NEWS | 31 Oct 2016
CASE COMMENTARY:  Shamim Ara and the Divorce Politics of a Secular and Modern India

There is a lot of talk about a controversial type of divorce – some see it as valid in Islamic law, but  others rail against it as anti-Islamic law – that may challenge the integrity and institution of marriage in secular societies, and has the Indian Supreme Court set for possibly banning the practice. What practice is that? It is the so-called triple-ṭalāq maneuver whereby Muslim men utter three “magic words” – ṭalāq, ṭalāq, ṭalāq (divorce, divorce, divorce) – to dissolve a marriage outside of the judicial system. Against that backdrop, it is worth revisiting the origins of the practice. South Asia editor Jeff Redding takes us back to a 2002 case to highlight ways in which a major factor that influences the Indian Supreme Court’s ṭalāq decisions is often overlooked: the "state vs. non-state character of ṭalāq." In the landmark case Shamim Ara v. State of U.P. (2002), the Court decided in favor of Shamim Ara, who sued her husband for maintenance fees, only to be told he had divorced her in a civil suit years prior using the private ṭalāq maneuver without her knowledge.The Court concluded that declaration of ṭalāq without her knowledge was illegitimate and ordered him to pay maintenance fees until the divorce had been effected with both parties' knowledge. Since, the decision has had a positive effect on Muslim women's welfare in India. But women’s welfare may not have been the driving concern of the Court. Instead, the case may have revealed the extent of the Indian government’s concerns with being seen as a secular and modern state on par with its peers. These concerns reveal themselves in several related cases: the Supreme Court's historical preference for arbitration and reconciliation over divorce; its historical reluctance to intervene in questions of Islamic family law, which usually involves divorce, and which therefore typically result in illiberal outcomes regarding women; and its reluctance to codify Islamic family law to set clear standards. Redding concludes that, in the 2002 case, the Indian Supreme Court's decision sought to preserve existing mores and project liberal aspirations by "allow[ing] divorce, while simultaneously attempting to distance itself—both figuratively and literally—from the practiced reality of it." The current row over triple ṭalāq currently before the Supreme Court will no doubt test these claims and may well explain the original outcome. Read moreImage credit: India New England News

CASE DOCUMENT: Shamim Ara v. State of U.P. (Indian Supreme Court, 2002)
In this older case on ṭalāq (divorce) before the Supreme Court in India, an issue now before that Court again, the justices decided that a husband's filing for divorce without his wife's knowledge cannot be considered a valid declaration of ṭalāq. For the first time, the state formally decided what is or is not considered proper procedure for ṭalāq. Often considered a landmark case for Muslim women's welfare in India, the Shamim Ara case will no doubt shed light on the question currently before the Indian Supreme Court on the constitutionalism of triple ṭalāq. (SHARIAsource beta access required). Image credit: The Indian Talks
  IN SUMMARY:: Workshop: Digital Islamic Humanities & Early Arabic Printed Books

Friday, October 21, 2016 | Brown University, Joukowsky Forum, Watson Institute | Led by Elias Muhanna. As part of a series on digital Islamic humanities, this program showcased a growing network of institutions and organizations using technology to enhance the study of Islam in all its facets, including Islamic law. Dr. Kathryn Schwartz of Harvard University outlined a major shift in the understanding of why Europe and the Middle East embraced printing at different speeds. She indicated that differences in technology are replacing lack of human agency as the most widely accepted reason. This approach embraces more squarely the extensive history of manuscripts in the Middle East region. Read more.  Image credit: Paul Beran

Other News

Scholars and SHARIAsource in the News
On October 11th, senior scholar Anver Emon lectured at St. Olaf College on Islamic natural law after speaking at Carleton College on "Islamic Law at the Borders: Thinking Jurisdiction at the Intersection of Sharia and International Child Abduction."

In a recent post on the national security blog Lawfare, Jack Goldsmith, Henry L. Shattuck Professor at Harvard Law School and co-founder of Lawfare, mentions  SHARIAsource in his review of professor-run, student-run blogs that feature successful student online legal writing – a practice that he argues is more useful than the traditional student law review note.

Research Methods Talk :: Using Corpus Analysis to Study Media Discourse: Comparing Discussions of Islamic Marriage Reform in India and Pakistan (7 Nov | Cambridge, MA
This talk focuses on using corpus analysis as a research method. Media discourse on legislative issues provides a rich source for deriving research questions. Sharon Tai, Research Editor, SHARIAsource and Ali Hashmi, SHARAIsource Editor/Data Scientist will ask for feedback on the development of a new corpus analysis tool that is being used to analyze and compare how contemporary media in India and Pakistan is shaping discourse about issues of marriage reform and Islamic law. Osama Siddique (Henry J. Steiner Visiting Professor in Human Rights, Harvard Law School) will serve as a respondent to the panel by giving feedback on how the tool could be used, improved, and further developed from his experience as a scholar, lawyer, and social scientist. Read more. 

PersDig@UMD, OpenITI, and the Construction of the Infrastructure for ‘Digital Humanities’ Scholarship on the Premodern Islamicate World (11 Nov 2016 | Princeton, NJ). Roshan Institute Research Fellow and Associate Director of the Roshan Initiative in Persian Digital Humanities (PersDig@UMD) Matthew Thomas Miller will be speaking on his recent work. Organized by the Institute for Advanced Study as part of their Digital Scholarship Conversations. Read more.

Workshop :: Digital Islamic Law and History: Resources and Methods (16 Nov | Cambridge, MA). This workshop will explore the methods for manipulating Islamic historical texts in Arabic through a collaborative platform called Open Arabic, and with tools for converting Arabic PDFs into OCR documents. Maxim Romanov, the architect of these systems, will lead participants through a hands-on exercise of marking and otherwise manipulating digitized Arabic texts to identify trends, build database, and produce data visualizations. By invitation only, with RSVPs directly to Read more. 

Colloquium :: From Text to Map: Arabic Biographical Collections and Geospatial Analysis (17 Nov | Cambridge, MA). Thousands of fully-digitized texts of premodern Arabic sources have become available over the past decade or two. Computational methods of text analysis now offer us a key to the riches of extensive biographical collections. Mapped across time and space, tens of thousands of biographies may give us a novel and multifaceted perspective on Islamic history. Maxim Romanov's presentation will focus on major steps—moving from text to map—and highlight some results of such computational endeavors. Read more.

SHARIAsource Resource Sharing Workshop :: Comparing and Sharing Digital Archival Projects and Resources (17 Nov | Cambridge, MA). Led by Maxim Romanov  and Intisar Rabb, this discussion will showcase major tools and resources (online or digitized sources, CDs and hard drives, etc.) that can be used to research primary source documents in Arabic digitally. To participate, attendees need to submit at least one resource to share and showcase for (2-3 minutes): name of the source, where to locate it (URL or otherwise), its content and scope, examples of use, and pros and cons of use. Examples of these sources include, but are not limited to: the Islamic Texts Initiative, Turath Hard Drive, al-Maktaba al-Shamila, Warraq, Noor CDs, Qurʾānic Arabic Corpus, etc. RSVP or read more.

SHARIAsource MESA Reception (17 Nov | Cambridge, MA). Join a reception to chat informally about your work on Islamic law, developments of SHARIAsource, and otherwise. Light refreshments will be served. Contact Ashley Fournier with any questions at afournier@law.harvard.eduRSVP.

Middle East Studies Association Annual Meeting (17-20 Nov 2016 | Boston, MA). MESA’s annual meeting will host a range of panels on Islamic law, including  "Policing and Punishment in the Making of the Modern Middle East," "Is Saudi Foreign Policy 'Islamic'?," "Islamic Religious Authority between the Arab World and Europe: Multi-tasked and Multi-tasking Imams" (Denmark contributor Niels Valdemar Vinding will be presenting), "International Law, Sovereignty and Subjecthood in the Late Ottoman Empire" (Ottoman editor Will Smiley will be a discussant), "Legal Contests & Disputes, Part I," "Law as Social History in the Late Ottoman Era," "Legal Contests & Disputes, Part 2."  See full preliminary program.

"Qur’anists in al-Andalus?" (5 Apr 2017 4 pm | Princeton, NJ). Incoming ILSP: SHARIAsource and CMES senior fellow Maribel Fierro will be speaking as part of the Institute for Advanced Study's Near/Middle Eastern and Islamic Studies Lecture Series 2016/2017. She explores the production of religious and political authority sharing her study of how prophets accepted by Islam are represented. See full details. 

Workshop on Arabic Periodicals (12 Nov 2016 | Durham, NC). Professor Adam Mestyan of Duke University is organizing a small workshop on early Arabic periodicals. See full details.

Witteveen Memorial Fellowship in Law and Humanities (Spring 2017 | Tilburg ). Tilburg University is establishing the annual Witteveen Memorial Fellowship in Law and Humanities in order to commemorate the life and work of Willem Witteveen. The fellowship aims to enable a junior scholar (PhD or postdoc level) to further develop his or her research in the area of ‘Law and Humanities’ during a visit to Tilburg. Applications are due on 15 Nov. Read more. 

2017 Annual Meeting of the Association for the Study of Law, Culture & the Humanities at Stanford University (21 Mar-01 Apr 2017 | Palo Alto, CA) . The Association for the Study of Law, Culture, and the Humanities is now accepting panel and paper proposals for their twentieth annual meeting. Proposals that include complete panels or focus on pedagogy, methodology, author-meets-readers sessions, or performance (theatrical, cinematic, musical, and poetic) are strongly encouraged. Abstracts of 250 words or less are due on  28 Oct Read more .

The Hurst Summer Institute in Legal History (4-17 Jun 2017 | Madison, WI).  The American Society for Legal History and the Institute for Legal Studies at the University of Wisconsin Law School are now accepting applications for their ninth biennial Hurst Summer Institute in Legal History. Applications are due on  1 Dec Read more. 

Junior Research Group at the Max Planck Institute for Social Anthropology, Department of Law and Anthropology (Apr 2017 | Halle). The Max Planck Institute is establishing a junior research group to investigate the bureaucratization of Islam and its socio-legal dimensions in Southeast Asia. There are three PhD positions open; the positions would be for three years. Applications are due 15 Dec. Read more.

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