John Hursh


This article discusses the challenges and opportunities for advancing women’s rights through Islamic law using contemporary Morocco as a case study. Part I provides an overview of women’s rights in Morocco including the historic 2004 Mudawana (Code of Personal Status) reforms. Part II discusses the social roles, cultural representations, and socioeconomic realities of Moroccan women, emphasizing the important role that Moroccan women have played in legal and social reform efforts through their participation in civil society. Part III discusses several legal strategies for advancing women’s rights in Islamic states and assesses the strengths, weaknesses, and likely success of each approach. These strategies include implementing international law and secular reform, utilizing the Moroccan legislative process, reinterpreting the Qur’an and the hadith (the two primary sources of Islamic law), exercising ijtihad (resolving an Islamic legal issue through personal thought and reflection), and contesting the development of Shari’a. Part IV outlines the most promising strategy for advancing women’s rights in Islamic states. This final Part discusses failed reform strategies, outlines an effective reform strategy, and concludes that women’s rights are largely compatible with Shari’a provided the right social and political conditions exist.



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