The scientific study of Muslim family law has increased considerably since the 1970’s. Social scientists from a range of disciplines research the contextual application and impact of shari‘a on family matters. To facilitate cross-disciplinary communication within the field, the Sociology of Law Department’s postdoc Monika Lindbekk shouldered the role of editor for a double special issue of Journal of Women of the Middle East and the Islamic World.
Lindbekk’s editorship, together with Susanne Dahlgren at Tampere University, resulted in "Gender and Judging in Muslim Courts: Emerging Scholarship and Debates". The issue unites anthropological, socio-legal, and political research covering Muslim family law adjudication in countries in the Middle East, North Africa, and South East Asia.
“… while each of the countries in question has a long legal history of its own, they share certain features relating to how Muslim family law has gained its form as part of nationalist codification project,” the editors write in the issue’s introductory chapter. “There are also parallels in the ways in which the law is practised, and how the present-day law forms a bridge between modern-day family ideologies and the Islamic normative legacy.”
As the title reveals, the issue focuses partially on gender aspects in relation the Muslim courts and shari’a law in action. Lindbekk and Susanne Dahlgren compiled a set of articles building on the understanding that women’s rights are constantly a point of dispute for political power and economical resources – even in legal contexts. They write, “What the articles in this special issue show is how the courts studied interpret the gendered rights and duties of marriage, and what legal consequences such rights and duties might have.”
Lindbekk’s own article, “Implementing the Law of khulʿ in Egypt: Tensions and Ambiguities in Muslim Family Law”, covers a law giving women the right to divorce without the husband’s consent. But the divorce is conditioned. The woman must surrender her outstanding financial rights, repay the prompt dower, and participate in court-ordered reconciliation. Lindbekk notes that judges and other legal professionals have considerable discretion in interpreting Muslim family law. Sometimes they use the courtroom as a platform for debate about divisive issues and voice anxiety over an alleged increase in divorce initiated by women.
The special issue of Journal of Women of the Middle East and the Islamic World is part of a project funded by Marie Curie Individual Fellowship.
Read the introduction chapter to "Gender and Judging in Muslim Courts: Emerging Scholarship and Debates" at brill.com.
Visit Monika Lindbekk’s personal page for more information about her research.