Guardians of the Gals: Wife-Tracking Apps Are a Menace, Right?

Sometimes the hypocrisy of the liberal secular West is just too much.

The Guardian:

Want to control where and when your wife can travel? There’s an app for that! Over the past week Apple and Google have been criticized for carrying a Saudi government app called Absher that lets men restrict the movements of women under their guardianship. Men can choose to get text alerts when their wife or a female relative goes through an airport, and can revoke the woman’s right to travel with a few easy clicks. Apple and Google have both said they will look into whether the app violates their policies and should be pulled from their app stores.

Some Muslims nowadays may cringe at this idea of an app that monitors the movement of one’s wife. I think there are a lot of important considerations here. There may be a variety of legitimate reasons to oppose this app, included at the end of this post. BUT the reasons given by the liberal secular commentariat are not legitimate at all:

Of course, Absher isn’t the real problem here. The problem is Saudi Arabia’s abhorrent male guardianship system under which women are treated as minors and need permission from a man to do everything from renting an apartment to accessing healthcare. However, digital tools like Absher make it easier for men to apply these repressive laws.

So this is what is really objectionable to the liberal secular mind: male guardianship. The problem is not the surveillance capabilities of the app. There is no problem with surveillance according to the secular mind. For years, plenty of apps available through Google and Apple have allowed users to track family members.

Furthermore, you can go to Amazon right now and search for “tracking devices” or “surveillance electronics” and see hundreds of products being sold by Amazon that can be used to monitor family members or others.

Big Brother But Never Big Husband

Simply reflect on the grotesque irony of Google and Apple having a problem with people tracking each other. Both companies have literally made a business out of tracking their users’ behaviors and datamining petabytes of information about those users everyday. And both these companies, as well as other telecommunication providers, social media networks, etc., share surveillance data with governmental agencies.

But many in Western media and politics defend and promote corporate and governmental surveillance. To them, there is not only nothing wrong with such surveillance, but it is a necessity for keeping people safe. Safety from terrorism is the primary governmental justification (or, at least, was the primary justification back when there was actually a public debate on these issues). The corporate justification is: we track you so we can better serve you what you like on your newsfeed and provide a more customized, personal experience for you, the beloved customer.

For most in the West, ubiquitous corporate and government surveillance is just an accepted part of life. When Edward Snowden revealed in 2013 the extent to which governmental agencies like the NSA datamine all our communications and online activities, the public outcry was relatively muted. And to this day, no significant policy change or legislation has gone into effect to curb the massive violation of privacy that has now become normalized and acceptable to the docile, obedient Western populace.

The question is: If the government and major corporations can track all of us, why can’t husbands track their wives? Why is it ok for governments and corporations to have that power but not the husband? Same question on the issue of mobility. If governments can regulate human mobility via passports, visas, travel restrictions, etc., why can’t husbands have that same authority?

Westerners are conditioned to accept that kind of power and authority only when it is wielded by the state. But the idea of a non-state actor, e.g., a father, husband, etc., wielding that kind of power is seen as completely unacceptable and even repugnant. I have discussed this dynamic before when it comes to moral enforcement generally. Westerners conditioned by liberal secular thought reflexively view power as only justified when in the hands of state institutions. The only pertinent debate in modern Western intellectual history is on what kind of state organization is most conducive to the “just” implementation of that power. Is it democratic representationalism? Is it communism? Is it democratic socialism? etc. Anything that departs from this very narrow conversation is barely conceivable according to liberal secular thinking.

Guardians of the Gals

That systematic blind spot aside, the other facet of the issue is the liberal secular problem with guardianship.

First of all, let’s be clear that this is not a “Saudi Arabia issue.” I have plenty of criticism for the Saudi regime, but their upholding of the concept of male guardianship is not something they are doing wrong (which doesn’t mean that their implementation of that concept is not sometimes deficient).

If you have a problem with male guardianship, you have a problem with Islam. There are no two ways about it. All Islamic scholars agree that married women, in general, must have the permission of their husbands to leave the marital home. This is based on Allah’s command to women in Surat al-Ahzab: 33 — “Stay in your homes and do not display yourselves like in the times of ignorance.” There is no Islamic scholar historically or faqih in the present day who has said that it is generally permissible for wives to leave the home if their husbands have explicitly forbidden them from doing so. (Notice the use of the word “general” in the above sentences, indicating that there are exceptions to the general rule that scholars recognize. For example, if a a husband is in one way or another violating his wife’s right to, say, maintenance, it is permissible for her to leave regardless of her husband’s will, etc.)

Wait, What?

If you are a Muslim reading this post, hopefully this basic right of the husband is not news to you. If you are married, you should already know what the rights and responsibilities of husband and wife are in Islam. If you are not married, you should prepare for marriage by studying these rights and responsibilities.

But I can understand that some Western Muslims may very well be ignorant of such things because their knowledge of Islam is based on popular YouTube videos, where those aspects of Islam that violate Western cultural norms are systematically brushed under the rug. This is unfortunate. It is unfortunate that the only “Islam” that they have been taught by some of these so-called “traditional” scholars and personalities is an abridged version that conveniently excludes anything that might lose them money, access, followers, etc.

So, male guardianship is part and parcel of Islamic marriage. If you want to protest male guardianship, fine. But know that you cannot do so on the basis of Islam. You can only do so on the basis of a rejection of Islam, e.g., “Islamic reform,” etc.

No Use Denying Facts: Women Want Guardians

But an important question that has to be explained is: Why guardianship? What is the wisdom of this marital and familial system prescribed by the Creator?

Many wisdoms could be discussed. The essential nature of men and women must be taken into account, first and foremost. Of course the postmodernists will scoff at the idea that men and women could have anything like an essential nature or that, if such a nature existed, we could ever know about it with certainty. But these are people who have deprived themselves of Divine Guidance. They are blind and want to insist the the whole world is blind with them.

In fact, men are created as guardians of their families. They are physically and psychologically made to serve in this important role. They are there to protect and to put their lives on the line for the sake of their wives and children. This is the burden that men have, a burden which real men gladly carry.

As such, men are also the heads of the household, meaning the buck stops with them. They are the authorities. And this makes sense and is just given the sacrifices and potential sacrifices with which they are tasked.

But, as is typical, feminist thinking demands that women enjoy all the benefits without any of the costs. According to this, women are entitled to protection from mortal danger through the sacrifice of men, but they owe men nothing in exchange. The feminist simultaneously wants to be taken care of by a strong, capable stud, but (claims) to want to be able to vie with him for equal power and authority as well. This is the paradox that research reveals. Deep down, women, including feminist women, prefer patriarchs. They prefer the “sexist” man who is going to guard over them, you know, like a guardian.

Feminism, though, has confused women by telling them this natural, inborn preference for patriarchy and guardianship is weakness and slavish dependence that must be avoided at all costs. Feminism tells women they have to be exactly like men and have to demand equal authority in their relationships. It is through this influence of feminism that is rapidly increasing the depression and suicide rate among women. The politically incorrect reality is that women would be far happier in their lives if they had a guardian, a strong man to love them, cherish them, take care of them, protect them, fight the world for them and their children.

It is Islam that offers women this happiness with a perfect, Divine system legislated by the Creator. All that modernism provides is hypocrisy, misery, and the mirage of felicity.

Wife-Tracking Apps Are a Symptom of the Problem

The problem is that wife apps shouldn’t be needed. Wives should be obedient and loyal enough to their husbands such that these apps are superfluous. But sadly, marital bonds are withering in many parts of the world such that husbands and wives don’t trust each other anymore. This erosion of the marriage bond is a product of the modern world in which we live. So people have to resort to technology to do a job that should be done through family ties and mutual love and wifely devotion.

6 COMMENTS

  1. I’ve never heard of an Islamic scholar tell me that my wife needs my permission to leave the house. And I’ve studied under about 4 traditional Hanafi/Shafii scholars (in the US).

    The most I’ve heard (and this was when I asked a scholar about this specifically) is that a woman should have a male relative pick her up at the airport, if she’s traveling somewhere via airplane alone. But, for practical reasons, for people who live real lives, have real jobs, normal people problems, etc, this isn’t always possible, and that’s probably why I’ve never heard traditional scholars mention it in talks to the awaam (general population).

    There are bigger problems like people not being spiritually in touch with their Creator, not making salaah or any type of practice at all. If you tell people who don’t have any of these that they can’t travel without a male guardian, what do you think’s going to happen?

    • Have you watched the movie “Taken” with Liam Nisson? Despite it vilifying Muslims, it can give you some interesting thoughts. Namely what can happen to women who travel alone, God forbid.

      If you’re seriously saying that your “real job” and “problems” are more dear and precious to you than taking care of and protecting your daughters, sisters, mother and aunts, then you should really think about your priorities. In what universe this sounds reasonable in one’s mind? I simply don’t understand.

      • @Abdullah: You are strawmanning here.
        Plenty of women who travel alone or travel without a mahram have positive and fulfilling travelling experiences.
        What the film ‘Taken’ depicts is a highly uncommon event. I am sure that you know that kidnapping is a highly unusual event in the real world. Hence, why women travelling alone even exists in the first place. Many destinations are not dangerous.

  2. The ruling cannot be based upon 33:33 and that is because 33:33 “stay in your homes” command is explicitly directed to wives of the Prophet. You would know that if you had read 33:32 which begins with “O wives of the Prophet”. Other women are not included.
    The ruling which you speak of is based on something else so quote the correct basis here.

  3. You should check out br saajid lipham video on the matter, he’s a student in saudi and explained how labeling absher as a “wife tracking app” is inaccurate, it’s a govermental app used for offical things like renewing passports, visa, driving licence hospital appointments ect. And husbands use it when applying for a visa for their wives to travel abroad, and apparently it’s become a ‘wife tracking app’ .

  4. Some good points there, but a wife in Islam does not need her husband’s explicit permission to leave the house. Of course, in the name of politeness and courtesy, there should be communication between the two.

    My understanding is that this command a.) refers to the wives of the Prophet (saw) and b.) says to “stay in your houses” in the context of residing in a decent manner (note the subtle difference of reside vs. stay).

    It does not say “stay in your houses at all times unless your husband commands otherwise”. There is no reference to a husband’s permission, and I am sceptical of the claim that “all” Muslim scholars think otherwise.

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