Magazine article Washington Report on Middle East Affairs

Law Professor Discusses the Status of Muslim Marriage Contracts in American Judicial System

Magazine article Washington Report on Middle East Affairs

Law Professor Discusses the Status of Muslim Marriage Contracts in American Judicial System

Article excerpt

LAW PROFESSOR DISCUSSES THE STATUS OF MUSLIM MARRIAGE CONTRACTS IN AMERICAN JUDICIAL SYSTEM

On May 20, the Minaret of Freedom Institute, a Muslim think tank near Washington, DC, invited to its annual dinner Dr. Aziza Al-Hibri, a law professor and Muslim feminist. Professor Al-Hibri is on sabbatical leave from the T.C. Williams School of Law at the University of Richmond and is currently a scholar in residence at the Library of Congress. She has written extensively on the subject of women and Islam. She has been named a fellow at the National Humanities Center, where she will be writing a book on Islamic marriage contracts in American courts next year. Dr. Al-Hibri is also the founder of KARAMAH, a Muslim women lawyers organization "dedicated to empowering Muslim women within an Islamic framework."

At the dinner, Dr. Al-Hibri discussed the subject of her most recent research: Muslim marriage contracts in American courts. Dr. Al-Hibri said that serious research and authoritative resources on the subject are direly needed, especially in light of a ruling by a Virginia court in which a misinformed judge stated that "Islamic law of marriage is contrary to public policy, and hence it is unenforceable." In practical terms, this means that Muslim married couples seeking a divorce can no longer use their marriage contracts to guide divorce proceedings.

In Islam, marriage contracts are intended to detail the rights and obligations of each partner. These contracts play an especially critical role for Muslim women, who are entitled to insert mutually agreed conditions within their marriage contracts. The most common use of marriage contracts is to determine the amount of Moakhar Al-Saddaq, the sum of money to which a wife is entitled in case of a divorce. Some women also stipulate in their contracts whether or not they wish to retain or waive the right to divorce. …

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