Journal Article

A Husband'S Authority: Emerging Formulations In Muslim Family Laws

Lynn Welchman

in International Journal of Law, Policy and the Family

Volume 25, issue 1, pages 1-23
Published in print April 2011 | ISSN: 1360-9939
Published online January 2011 | e-ISSN: 1464-3707 | DOI:
A Husband'S Authority: Emerging Formulations In Muslim Family Laws

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  • Marriage and the Family


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This article considers the articulation of the husband–wife relationship in Islamic law and specifically the contemporary equation in statutory formulations of Muslim family law that sets the husband's duty of support, or maintenance, of his wife, as the exchange for the wife's obedience to her husband. This formulation is currently challenged not only in activism but also increasingly in legislation in Muslim majority states. I begin with a consideration of some of the contestations in English-language scholarship of the ‘meanings’ of ‘Islamic law’ and its relationship particularly to women in the family. I then look at the paradigm of the husband's authority (qiwama) over his wife in jurisprudence and pre-modern practice, moving from there to the maintenance–obedience equation in Arab state family law codifications. I end with a comparison of the way in which Morocco and the United Arab Emirates deal with this issue in their recent family law codifications, reflecting that the formulations emerging in the two states are positioned at either end of the current spectrum of Muslim family laws in Arab states.

Journal Article.  10287 words. 

Subjects: Family Law ; Marriage and the Family

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