Judicial Ijtihād as a Tool for Legal Reform: Extending Women’s Right to Divorce under Islamic Law in Pakistan

In: Islamic Law and Society
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In a series of judgments starting in 1959, Pakistani judges reformed Islamic family law by extending women’s right to no-fault based divorce (khulʿ). For this purpose, they directly interpreted the Qurʾān and Sunnah, and removed the requirement of the consent of a husband for judicial khulʿ. This article analyses the methods and the methodological tools that Pakistani judges used to justify the unilateral right of women to no-fault judicial divorce. The analysis shows that instead of following the opinions of classical jurists, Pakistani judges exercised independent legal reasoning (ijtihād). By using judicial ijtihād, Pakistani judgescontinue to play a key role in reforming classical Islamic family law with changing circumstances.

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