The Ottoman law of 1917 already made use of this possibility. The wife was granted the right to dissolve the marriage if her husband took a second wife. This example was followed by the Jordanian family law of 2010, which entitles both marriage partners to include conditions in the prenuptial agreement.

This is one way in which a woman can protect herself against polygamy and restrictions on her freedom, for example if her husband prevents her from working or travelling abroad. If the husband does not respect these rules, the marriage can be annulled in court. In Jordan, this law came to pass not least thanks to a campaign by women's organisations, which were nevertheless only able to push through some of their demands against the country's religious establishment.

Divorce in return for the garden

After Kuwait (1984), the Gulf states of Bahrain, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates also gave women the option to include restrictive conditions in prenuptial agreements. Saudi Arabia is the only Islamic country that has not yet codified its family law.

Female activists demonstrating for equal rights in the Moroccan capital Rabat (photo: DW)
The demands of Moroccan feminists had a significant influence on the revision of the "Mudawana", the 2004 Family Law, which significantly improved the legal status of women: among other things, the marital obedience obligation of women was abolished, the minimum age for marriage for women was raised from 15 to 18 years, the obligation to represent women by a "wali" (guardian) for marriage was abolished, and provisions put in place to restrict the possibility of polygamy

As well as takhayyur, the talfiq method (piecing together) allows for the selection of views from the various schools of legal thought if one of these schools is not able to provide an adequate response to new problems. Ottoman lawmakers also made use of this possibility to enable women to dissolve a marriage under particular circumstances – for example if a husband is absent for a lengthy amount of time.

More recent family legislation in Jordan, Bahrain and Kuwait has extended the list of circumstances justifying a divorce to include alcoholism, for example. In the United Arab Emirates, non-payment of dowry is also now regarded as grounds for divorce.

Since 2000, women wanting a divorce in Egypt have the option to end the marriage by renouncing all financial claim on the husband (khul’). In this case, as the American authors of the study show, the ijtihad process was also applied. Instead of the Koran, this approach referred to a hadith, a narrative record from the life of the Prophet.

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