Muslims, Marriage and Litigation

Interview with Professor Ana Quiñones

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BARCELONA, Spain, MARCH 6, 2003 ( What is the role of the woman in the family, according to Islam?

To answer this question, ZENIT interviewed Ana Quiñones, a specialist on the Muslim marital tradition of repudiation.

A law professor at Pompeu Fabra University of Barcelona, Quiñones has written several books, including «Law and Immigration: Muslim Repudiation in Europe.»

Q: What is Muslim repudiation?

Quiñones: In Islamic law, repudiation is the privileged granted to the Muslim husband to put an end to his marriage unilaterally and at his own discretion. That is, by the sole decision of the husband and without the need of any reason whatsoever.

Q: Is the concept of the family in Islam in accord with Western legislation in general and with the European in particular?

Quiñones: There are disparities in the legislation of Muslim countries and European legislation, so that it is not the same to apply either legislation in a case of matrimonial litigation.

These discrepancies are due to the lack of a religious reform and the consequent traditional patriarchal conception of the family.

Let’s give some examples: the fact that a Muslim woman cannot marry a non-Muslim man; polygamy; marital repudiation; that the father has the right over the children; that daughters receive half the inheritance that sons do. These are some of the points of conflict.

Q: How does Muslim marriage differ from Christian and civil marriage?

Quiñones: Marriage is not conceived as a sacrament in the Islamic religion.

It is a contract whose contents is decided by the future spouses within the limits of the religious public order — for example, there can be an agreement against polygamy, which limits this privilege of the Muslim husband, but there cannot be agreement to a clause prohibiting the faculty to repudiate the wife.

In the law of Muslim countries, not only is it possible to put an end to marriage through judicial divorce, but the break is facilitated for the husband.

The husband has, as we have seen, the privilege to repudiate his wife without the need to give a reason.

Only the woman needs a judicial divorce to break a marriage. However, in the marriage contract, the woman can reserve the possibility of requesting that her husband repudiate her by paying him indemnity.

This measure, like the anti-polygamy clause, is usually adopted by women with means.

Q: What relation does the Muslim family have with the elderly?

Quiñones: The values of the traditional family, among which is care of parents and grandparents, enrichment through the experience of the elderly, and an extended — not nuclear — conception of the family, are presented in a more accentuated way in Muslim societies than in the Western.

In the West, increasingly the option is no longer for a nuclear family but for a more individualist conception of personal and family life.

I think, although it is my personal opinion, that solidarity and family ties — but not understood in an authoritarian way — are what benefits everyone: the elderly, grandchildren, and fathers and mothers who must carry the burden within and outside the home.

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