Briefing paper

Window into Shariah family law: Part 1 - Aspects of marriage

3 May 2010

This paper provides a brief overview of key aspects of Islamic family law as it relates to marriage. A companion piece in the next edition of Family Relationships Quarterly will focus on aspects of Shariah law as it relates to divorce. Both aim to provide contextual background information for practitioners working with Muslim families in the family relationship services sector. Box inserts appearing throughout outline and contrast family law as it applies in Australia, providing some insight into the gulf that Australian Muslims must navigate in regulating relationships within the context of a secular society.

Australia is home to about 340,000 Muslims (Australian Bureau of Statistics [ABS], 2008). Approximately a third were born here, with the remainder having come as immigrants from more than 70 different nations. As the practice of Islamic law varies considerably between these nations, including those with majority Muslim populations, the diversity across the Muslim world is naturally reflected here in Australia.

It is beyond the scope of this paper to detail all the variants across the forty countries currently using the shariah as the foundation for their family law. Most Muslims who have come to Australia will have been inculcated with the form of family law which occurred in their country of origin. Although these religious laws will be subordinate to Australia's statutory requirements, many Muslims will try to comply with both sets of laws in terms of marriage, divorce, financial support and responsibility for children.

Image: Nono Fara / Flickr

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