The Sharia, Islamic Family Laws and International Human Rights Law: Examining the Theory and Practice of Polygamy and Talaq
Posted: 17 Jun 2008
Date Written: April 2007
This article assesses the compatibility of the Sharia and Islamic family laws with international human rights law. As a subject of enormous complexity and variation, detailed examination is restricted to two of the highly contentious subjects of Islamic family laws - polygamy and the Talaq (unilateral divorce given by the husband) within Islam. It is argued that while the Quran and Sunna remain the principal foundations of the Sharia, the formulation of a legally binding code from primarily ethical and religious sources has not been an uncontested matter. It is also submitted that the Sharia and Islamic family laws that eventually emerged during the second and third centuries of the Muslim calendar were heavily influenced by the socio-economic, political and indigenous tribal values of the prevailing times. During the development phases of the classical legal schools, the Islamic jurists frequently adopted male-centric approaches towards women's rights and family laws. As regards polygamy and the Talaq it is only recently (and with considerable reservations) that Islamic societies have allowed a debate and enquiry into the reform of established norms of the Sharia. Attempts to rectify the injustices built into the prevailing system of polygamous marriages and unilateral Talaq procedures have resulted in some, albeit limited, success through the process of directly appealing to the primary sources of the Sharia. The article concludes with the view that the Sharia and Islamic family laws are likely to remain relevant to Islamic societies as well as to English Law - a consistent review and re-interpretation of the Sharia is therefore of utmost significance.
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