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The Right to Marry: Daughters and Elders in the Islamic Courts of Zanzibar

In rural Zanzibar, both lay people and legal professionals argue that women’s options in marriage could be improved by closer adherence to Islamic law.

This argument is usually made to critique the authority of elders in marriage negotiations. Although there is a strong norm of daughters adhering to elders’ authority in marriage, this norm does not go uncontested: by asserting rights under Islamic law, women critique and sometimes even challenge elder authority in court. Based on my ethnographic research in an Islamic court and the surrounding community, I first examine how women and men talk about elder authority in marriage, and then explore legal challenges to their authority in court. I argue that there are two patterns in the way women reference Islam to talk about their rights in marriage. Whereas some women use their knowledge of Islamic law to assert rights in court, others reference their piety as Muslims to explain why they choose not to assert certain rights.

Bibliographic Information

Title: The Right to Marry: Daughters and Elders in the Islamic Courts of Zanzibar

Author: Erin Stiles

Published in: Islamic Law and Society, Volume 21: Issue 3, 2014

 Language: English

Length: 23 pages

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