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Family Law

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The Oxford Dictionary of Islam What is This? Covers the religious, political, and social spheres of global Islam in the modern world

    Family Law

    A marriage contract requires an offer and acceptance before witnesses. The groom is required to give his wife a dowry (mahr), which is her property alone, to dispose of as she wishes. The groom may pay a portion of the dowry at the time of contract and the rest at a time specified in the marriage contract. Men may marry up to four wives, but women may marry only one man at a time. In most Muslim countries, divorce by the husband is effected by a unilateral pronouncement known as the talaq, which severs the legal relationship, although this is in violation of Quranic teachings and one of the subjects of modern reform efforts. After the talaq, the couple must refrain from sexual intercourse for three months. At the end of this time, the marriage is terminated. During the marriage, the wife is entitled to maintenance and support, which includes food, clothing, and accommodation; with divorce, this entitlement terminates. Legal adoption is not permissible under traditional Islamic law. The specifics of Islamic family law differ widely depending on place and time as well as school of law. The past two centuries have seen major reforms in Islamic family law: Tunisia rendered polygyny illegal on Islamic grounds and established equal rights for men and women in divorce; Turkey also forbade polygyny, but as a result of a wholesale adoption of the Western legal code.

    See also Adoption; Marriage and Divorce: Legal Foundations; Marriage and Divorce: Modern Practices; Polygyny

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