Women in Muslim Family Law
Today, both male and female Muslim scholars are actively engaged in
the study of Quranic sources and their application to modern conditions
and needs, seeking to understand the intent and impact of the verses
on the society of its time and how this intent can be applied to the
modern context. This approach could, for example, be applied to a particularly
timely problem in family law reform, namely, the equality of the sexes.
In the socio-economic sphere, scholars of Islam agree that a major concern of the Quran was the betterment of woman's position by establishing her legal capacity, grating her economic rights (dower, inheritance, etc.) and thus raising her social status. However, some also cite Quranic verses whose traditional interpretations support what today would be an inequitable position for women. Perhaps the most commonly cited verse is Quran 4:34, which some interpret as indicating men's priority over women: "Men are in charge of women, because God has made some of them excel the others, and because they spend some of their wealth." ... The religious obligations incumbent upon man and woman equally belong to the "ibadat" (religious duties due to God) regulations, which are not subject to change. In contrast, matters in the socio-economic sphere belong to the muamalat (social relations, transactions), which are subject to change."
Contemporary scholarship has begun to provide the historical perspective and materials for such a project [reform]. The complex origins of Islamic law, long forgotten by the idealized traditional picture of classical theory, have resurfaced and, if properly interpreted, provide historical justification for Muslim family law reform. More importantly, a new understanding of the law's development demonstrates that Islamic jurisprudence is fully capable of again providing methods for reform.
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