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Marriage, Divorce and Family Law in the Ottoman Empire

Questions for seminar:
  • In what ways does shari'a law reflect patriarchy?
  • How can women assert their rights in a shari'a legal context?
  • How is the law "in the books" translated into everyday legal practice?
  • To what extent do fatwas reflect everyday legal practice?

Assigned Reading:
Judith Tucker, Women, Family and Gender in Islamic Law (Cambridge University Press, 2008), chapters 2 and 3 on marriage and divorce respectively. These give brief outlines of the history of marriage and divorce from classical Islam to the modern world. Focus on the “legal tradition” and “pre-20th-century practices” sections of each chapter; skim the remainder.

Judith Tucker, In the House of the Law: Gender and Islamic Law in Ottoman Syria and Palestine (University of California Press, 1998), chapter 3, “With Her Consent: Marriage.”
Svetlana Ivanova, “The Divorce between Zubaida Hatun and Esseid Osman Ağa: Women in the Eighteenth-Century Sharīʿa Court of Rumelia,” in Women, the Family and Divorce Laws in Islamic History, ed. Amira el-Azhary Sonbol (Syracuse University Press, 1996), 112-25.

Primary Source:
Selection of fatwas concerning divorce. See if you can figure out the legal issues at stake in these fatwas, based on the information in chapter 3 of Tucker, Women, Family and Gender. We will discuss them in class, but if you want to read a discussion of these particular fatwas, they are taken from the chapter on divorce in Tucker's other book, In the House of the Law.

Further Reading:
Ronald Jennings, "Women in Early 17th Century Ottoman Judicial Records: The Sharia Court of Anatolian Kayseri," Journal of the Economic and Social History of the Orient 18 (1975), 53-114.
Ronald Jennings, "Divorce in the Ottoman Sharia Court of Cyprus, 1580-1640," Studia Islamica 78 (1993), 155-67.
Leslie Peirce, Morality Tales: Law and Gender in the Ottoman Court of Aintab (University of California Press, 2003).
Amira el-Azhary Sonbol (ed.), Women, the Family and Divorce Laws in Islamic History (Syracuse University Press, 2006).
Madeline Zilfi (ed.), Women in the Ottoman Empire: Middle Eastern Women in the Early Modern Era (Brill, 1997).