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Periodical article Periodical article Leiden University catalogue Leiden University catalogue WorldCat catalogue WorldCat
Title:Muslim Marriages in South Africa: The Limitations and Legacy of the Indian Relief Act of 1914
Author:Vahed, GoolamISNI
Periodical:Journal of Natal and Zulu History
Geographic terms:South Africa
marriage law
Peoples of Africa (Ethnic Groups)
Law, Human Rights and Violence
Religion and Witchcraft
Women's Issues
Ethnic and Race Relations
History and Exploration
Cultural Roles
Marital Relations and Nuptiality
Law, Legal Issues, and Human Rights
Abstract:Recently there have been heated debates among Muslims in postapartheid South Africa about to what extent Muslim Personal Law (MPL) can be adapted or if it should be strictly bound by 'sharia'. This article looks at some similar earlier debates on Muslim marriages. It covers the period between the arrival of Indians in 1860 up to the Indian Relief Act negotiated by Mahatma Gandhi and General Smuts in 1914. In Natal, under the colonial State, the Muslim idea of what constituted a family was challenged, the biggest stumbling block being the non-recognition of polygynous marriages. Muslims failed in their attempts to achieve their goal as the law reified discord between 'sharia' and local values. Marriages contracted according to Islamic law were declared null and void, which entailed a large number of social consequences as a result of uncertainty about the legal position of spouses and children (the most disadvantaged were the women and children), divorce and maintenance, and custody. Muslims drew a distinction between religious law and State law and only some chose to register their marriage, which subsequently could have a devastating effect in the event of divorce, not leaving women a leg to stand on. Even today in postapartheid South Africa the same controversies are tending to divide Muslim society. Notes, ref. [ASC Leiden abstract]