Archive for Muslim nations

Child Custody in Muslim Nations

First of all, I realize that this is a very broad topic, probably more so than any of my prior 69 posts. One can verify that by simply typing this topic into Google and note the one million plus entries.  I decided to use two sources: Wikigender, which I’d never encountered and, which would seem to be an official Islamic website.

The latter site introduces the term “hadana”, which refers to the care that a mother gives and this can be passed onto a female including (seemingly in order) a maternal grandmother, a sister or an aunt.  Its counterpart is “wilaya”, supervision by the father(or a male paternal family member if he is unable to take responsibility), which involves passport rights and education.  In cases where the two parties don’t agree on child custody, the father gets custody, assuming that he is religious.  It is also noted that a mother is usually never denied visitation and that the father is given this superior position based on the assumption that it is far more likely that he will remarry.

Wikigender was a good source for comparing in the situation in various Middle Eastern nations and I thought these four were the most interesting:

*Iran was the only predominately Shiite nation listed and the only one to feature a western film on the topic: “Not without my daughter”, with a moving performance by Sally Fields.  After the 1979 revolution fathers were given custody of boys after age two(changed to age seven in 2003) and girls at age seven.

*Egypt is similar to Iran in that mothers are granted custody of boys until age seven and girls until age nine.  Here though, judges have discretion to move the ages to nine and 11, respectively, if they feel it to be in the child’s best interest.

*Saudi Arabia is distinctive in that it is home to the two most important Muslim shrines, Mecca and Medina, has a huge number of foreign workers and is considered to be the strictest Muslim nation. Here mothers have custody of sons until age five and daughters until age seven, probably the youngest ages of any nation.

*Lebanon is perhaps still the most westernized of any majority Muslim nation.  Its capital, Beirut, was called “The Paris of the Mideast” until the violence began proliferating in the 1970’s.  Despite this western patina, mothers are only allowed custody until a son reaches seven and a daughter nine.  The mother loses custody immediately if she remarries, whereas the father does not and the children belong to his line.


In summary, as in the Confucian nations cited in previous weeks, it seems that the purpose of these laws is to preserve social stability, but from a very different mindset from either East Asia or the western world.  Another important consideration is the degree of secularization in any given nation, thus a country like Indonesia, where Mr. Obama spent several years in his youth, should have different custody laws than any of the four nations cited above.




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