Modern Perspectives on Islamic Law

Modern Perspectives on Islamic Law

Ann Black, Hossein Esmaeili and Nadirsyah Hosen

This well-informed book explains, reflects on and analyses Islamic law, not only in the classical legal tradition of Sharia, but also its modern, contemporary context. The book explores the role of Islamic law in secular Western nations and reflects on the legal system of Islam in its classical context as applied in its traditional homeland of the Middle East and also in South East Asia. Written by three leading scholars from three different backgrounds: a Muslim in the Sunni tradition, a Muslim in the Shia tradition, and a non-Muslim woman – the book is not only unique, but also enriched by differing insights into Islamic law.

Chapter 5: Islamic family law

Ann Black, Hossein Esmaeili and Nadirsyah Hosen

Subjects: asian studies, asian law, economics and finance, islamic economics and finance, law - academic, asian law


Whether living in a traditional Muslim nation or in the secular West, family law or ‘personal status law’, has special significance for Muslims. There are several reasons why. The first is that the Quran has many verses (ayat) setting out legal principles and rules for marriage, divorce and family relationships. This means there has always been a clear foundation for Islamic family law, emanating directly from the revelations from God to the Prophet Mohammad. The reformist nature of many of these verses indicates that family law was an important dimension of God’s message for Muslims. Many of these reforms either abolished or reconstructed practices that were detrimental to women and children, making them ground-breaking in feminist terms with Muslim women given legal entitlements that were not attained in the West for a thousand or more years. In addition, the example of the Prophet as a married family man cemented the importance of the family in every Muslim society, and the many hadiths (ahadith) on family matters, together with the expansion of laws by the jurists, enabled family law to develop into a comprehensive legal compendium. The second reason is cultural and sociological. Poulter has argued that family law embodies the ‘quintessential culture of a distinctive group … which cannot be discarded lightly’. It goes directly to individual identity within a shared identity of the family and extends to a shared belonging to the worldwide com- munity of Muslims (ummah).

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