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Studying Khulʿ in Finland: How Do Finnish Muslim Women Obtain a Unilateral Khulʿ Divorce?

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Title: Studying Khulʿ in Finland: How Do Finnish Muslim Women Obtain a Unilateral Khulʿ Divorce?
Author(s): Qasim, Salaado
Contributor: University of Helsinki, Faculty of Arts
Degree program: Master's Programme in Area and Cultural Studies
Specialisation: Middle Eastern, Islamic and Jewish Studies
Language: English
Acceptance year: 2023
Muslim majority countries such as Egypt, Pakistan, and Jordan in the beginning of the second millennium introduced a new form of judicial khulʿ divorce where the husband’s consent is not required, and the divorce is issued by the court on the condition that the wife relinquishes her dower and post-divorce financial dues such as ʿidda maintenance. In European countries where many Muslims also reside, divorce laws are regulated differently from the Muslim majority states. Hence, Muslims in these societies navigate between two legal systems, one being a religious legal system and the other a secular legal framework. The distinction between the two systems is that Islamic law is not always recognized by the European state authorities. This study draws on data collected through thematic interviews with three Finnish women who have secured their divorce through khulʿ. I also rely on interviews with six members of mosque family dispute resolution who carry out mediation and arbitration in Muslim family disputes, including khulʿ divorce cases. The purpose is to examine how khulʿ is practiced in a secular society and how the understanding of family dispute mediators and divorcees resembles or differs from the juristic construction of khulʿ and its current application in codified Muslim family laws. The study sheds light on the lived realities of Muslim women seeking a unilateral religious divorce in Finland, where Muslim family law is not codified and where most divorces are conducted on the basis of mutual agreement of the spouses. It also sheds light on how family dispute mediators conclude khulʿ in mosques and highlights how interpretations and practices of khulʿ are gendered by focusing on the contestations over khulʿ in relation to issues such as the monetary compensation paid by the wife and the husband's consent. The results of the study provide insight into why some Muslim women choose to end their marriage through khulʿ and how they navigate or reconcile Islamic law with state law. The findings also provide unique insight into khulʿ practices in mosques and the many strategies they adopt to conclude successful khulʿ divorces. The data collected for this study shows how three mosques required the husband's consent, while the fourth did not. Interestingly, the reason for requiring the husband’s consent was the same across all mosques, and they all highlighted the challenges of not having the legal authority to grant state-recognized divorces. My data shows how women with fault-based reasons resort to khulʿ divorce, although it is a form of divorce that can be secured without any fault-based grounds. The reasons that led the women I interviewed to seek khulʿ divorce varied. The reasons included the husband's gambling addiction, husband's failure to support, and psychological and physical abuse. The findings also reveal how support networks, women’s knowledge of their divorce rights, and the lack of a formal legal system applying Islamic family law have a major impact on women's choices. Women without knowledge of their rights or community or family support networks have no choice but to resort to different solutions such as "forum or imam shopping". This study contributes to research-based knowledge of the workings of uncodified Islamic family law in Europe, and particularly on divorce. Specifically, it adds to the existing studies on Muslim family practices and Islamic law in Finland, focusing on no-fault divorce known as khulʿ which has not yet been studied.
Keyword(s): Islam Muslim family law Islamic jurisprudence state law Muslim communities imams divorce khulʿ gender women's rights imaamit islam laki (ilmiöt) avioero muslimiyhteisöt laki naisten ja miesten välisestä tasa-arvosta naisen asema moskeijat

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