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Shari'A-Based Reservations: The Law And Politics Of Invalidity

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Chapter Summary


This introductory chapter provides an insight into the key themes discussed in the book. Women in predominantly Muslim societies have been the subject of images and generalisations, romantic Orientalist tales and feminist exposé, Muslim reformers and apologetic tracts. After a long history of feminist struggle, women in Egypt have been most successful in advancing their human rights in the public domain. This book focuses on the area of rights most greatly affected by the Islamic Sharia, namely personal status law in one Muslim-majority country, Egypt. It examines whether the provisions of this body of positive, man-made law is compatible with Egypt's international obligations under treaty law and customary international law establishing standards for the protection of women, and addresses ways in which the law can, and has been reformed, without prejudice to its religious nature.

Keywords:Islamic Sharia; Muslim reformers; Muslim societies; Muslim women


This chapter lays out the basic institutions, structures and processes that underlie Egypt's family law. The Egyptian legal framework for family law is based on the idea of the personality of law, or law as applied by virtue of religious affiliation. The family law for Sunni Muslims, is derived from the Islamic Sharia, as interpreted and codified by Egyptian jurists and legislators since the late nineteenth century. The jurisprudence of the Sharia Courts is an important source for understanding how Islamic law was applied in the evolving social setting of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, and how judges were influenced by such reforms. The codification of Egypt's personal status law evolved since the turn of the twentieth century from strict adherence to taqlid law, to the development of other innovative methods. Formal codification of law is alien to the Sharia; traditionally qadis had a wide discretion in applying the law.

Keywords:Egypt's family law; Egypt's personal status law; Sharia Law; status legislation; taqlid law




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