With the advent of the Islamic Revolution of Iran in 1979, all laws of personal status that were enacted earlier, were suspended. The new legal system, including the Constitution, adopted Islamic Sharia according to the Shi’i Twelver Ja’fari School of jurisprudence. In addition, Special Civil Courts (dadgah-e madani-ye khass) were established to look into cases involving family matters, such as marriage, divorce, custody of children, and inheritance. Since the Islamic Revolution, many norms related to family law have been amended in response to changing circumstances.

The new evolving legal system in the Iranian family law has a major effect on U.S citizens with Iranian ancestry in the area of marriage, divorce, custody of their children and especially in the distribution of marital assets. Knowledge of all these laws lies within the framework of Private International Law of both the United States and Iran, sometimes called, conflict of laws.

Professor Sawma is a leading expert on the international matrimonial laws of the Middle East and Central Asia. His background as a lawyer with the Middle East will be of great asset to his clients.

Won A Landmark Case In New York

In a recent case, the client contacted me and sought my legal advice on  recognition of her foreign divorce obtained in Abu Dhabi including the mahr agreement. Accordingly, I wrote an affidavit to the Supreme Court of Westchester County, New York, seeking recognition of my client’s foreign divorce and her mahr contract valued at $250,000. The Supreme Court agreed with our opinion and handed down a judgment for recognition of the foreign divorce and awarded my client  the full amount.

You may read the judgment of the Supreme Court at the following link: https://law.justia.com/cases/new-york/other-courts/2012/2012-ny-slip-op-51875-u.html

The Appellate Division Affirms The Judgment

On January 20, 2016, the Appellate Division affirmed the judgment of the lower court and recognized the divorce decree obtained from Abu Dhabi, including the mahr agreement. The opinion of the Appellate Division reads:

Here, the mahr agreement, although not acknowledged in accordance with Domestic Relations Law § 236(B)(3), was signed by the parties and two witnesses, as well as the Imam of the Islamic Cultural Center of New York. Under the circumstances presented, the Supreme Court properly recognized so much of the foreign judgment of divorce as incorporated the mahr agreement under the principles of comity, as no strong public policy of New York was violated thereby (see Greschler v Greschler, 51 NY2d 368; Rabbani v Rabbani, 178 AD2d 637). Accordingly, the court properly granted that branch of the plaintiff’s motion which was to enforce so much of the judgment of divorce as awarded the plaintiff the sum of $250,000 pursuant to the mahr agreement.”

The Opinion can be accessed at this link: http://law.justia.com/cases/new-york/appellate-division-second-department/2016/2012-11549.html

Won A Landmark Case 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 Saudi Arabia is in violation to international human rights treaties. The Court in Allegheny said:

Mother’s expert, Professor Gabriel Sawma, testified that women in Saudi Arabia are considered “second class citizens”, and women of all ages are not permitted to do anything including, but not limited to, attending school, driving a vehicle, or seeking medical treatment, without their guardian’s permission. Every girl and woman must have a guardian under Saudi Arabia law. Professor Sawma further testified that under Saudi Arabian custody law, once a female child has obtained the age of 7, the father is automatically granted sole custody of the child, and under no circumstances would a mother be granted custody once a female child is over the age of 7. Additionally, Mother would require a “sponsor” to be permitted entry to Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. Because Mother would have no opportunity to gain custody of the Children in Saudi Arabia, and Father could refuse to sponsor her entry into Saudi Arabia, Father could potentially prevent Mother from seeing the Children again.”

The custody order of the Allegheny Court 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

As Expert Consultant, we offer the following services on:

  • International Law, including laws of the Middle East and Islamic Shari’a.
  • Abduction of children to Muslim majority countries, and fear of parental abduction.
  • Custody of children in Muslim majority countries.
  • Iranian divorce, custody, and mahriah in U.S. courts.
  • Abduction of children or fear of parental abduction to Iran.
  • Enforcement of mahr agreements in U.S. courts.
  • U.S. immigration cases dealing with Islamic divorces obtained overseas.
  • Islamic marriage, divorce, custody and abduction or fear of abduction to Muslim majority countries.


Professor Gabriel Sawma is a lawyer with Middle East background, and a nationally recognized expert consultant on Islamic and Hindu marriage and divorce in USA and Canada, with over 40 years experience in International Law, mainly, recognition and enforcement of Islamic and Hindu divorces in USA. His expertise helped clients, attorneys and judges understand the nature of the mahr agreement in an Islamic marriage contract and its application in the United States and Canada.

Professor Sawma is also expert consultant on Islamic finance; he taught Islamic finance for the MBA program at the University of Liverpool in United Kingdom.

Lectured at the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers in New York.

For  information on the Iranian divorce in U.S. courts, please read our articles listed on the right column of this page or visit our website at: www.iraniandivorceinusa.com

For general information on Islamic divorce, you may visit our website at: www.muslimdivorceinusa.com

For information on Hindu divorce, including Sikhs, Buddhists, and Jains, please see: www.hindudivorceinuscourts.com

Our Curriculum Vitae is published on line at:  http://muslimdivorceinusa.com/professor-gabriel-sawma-curriculum-vitae/

All our articles on International Matrimonial Law can be accessed on this website: www.gabrielsawma.blogspot.com


BBC News“International lawyer Gabriel Sawma, an authority on Sharia law, including Islamic marriage contracts.”
CNN International Edition“Gabriel Sawma, an attorney specializing in Muslim divorce law and professor at Farleigh Dickinson University.”
FAIRLEIGH DICKINSON UNIVERSITYGabriel Sawma, “Islamic Shari’a in Theory and Practice.”
Contact Information
Tel: (609) 915 2237
Email: [email protected]
Email: [email protected]

Coverage: In addition to the United States and Canada, our sevices cover consultations on the Islamic law of marriage, divorce, and child custody of: Afghanistan, Algeria, Egypt, Indonesia, Iran, Israel, Jordan, Kuwait, Lebanon, Libya, Malaysia, Morocco, Pakistan, Palestine, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, Tunesia, Turkey, Yemen, Bahrain, Oman, Qatar, Syria, United Arab Emirates, Europe, Australia, New Zealand, Bangladesh, Iraq, India, Brunei, Nigeria, Azerbaijan, Kyrgyztan, Tajikstan, Turkmenistan, Kazakhstan, and Uzbekistan.

Media: For media interviews, please use contact information listed above.