Copyright (c) 2007 Washington & Lee University School of Law
Washington & Lee Law Review
SYMPOSIUM: GENDER RELEVANT LEGISLATIVE CHANGE IN MUSLIM AND NON-MUSLIM COUNTRIES: How the Door of Ijtihad Was Opened and Closed: A Comparative Analysis of Recent Family Law Reforms in Iran and Morocco
64 Wash & Lee L. Rev. 1499
I. The Question
In this working Comment, I compare the politics and dynamics of recent family law reforms in Iran and Morocco. In both countries, the source of family law is Islamic jurisprudence or fiqh-the Twelver Shi'a School in Iran, and the Maliki Sunni School in Morocco-whose rulings were codified and grafted onto a modern legal system during the twentieth century. As in other schools of Islamic law, these rulings privilege men in marriage and grant them unilateral rights in divorce and polygamy. 1 Since codification, women in both countries have struggled to achieve reforms and a more egalitarian family law. The gains of Iranian women have been erratic and the reforms modest and incremental, while women's gains in Morocco have been steady and the reforms radical. In February 2004, Morocco enacted a new family code that incorporates the principle of equality in marriage, thus casting the classical Maliki law on which it is based in a new light. 2 This is the most substantive and radical reform of family law achieved by women's activism in any Muslim country. Previous reforms either were not so comprehensive, were granted from above (as in Tunisia), or were accomplished by putting the Islamic framework aside (as in Turkey). 3
My central questions are: How, and by what processes, did Moroccan women succeed in bringing about radical reforms of Maliki law, which in many ways amount to nothing less than "opening the gate of ijtihad"? 4 And, how and ...
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