Introduction to Islamic Family Law in US Courts

Who can deny sharia is creeping in the U.S. when law schools are writing case studies and researching the topic of sharia law in our courts? Below is an abstract of one such research study, the full paper does not appear to be readily available. Hat tip Dave.

No Altars: An Introduction to Islamic Family Law in US Courts

University of Wisconsin Legal Studies Research Paper Series
University of Wisconsin Law School
December 16, 2009

American judges have been judging Muslim divorces in state courts for years, creating a body of case law that not only involves Islamic family law doctrines, but also reveals interesting insights about American Muslim marriage practices generally. This article reviews the holdings in some published cases, exploring questions of overlapping jurisdictions (state and religious law), and how enforcement of Islamic contract-based claims such as the mahr (bridal gift) have fared in American courts. The article draws from interviews with lawyers, social workers, and imams who have advised American Muslims negotiating the process of marriage and divorce in the United States. A brief survey of relevant literature, as well as some suggestions for future practice, is interwoven in the presentation.

Keywords: divorce, Muslim, Muslim divorce, Islamic family law, American Muslim, jurisdiction, Islamic contract, mahr

Date posted: December 20, 2009 ; Last revised: December 20, 2009

A similarly titled, although undated, paper by the same author can be read at the Emory Law School web site, linked below. It’s a long paper but it clarifies that Muslims in the U.S. have been examining the viability of sharia tribunals in the U.S.:

No Altars: A Survey of Islamic Family Law in the United States, by Asifa Quraishi and Najeeba Syeed-Miller

The precarious position of being a part of a minority Muslim population has informed not only Muslim legal scholars, but also another group of reformers who have focused on activism as a tool to introduce new positive and creative responses to some of the legal needs of the community. For example, the difficulties of explaining Islamic family law to domestic courts and institutions, some of them illustrated in the review of case law undertaken above, as well as the desire to resolve intimate matters with those who share the same faith-based system of ethics and morals, has prompted some members of the Muslim community in recent years to examine the viability of establishing local Muslim tribunals.

As the idea of establishing U.S. Muslim tribunals evolves, it will be important to examine whether they will mimic the role of a Muslim qadi who is the expert, or rather will be infused with the involvement of various other Muslim professionals and community members. The choice between these two approaches will have a significant influence on the ultimate nature of decisions emerging from these tribunals.

The attitude of the US courts to the rise of these tribunals is yet unknown, but there is indication that some judges would welcome the existence of reliable arbiters of Islamic family law issues, and may even be undertaking their own consultation from Muslim authorities in the interim.

For those who claim that Islamic sharia law could never exist in the United States, think again.

Asifa Quraishi suggests sharia courts in the future are a foregone conclusion. According to her studies, American judges have, for years, been creating a body of case law that involves Islamic sharia law doctrines.

20 thoughts on “Introduction to Islamic Family Law in US Courts

  1. Let Muslims live under the constitution or go back to where they came from. If born here they are also free to leave.
    We have a culture and it isn’t Islam.

  2. I am Roman Catholic: may I have a court dealing only with Canon Law to resolve my problems? Those Muslims should go to their Arab countries with their sharia law courts, but not make us change anything. If they don’t like it, they should leave.

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If sharia keeps spreading, you will not only be silenced by the media and big technology, you will be jailed - or worse. Speak while you can!

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