Muslim Family Law Reform: Understanding the Difference between Muslim-Majority and Muslim-Minority Jurisdictions

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1 Scopus citations


35 Muslim-majority and 18 Muslim-minority countries formally integrate Muslim Family Laws (mfl s) into their legal systems. Both groups of governments have undertaken legislative reforms to improve the status of women/children under mfl s and strengthen the rule of law within their mfl systems. The existing scholarship does not address whether mfl s are more reformed or human/women’s rights friendlier in Muslim-majority or Muslim-minority countries. Employing an innovative methodological tool, the Muslim Family Law Index, this exploratory article surveys cross-national and historical trends in mfl reform (1946–2016). It shows that although Muslim-minority countries appear to have more “reformed” mfl systems than their Muslim counterparts, a closer analysis reveals that they have prioritized different types of legislative reform. The former favored exit rights, while the latter prioritized substantive reforms. The type and extent of interventions were strongly associated with colonial heritage, state-religion relations, international norm diffusion, women’s activism, and ethnoreligious diversity/tolerance. These findings have implications for studying multicultural theory, human/women’s rights, and democratization in the mfl-applying world.

Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalJournal of Law, Religion and State
StateAccepted/In press - 2023


  • Muslim Family Law
  • Muslim Family Law Index
  • Muslim-majority
  • Muslim-minority
  • colonialism
  • human rights
  • reform
  • women’s rights

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Religious studies
  • Sociology and Political Science
  • Law


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