Is Islamic Family Law today really based on Shari'a?

Why it is important to know.

By Professor Abdullahi Ahmed An-Nai'm

Adapted for MPV by Tynan Power


This is adapted from the chapter “Shari’a and Islamic Family Law: Transition and Transformation” by Professor Abdullahi Ahmed An-Na’im in Islamic Family Law in a Changing World: A Global Resource Book. Professor An-Na'im shows us that Islamic Family Law (IFL) is not the same as Shari'a. Since IFL is based on human interpretation and judgment, it is not a divine order from God to Muslims. It can be changed based on new interpretations in order to achieve justice and equality for Muslim women in their families and communities today.

The pronunciation key is intended to give English-speaking readers a close approximation of the word in Arabic. It can not provide a perfect equivalent, however, because some Arabic sounds do not exist in English. We have chosen to use the widely-used Common Era (also known as Christian or Gregorian) calendar, rather than the Islamic Hijri (AH) calendar. Common Era dates end in CE.

If you're not sure what a word or phrase means, please refer to the Notes page.

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There is a lot of confusion about Shari'a and Islamic Family Law

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MPV thanks the generous contribution of the Mohhsin & Fauziah Jaafar Foundation for making this adaptation possible.