A member of the Council of Senior Scholars, Sheikh Abdullah Al-Mutlaq, argued that the abayas women now wear are unnecessary to preserve modesty.
Saudi Arabia requires them to wear the garment by law.
However, women in Saudi Arabia still require the permission of a male family member to apply for a passport, travel overseas, get married, open a bank account, start certain kinds of business, get elective surgery or leave prison. If a woman chooses to cover her head, shoulders or otherwise with an abaya, that would be fine. But women still face some tough restrictions in the country.
While many Muslim women around the world wear hijab by choice, in Saudi Araba, it is mandatory to wear a headscarf and a woman who fails to wear it in public faces punishment.More news: United States shares snap larger a day after coming into a 'correction'
Sheikh Mutlaq on Friday mentioned that more than ninety percent religious Muslim women of the Muslim world do not wear abayas, hence we should also not force anyone to wear an abaya.
Translation: "He is right, the abaya is only [mandatory] here, but, in every other Islamic country, veiled women only wear loose clothing rather than an abaya".
It follows the recent pattern of freedoms the kingdom has been witnessing with the ascent of young Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman to power previous year.
New York TimesThe most recent development was when women were granted the right to drive in KSA since last September.More news: Winter Olympics 2018: What to watch Saturday, Feb
In the same month, women were allowed to participate in Saudi Arabia's National Day celebrations for the first time.
Last year, Saudi Arabia also announced that it was lifting a ban on commercial cinemas that has lasted more than three decades.
The cleric's statement, believed to be the first of its kind in recent memory, comes as the kingdom has taken some recent steps toward modernization, relaxing a range of restrictions.
Up until now, such sports and entertainment venues have been men-only areas. They are not allowed to travel without the permission of a male guardian.More news: Kim Jong Un invites South Korean president for talks in the North
This has helped create one of the most gender unequal countries in the Middle East.
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