RIYADH (Christian Examiner) – A Saudi man, angry with the staff of a Riyadh hospital because a female doctor was not available to assist his wife in childbirth, shot and very nearly killed the male doctor who delivered the child because he saw the woman naked during the procedure.
Mohannad al-Zubn, a Jordanian physician, helped the Saudi woman give birth to the child in April. But according to a religious edict – a fatwa – issued by Saudi clerics in 2014, the physician violated the country's laws on virtue when he saw the woman unclothed.
Saudi religious law permits a male doctor to treat a female patient provided a "male guardian" is also present. It expressly claims, according to Qais al-Mubarak, a senior Islamic scholar, that a male physician should never see a female patient naked, "especially during child birth."
Al-Mubarak, a member of the Council of Senior Scholars, said there are exceptions to the rule.
"Women are prohibited from exposing body parts to male doctors in Islamic law, especially during childbirth. This does not include medical emergencies. Islamic jurisprudence makes exceptions," al-Mubarak said.
The case in question was apparently not an emergency and the father of the child returned to King Fahad Medical City last week under the auspices of thanking the doctor for delivering the child without complications. Instead of thanking the doctor, the unnamed man shot al-Zubn at close range at the outset of the meeting.
Al-Zubn was not killed and was rushed inside the hospital for treatment. He is reportedly in stable condition and recovering.
According to some Arab media outlets, most Saudis on social media have been supportive of the doctor and see little wrong with his assistance of the woman in birth. Some, however, believe the woman should have been sent to a female physician.
Female physicians are not exactly easy to find in Saudi Arabia, a country where women still do not have the right to drive a car.
In 2011, a group calling itself "Pure Hospitals," led by a Saudi woman, began a campaign for the kingdom to establish all female hospitals. The woman behind the movement had the same concern as did Saudi males – that the mixing of the sexes in a hospital would result in a collapse of virtue and lead to un-Islamic practices.
In 2014, the Saudi Ministry of Health issued slightly different guidelines than those offered by religious leaders. Those rules claimed a male physician could examine a female patient, provided that a female nurse was also present.