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Periodical article Periodical article Leiden University catalogue Leiden University catalogue WorldCat catalogue WorldCat
Title:The betrothal of 'Ambar真 bint M真s畝: Islamic law versus Somali custom in a colonial context
Authors:Kapteijns, LidwienISNI
Spaulding, JayISNI
Periodical:Islam et soci彋廥 au Sud du Sahara
Geographic terms:Saudi Arabia
customary law
family law
Islamic law
Abstract:The colonial transformation of northern Somalia brought to the fore a conflict between Somali 'xeer' or customary law and Islamic law, which symbolized the contrast between two different ways of life: a precapitalist, non-State, pastoral society, which structured its social relations in terms of corporate kinship, and a capitalist urban society, dominated by the colonial State and increasingly committed to bourgeois individualism. This article examines a betrothal dispute that occurred in 1914 in the Somali community of colonial Aden. 'Ambar真 bint M真s畝 had been married by the q畝.d疳 of Aden to a man named Ma.hm真d J畝ma' despite her betrothal to another man. A group of Somali residents of Aden drew up a petition to the British administration, complaining about the procedures, upon which the British Resident asked the q畝.d疳 to explain himself. The q畝.d疳's letter of reply is presented, in Arabic with an English translation, at the end of the article. He stated that 'in Mahommedan law the fact of a girl's betrothal is no impediment to her marriage with a person other than to whom she was betrothed'. The Resident supported the q畝d.i's conclusion, although he recognized that betrothal was binding under customary law. Thus Islamic law triumphed over Somali customary law. Nevertheless, Somali pastoral tradition continued to remain strong. In asserting its control over urban women, more often than not it received the backing of the colonial State. Notes, ref.