A Brief History of Coptic Personal Status Law
Berkeley Journal of Middle Eastern & Islamic Law, Vol. 3, No. 1, p. 81, 2010
60 Pages Posted: 10 Feb 2012 Last revised: 14 Feb 2012
Date Written: 2010
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: Suggested Citation