islamic topics

Non-Muslim divorces in Muslim Majority Countries

Non-Muslim divorces in Muslim Majority Countries

A few days ago, we had highlighted the issue of Muslims seeking divorces in non-Islamic countries. The issue at hand was the interpretation of “Mahr” agreements in non-Shariah courts and the complications that follow from such marriage dissolution.

This time the issue is the reverse. In Malaysia, a case involving a non-Muslim spouse has become very controversial. The case is about a couple who were non-Muslims (Hindus) when they originally got married. Later, the husband converted to Islam and has left with one of his children saying that the child (age 4) too has turned to Islam.

In Malaysia, non-Muslim matters are settled in civil courts while Muslim matters are heard by Islamic Shariah courts. The non-Muslim wife is arguing that the case should be heard in a civil court on the basis that both couples were non-Muslims when they got married and having a Shariah court hear the case will most likely grant custody of the child to the newly converted Muslim husband. The husband on the other hand wants the case to be heard in a Shariah court as he is a Muslim.

The case was raised to Malaysia’s highest Court, which ruled today a confusing ruling. On one hand it rejected the Hindu wife’s plea to stop her husband from divorcing her in the Islamic Shariah court and also upheld the man’s right to change his son’s religion to Islam. Yet, on the other hand, the court also ruled that marriage issues of spouses from different backgrounds should be settled in civil courts. It seems that the court drama may continue to play more in the near future.

If history is any indication, we will see a backlash in the media against the court’s rulings. However, everyone should remember that Islam has always been just with non-Muslims even when they were ruled by Muslim rulers. A Jew for example won a case in Caliph Umar Khattab’s time when he brought a case against a Muslim. There are other numerous examples in this context. Therefore, without knowing any merits of the case, a ruling in this case against the Hindu woman should not necessarily be interpreted as unjust.

Conversely though, the issue probably is debatable whether such cases should be left to the civil courts rather than handing over to the Islamic courts, as was also ruled by Malaysia’s highest court. Also, the husband’s stand that the boy converted to Islam seems quite childish as a 4 year old boy can rarely be considered independent minded to chose his religion without any influence.

There are other Muslim countries where non-Muslims live as citizens. One does wonder how is the law interpreted and applied in those countries. Such countries include Pakistan, Indonesia, Bangladesh and others. If you know of any such case, please post your thoughts below. (Pakistan culture)

Read more about Indonesian Americans, Bangladeshi AmericansSomali Americans, and Pakistani Americans here.

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