SOAS University of London

School of Law

Islamic Family Law

Module Code:
FHEQ Level:
Year of study:
Taught in:
Term 2

This module provides a detailed examination of Islamic family law, covering the laws of marriage, dissolution of marriages, guardianship and child custody. These are examined in light of classical rules of Islamic jurisprudence and recent family law reforms in different parts of the Muslim world and also with relevant examples from UK cases. Taking the different areas of family law in turn, we examine the development of positions in the different jurisprudential schools (including the sources on which the classical schools relied) before considering later (colonial and post colonial) treatment of and approaches to these areas of law in states' courts and codes. A focus on codification and the modern state's identity as legislator is highlighted. Approaches to reform of particular areas of law by different social actors are considered, including the use they make of classical and post-classical sources. Students would be required to familiarise themselves with current modern Muslim Family Codes of a numbeof Muslim-majority states that will be referred to during the course. he Muslim world will also be examined.

Objectives and learning outcomes of the module

On successful completion of this module, a student will be able to:

  • demonstrate a good understanding of the complexities of Islamic Family Law;
  • demonstrate a clear understanding of the sources and jurisprudential methodologies through which the different fiqh schools arrived at their positions on the various areas of family law examined;
  • demonstrate an undertanding of the interactions of Islamic family law with the state and familiarity with the Family Law Codes of selected Muslim-majority states.
  • reflect critically on the issues raised in contemporary debates about Islamic Family Law and its application in modern times;
  • conduct independent legal research in the field of Islamic Family Law;
  • undertake written analysis and debate on key issues in Islamic Family Law


  • A weekly 2 hour lecture
  • A weekly 1 hour seminar

Scope and syllabus

  1. Islamic Family Law: Introduction
  2. The Marriage Contract: Capacity and Guardianship
  3. Age of Marriage, Marriage Equality, Options
  4. The Dower
  5. Incidents of Marriage: Issues of Maintenance, etc.
  6. Polygamy and Stipulations in the Marriage Contract
  7. Invalid and Irregular Marriages
  8. Dissolution of Marriage: Talāq
  9. Dissolution of Marriage: Khul’ and Judicial Dissolution (Faskh)
  10. Child Custody and Guardianship of Children

Method of assessment

  • 80% assessed by 3,000 word essay
  • 20% 1,000 word concept paper

Suggested reading

Core reading

  • ‘Abd al ‘Ati, H., The Family Structure in Islam (ATP, 1977).
  • Baderin, M.A., Islamic Law: A Very Short Introduction (OUP, 2021)
  • Ibn Rushd, Bidayat al-Mujtahid, trans. Imran Nyazee as The Distinguished Primer, Vol. II (Garnet Publishing, 1996). Chapters on Marriage and Divorce.
  • Welchman, L, "A Historiography of Islamic Family Law" in Emon, A.E., and Ahmed, R., (eds) The Oxford Handbook of Islamic Law (2018).
    Welchman, L., Women and Muslim Family Law in Arab States (AUP, 2007).

Additional reading

  • An-Na'im, A., (ed.) Islamic Family Law in a Changing World: A Global Resource Book (2002).
  • Wadud, A., Qur'an and Woman: Rereading the Sacred Text from a Woman's Perspective (OUP, 1999).
  • Specific Journal articles and Book chapters on the different topics.


Important notice regarding changes to programmes and modules