Following are excerpts from an interview with Saudi Shura Council member Sheik Abd Al-Muhsin Al-Abikan, which aired on MBC TV on August 7, 2008:
Sheik Abd Al-Muhsin Al-Abikan: Allah said, in Surat Al-Nisa, of the Koran: "Men are guardians of women, because Allah has made the one superior to the other, and because they support them from their means." So men have this guardianship. This does not mean they can oppress or humiliate their wives. Any group of people must have a leader. A state must have a leader – a king, a president, an emir, or an imam. The same is true for the government – ministries must have ministers in charge, and departments must have directors. This is human nature. There must be leadership. The household consists of several family members, who must have a leader. Who is the leader? The man. Nobody can claim that the verse "Men are guardians of women" shows contempt for women. This is not true.
The husband is the leader of the family, and he runs its affairs. He is in charge of the family, he is the shepherd of this family. He is responsible for his flock, as the Prophet said: "The man is a shepherd to his household, and is responsible for them." So the man is the guardian. He must act justly. He must raise his children well. He must fulfill his obligations toward his wife and children. As for the woman, she cannot leave her house without her husband's permission, just like no employee may leave the office without permission from the boss.