WHENEVER we talk about the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, we do so with the conviction that the pride of this great country is our pride, whatever harms it harms us too, and whatever benefits it benefits us as well. For that reason, we refer to your words, “Blessed is who shows me my faults”.
Here we are not talking about your faults (as a country), May Allah forbid, but about the flaws in the laws and systems that need to be in par with the development movement that is currently witnessed in Saudi Arabia, and its bid to eliminate the norms that represented a burden for the society for decades.
Everyone in the Gulf region have been following the trips of the Saudi Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman around the world, through which he is presenting to the world a discreet image of the future of Saudi Arabia. This has been happening through press conferences and interviews with major establishments, especially in the United States of America, which is the decision-maker on all levels.
Transforming the perspective of the Western countries about Saudi Arabia and its people has been one of the achievements of Saudi Arabia. It has managed to destroy the image created by those who are benefiting from offending Saudi Arabia.
This major step has not only changed the way Saudi Arabia is perceived but it also restructured the relations between it and the world.
At the same time, it presented an image of the people of this region in their natural form without any claims of backwardness and terrorism that for years had benefitted some through their portrayal of us as a nation that lives outside history and in caves of darkness and ignorance.
Also, there is no one in the region who can deny the progress achieved in the last few years, especially on the social level. This progress is considered as a major advancement, due to which whenever you meet any Saudi national, you feel he expels a huge sigh of relief after preventing morality spies from pursuing any signs of joy and interfering in the lives of people under the pretext of being their moral guardians.
King Salman bin Abdulaziz, what we are witnessing today is the real image of Saudi Arabia. However, there are some imperfections and stressors that continue to prevail, most importantly, the blood trade which unfortunately has its market and brokers. This trade has become the source of animosity and hatred among the members of the same society. It has also become a source of altercation between tribes, which contradicts tradition, laws and the Islamic way of life.
In every country worldwide, there are laws that cannot be overlooked in terms of legal payback for murder. Even when it comes to blood money, there are certain principles and limits, but the norms set in place by unregimented practices in this aspect have started imposing a real burden on many families that lack the wealth for paying blood money which can reach as high as twenty, thirty or forty million Saudi riyals.
Perhaps, the incident that led to death involved an element of mistake or was unintentional. Such kind of incidents is subjected to certain fixed norms and punishments, and also involves blood money. I have been noticing that this sensitive issue has started becoming a trade. Unfortunately, no one can curb this unfortunate transformation except the King who has the sole right for legislating and amending in Saudi Arabia.
Bringing an end to this transformation means to bring an end to all things that tarnish the image of Saudi Arabia for the world, since it appears as though it is indirectly condoning murder, because there are laws as well as the judiciary that a person who kills-irrespective of the cause-is subjected to. After the issue follows proper channels, either the murderer is pardoned by the victim’s next of kin, which is what Prophet Mohammad (PBUH) encouraged, and the murderer does not have to pay any compensation, or a reasonable blood money is paid followed by his pardon, or he is sentenced to death. However, this issue has been transforming to take the form of bidding which, without any doubt, is mudding the image of Saudi Arabia.
There are a variety of judgments pertaining to crimes related to the murder of a human being, which exclusively depends on the nature of the crime. It is not rational to equate manslaughter in a traffic accident with a murder committed during burglary or malicious assault, which deserves capital punishment or rather legal retribution as deterrent.
However, when it comes to blood money, the issue lately has reached a point where it has become a source of pride within tribes, as its members have guaranteed the payment irrespective of the amount, even if it reaches hundred or two hundred million Saudi riyals.
The current norm pertaining to blood money has rendered it to appear as though it is a trade with blood which contradicts ancient Arab traditions and the teachings of Islam. There is another issue that continues to be an obstacle for investors and businesspersons, which is sending a defaulter who is more than 60 years of age to prison.
There are procedures that are followed in every country around the world concerning this issue, but it does not reach a point of incarcerating someone who is above 60 years of age. What would someone of that age do when he is jailed? In fact, there are countries that prohibit imprisonment of such people except under very limited circumstances.
Hence, amending the system in this regard and reviewing the Penal Code to make it in par with reality like in advanced countries will eliminate major obstacles in the commercial and investment world. It will also eliminate the awkwardness in Saudi Arabia, which has grabbed the world’s attention.
Undoubtedly, completion of the steps for achieving renaissance and freeing Saudi Arabia from what had prevailed in the past decades is a source of pride for not only Saudi nationals but also every Gulf national.
Therefore, we wish well for that nation so that it becomes the kind that the entire Gulf dreams it should be, and the way the Saudi nationals desire it to be. Finally, the policy of legislation is the right of the guardian (the King). It was once said, “Leaders can stop transgression more than a divine text”.
By Ahmed Al-Jarallah
Editor-in-Chief, the Arab Times