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The Difference in Family Law Between the West and Sharia Law

Sharia Law is the body of law generally used in Islamic countries. It is the most widely used religious law on the planet. Many aspects of Sharia Law differ from the laws in western nations in Europe and North America. One of the areas where Sharia law is different is in Family Law.

There is much debate within the Islamic world, and outside of it, of which interpretations of Sharia Law are correct and which are not. It is often accused of treating women badly, but there is a school of though that it was invented to protect women. As the practice of Sharia Law varies in different cultures and countries, this article may not be accurate according to all nations the practice it. Some countries, such as Iran, Sudan and Saudi Arabia strongly go by their own interpretations of Sharia Law, while countries including India and Pakistan are more liberal.

Many of the principles within Sharia Law is based around family. Unlike western cultures, when we talk about Family Law, certain behaviours within the family is demanded by law or against the law, and failure to comply can carry punishments. There are a series of so called Hadd crimes, and these include adultery and false accusations of adultery. Sexual activity outside of a marriage and homosexuality also fall under this category. In certain cases those committing these crimes could receive sentences such as stoning or the death penalty. These are rare these days though, and in the vast majority of cases a lesser punishment is given.

When it comes to divorce, laws can be very different than in the West. In some areas divorce is solely the decision of men, whereas in others women have equal rights to a divorce. One interpretation of the law is that a man simply has to say the Islamic equivalent of "I divorce you" three times for a divorce to be official. This means that saying this in a moment of weakness could mean the end of a marriage, even if it is not what he really wanted. If he then changes his mind, his wife will have to wait three months before marrying and divorcing someone else, and then wait another three months before marrying her original husband. This is much different from a western divorce where a divorce must go through the courts before being granted and can take several months of even years.

The way that men and women are treated when it comes to divorce varies in certain interpretations of Sharia Law and western family law. In Sharia Law certain rights such as custody of children and ownership of property tend to go more to men, whereas in Europe, for example, they are more likely to go to women, although this depends on the circumstances.

Andrew Marshall (C)

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