ISLAMIC FAMILY LAW
DISCLAIMER: THE INFORMATION IN THIS CIRCULAR RELATING TO THE LEGAL
REQUIREMENTS OF SPECIFIC FOREIGN COUNTRIES IS PROVIDED FOR GENERAL
INFORMATION ONLY. QUESTIONS INVOLVING INTERPRETATION OF SPECIFIC FOREIGN
SHOULD BE ADDRESSED TO FOREIGN COUNSEL.
The information contained in this flyer is intended as an introduction to
basic elements of Islamic family law. It is not intended as a legal reference.
It is designed to make clear the basic rights and restrictions resulting
marriages sanctioned by Islamic law between Muslim and non-Muslim partners.
For Americans, the most troubling of these restrictions have been:
-- the inability of wives to leave an Islamic country without permission
their husbands;-- the wives' inability to take their children from these
countries without such permission; and-- the fact that fathers have ultimate
custody of children.
In Islam, the act of marriage occurs with the conclusion of the marriage
contract. The marriage contract itself is completed by an offer and
acceptance, both of which must be made on the same occasion by two qualified
parties. If a marriage has been contracted by competent persons in the
presence of two witnesses and has been adequately publicized, it is complete
and binding. It requires no religious or other rites and ceremonies because
in Islamic law formalities have no value insofar as contracts are concerned.
Such marriages are conducted only if both parties are willing.
With few exceptions, a Christian or Jew who marries a Muslim and resides
an Islamic country will be subject to provisions of Islamic family law in
that country. In these circumstances:
-- Any children born to the wife will be considered Muslim. They will usually
also be considered citizens of the father's country.
-- The husband's permission is always needed for the children to leave an
Islamic country despite the fact that the children will also have, for
example, American citizenship. Foreign immigration authorities can be
expected to enforce these regulations. The ability of U.S. consular officers
to aid an American woman who wishes to leave the country with her children
-- The wife may be divorced by her husband at any time with little difficulty
and without a court hearing.
-- At a certain point in age, the children will come under the custody of
father or his family.
-- In Islamic countries, the wife will need the permission of her husband
leave the country.
There are three types of guardianship which are fixed for a child from the
time of its birth;
-- The first is guardianship of upbringing, which is overseen by women during
the age of dependence. The age at which this period of dependence terminates
varies: anywhere from 7 years for a son and 9 for a daughter to 9 and 11,
respectively. In the case of divorced parents, it is permissible for a
daughter to remain with her mother if the parents agree. But such an
agreement cannot be made for a son.
-- The second is the child's spiritual guardianship. The spiritual guardian
may be the father or a fullblooded male relative of the father.
-- The third is guardianship over the child's property which usually is
carried out by the father.
PERSONS CONTEMPLATING SUCH MARRIAGES SHOULD GIVE SERIOUS CONSIDERATION TO
POTENTIAL DIFFICULTIES DESCRIBED IN THIS PAMPHLET.