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Judicial Ijtihād as a Tool for Legal Reform: Extending Women’s Right to Divorce under Islamic Law in Pakistan

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In a series of judgments starting in 1959, Pakistani judges reformed Islamic family law by extending women’s right to no-fault based divorce (khulʿ). For this purpose, they directly interpreted the Qurʾān and Sunnah, and removed the requirement of the consent of a husband for judicial khulʿ. This article analyses the methods and the methodological tools that Pakistani judges used to justify the unilateral right of women to no-fault judicial divorce. The analysis shows that instead of following the opinions of classical jurists, Pakistani judges exercised independent legal reasoning (ijtihād). By using judicial ijtihād, Pakistani judges continue to play a key role in reforming classical Islamic family law with changing circumstances.

Affiliations: 1: Lahore University of Management Sciences (LUMS)


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