home countries. Any foreign worker who wishes to renew his or her iqama — residence permit — must produce a certificate showing they are employed and have actual rather than fictional jobs. I feel sure that the Saudi security forces, who have proven they are capable of fighting terrorism, will be able to fight crime with the help of the local population.

Boy Arrested for Entering School Disguised as Girl


Boy Arrested for Entering School Disguised as Girl
Javid Hassan, Arab News Staff —

RIYADH, 30 December 2003 — Riyadh’s expatriate community is abuzz with the story of a cack-handed attempt by two youngsters to beat the Kingdom’s strict gender segregation rules.

An ostensibly married couple visited the International Indian School (Girls Section) and asked to see a girl said to be studying in the 11th grade. But security guards became suspicious because the “husband” seemed very young and the veiled “wife” appeared too masculine in her movements.

When challenged, the husband ran away, leaving the wife to be unmasked as a Pakistani boy, who had been hoping for a rendezvous with the girl.

According to an eyewitness, six policemen interviewed the boy for an hour before taking him away in their car. The boy argued it had all been a joke.

The spectacle was watched by a large gathering of students.

Niaz Ahmad Khan, the IISR chairman, told Arab News thanks to the attentive security guard, there was no harm done. In an earlier incident, an IISR student’s bid to enter the girls’ section was also foiled by the watchman’s timely intervention.

Khan nonetheless outlined plans to strengthen security, including deployment of patrol police outside the school.

Monday, December 29, 2003

Smart Infiltrators Use Donkeys to Cross Border Undetected

Smart Donkeys
Smart Infiltrators Use Donkeys to Cross Border Undetected
Mahmoud Ahmad, Arab News Staff —

JIZAN, 29 December 2003 — Infiltrators along the long mountainous border with Yemen are using ingenuous methods to escape the attention of Saudi border guards. Their genius lies in the creative use to which they put a time-honored technology — donkeys.

According to a report in Al-Madinah Arabic daily, donkeys are trained to carry infiltrators along narrow mountain trails through the rugged terrain, well away from the main roads. The animals become expert at crossing and recrossing the border on their own, the paper said.

So popular have the animals become that donkey stations on the Yemeni side, run by smuggling rings, are turning a brisk profit.

“Crossing the border is very dangerous,” said a Yemeni who crossed the border on a donkey. “You use rugged tracks in the mountains at night. The people who helped me had years of experience smuggling people across, otherwise I wouldn’t have made it through.”

Zaid rented a donkey that appeared to know its own way. “Once you’ve crossed the border you let them go and they find their way back.”

Muhammad Ibrahim works in the Kingdom as an electrician. He came here on a donkey. “It’s very difficult to sneak across the border now — there is so much security. These smart donkeys are the only way,” he said. “We pay SR200 on the Yemeni side, and we cross at night.

“Then someone welcomes us on the Saudi side, and most of the time there is someone who wants to go into Yemen waiting there,” he added.

Tuesday, December 23, 2003

Kingdom to Embark on Major Privatization Program (Part 2)

Saudi Future

Kingdom to Embark on Major Privatization Program (Part 2)
Arab News —

Saudi Arabia, which hold the world’s largest proven crude oil reserves and is going through political and economic reforms, enjoys a strong trade surplus largely due to its oil exports. Buoyed by improving macroeconomic parameters, the Saudi Market TASI index has outperformed most other global indices. The Kingdom has been recording a current account surplus since 1999. The monetary policy regulated by the Saudi Arabian Monetary Agency (SAMA) has been yielding fruitful results. The Kingdom has also witnessed price stability over the last several years, as inflation is well under control. These are among the highlights of the Kuwait-based Global Investment House’s (GIH) second report on the Economic & Strategic Outlook of the Kingdom, which Arab News has been serializing from Monday. The report’s second part appears today and the concluding part will be published tomorrow.

Government Debt

In order to contain the government debt which is currently estimated to be around SR650 billion, the government will have to focus on enhancing its revenue base and speed up the privatization process whose proceeds can be used to retire debt. The Seventh Five-Year Plan focuses on the need to increase non-oil revenues, eliminate budget deficit and reduce government debt. The government is exploring various options such as imposing income tax and introduction of Value Added Tax, which would broaden the revenue base and improve government revenues in the medium to long term.

Current Account

Saudi Arabia enjoys a strong trade surplus largely due to its large oil exports. Exports of oil and refined products amounted to around $63.3 billion in 2002 out of the total exports, which stood at $71.7 billion during the year. The total imports of the country stood at $29.6 billion in 2002, resulting in a merchandise trade surplus of $42.1 billion for the year. In 2002, the current account surplus stood at $11.7 billion. The Kingdom has recorded a current account surplus since 1999.

Total exports are expected to be much higher in 2003 on account of higher prices and export volumes of crude oil. We expect the Kingdom to record strong trade surplus as well as current account surplus in 2003 due to higher exports of oil. However, trade surplus and consequently current account surplus is expected to decline in 2004 as oil prices are forecasted to ease next year.

Saudi Arabia is the 19th largest exporter and the 20th largest importer in the world. The United States is the top trading partner of Saudi Arabia. The top four importers from Saudi Arabia in 2002 by value were the United States, Japan, South Korea and Singapore, who among them accounted for about half of the Kingdom’s total exports. The United States, Japan, Germany and the UK were the main origin of imports.


The Saudi Arabian Monetary Agency regulates the monetary policy of the country. SAMA has maintained the long-held peg between the riyal and the dollar at SR3.75 to the dollar since 1986. The bank is expected to continue to maintain the exchange rate over the medium term despite the expected decline in oil revenues and the consequent current account deficit expected in 2004.

Interest rates in Saudi Arabia closely track the interest rates in the United States on account of the currency peg. SAMA is expected to continue adjusting its discount rate in line with the Fed rates. As a result, we don’t foresee any increase in interest rates in the short term since the US interest rates are expected to remain at current levels in the near future.

SAMA controls the money supply through traditional monetary instruments such as the Statutory Reserve Requirement, which is currently at 7 percent for demand deposits and 2 percent for savings and time deposits. With the emergence of the government securities market to finance budgetary deficits, SAMA uses instruments such as Repo facility on government development bonds, floating rate notes and treasury bills to meet its monetary policy objectives.


The Saudi economy has witnessed price stability over the last several years. Despite the steady growth in money supply over the years, inflation in Saudi Arabia has been well under control and the consumer price inflation has been negative over the last five years. Inflation (as measured by the consumer price index) in the last five years has been negative and has varied in the range of -1.6 percent to -0.4 percent. However, inflation is expected to pick up because of the weakening of the dollar and other factors such as the reduction in domestic subsidies. In 2002, apart from the housing segment most of the other segments saw a deflation in their prices. The biggest decline in the prices was in the transport and communications segment, which saw its price index decline by 1.8 percent.

The negative inflation trend has continued in the current year also with the consumer price index declining by 1.4 percent in the first six months of 2003.

Marginal Decline in Wholesale Price Index

The wholesale price index (WPI) of the Kingdom measures movement in the average price of 160 sample items of various commodities and services sold in the wholesale market. The general WPI registered a marginal decline of 0.1 percent every year from 116.3 in 2000 to 116.1 in 2002. In 2002, out of the 10 segments of WPI, five segments registered inflation in their prices while three segments saw a deflation in their prices.

Population and Labor Force

The Kingdom’s population has grown rapidly at a CAGR of 4.8 percent during 1998-2002 and the population as of mid 2002 stood at 23.36 million as per estimates by Euromonitor. About 40 percent of the population of the Kingdom is in the 0-14-year age group. The literacy rate as of the year 2000 stood at 76.2 percent. As per the official data for 1999, the total labor force of the Kingdom (excluding expatriate workers) stood at 2.82 million, of whom 2.6 million were employed.

The overall unemployment rate among Saudi nationals was 8.1 percent of the labor force, with the unemployment rate for Saudi males at 6.8 percent and for Saudi females at 15.8 percent. The total population of expats was 5.02 million in 1999, of whom 3.02 million were employed.

The Kingdom’s labor force is growing faster than the growth in available jobs and hence the unemployment rate is expected to increase over the next few years.

(To be continued)

Absenteeism, Late Arrival Rampant in Govt Offices

Working Working!
Absenteeism, Late Arrival Rampant in Govt Offices
P.K. Abdul Ghafour, Arab News Staff —

JEDDAH, 23 December 2003 — Sixty-nine percent of civil servants in the Kingdom stay away from work without a good reason while 54 percent come to work late, according to a recent study by the Institute of Public Administration.

Among the study’s more striking revelations was that the heads of departments rarely check if their staff keep their working hours, Al-Madinah Arabic daily reported yesterday.

Of those who came to work late, 39.4 percent were 15 minutes late, 24.1 percent 30 minutes, 17.8 percent just under an hour and 18.7 percent for more than an hour, the study said.

Employees with master’s and doctoral degrees arrived at work as much as three hours late, said the study based on interviews with 2,365 civil servants.

The study, which covered 181 government departments in different regions, revealed 42 percent of those with secondary school certificates or below went to work late.

Forty-seven percent of participants said their superiors never checked them while 18.4 percent said supervisors made only one or two rounds a month.

Among the government employees, schoolteachers were the most committed to their working hours, the study said, adding that health officials were particularly prone to leaving early.

Officials in the Hail region topped the list of absentees, the study said, while those in the Riyadh region were most often late. Civil servants in the Northern Region were most likely not to turn up at all.

Respondents agreed that tough measures were needed to discipline negligent officials. They said the Supervision and Investigation Authority was not doing enough to prevent civil servants from neglecting their duties.

The study showed that 69.1 percent missed one day of work a month, 21.8 percent two days, and 9.1 percent three days or more.

Philippine Embassy Faces Flak Over Hunger Strikers

Philippine Embassy Faces Flak Over Hunger Strikers
M. Ghazanfar Ali Khan, Arab News Staff —

RIYADH, 23 December 2003 — Criticism of the Philippine Embassy here is mounting over its handling of 16 Filipino hunger strikers who were handed over to police Sunday night. The 16 say they have received death threats for speaking out against the Philippine chancery, while an organization looking after Filipinos abroad wants embassy officials recalled.

The workers, who were shackled and escorted to a hospital by police and later released, say the threats come from goons allegedly hired by embassy officials.

Speaking on behalf of the workers, Domingo D. Yalung said: “We are hiding in different places because of the threats.”

The embassy denies any wrongdoing.

“We are here to serve the Filipino workers, not to harass them or issue warnings or threats,” said Mariano A. Dumia, minister at the Philippine Embassy.

But the Saudi Arabian chapter of Migrante, an organization that looks after the interests of overseas Filipino workers (OFWs), says embassy officials including Dumia are unfit for their job.

“The Philippine diplomatic post is no longer a sanctuary for Filipinos, and the officials of the Philippine Embassy should be recalled from their posts because of the shameless way the hunger strike of the stranded OFWs was effectively terminated,” said A. Mangampo-Ociones, the chairman of the chapter.

Migrante says embassy officials failed to set up an effective mechanism to defend the rights of OFWs.

Yalung said: “The embassy has been harassing us more than helping us. We have been placed in a dangerous situation. All the OFWs are in a state of trauma after last night’s incident.”

The workers yesterday repeated their demand for immediate repatriation. They ran away from their employers for reasons including maltreatment and non-payment of wages, they say. But Dumia earlier told Arab News the employers of some of the 16 charged them with crimes including theft.

Following Sunday night’s arrest on the embassy premises, the hunger strikers were taken to a hospital but no medical examination took place because the men were unable to pay for it, Mangampo-Ociones said.

The men signed a document at the police station agreeing their problem was between them and their employers and undertaking not to “disturb” the Philippine Embassy again, according to the Migrante statement.

Police promised to call the employers of the hunger strikers to check if they would allow them to be repatriated.

Migrante says their only option now is to go through the Immigration Center, which will involve arrest, several days of detention and deportation.

The embassy says it is unable to provide shelter for the hunger strikers until their case is decided. “We don’t have such a facility for our male workers,” Dumia said.

There are some 850,000 OFWs in Saudi Arabia. The embassy handles more than 30,000 requests a year for assistance from OFWs.

Wednesday, December 17, 2003

Arab News

Working working and not getting paid

The Plight of the Working Women
Jameela Al-Asiri • Al-Watan —

We continue to see reports of women being divorced because of disputes with their husbands over bank loans — and the money always ends up in the husband’s pocket. The sad part of the story is that the woman suffers twice at the hands of husband. After obtaining the bank loan in her name, the husband takes the money using various justifications, including starting a business to support the family. And should the wife object, she gets nothing but a piece of paper saying that she has been divorced.

Figures show that 80 percent of bank loans taken by women go directly to their husbands; in other words, a large group of working women in this country are victims of abusive husbands determined to exploit their wives financially for their own profit.

There are husbands who consider the money their wives earn to be their own. Some even demand that the woman turn her money over to them the same day she receives her check. Others believe that as protectors and maintainers of women, they have the right to take women’s money without their consent.

Some working women of course support themselves, their children and even other family members. This effectively negates the husband’s standing as sustainer and protector; in fact, in this situation, husbands have failed to fulfill their responsibilities and obligations to their families.

I wonder why many husbands fail to realize that a working woman has every right to keep the money she earns and why the husbands tend to overlook that the responsibility to sustain the family lies wholly with them.

Husbands who pressure their wives into getting a bank loan and force them to hand over the money they earn from work and then use this money for their own benefit are committing gross violations of these women’s rights.

Some husbands go even further and take a second wife using the money they have illegally taken from the first wife. We hear of cases of women who stand by their husbands and help them establish a business, sharing the good times and bad, and in the end all they get is a divorce. There are even husbands who refuse to work and live on their wives’ salaries.

I remember the outstanding example of the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) who managed the wealth and business of his wife, Khadija, without taking anything at all from it.

Arab News


Passing a Graveyard
Edited by Adil Salahi —

Q. What is recommended to be said or recited when passing by a graveyard, particularly if it is a graveyard of non-Muslims?

Z. Khader

A. The Prophet, peace be upon him, recommended us to visit graveyards because such a visit reminds us of the hereafter. It certainly reminds us of our situation after death and how every human being ends up in a dark hole, leaving behind power, wealth, friends, offspring and family. This reminder is generated by any graveyard, whether used for the dead of the Muslim community or non-Muslims. When we visit a Muslim graveyard, we should greet its dwellers with the normal greeting of peace, saying: “Assalamu alaikum to the dwelling place of people who were believers. You went ahead and we will be following you.” We pray for the forgiveness of the dead and that God may bestow His grace and mercy on them. If the graveyard is used for non-Muslims, we should show true respect. Once a funeral passed by the Prophet when he was seated. He stood up in respect. He was told by someone that the dead person was a Jew. The Prophet said: “Is it not the funeral of a human being?” However, we are not allowed to pray for the forgiveness of unbelievers. The Prophet said that he sought God’s permission to pray for forgiveness of his own mother but God did not give him that permission. However, we know that God is merciful to all His creation and we believe that He will not be unjust to anyone either in this life or in the life to come. He says in the Qur’an: “Your Lord does not deal unjustly with anyone.” (18: 49) Therefore, we say and recite anything that reminds us of death and the hereafter, praying God for mercy to all.

Arab News

Smoking smoking
They can't drive but they can smoke themselves to death - logical.

Growing Number of Women Take Up Smoking
M. Ghazanfar Ali Khan & Ben Dyal —

RIYADH, 17 December 2003 — An increasing number of Saudi women have begun to smoke. More than 15 billion cigarettes are sold annually in the Kingdom. Tests show that many women find it harder to give up smoking than men; women are also more likely to experience different kinds of cardiovascular complications, heart attacks, breast cancers and miscarriages because of smoking and obesity.

Dr. Muhammad Ali Habbab, head of the Department of Adult Cardiology at Prince Sultan Cardiac Center (PSCC), said: “We must educate people in this country about the dangers of smoking.”

He pointed out that PSCC had organized a campaign last year during which a number of lectures dealing with the harmful effects of smoking were given in Saudi schools all over the Kingdom. Despite the campaign and increased awareness of the dangers of smoking, the Kingdom still imports more than SR650 million worth of tobacco every year; some 60 brands of cigarettes are currently on sale in the country

Tuesday, December 09, 2003

3 Women Among 36 Sentenced for Al-Olaya Protests

3 Women Among 36 Sentenced for Al-Olaya Protests
Staff Writer —

JEDDAH, 9 December 2003 — A Riyadh court has sentenced 36 citizens including three women to 55 days in prison for demonstrating in Riyadh two months ago, Al-Watan Arabic newspaper reported yesterday.

“A summary court on Sunday sentenced 36 Saudi men and women to 55 days in prison for taking part in a gathering in the Al-Olaya area two months ago,” the paper said.

“The judge ordered the group to be released for time already served after it was confirmed that they had fallen prey to a dubious party calling itself the Movement for Islamic Reform,” said the paper.

Al-Watan predicted the jailed demonstrators would be released within a few days. “They have sent a cable to the interior minister condemning the Al-Muhaya bombing and other terrorist attacks in the Kingdom,” it added.

The group held a protest rally on Oct. 14 in response to calls from an exiled dissident group.

Interior Minister Prince Naif had warned anyone staging demonstrations in violation of the law would be punished.

“The country’s laws categorically ban gatherings for the purpose of demonstrations and protests. Those who participate in such gatherings will be punished,” a high-level source said.

Officials said police arrested some 271 individuals after the demonstration in Riyadh for interrogation.

Prince Naif confirmed the arrests. “We have arrested these people for investigation and the law will be applied to them,” Prince Naif told Asharq Al-Awsat, a sister publication of Arab News.

He said the protesters, who gathered on the King Fahd Expressway in Riyadh’s Al-Olaya district, were holding placards with names including Ghida Al-Sharif.

They stood in the middle of the road, obstructing traffic. Security forces then intervened to break up the gathering and arrested the demonstrators.

Saturday, December 06, 2003

�Volleybrawl� Mars Ranao Mini Olympics in Jeddah

Filipino Volleyball Hooligans!

‘Volleybrawl’ Mars Ranao Mini Olympics in Jeddah
Francis R. Salud, Special to Arab News —

JEDDAH, 29 November 2003 — Five Filipinos participating in a volleyball game were injured in a brawl that disrupted the 6th Ranao Mini Olympics at the bustling open beach of Obhur, Jeddah, on Wednesday.

Organizers of the games said Nasser Barambangan of the Saguiaran International team was badly injured in the brawl. Four others sustained minor cuts, wounds and bruises.

All were given immediate first aid treatment by attending nurse Anisah Mapandi.

Arab News learned that the melee erupted following a controversial referee’s decision during a hotly contested championship game between the Ewaton and Saguiaran teams.

The Saguiaran team complained of the referee’s “net ball” decision giving a score to the Ewaton team, which was leading by two points.

After an apparent exchange of unsavory remarks from some players and supporters, a free-for-all erupted. Even supporters were seen fighting indiscriminately, to the dismay of more than 500 people who came to watch the game.

Among the spectators were Rep. Benasing Macarambon Jr. of the 2nd district of Lanao del Sur province in the southern Philippines, and Mayor Omar Macabalang of Marawi City.

From spectator, Macarambon found himself playing the role of a mediator in stormy negotiations that took about two hours to resolve.

In the end, members of the warring teams were seen shaking hands and hugging each other as if nothing happened.

It turned out that the Ewaton and Saguiaran members are related to each other and were also closely related to the congressman.

Both teams were declared winners in the volleyball category, with organizers saying both had shown “exemplary performance” as shown by their tight scores throughout the game.

Missing Prayers Through Sleep

Good stuff on Islamic Philosophy - Especially about angels pre-recording our deeds

Missing Prayers Through Sleep
Edited by Adil Salahi —

Q. I was confused when I read in your column that prayers may not be offered after their time has passed in what is known as qadaa. Whenever I miss Fajr prayer through sleep, I offer it as soon as I wake up. Is this not the right procedure to do?

M. Asghar

A. Yes, it is the right thing to do, but this is not qadaa; it is praying on time. The Prophet says: “Whoever misses a prayer through sleep or forgetfulness should offer it when he is conscious of it, as this is its time.” You see, here we have an exception, because sleeping through the time range of a prayer, and being unconscious, are legitimate reasons for missing a prayer. God has given us the concession that the time for such a prayer is extended until we wake up, get ready and offer that prayer. There should be no delay or time wasting when this happens. Offering that particular prayer should be treated as a priority, and it must be done as soon as possible. Of course one must prepare oneself for the prayer properly, doing the ablution first. It is when one misses a prayer for no valid reason that one cannot offer it again. Its time would have passed and it is no longer valid. Some people are lax about prayer, and they miss their prayers for all sorts of things, saying that they will be offering them later, as qadaa. It is to such an attitude that I referred when I stated that there is no such a thing as qadaa.

Nagging Mistakes

Q. Sometimes after having committed a mistake that upsets a relative or a friend we recognize that we are to blame for the wrong that had taken place. However, despite our apology and the other person’s acceptance of our apology and assurances that the matter is over, we still experience a sense of guilt. How best to remove this sense that could sometimes be very troublesome?

M. I. Qadeer

A. The best thing to do in these cases is to try to rectify the mistake by doing a good turn for the person affected by it. If it has resulted in a material effect, then a gift of similar or better value could go a long way toward removing all lingering doubts. If it is a mental or abstract negative effect, then you may do something that assures the other person that he is dear to you and that you really care for what serves his interests. This could be by providing advice, or a gesture of esteem, or anything that suggests that you bear him nothing but good. The Prophet says: “Follow a bad deed by a good one, so that the latter would erase it.”

Timing of Death and Destiny

Q. Is it true that people who die at any time between Asr on Thursday and Maghrib on Friday are spared the torment in the grave? What does this time signify?

A. Ahmad

A. In as much as a death time, this period has no significance whatsoever. It is not true that those who die within this time range are spared anything. Those who receive torment in the grave are not punished because of the time at which they died, nor does the time of their deaths signify anything for the ones exempted from such torment. What determines punishment after death is a person’s deeds. And what determines reward is again one’s deeds, in addition to God’s grace.

Prize Bonds

Q. In my home country, banks offer prize bonds for savers, where a draw is made every 2-3 months, and prizes are given. Is this permissible in Islam?

M. Akram

A. You have not given me enough information about the scheme to enable me to formulate an idea of its working. Therefore, I cannot tell you whether this scheme is acceptable or not from the Islamic point of view. You need to supply me with full information before I can give you an answer. However, suppose that the bonds that are entered in the draw for prizes lose their value, then the scheme would be a sort of lottery, which is not permissible in Islam. On the other hand, if the prizes are purely voluntary and involve no cost for the investor, the prizes scheme becomes permissible. However, we still need to look at the details before we give a full verdict.

Pre-Recording Our Deeds

Q. According to an authentic Hadith, an angel writes a human being’s age, action, and happiness or otherwise when that human being is still an embryo in the womb. What is written is final. So, why does God punish those who do wrong deeds when they cannot avert them?

A. Ashhar

A. We discussed this question many times in Arab News in the past. The Hadith relates to God’s knowledge, not to man’s will. God certainly knows everything that takes place in the universe long before it happens. What we have to understand is that God’s knowledge is perfect and not subject to events. Nothing can be added to it as a result of an event of any type. To Him, the concept of time is different from ours, because our sense of time is based on the succession of day and night, as this succession makes us aware of passing days, weeks, months and years. To God, time is totally different. As you know, a day on another planet is different from our Earth days. The differences between planets in the same solar system are huge. But there are countless suns and solar systems, each has its own day with different durations between planets and solar systems.

This means that time differs from one place to another in the universe. To God, who is not limited by space, time has no effect. Hence, we say that He knows all things before they take place.

The Hadith to which you refer states: “The creation of each one of you is brought together in his mother’s belly for forty days in the form of seed, then he is a clot of blood for a like period, then a morsel of flesh for a like period, then an angel is sent to him who is commanded to write four matters: his means of livelihood, his life span, his actions and whether happy or unhappy...” (Related by Al-Bukahri and Muslim). There are several versions of this Hadith, with slight variations.

The Hadith does not say that a human being’s actions are predetermined and inevitable. It simply says that they are recorded, because God knows them in advance. But we must not forget that God has given us a free will and free choice. We feel this all the time. It is you who decide to take any action you are contemplating. You do not feel that there is a force driving you in a certain direction. Take the example of your writing to us. You heard this Hadith and it created some questions in your mind. You sat down at your computer and sent us your question by e-mail. You could have sent it by letter, or not bothered at all. It is all your choice. Similarly, the editor decided on how to answer, and his decision is made by his will, which is free and unencumbered. Hence, he is accountable to the editor in chief, and accountable to God for what he writes in answer.

Covering One’s Feet

Q. I have a friend who has some problems in her legs that makes it painful for her to walk if she is wearing socks. The problem is aggravated in hot weather. Is it obligatory for a Muslim woman to wear socks or stockings, even when the climate is very hot?

M. Cvejic

A. Islam does not require anyone to bear any hardship in meeting its obligations. When a person finds a requirement causing him or her undue difficulty, concession becomes applicable.

It is a rule of Islamic law that “when conditions are too tight, relaxation becomes due.” This means that if people find it too hard to attend to a particular duty in a certain way, relaxation of the rules is operated so as to give them a more comfortable way to attend to their duty.

I have repeatedly said in these columns that Islam does not prescribe a particular type of dress for men or women. It outlines certain requirements, and when these are met, any type of clothes that meets them is acceptable. Hence, you find Muslim women in different countries wear different types and styles, but they all meet the basic requirements.

This lady finds it painful to walk wearing socks. Hence, she must not wear them. Islam does not require anyone to wear socks or indeed any particular type of clothes. She can easily wear some long dress or pants to cover all her legs and still walk comfortably.

Any woman who is uncomfortable wearing socks, particularly in the summer in a very hot climate like ours, can do the same. This is done by most people in tropical countries.

Zakah Liability

Q. Could you please explain the zakah liability of a person who one year after earning enough to be a zakah payer paid out his zakah. After that, he used half of his savings to buy a piece of land to build a house for his residence. By the same time the following year he will have only about half the money he had on his zakah date, in addition to the land. What will his zakah liability be?

M. Sirajuddin

A. In order to make the question simpler, let us assume that the person concerned had in Ramadan of year 1 only enough to make him a zakah payer. This means that he had above what he needed for his living, an amount equal to the value of 85 grams of gold. Let us assume that this amount is about SR3,000. This is the threshold of zakah, which makes a person a zakah payer. In Ramadan of year 2, his savings amounted to SR20,000.

He pays zakah on all this amount at the rate of 2.5 percent. Now, two months later, he takes out something like SR12,000 to buy a plot of land where he intends to build a house for his family’s residence. He continues to save and in Ramadan of year 3, his savings amount to, say, SR10,000. He is above the threshold of zakah. So he pays his zakah on the amount of savings, i.e. SR10,000 only, because the land is intended for building house.

If we assume that he used the money for another purpose, he may still need to pay zakah for it. Suppose that he went into business partnership and paid this amount to buy merchandise. On his zakah date, he calculates the value of the goods he owns and includes it in his zakah.

Although in both cases the man did not have more than SR10,000 in cash, the difference is due to the nature of ownership in both cases. Commercial commodities are liable to zakah while a house is not. Had the land he bought been intended for re-sale at a profit, it would have counted as a commercial commodity and zakah should be paid on its value on the date his zakah becomes due.

AIDS Clinic Opened in Riyadh

AIDS Clinic Opened in Riyadh
Javid Hassan, Arab News Staff —

RIYADH, 2 December 2003 — Given a five-fold surge in reported AIDS cases in the Kingdom over the last 16 months, the Ministry of Health yesterday opened an AIDS clinic in the Riyadh Medical Complex as part of a program that has seen similar treatment centers in Jeddah and Dammam.

On the occasion of World AIDS Day, Dr. Nasser Al-Hozaim, assistant director general of parasitic and infectious diseases in the ministry, told Arab News almost 80 percent of patients are in the 15-49 age group.

Jeddah, which accounted for 41 percent of all AIDS cases, had the biggest share of infections in the Kingdom.

He said the ministry will launch an intensive education campaign through the media, targeting young people in particular. Several governmental organizations will participate in the campaign, including the Ministries of Information, Education and Labor as well as King Saud University. Health centers will hold seminars throughout the year, he said.

The Kingdom has seen a surge in AIDS cases from 1,509 in August last year to 6,787 cases at present, 1,509 of them Saudis. Some 600 Saudis have died of the disease.

Convicted Murderer Pardoned

Convicted Murderer Pardoned
Staff Writer —

JEDDAH, 6 December 2003 — A convicted Saudi murderer was spared execution after tribal leaders persuaded his victim’s father to accept SR5 million ($1.33 million) in return for his life.

Al-Watan newspaper said 22-year-old Saeed ibn Manie killed Abdullah ibn Jakhdab Salim after an argument at work last year.

Thousands of men from the convicted murderer’s tribe besieged the Salim family house in south Dhahran at dawn on Thursday to try to save him from his punishment.

After several hours of talks Abdullah’s father, overruling the wishes of his wife, agreed to spare the killer. He originally demanded SR10 million in blood money, along with 10 cars and 10 daggers, the paper said.

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