Egyptian divorce reforms rejected

family law

The Egyptian President’s call for the country’s divorce laws to be reformed has been rejected by senior clerics.

Members of the Council of Senior Scholars said that verbal divorce was a practice Muslims had settled upon during the time of the prophet Muhammad in the 7th Century. The Council is a 40-member group of clerics based at Al-Azhar University in Cairo and is the highest authority in Sunni Islam. They ultimately decide if laws and proposed legislation are compliant with Islamic law.

Last month, President Abdel-Fatteh el-Sissi expressed concern about Egypt’s 40 per cent divorce rate and suggested that the prevalence of verbal divorce was a significant factor in the high number of marriages brought to an end. In a public address, the President said divorce should only be valid if it was performed in front of a maazoun. These are clerics authorised by the government to oversee marriages and divorce.

However the Council unanimously ruled that verbal divorce was acceptable provided all the requirements are met. These are that the husband is of sound mind uses appropriate phrasing. In their statement on the matter, the Council did not mention the President at all. Instead they addressed their message to “the people” of Egypt.

The best way to reduce the number of divorces in the country was “through the care of young people and their protection from all kinds of drugs, and in educating them through different media, art, culture and general knowledge” the Council’s statement read.

Despite the Councils insistence that verbal divorce is part of Islamic law, this point is disputed throughout the Muslim world and beyond. Senior clerics in Pakistan have previously called the practice un-Islamic because marriage was a “sacred relationship” that should not be abandoned so easily.

Photo of the Egypt flag by Richard Potts via Flickr under a Creative Commons licence.

Stowe Family Law Web Team

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