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The Egyptian State as a Muǧtahid: Law and Religion in the Jurisprudence of the Egyptian Supreme Constitutional Court

In: Arab Law Quarterly
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  • 1 Department of Middle Eastern Studies, University of Texas, The University of Texas at Austin, 204 W 21st Street Stop F9400, Austin, TX 78712, USA
  • | 2 University of Texas School of Law, University of Texas at Austin, 727 East Dean Keeton Street, Austin, TX 78705, USA
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Abstract

This article explores two recent decisions issued by the Egyptian Supreme Constitutional Court (SCC) to demonstrate how the Court resolves conflicts involving Islamic and Christian law: (1) a decision to maintain the constitutionality of the wife’s obedience (ṭāʿat al-zawǧa) articles in the Personal Status Law for Christians, and (2) a decision to extend Muslim mothers’ exclusive custodial claims over children until they reach the age of 15. The article argues that the SCC takes upon itself to decide — based on its own internal logic — the normative legal positions for Christians and Muslims. The SCC rulings reinforce a vision of the Egyptian State as the exclusive holder of legal authority (walī al-amr) with the power to determine the meaning of Islamic/Christian legal norms in a court of law. In these judgments, the Egyptian State is personified as an independent jurist (muǧtahid) that can legislate on behalf of Egyptian Muslims and Christians.

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