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Judicial Divorce At the Wife's Initiative: the SharīcFa Courts of Egypt, 1920-1955

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Islamic law defines divorce as a unilateral act of a husband. In Egypt, modernist statutory legislation (1920 and 1929) improved the legal status of women by granting them four grounds for judicial divorce based on Mālikī doctrine: a husband's defects and diseases; his nonprovision of maintenance; his prolonged absence; and injury caused by him to his wife. This study, based on seventy decisions of the sharīca courts issued between 1920 and 1955, attempts to determine which of these four grounds was more frequently used and to clarify the attitude of the qādīs toward the reform. The qādīs interpreted the term injury (darar) broadly, thereby enabling women to complain of a wide range of physical and mental abuses. The qādīs were capable of adapting their decisions to the changing social environment and they generally supported the liberal expectations of the Egyptian legislator.


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