While Islamic religious authorities are mistaken to be exclusively male, history has witnessed a great deal of female Muslim scholars who studied Islam in depth and issued their very own fatwas - rulings by a recognized Islamic authority.
Soon, Saudi Arabia will empower such women scholars to play a bigger role in the Islamic ruling process, as the kingdom's Shoura Council plans to authorize them to issue fatwas.
During its 49th ordinary session on Monday, the council called upon the General Presidency for Scholarly Research and Ifta, which issues rulings in Islamic jurisprudence, to pave the way for women to contribute to Islamic research and ruling.
The council urged the presidency to open independent sections for women and appoint competent female scholars to issue fatwas, according to Saudi daily Okaz.
This, along with providing the human and material resources necessary for the sections to flourish.
The presidency was also asked to hire female academics specialized in Islamic studies to take part in some aspects of its work, such as research, scientific activities, managing fatwas, and appointing muftis in different areas around the kingdom.
Assistant Speaker of the Shoura Council, Dr. Yahya Bin Abdullah Al-Samaan, explained that the council's requests are based on input from the committee of Islamic and judicial affairs.
Women are rising to power in the kingdom
The women's rights movement in Saudi Arabia has made huge strides in the past couple of years.
The kingdom has amended a number of laws in an effort to empower women. These include opening municipal elections to female candidates and making women's verbal consent to marriage mandatory.
Since 2013, at least 30 of the kingdom's 150 Shura Council members have been women, or 20 percent. Although the body is not democratically elected, with the members appointed by the king, the legislative body has a higher percentage of women than many other countries, including the United States.
In February, three Saudi women took over top financial posts in Saudi Arabia. Among them, Sarah Al Suhaimi was appointed as head of the Saudi stock exchange, making international headlines as the first woman to ever chair Tadawul.