Islamic law, qadhis’ courts and Muslim women’s legal status: The case of Kenya

Since the 1950s, the jurisdiction of Islamic law in Kenya has narrowed steadily. But that reduction in judicial status has not been matched by a decrease in litigation. In contrast to the ‘quadhis” (judge) shrinking powers during the last 25 years, their case loads have mushroomed, marked most dramatically by women’s emergence as key plaintiffs in their courts. The religious court has become primarily a legal battleground where women bring suit against men. This paper focuses on legal developments in Mombasa. By examining the altered status of Kenya’s premier Islamic court and the shifting patterns of cases initiated by Mombasa’s Muslim women since 1958, the author demonstrates that many of the social and political changes which have rendered Islamic law vulnerable to restrictive policies in Kenya have also thrust women into overt legal struggles to dissolve their marriages, secure their rights to maintenance, gain custody of their children and protect their property interests. Notes, ref.

Title: Islamic law, qadhis’ courts and Muslim women’s legal status: The case of Kenya
Author: Brown, Beverly B.
Year: 1993
Periodical: Journal of the Institute of Muslim Minority Affairs
Volume: 14
Issue: 1-2
Period: January
Pages: 94-101
Language: English
Geographic term: Kenya
External link: https://doi.org/10.1080/13602009308716282
Abstract: Since the 1950s, the jurisdiction of Islamic law in Kenya has narrowed steadily. But that reduction in judicial status has not been matched by a decrease in litigation. In contrast to the ‘quadhis” (judge) shrinking powers during the last 25 years, their case loads have mushroomed, marked most dramatically by women’s emergence as key plaintiffs in their courts. The religious court has become primarily a legal battleground where women bring suit against men. This paper focuses on legal developments in Mombasa. By examining the altered status of Kenya’s premier Islamic court and the shifting patterns of cases initiated by Mombasa’s Muslim women since 1958, the author demonstrates that many of the social and political changes which have rendered Islamic law vulnerable to restrictive policies in Kenya have also thrust women into overt legal struggles to dissolve their marriages, secure their rights to maintenance, gain custody of their children and protect their property interests. Notes, ref.