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Islamic Divorce Case Has Important Implications

Posted by J. Benjamin Stevens | Apr 23, 2012 | 0 Comments

The recent case of Farah Shamsi may have important implications for how Muslim divorces will be handled in the United States in the future. Farah's courtship began like many people from Saudi Arabia, it was arranged by her family. Her future husband Abdul would talk to her on the phone, one hour per week, monitored by Farah's parents. After a few months he flew to Saudi Arabia to meet for the first time and they two were married three days later.

A part of that ceremony is the signing of a marriage contract known as a Sadaq. A Sadaq is a traditional Islamic document which contains language describing a marriage gift from the groom to the bride, often called a dowry. “My dowry is $20,000 unpaid. Unpaid means it has to be paid at some time,” Farah said.

Shortly after marrying the two moved to the US where Abdul works as a radiologist. It didn't take long to realize that the marriage wasn't work, especially for Farah. “My life was like a bird in a cage, and this cage is not open to the world, it's covered,” Farah said.

Farah moved forward towards a divorce but quickly found out that her successful doctor husband only intended to pay her the $20,000 mentioned in the Sadaq. Abdul argues that's all the wife is entitled to according to Muslim traditions of marriage. Farah's attorney says that, “Our position is no, she gets that but she gets everything else that Florida law would otherwise provide for, including one half of the assets and spousal support.”

The importance of the case is clear, “Women who are married under Islamic law, under a marriage contract of this nature, would then be perhaps barred from a lot of property rights and support rights,” plaintiff's attorney said. This case is a test of whether such a rule will be upheld or struck down by a Court.

Farah's name appears on the deed to the couple's beach house in Florida worth nearly a million dollars as well as cars, stocks and bank accounts all worth many multiples of the $20,000 in her Sadaq. While both parties agree that the marriage contract is enforceable, meaning that at least $20,000 is owed, it's up to a judge to decide if Florida law regarding equitable division of marital property is enforceable as well.

The case will appear before a judge for a summary judgment on June 26th.

If you find yourself facing the prospect of a separation or divorce, you need the help of an experienced South Carolina family law attorney to guide you through the difficult process.

Source:Islamic divorce case could have far reaching implications,” by Jonathan Petramala, published at

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J. Benjamin Stevens

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