Journal Article

Malaysian Sharia Reforms in Flux: The Changeable National Character of Islamic Marriage

Maznah Mohamad

in International Journal of Law, Policy and the Family

Volume 25, issue 1, pages 46-70
Published in print April 2011 | ISSN: 1360-9939
Published online January 2011 | e-ISSN: 1464-3707 | DOI:
Malaysian Sharia Reforms in Flux: The Changeable National Character of Islamic Marriage

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This article historicises the various phases of Sharia reform in Malaysia, the purpose of which is to show that laws codified for Muslims had undergone considerable flux even over a brief period. In 50 years, the feature of Islamic marriage law reform in Malaysia had shifted from supporting the norms of female progressivism to enhancing privileges for men. This is reflected in the amendments and adjustments made upon the passage of each successive family law statutes, which I label as encapsulating the Plural, Transitional, and New Family Sharia in their respective periods. Cases of Sharia court litigation are also analysed to illustrate how Islamic family laws and their interpretations can be used to exaggerate the discourse of ‘god-given’ male entitlement as the unequal but desirable complement of good female behaviour. In trying to reconcile this inequality, the Sharia exposes gender dissonances and disjunctures in contemporary Muslim society. Hyped male entitlement and endemic male negligence are revealed as the bitter end of the marriage bargain for women. But as the asymmetrical binary continues to be reinforced by court judgments, the contradictions between ideology and reality are also exposed as a flaw of the Islamic marital contract; the national character of Islamic marriage being mutable in form and essence.

Journal Article.  10963 words. 

Subjects: Family Law ; Marriage and the Family

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