Islamic Marriage Contracts in American Courts: The Case of Mahr and Its Misunderstood Economics

In the second event in the ILSP: Law and Social Change Visiting Fellows Workshop Series, Havva Guney-Ruebenacker develops a novel approach to the analysis of the cases of Islamic mahr agreements in American courts, as a remarkable example of interaction of Islamic and western law that entails significant implications for legal and social change around mahr and divorce in Islamic law. There is a growing dissatisfaction and confusion among legal scholars over the approach of American courts to mahr agreements, with many scholars criticizing the courts’ decisions over the mahr as inconsistent and lacking a correct understanding of the nature and function of the institution of mahr in Islamic marriage contracts. The legal debate over the issue is sharply divided into two opposing approaches, with one side urging the courts to enforce all mahr agreements, and the other side calling them to refuse enforcing any mahr agreement. What is significantly missing in this legal debate is a close attention to the particular economics of mahr, the specific facts of the cases and the interdependent relationship between the mahr and the particular type of divorce asked by the parties.

Discussant: Salma Waheedi (Clinical Instructor, Harvard Law School)

Please RSVP by April 11. We will send the draft paper as soon as it is available after receiving your RSVP.