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Women and Divorce in the Islamic West: Three Cases

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I examine here three short fatwās that were issued in the Islamic West in connection with divorce disputes. The first two cases took place in the sixth/twelfth century, one in Lisbon, the other in the vicinity of Ceuta; the third case took place in Bijāya in the ninth/fifteenth century. In all three cases, the female protagonist finds herself in an unwanted marriage. In the ensuing litigation, each woman uses her own knowledge of the law or knowledge acquired from a male relative or acquaintance to work the system in an effort to extricate herself from an undesirable situation. In order to overcome the asymmetry of the laws of divorce and to achieve her objective, each woman is compelled to engage in some form of deceit and/or prevarication.


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