Pakistani Islamic Divorce in U.S. Courts

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Pakistani Islamic Divorce in U.S. Courts


     By Gabriel Sawma, Esq., Expert ConsultantExpert Consultant in Islamic Banking and Finance; Islamic Divorce in US Courts

PhoneCall Prof. Gabriel Sawma at (609) 915-2237

Pakistani men residing in the U.S. travel to their homeland to get divorce decrees from Pakistan. They return back to the United States and seek recognition and enforcement of the Pakistani Islamic divorce decree in a state court. This article deals with the issues related to Pakistani Islamic divorce in U.S. courts.
Following the partition of Pakistan in 1947, the Islamic family law regulating marriage and divorce introduced under the British rule continued to govern until 1961 when the government of Pakistan passed the Muslim Family Law Ordinance (MFLO) to regulate divorce in that country.The Constitution of Pakistan requires all laws to be brought in accordance with the Quran and the Sunnah which constitutes the deeds and sayings of Muhammad, the prophet of Islam. Chapter 3A establishes the Federal Shariat Court. The law of marriage and divorce is governed by the rules of Islamic sharia.The law requires the age of males entering into marriage to be 18, and for females 16; there are penalties for contracting under-age marriages, though under age marriages in Pakistan remain valid regardless of the age limit. As to the guardianship issue, the law requires the application of the Hanafi School of Jurisprudence allowing a woman to contract herself in marriage without the consent of her guardian (wali).

The law requires mandatory registration for marriage; failure to register, however, does not invalidate the marriage. Legal constraints are placed on polygamy by requiring the husband to register his marriage at the local Union Council for permission and notification of existing wife/wives. The chairman of the Union Council establishes an arbitration council with representatives of both husband and wife/wives in order to determine the necessity of the proposed marriage. The law requires that the application must state whether the husband has obtained consent from the existing wife or wives. Violation to these rules is subject to fine and/or imprisonment and the husband becomes bound to make immediate payment of “mahr” to the existing wife or wives. However, if the husband does not obtain consent of his existing wife/wives, the subsequent marriage remains valid regardless of the provisions stated in the law; that is because provisions of Islamic sharia are superior to any other law in Islamic countries.

Under the rules of Islamic divorce in Pakistan, a husband can divorce his wife unilaterally, any time, in any place, and, without any obligation to state a reason for divorce. After the husband announces his divorce statement “I divorce you”, three times (triple talaq), the law mandates that the husband gives a notice in writing to the chairman of the Union Council. The chairman must forward a copy of the notice of divorce (talaq) to the wife. Non-compliance with these provisions is punishable by imprisonment and/or fine. The law requires that within thirty days of receipt of the notice of divorce, the chairman of the Union Council must establish an Arbitration Council in order to take steps to bring about reconciliation between husband and wife. If reconciliation is failed, a divorce takes effect after the expiration date of ninety days from the day on which the notice of repudiation was first delivered to the chairman. If the wife is found pregnant during the period following the announcement of divorce, the divorce does not take effect until ninety days have elapsed or the end of the pregnancy, whichever is later. Since the 1980s, and in view of the pressure from Islamic sharia scholars, the practice of the courts in Pakistan is that they validate a unilateral divorce by the husband (triple talaq) by pronouncing “I divorce you” three times, despite a failure to notify the Union Council; this is because Islamic sharia allows a husband to divorce his wife at will, without any provision regarding registration of divorce.

U.S. State family courts do not apply Islamic sharia because of violation of the Establishment Clause set in the U.S. Constitution. However, state courts can recognize divorce decrees issued in Pakistan on the basis of a doctrine in private international law known as “Comity”. Such recognition does not entail an obligation on State Courts to agree with the rulings of a foreign divorce judgment in Pakistan. The Doctrine of Comity is raised when the husband resides legally in the United States, travels to Pakistan, to obtain an Islamic divorce decree from a court in that country, obtains an easy divorce by just stating three times: “I divorce you”, or “I divorce my wife”, in the presence of two male witnesses or one male and two female witnesses; pays the deferred “mahr”, records his divorce in Pakistan, authenticate the documents through proper channels, travels back to the United States, serves his wife with divorce papers, and then seeks recognition and enforcement of the Pakistani divorce by a State Court.

Recognition of Pakistani Islamic divorce decree by a State court in the United States on the basis of “comity” is not mandatory. State courts may deny recognition and subsequent enforcement if the judge deems the Pakistani law is “repugnant” to a U.S. principle of law. Generally speaking, foreign divorce judgments are recognized on the basis of “comity” if the parties involved receive adequate notices, i.e., service of process, and, generally, provides one of the parties has a domicile in the foreign nation at the time of divorce, and the foreign court has given opportunity to both parties to present their case, and the trial was conducted upon regular proceedings after due citation or voluntary appearance of the defendant, and under a system of jurisprudence likely to secure an impartial administration of justice between the citizens of its own country and those of other countries, and no prejudice towards either party, and should not violate a strong U.S. principle of law.

An Islamic divorce decree in Pakistan differs substantially with respect to property division and the “mahr” stipulation. Under Pakistani Islamic law of divorce, wives are entitled to the deferred “mahr”, which is, in most cases, much less than what a State court in the U.S. grants the wife. State courts may not recognize a Pakistani divorce decree if the cause of action on which the divorce is based is “repugnant” to “Public Policy”.

An authorization to republish this article is hereby granted by the author, provided the author’s name appears with the article.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:  Prof. Gabriel Sawma
Gabriel Sawma is a lawyer with Middle East background. Professor of Middle East Constitutional Law, Islamic sharia, and Islamic economics. Expert consultant on Islamic divorce in U.S. courts; editor in chief of International Law; Instructor on Islamic economics; Author of “The Aramaic Language of the Qur’an.

Email: gabrielsawma@yahoo.com

Email: gabygms@gmail.com

Tel. (609) 915-2237

Copyright Gabriel Sawma, Esq., Expert Consultant

More information about Gabriel Sawma, Esq., Expert Consultant

While every effort has been made to ensure the accuracy of this publication, it is not intended to provide legal advice as individual situations will differ and should be discussed with an expert and/or lawyer. For specific technical or legal advice on the information provided and related topics, please contact the author.

Islamic Lebanese Divorce in U.S. Courts

Published: SEPTEMBER 18, 2011  I WWW.NEWJURIST.COM

Gabriel Sawma

Islamic Lebanese Divorce in U.S. Courts

American men with Lebanese ancestry may travel to Lebanon in order to obtain quick divorces. In such a situation, the man leaves most of his property, children, and wife in the United States. But could the divorce obtained in such a way be entitled to recognition and enforcement in the United States? BY GABRIEL SAWMA

Historical Background

Lebanon was ruled by the Ottoman Empire from 1516 until World War One. Relief came in September 1918 when the British army moved along with the Arab forces into Palestine and opened the way for the occupation of Syria and Lebanon. At San Remo Conference held in Italy in April 1920, the Allies gave France a mandate over Greater Syria, which includes modern day Republic of Lebanon, and the Arab Republic of Syria. France then appointed General Henri Gouraud to implement the mandate provisions over the two countries.

As a result of the French mandate, the laws of Lebanon were greatly influenced by the French legal system and judiciary. Due to the fact the Lebanese population is heterogeneous; the leaders of the country developed a highly complex system of governing, whereby a complex power-sharing among the main religious communities, mainly Christians and Muslims were put into effect. By 1970, the balance of power between Christians and Muslims was threatened due to the influx of Palestinian refugees, fleeing from the 1970 civil war in Jordan; they were joined by the Lebanese elements that aligned themselves with the liberation of Palestine. That led to a civil war in 1975, which continued until 1990.

 

The Religious Court System in Lebanon

The judiciary in Lebanon is divided into four main court systems; each is spread among other subdivisions. The systems are: (1) the “qada’ Adli” or the judicial courts; (2) “Majlis al-Shura” or the administrative court system; (3) the military court system; and (4) the religious courts.

The religious court system in Lebanon is composed of the court systems of eighteen recognized denominations covering the three main religions of Christianity, Islam and Judaism. The jurisdiction of these courts is limited to family law matters and other matter defined by the law.

The Muslim courts are known as “al-Mahakim al-Shar’iyyah” for Sunni Muslims and al-Mahakin al-Ja’fariyah for Shia Muslims and another system for the Druze sect. There are also ecclesiastical courts for the different Christian denominations and a Jewish court for the Jewish community. Judgments of the Courts of First Instance are appealed to the relevant courts of Appeals for each denomination.

 

Source of the Islamic Family Law

The source of Islamic family law for the Sunni Muslims of Lebanon is based on the 1962 enactment known as The Law of the Rights of the Family, which stipulates that “the Sunni judge shall give judgment according to Hanafi doctrine, except in cases specified in the Ottoman Family Rights Act of 1917”. The Hanafi School of jurisprudence in Sunni Islam is one of four “schools of thought” or “schools of jurisprudence” (Arabic singular, madhab; plural, madhaheb) and is considered the oldest school of law. It was named after its founder, Imam Abu Hanifa (father of Hanifa) from Iraq (700 AD).

During the Ottoman Empire, the Hanafi School was the most spread and widely applied in the areas of marriage, divorce, inheritance, child custody and waqf (real estate establishments owned by the Muslim communities such as mosques, madrassas, and other religious institutions). In addition to the Hanafi doctrine, Muslims belonging to other schools of thought were allowed, under the Ottoman rule, at times, to have their cases looked at by other Islamic schools of jurisprudence, such as the Shafi’i, Hanbali or Maliki. All of them applied Islamic Sharia principles in Islamic family disputes. Sharia is the Arabic term for Islamic law. In Lebanon, the provisions of the Hanafi School are applied to Sunni Muslims in family issues involving marriage, divorce, child custody, inheritance and waqf.

 

Divorce in Lebanon under the Hanafi law

Under the Hanafi rules, a man can divorce his wife at will, any time, any place, with or without a reason, regardless of the wife’s approval or approval of the court. The husband does not have to bring any excuse for his divorce. He can do so using the “Triple Talaq” doctrine by uttering the following words three times: “You are divorced” or “my wife is divorced”, or “I divorce you” in the presence of witnesses. Such an announcement will terminate the marriage immediately.

For the purpose of documentation, the husband has to have the religious court sign off on his divorce in the presence of two male witnesses, or one male and two female witnesses. The only obligation on the husband is to pay his wife the ‘mahr’ as stipulated in the marriage contract. The ‘mahr’ consists of the amount of money or its equivalent that the husband gives his bride at the wedding or during the divorce. It can be paid partially or in full, at the wedding or during the divorce. The amount of the ‘mahr’ paid at the divorce does not take into consideration the inflation aspect. For example, a woman who was married twenty years ago and whose ‘mahr’ was worth one thousand US Dollars at the time of marriage, will receive that amount only without any interest, which might be worth much less at the time of divorce.

The “Triple Talaq” doctrine can be used by the husband only. The wife does not have the same privilege. A wife seeking Islamic divorce in Lebanon must go through a judicial process; her request must fall under certain criteria, typically khul’s, abuse, and mistreatment; inability to provide financial support, prolonged absence from the home or incarceration. Under such circumstance the wife has to prove her claims and it is up to the court to agree to her request or disagree.

 

Recognition in the U.S. of Islamic Divorce Obtained in Lebanon

American men with Lebanese ancestry may travel to Lebanon in order to obtain quick divorces. In such a situation, the man leaves most of his property, children, and wife in the United States. But could the divorce obtained in such a way be entitled to recognition and enforcement in the United States?

Recognition of foreign divorce judgments by U.S. courts is based on the principle of ‘comity’ in private international law. The U.S. Constitution does not require that states should recognize and enforce foreign divorce judgments. State courts will only recognize foreign judgments of divorce if the decree obtained overseas is in accordance with the principles of comity among nations. This means that due regard to international duty and convenience, and the sense that respect is due to the judicial act of another nation, comity becomes a deference accorded to the foreign decree to the extent that it is enforceable in the country which rendered it, provided that the foreign court has jurisdiction and due process was provided to the parties involved and that public policy of the state in which the recognition is sought is not violated. Should the decree fail to meet these criteria, it will not be recognized as such.

The most important criterion that a state court will consider is the domicile of the parties at the time of the foreign divorce was obtained. State courts will consider recognition of a foreign judgment of divorce under the doctrine of comity if the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment was respected and most importantly, if the public policy of the state was not violated.

 

About the Author

Gabriel Sawma, a lawyer with Middle East background, dealing with International Law, mainly the European Union Law, the Middle East Law and Islamic Shari’a law. Professor of Middle East Constitutional Law, Islamic Shari’a, Arabic at Fairleigh Dickinson University, NJ. Professor of Islamic Finance at the University of Liverpool, UK. Professor of Islamic Economics at Islamic Economics, http://www.islamiceconomics101.com.

 

Expert consultant on Middle East affairs, terrorism and authority on Islamic Shari’a, including Islamic marriage contracts, the mahr, Islamic banking and finance, Islamic inheritance and child custody. Admitted to the Lebanese Bar Association of Beirut. Associate Member of The New York State Bar and the American Bar Associations. Author of an upcoming book on Islamic marriage Contracts in U.S. Courts and the mahr issue. For free initial consultation: Email: gabrielsawma@yahoo.com

Email: gabygms@gmail.com

Tel: 609-915-2237

 

 

 

 

About Gabriel Sawma

Curriculum Vitae – Prof. Gabriel Sawma
gabriel_sawma
  • Professor: Middle East Studies at Fairleigh Dickinson University.
  • Lawyer with Middle East Background; Graduated in 1970 from the Lebanese University, school of law.
  • Admitted to the Lebanese Bar Association of Beirut.
  • Practiced law in Beirut at the law firm of Rizkallah & Farah.
  • Nominated to be a judge in Lebanon, Lebanese Judicial Studies..
  • Supervised contracts in Europe and the Middle East.
  • Traveled extensively to the Middle East, including Lebanon, Syria, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Bahrain, United Arab Emirates.
  • Worked in Saudi Arabia.
  • Expert consultant on Islamic law.
  • Expert consultant on Islamic divorce in USA.
  • Expert consultant on mahr agreements in Islamic marriage contracts.
  • Expert consultant on Islamic finance.

Professor at Fairleigh Dickinson University

285 Madison Avenue,

Madison, NJ 07940-1099.

Taught the following courses:

  • Arabic 1001, Fall 2007, Spring 2008
  • Arabic 1002, Spring 2008
  • Arab Culture and Civilization, Fall 2009
  • Arab-Islamic Culture and Civilization, Fall 2011
  • Near East as Source of Western Culture
  • Middle East Constitutional Law – comparative study, including Islamic law of marriage, divorce, child custody and inheritance

Lecturer on Islamic Finance at the University of Liverpool:

Course taught at Mercer Community College, West Windsor, New Jersey, Fall 2011.

  • Arabic 101

Professor of Arabic 101 at Princeton Adult School in Princeton, NJ (2010, 2011, 2012, 2013)

Lecturer on Islamic Shari’a and its sources. See my lecture at Fairleigh Dickinson University to students and faculty:

http://view.fdu.edu/default.aspx?id=7899 

Lectured in New York at the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers

Expert Consultant on Muslim family laws of the Middle East, Central and southeast Asia, Africa, and India.

Expert Consultant of Islamic divorce in USA, see our website at:

http://www.islamicdivorceinusa.com  

Featured on the BBC as, “Expert Consultant on Islamic divorce in USA.” The interview is posted on BBC’s website:

http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/south_asia/8608878.stm 

Featured on CNN as “Professor and Expert Consultant on Islamic sharia law.” The interview is posted on CNN’s website:

http://edition.cnn.com/2009/WORLD/meast/11/11/egypt.divorce/index.html 

Editor in chief of a blog on International Law, mainly Islamic law of marriage, divorce and custody of children:

http://www.gabrielsawma.blogspot.com 

Won A Landmark Case In New York Involving Recognition of a Foreign Divorce Judgment including custody, and securing a mahr of $250,000 for the client

In 2012, the Supreme Court of Westchester County handed down a decision in favor of my client. The court recognized a divorce decree obtained from Abu Dhabi (UAE), including custody of children and recognizing a mahr agreement of $250,000. The entire court order is available on this link: http://law.justia.com/cases/new-york/other-courts/2012/2012-ny-slip-op-51875-u.html

 

The Appellate Division Affirms

On January 20, 2015, the Appellate Division, Second Judicial Department, issued a ruling, in which the Court affirmed the decision of the lower Court. The decision of the Appellate Division is available on this link: http://www.courts.state.ny.us/courts/ad2/calendar/webcal/decisions/2016/D47647.pdf

 

Won A Landmark Case in Pennsylvania Involving Custody of Children

Saudi Arabia’s Shari’a Court issued a custody order against a U.S. citizen woman who was married to a Saudi husband. The husband obtained a court judgment from Saudi Arabia granting him custody of his two daughters. The Court in Allegheny, Pennsylvanian agreed with our argument that Saudi Arabia does not have jurisdiction, and the custody order violates Pennsylvania public policy and that Saydi Arabia is in violation to international human rights treaties.

The custody order of  the Court of Allegheny is available at request. For more information on Abduction of children or fear of abduction to Muslim majority countries, please see our website at: www.gabrielsawma.blogspot.com

Author of dozens of articles dealing with Islamic divorce in USA and on International Law: Most of these articles can be found on our website at, http://www.gabrielsawma.blogspot.com

Following is a partial list of my articles on Islamic and Hindu Divorces:[1]

  • Iraqi Divorce in U.S. Courts
  • Yemeni Divorce and U.S. Immigration
  • Egyptian Divorce and U.S. Immigration
  • Palestinian Islamic Divorce of West Bank in USA
  • Saudi Divorce in USA
  • Saudi Divorce and U.S. Immigration
  • Saudi Arabian Child Custody Cases in USA
  • Pakistani Divorce and U.S. Immigration
  • Muslim Divorce in Tunisia
  • Muslim Divorce in Bangladesh
  • Marriage of Minors in Islam
  • The Iddat of a Woman in Islam
  • Muslim Men Marrying Non-Muslim Women
  • The Law of Marriage and Divorce in the United Arab Emirates
  • Islamic Syrian Divorce in USA
  • Islamic Yemeni Divorce in USA
  • Islamic Jordanian Divorce in USA
  • Recognition of Hindu Divorces in New York State
  • Islamic Divorce in New York State
  • The Khul’ Divorce in Egypt
  • Islamic Women Divorce Laws in Egypt
  • Muslim Iranian Divorce in USA
  • Pakistani Islamic Divorce in U.S. Courts
  • Islamic Lebanese Divorce in USA
  • Islamic Marriage Over the Phone, an interview with BBC, (see above)
  • Islamic Sharia in Theory and Practice, a Lecture at FDU, (see above)
  • Divorce in Egypt, an interview with CNN, (see above)
  • Annulment of Islamic Marriages
  • The Wali (guardian) in Islamic Marriages According to Hanafi Jurisprudence
  • Islamic Marriage Contracts in the Hanafi Jurisprudence
  • The Jihaz in Islamic Marriages
  • The Nafaqa in Islamic Marriage
  • The Mahr in Islamic Marriage Contracts
  • Indian Divorce in US Courts
  • Application of Islamic Sharia in US Courts
  • Abduction of children to Muslim Majority Countries
  • Abduction of children from USA to Saudi Arabia

Wrote extensively on International law in the area of the European Union Law. Following are excerpts:

Partial List of my Articles on International Law:[2]

  • The Shebaa Farms Under International Law
  • The Nigerian Scam and its Impact on Global Economy
  • Public International Law and Organizations

LANGUAGES

Speak, read and write: Arabic, English, French, Syriac, Biblical and Talmudic Aramaic

BAR ASSOCIATIONS

  1. Admitted to the Lebanese Bar Association of Beirut since 1970
  2. Former Associate Member of the New York Bar Association, 1982
  3. Former Associate Member of the American Bar Association, 2003

 CONTACT INFORMATION: 

Tel. (609) 915-2237

Email: gabrielsawma@yahoo.com 

Email: gabygms@gmail.com 

 

Websites:

http://www.islamicdivorceinusa.com 

http://www.gabrielsawma.blogspot.com 

[1] These articles are published and can be accessed on the following websites: http://www.islamicdivorceinusa.com

And, http://islamicdivorceinamerica.com

[2] These articles can be accessed on http://www.gabrielsawma.blogspot.com