Applied Family Law in Islamic Courts: Shari’a Courts in Gaza, 1st Edition (Hardback) book cover

Applied Family Law in Islamic Courts

Shari’a Courts in Gaza, 1st Edition

By Nahda Shehada


196 pages

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pub: 2018-03-29
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Written from an ethnographic perspective, this book investigates the socio-legal aspects of Islamic jurisprudence in Gaza-Palestine. It examines the way judges, lawyers and litigants operate with respect to the law and with each other, particularly given their different positions in the power structure within the court and within society at large. The book aims at elucidating ambivalences in the codified statutes that allow the actors to find practical solutions to their (often) legally unresolved problems and to manipulate the law. The book demonstrates that present-day judges are not only confronted with novel questions they have to find an answer to, but, perhaps more importantly, they are confronted with contradictions between the letter of codified law and their own notions of justice. The author reminds us that these notions of justice should not be set a priori; they are socially constructed in particular time and space.

Making a substantial contribution to a number of theoretical debates on family law and gender, the book will appeal to both academic and non-academic readers alike.


'This unique ethnography derives from patient observation of proceedings, enriched by the author’s insider knowledge of the intricate social environments in which justice is constructed in Gaza. She dialogues with actors from multiple strata, showing sensitively and impartially how they interact in, behind, and beyond the court arena. The book is a valuable addition to our sociological understanding of (Islamic) law.'

Édouard Conte, Laboratoire d'anthropologie sociale, CNRS, Paris

'Based on an in-depth investigation in Gaza courts, Nahda Shehada’s book also relies on the most relevant and up-to-date academic sources and official archives. She shows how a sharia family court really works in one contemporary Arab society: a society that is peculiar in that it suffers from daily political confinement. In Gaza, women and judges interact in the search for a both negotiated and innovative law, the least unfavourable possible for both parties. All that is brilliantly illustrated by a stimulating book that was much needed and fills a gap in anthropology.'

Bernard Botiveau, Emeritus Director of Research at the CNRS, Paris

Table of Contents

Chapter 1: Introduction

Chapter 2: Islamic Jurisprudence Now, and Then

Chapter 3: The Gaza Shari‘a Courts: an Overview

Chapter 4: The Daily Practice of Judges: Perception vs Reality

Chapter 5: The Sociology of Nafaqa (Maintenance)

Chapter 6: Obedience, Rebelliousness and Agency

Chapter 7: The Articulation of Gendered Parenthood: Care vs Guardianship

Chapter 8: Civil Society, Women’s Movement and Family Law Reform

Chapter 9: Change, a Step at a Time

Chapter 10: Epilogue

About the Author

Nahda Shehada is Senior Lecturer in Gender, Culture and Development at the Institute of Social Studies (ISS), Erasmus University, Rotterdam, The Netherlands. Her major area of interest is anthropology of Islamic law, particularly in the MENA region. She has published widely in books and leading international academic journals focussing on Islamic law.

About the Series

Islamic Law in Context

Islamic Law in Context
The Islamic Law in Context series addresses key contemporary issues and theoretical debates related to the Sharia and Islamic law. The series focuses on research in to the theory and practice of the law, and draws attention to the ways in which the law is operational within modern State practices. The volumes in this series are written for an international academic audience and are sensitive to the diversity of contexts in which Islamic law is taught and researched across various jurisdictions as well as to the ways it is perceived and applied within general international law.

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Subject Categories

BISAC Subject Codes/Headings:
LAW / General
LAW / Comparative
LAW / Courts
LAW / Family Law / General
LAW / Gender & the Law
SOCIAL SCIENCE / Anthropology / Cultural
SOCIAL SCIENCE / Gender Studies
SOCIAL SCIENCE / Islamic Studies