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A Brief History of Coptic Personal Status Law

Berkeley Journal of Middle Eastern & Islamic Law, Vol. 3, No. 1, p. 81, 2010

Georgia State University College of Law, Legal Studies Research Paper No. 2012-03

60 Pages Posted: 10 Feb 2012 Last revised: 14 Feb 2012

Ryan Rowberry

Georgia State University - College of Law

John Khalil

affiliation not provided to SSRN

Date Written: 2010

Abstract

Coptic Christians comprise the largest non-Muslim population in Egypt (12-17% of Egypt’s total population). For over a millennium, the Coptic Church has administered and adjudicated personal status matters (i.e., family law) for its members using Biblically-based principles that are vastly different from those of Shari’a Law. The Egyptian government, however, has advocated for a universal right of divorce for all Egyptians modeled on Shari’a Law, a development that would significantly impact Coptic Personal Status Law.

Using interviews conducted with Coptic bishops, priests, and parishioners in Egypt, along with primary and secondary sources, this article traces the development of Coptic Personal Status Law from its origins to the present day. Particularly noteworthy is the examination of the Bill of Personal Affairs for Copts, the current code governing Coptic Personal Status Law. The authors conclude that the establishment of a universal right of divorce in Egypt is incompatible with Coptic laws designed to protect the inviolability of divine, sacramental marriage and will significantly undermine the Coptic Church’s jurisdiction and authority.

Keywords: Copt, Coptic, Family Law, Egypt, Personal Status Law, Coptic Church, Shari'a Law, Egyptian Law, Pope Shenouda, Foreign Law

JEL Classification: K00, K30, K33, K39

Suggested Citation

Rowberry, Ryan and Khalil, John, A Brief History of Coptic Personal Status Law (2010). Berkeley Journal of Middle Eastern & Islamic Law, Vol. 3, No. 1, p. 81, 2010; Georgia State University College of Law, Legal Studies Research Paper No. 2012-03. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2001658

Ryan Max Rowberry (Contact Author)

Georgia State University - College of Law ( email )

P.O. Box 4037
Atlanta, GA 30302-4037
United States

John Khalil

affiliation not provided to SSRN ( email )

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