On November 9, 2005, over 100,000 protesters—approximately one seventh of the Kingdom of Bahrain’s population—flooded the streets of the capital, Manama. Most of the protesters were Shi‘a demonstrating their resistance to the government’s campaign to implement a codified family law, announced a month earlier. The measure, which is ready to be presented to Bahrain’s parliament newly elected in 2006, would remove adjudication of matters having to do with women and the family from Muslim religious (shari‘a) courts, whose rulings are at the judge’s discretion. Instead, family courts would follow an agreed-upon body of black-letter law and legal precedent.

The relationship between the Sunni ruling family, the Al Khalifa, and the kingdom’s majority Shi‘i population has not been an easy one. Months after promulgation of the 1972 constitution, which promised representative government and an elected parliament that would enjoy a considerable measure of authority, the constitution was suspended, followed by three decades of authoritarian rule. The ensuing discrimination against the Shi‘a led to widespread anger and frustration resulting in a series of protests (some violent) in the 1990s, yet none were as heavily attended as the 2005 demonstration against the family law. [1] Community leader and Shi‘i cleric Sheikh ‘Isa Qasim left no room for doubt: the Shi‘a would never accept a codified law implemented by the government. They would resist it by battling in the streets if necessary. In a statement published on the website of the Islamic Council of Scholars, of which he is the head, Qasim said, “Our faith is more valuable to us than our blood.”

Opposite the mass of protesters, a much smaller, but equally determined group stood in support of the law. Ghada Jamshir, a rights activist known for her fiery speeches and in-your-face approach, led a group of women who had recently received what they charge were unjust decisions in the shari‘a courts. Jamshir has argued in the local and regional press that Bahrain’s shari‘a court judges are corrupt and unqualified, and that they routinely discriminate against women litigants. Also backing the new law were members and supporters of the Personal Law Committee (PLC), a network of representatives from several women’s organizations. The PLC shares many of Jamshir’s views, but has taken a more moderate approach, working together with lawyers, religious scholars and members of Parliament to formulate and submit their own draft law to the Royal Council. The PLC has pushed for a codified law for over two decades, yet no serious steps in this direction had been taken by the government until recently.

On one level, Bahrain’s struggle over the family law would seem to be typical of struggles in many other Middle Eastern nation-states, wherein “conservative” clerics battle “progressive” women activists for control over the last area of life still ruled, for the most part, by Islamic law. A closer look, however, shows that Bahrain’s fight is as much about political representation and sectarian identity as it is about defining Islam and determining the rules that govern the Muslim family.

The Current System

Bahrain’s current court system is divided into civil and shari‘a sections. Civil courts hear civil, commercial and criminal cases, and shari‘a courts hear cases involving marriage, divorce, alimony, child custody and support, nursing, paternity and inheritance. The shari‘a section is further separated into two departments, one Sunni and one Shi‘i, with each having three levels of litigation: junior, senior and appellate. Judges are appointed by the government. While they are not required to hold a university law degree, judges must have some training in Islamic jurisprudence (fiqh) and at least two years of experience in a legal profession. Judges in shari‘a courts decide cases according to their own interpretations of Islamic law. Shi‘i judges use Ja‘fari fiqh — the most commonly accepted reference for Shi‘i jurists worldwide. [2] The official body of jurisprudence for the Sunni courts is the Maliki school of legal thought (madhhab) adhered to by the Al Khalifa. In interviews for this article, however, several authorities on legal affairs, including shari‘a court judges and lawyers, said that the fiqh of the three other Sunni madhhabs (Hanafi, Hanbali and Shafi‘i) is also used regularly. The courts have operated in this manner since the promulgation of the Judiciary Law in 1971, the same year Bahrain declared independence. [3] There have been a few amendments redefining the courts’ jurisdiction and dictating procedural matters, but the determination of substantive issues has been left to the judges’ discretion.

Even before Bahrain’s independence, there were calls for codification of laws. Nationalist groups (which tended to be non-sectarian) observed the legal reforms taking place in Egypt, Jordan and other newly independent Arab states, and wanted Bahrain to take similar measures. Specifically, nationalist groups called for the enactment of penal and civil laws, the establishment of both a high court of cassation and a council that would act as a constitutional court to settle disputes between legislative and executive authorities, and the appointment of competent judges holding university law degrees and having adequate experience. Throughout the 1950s and 1960s, the Al Khalifa, as the recognized local rulers, worked together with the British to carry out some of these reforms, but the process was slow. By the time of independence, many penal and civil laws were in place, but only the barest regulations were set regarding the appointment of judges and the operation of the courts. The 1971 Judiciary Law did specify that judges appointed at the junior level must have four years’ prior experience in the legal profession, but there were few Bahrainis who could meet this requirement and who were willing to accept the appointment. [4] The Al Khalifa responded to this crisis by recruiting judges from other countries, such as Egypt, Jordan and Sudan, and appointing to the bench ruling family members who had little or no training in shari‘a. They also amended the requirement from four years of experience to two, in the hopes of attracting more candidates. [5] Several legal authorities interviewed for this article reported that even the two-year requirement is often not enforced, and that many judges are placed on the bench after only months of observing shari‘a court operations.

The lack of qualified Bahraini judges has resulted in several problems in the courts. Today, despite claims that Bahrain’s shari‘a court system helps to preserve an Islamic way of life, judges’ decisions are reportedly based on personal opinion, rather than on fiqh. [6] Shari‘a court lawyer Muhammad al-Mutawwa‘ said he is often confounded by decisions that clearly go against basic jurisprudential principles. Even when decisions are based on fiqh, judges might use a Hanafi ruling to apply to a Shafi‘i couple, cobble together elements from more than one madhhab or otherwise bend the fiqh to fit a predetermined ruling. [7] Attorney Jalila al-Sayyid contends that the lack of the rule of precedent also leads to inconsistency in rulings. Shari‘a court decisions are not published, so lawyers often have to rely on each other to share information about judges’ rulings on specific issues. Even so, al-Sayyid reports, “There is a multiplicity of contradictory rulings on the same issue.” She said that judgments are subjective and often depend on factors outside the facts of the case, such as the social rank of the litigants, the gender of the plaintiff and the identity of the judge: “We need legislation because there is no structure for consistency.” [8]

Sheikh Muhsin al-‘Asfour, a judge in the senior-level Shi‘i court for ten years, described the situation in the courts as “chaos.” He said that more than 80 percent of the problems occurring there stem from the fact that neither the litigants nor the judges know shari‘a. Coming from a family of judges and experts in shari‘a, including the neo-Akhbari jurist Yusuf al-Bahraini (d. 1722), al-‘Asfour wrote his own set of laws to be used in the Shi‘i court, based on mainstream Ja‘fari fiqh and the work of his grandfather, Sheikh Khalaf al-‘Asfour, Manama’s chief Shi‘i judge for over four decades. He encouraged the government to use his compilation as a standard to help eliminate inconsistencies in rulings, but so far they have not shown an interest in doing so. [9] Sheikh Yasir al-Mahmid, currently a Sunni judge at the senior level and a self-described Salafi, believes that having a codified law can greatly reduce inconsistencies and confusion in the courts. Bahrain’s Salafi parliamentary bloc expressed hesitation in supporting a codified law because of the threat it could pose to the exclusive use of shari‘a. Al-Mahmid replies that if men of religion write the legislation, the law will remain faithful to Islam. It may be easy for MPs to oppose the law on ideological grounds, but they do not attend the courts day after day, facing real people with real problems that can devastate their lives: “The court is not for debating religion. It is for fixing problems.” [10]

Officials at the Ministry of Justice were equally discouraging about the state of affairs in the shari‘a courts. Sheikh Khalid bin ‘Isa Al Khalifa, undersecretary for the minister of justice, said that the ministry is well aware of the system’s shortcomings. There is a procedural law that dictates the way a case is filed, he said, but no mechanism for ensuring the execution of judges’ rulings. Women normally bear the burden of unenforced decisions, but the undersecretary chose the example of a case in which a wife is ordered to return to her marital home (bayt al-ta‘a). He said, “It’s useless. The police will escort her back to her home, but an hour later she can leave again and go back to her mother.” The undersecretary affirmed the position of the government that a family law is necessary, and added that a unified law would help to close the gap that has been widening between the sects: “Bahrain used to be unified, but because of the revolution in Iran in 1979, the rise of the Shi‘a, fundamentalism, Afghanistan and all these things,” the Shi‘a have created a division. He lamented that the family law issue has been politicized, and is no longer a strictly legal issue. The clerics have made it nearly impossible for the government to institute any reforms, he complained. Until this political issue can be dealt with, the courts will remain disorganized and inefficient. At the close of the interview, Sheikh Khalid joked, “When we got married I told my wife, ‘Whatever happens between us, we are not going to the shari‘a court to resolve it!’” [11]

The result of these problems is not just inefficiency and confusion, but real suffering in the lives of Bahraini families. Press reports in Bahrain’s local papers read like modern tragedies: divorced women living in siblings’ homes for up to a decade waiting for their alimony cases to be heard; victims of domestic violence forced to remain with abusive husbands and fathers despite medical and photographic evidence of the abuse; and mothers losing their children, their homes and their alimony because of alleged bribes by husbands.

Two Decades of Reform Efforts

As serious as the problems in the shari‘a courts have been for lawyers, judges and litigants, it was a women’s NGO that led the first dedicated effort to reform the system. The Personal Law Committee (Lajnat al-Ahwal al-Shakhsiyya) was formed in 1982 as a loose network of representatives from various women’s NGOs. Through raising public consciousness, securing the advocacy of legal experts and clerics, and lobbying the government, the PLC is working toward the goal of a codified personal status law. PLC members argue that the current system is inefficient, sows division between the sects, and leaves glaring inconsistencies among verdicts. The committee has provided the government with a set of measures they feel is necessary to resolve the courts’ problems. Some of these demands include an initiative to draft a unified law based on shari‘a, but that would also comply with international human rights treaties to which Bahrain is a signatory; the active participation of lawyers, jurists and members of NGOs in discussions of the substantive details of the law; an initiative for thorough reform of the shari‘a courts and the related administrative apparatus; the introduction of fixed standards for judges’ training, qualifications and experience, along with regular and compulsory review courses in fiqh; the immediate removal of judges who do not meet these standards (regardless of their lifetime appointments), and impartiality in the appointment of new judges.

For nearly 20 years, the PLC has pursued these goals without seeing any effort from the government to change the shari‘a court system. Then, when Crown Prince Hamad became king in 1999, he announced a plan for comprehensive social and political reforms. These reforms were outlined in what was called the National Action Charter. Although the Charter did not mention specific reforms of the shari‘a courts, the members of the PLC had hope that they would soon see, if not a codified law, at least some positive changes to the existing system. They then formulated their own draft law, in consultation with lawyers and scholars, basing it on shari‘a as well as the codified laws of Arab countries such as Kuwait and Lebanon, and submitting the draft to the new king for consideration. At the same time that King Hamad began initiating selected reforms, another organization, the Women’s Petition Committee (Lajnat al-‘Arida al-Nisa’iyya) also began working toward shari‘a court reform. The creation of rights activist Ghada Jamshir, the WPC’s approach is bolder and more combative than that of the PLC. Instead of slowly working toward producing a model for a new law, Jamshir’s goal is to shock Bahrain into action by exposing the personal stories of scores of women who have been ruled against in the shari‘a courts. Describing instances of bribery, violations of shari‘a principles and requests for sexual favors in exchange for favorable verdicts, Jamshir appalls and horrifies the Bahraini public. She also organizes demonstrations at which women hold signs revealing their case numbers, the ruling judges’ names and the verdicts, along with statements about how the rulings contradict Islam. “Islam does not forget the women and children,” read one placard at a June 2005 event.

Jamshir’s most famous case is that of Badriyya Rabi‘a, a mother who lost her two children in a custody battle with her ex-husband. The WPC publicized Rabi‘a’s case and provided her with legal assistance to appeal the judgment. The unprofessional handling of the case so embarrassed the government that they immediately took action to redress some of the damage. Six judges, those known to be the most corrupt or unqualified, were “retired” from the bench in 2003 by decree. [12] In addition, on May 2, 2003, King Hamad announced the formation of a committee to draft a family law. The committee was composed of six shari‘a court judges (three from each sect), the head of the legal affairs committee, the minister of justice and three women lawyers. A draft was completed, the majority of which applied equally to both Sunnis and Shi‘a. Approximately 15 percent of the articles specified different rules for each sect. [13] The draft was submitted to the Ministry of Justice for approval. In the meantime, the king’s announcement sparked a heated public debate. In Friday sermons, public addresses and the press, Shi‘i clerics denounced the king’s actions as being influenced by the West, and blamed women activists for wanting to destroy the Islamic family structure and usher in a Western-style family in which wives can roam freely in public and divorce at will. [14] The activists, for their part, organized demonstrations in favor of the draft initiative, and denied the clerics’ accusations. Farida Ghulam, a leading member of the PLC and also Shi‘i, has published responses to these accusations and argues that the clerics’ goal is a political one—to consolidate their own power over the people. “They use their standing and the people’s trust to deceive the public about what the women want. They call themselves activists on behalf of women’s rights, but they reject women’s rights. They ignore the committee’s statement of its commitment to preserving shari‘a and the madhhabs, and call us players, secularists, lovers of the Tunisian experiment, and say we are sick and confused.” [15] After months of constant public rows between activists and clerics, the king decided to shelve the draft and instead take a different approach, one that would enlist the support of the public.

During the following two years the Supreme Council for Women (SCW), a government agency formed in 2001 to develop programs that would improve the lives of Bahraini women, began assessing public opinion on the issue of a family law and compiling evidence of the need for a law. In 2002, for instance, the SCW started receiving telephone calls from women requesting help. The call volume was so high that, in 2004, a grievance unit was established, and between 2002 and 2005, over 11,000 calls were received. Approximately 40 percent of the calls were requests for subsidized housing from women who had been divorced by their husbands and evicted from their marital homes. In the short term, the SCW worked with the Ministry of Housing and Social Affairs to create more shelter. Then, as part of the government’s longer-term goal of addressing the problems with the shari‘a courts, the SCW presented the king with an urgent request to establish an alimony fund and compulsory government review of amounts assigned by shari‘a judges, to create more shari‘a courts to reduce caseloads of the current courts, and to set regulations that would speed the processing of cases. In 2004, they commissioned a study to gauge Bahrainis’ opinions about the prospect of a codified family law. Seventy-three percent of those surveyed said they thought a codified law is necessary. When asked whether the law should be based on shari‘a, 97 percent of the respondents said yes. The SCW also deputized four women lawyers to review the judgments of the shari‘a courts. The lawyers looked at over 300 cases. Their results confirmed the accusations made previously by activist Jamshir and the PLC: Many judges were corrupt or inefficient, and lacked proper training. [16] Acting on these findings, the king assembled a second drafting committee, which, unlike the 2003 committee, was composed exclusively of religious scholars. A draft was completed and submitted to the Royal Court in the fall of 2005. This is the draft currently pending consideration in Parliament.

Simultaneously, the Supreme Council for Women launched a campaign to garner popular support for a codified family law. The campaign publicized the results of the research done by the council, and presented a case for the need for a law. Their approach is to demonstrate that the family law is not just an issue for women, but an issue that concerns the whole family—children and husbands, as well. The campaign’s slogan, “A Secure Family = A Secure Nation,” conveys the idea that the health of the family bears directly on the health of the nation as a whole, echoing an established strategy used in the nation-building projects of other Middle Eastern states. [17]

Women’s rights activists were mostly unenthusiastic about the SCW campaign. While they appreciated the attention drawn to the issue, they were aware that, ultimately, the SCW does not have the power to enact change. The SCW has the ear of the king, but the authority rests with him, and he also must contend with the clerics. Some activists, such as Jamshir and Layla Rajab, architect of an initiative to bring together clerics and activists for a public debate, were more strongly critical. Rajab expressed frustration with the SCW’s lack of respect for her and others who have been working on this issue for decades: “They say they want to work as partners with us, but they won’t allow us to make any decisions.” [18]


Despite the survey showing majority backing for a family law, the SCW’s campaign met with significant opposition. Days after the launch, the Islamic Council of Scholars (ICS), headed by Sheikh ‘Isa Qasim and representing the kingdom’s Shi‘i clerics, rejected the campaign’s slogan. In a recorded statement, Qasim argued that a “secure family” and a “secure nation” are achieved “by God’s will and no other”: “No one is waiting for humans to implement it. God’s law for the family already exists and is in use… The earth and its people are covered with clear rules by God’s shari‘a.” In Friday sermons, in statements to the press and on their own websites, members of the ICS made clear that they would not accept the government-sponsored law. While many of these statements read as predictable defenses of religion against secular, Western-inspired reform efforts, the Shi‘i clerics’ grounds for opposition are more complex.

In a statement published on November 9, they announced that they were not against codification itself, but only against the government controlling it. Many Bahraini Shi‘a harbor a profound distrust of the Al Khalifa arising from decades of political, economic and social oppression. The suspension of the original 1972 constitution, subsequent unchecked pursuit of Sunni dominance by the royal family and the promulgation of the 2002 constitution, which stripped the elected parliament of much of its power, have contributed to the belief that if promises are made to grant equal rights to Shi‘a, they are only made to convince the West of Bahrain’s commitment to democracy. The most recent evidence of this duplicity is the disclosure of a clandestine five-year plan for bolstering Sunni dominance. Named “Bandar-gate” by the local press, the scandal involves a 240-page report compiled by Salah al-Bandar, secretary-general of the London-based Gulf Center for Democratic Development, that was distributed to officials in the government, heads of NGOs, the British, US and German embassies, and the press. The report documents a one million dinar (approximately $2.5 million) money trail leading from a senior government official (who happened to be responsible for overseeing the winter 2006 elections) to certain candidates, political societies and other government officials, as well as to a Sunni Islamic center to fund a Shi‘i-to-Sunni conversion program. [19]

The ICS has specific objections to the government instituting the law. While religious scholars would serve on the drafting committee, the law would also be written or amended by others who are not specialists in shari‘a, such as lawyers and government officials. The ICS argues that while Article 2 of the current constitution states that Islam is the official religion of the state, it is not enough to guarantee that the family law would conform to shari‘a. A clear example of the article’s irrelevance, the ICS offers, is the fact that alcoholic beverages are legally served in Bahrain. The clerics also worry that the government’s true aim in codification is to pass a unified law that would apply to both sects, at the expense of Shi‘i rules. There have indeed been indications of such an aim in govern- ment statements and the SCW’s rhetoric. Lastly, the ICS considers the SCW’s claim that a codified law would protect women’s rights an accusation against Islam. They argue that women already have “legitimate” rights within Islam, and that a codified law written by non-scholars could actually compromise those rights. Specific fears felt by Shi‘i clerics are that certain conditions for divorce would be dropped, allowing women to remarry when they are not properly divorced from their first husbands; that girls would be allowed to challenge their fathers’ guardianship, thereby compromising family honor; that the permission of adoption would tamper with lineages; and that abortion would be legalized. While seeming to safeguard many men’s rights, preventing changes such as these would also protect one of women’s most important rights as the ICS sees it: the right to have her honor guarded (a view that is disputed by women activists). In addition to these objections, the ICS argues that simply promulgating a codified law will not solve the courts’ problems. The lack of a law is just one among many reasons for the problems in the courts. The main reason, the ICS charges, is the government itself, which appoints the judges and allows them certain “leniencies” that compromise the timely progress of cases through the courts. Aside from the courts themselves, the government is also responsible for various social ills that lead to an increase in divorce and family problems. Unemployment, discrimination in housing, and poor prevention of corruption and vice all lead to difficulties within the family.

Basing themselves on these grounds, the ICS would accept a codified law only under the following three conditions. First, the law must be drawn up exclusively by scholars of shari‘a. Second, the final draft must be approved by the highest Shi‘i religious authority (marja‘) before promulgation. Currently, the marja‘ followed by the ICS is Ayatollah ‘Ali al-Sistani in Najaf, Iraq. Third, there must be an article added to the constitution guaranteeing that the law could not be changed without prior approval of the marja‘. These demands would allow a codified law to be passed while at the same time ensuring its grounding in shari‘a, now and in the future. They will also protect the autonomy of Shi‘i religious authorities and prevent the elision of Shi‘i rulings in what could become a unified law.

Shi‘i Rights and the Constitution

Another aim which has not been expressed, but which has been attributed to the ICS by observers, is the opening of the constitution to broader reform. The ICS has worked closely with the Shi‘i Islamist political organization al-Wifaq toward constitutional reform. There has been an organized movement to push for reinstatement of the 1972 constitution. Shi‘i MP ‘Abd al-Nabi Salman told Middle East Report that the SCW’s announcement of the family law campaign presented an ideal opportunity for the ICS to attempt to convince the king to amend the constitution. If the king would agree to an amendment providing the ICS a guarantee on the family law, that might open the way for the consideration of further demands. The ICS knows that the government was keen on passing the law quickly, before the November election, if possible. Therefore, Salman said, “They are using that urgency as leverage.” Though Shi‘i himself, Salman does not support the ICS demands. Risking his reelection, he did not yield to threats issued by Sheikh ‘Isa Qasim to change his views. Early in 2006, Qasim called a meeting during which he and two other clerics told assembled Shi‘i MPs that if the family law came up for a vote, they were to walk out on it or risk losing their public support. If his position as head of the ICS was not enough to convince MPs of the extent of Qasim’s power over the kingdom’s Shi‘a, the massive turnout at the November 9 protest certainly was. The withdrawal of Qasim’s support was also a potent threat in 2006, with parliamentary elections looming in late November and early December. Magnifying the threat to non-Islamist Shi‘i deputies was al-Wifaq’s decision to field candidates in the election, ending its previous boycott. Despite these threats, Salman said he would likely back the law. He reported that he told Qasim that the constitutional guarantee would never work. “This won’t happen. As soon as we start talking about changing the constitution, the king closes his ears.” [20]

Sheikh Nidham Ya‘qoubi, a prominent Sunni legal scholar, echoed Salman’s interpretation of the ICS’s ultimate goal in opposing the family law. Ya‘qoubi, a member of the 2005 committee that drafted the law, was eager to dispel the notion that Islamist scholars, Sunni or Shi‘i, are against codification. He noted that the Sunni committee included “at least two” Salafis, and that it is a mistake to think that Salafis object. Most approve of codification in principle, and only have reservations regarding implementation. Nor do the Shi‘i scholars object to codification, he said. After all, even Iran has a codified law: “What Shi‘a in Bahrain want is to change the constitutional law.” [21]

No doubt with considerable help from Qasim and the ICS, al-Wifaq was successful in winning 17 out of 40 seats in the November election, Salman’s seat among them. The results do not bode well for the government’s family law, at least among the al-Wifaq bloc. However, the Sunni Islamist blocs (Salafis and the Muslim Brotherhood) have expressed tentative support, and the Sunni Islamist scholars involved in the writing of the 2005 draft are confident that the law will not compromise Islamic values. It is interesting to note that the Bandar-gate report implicates members of both the Salafi and the Muslim Brotherhood organizations as having roles in the government’s Sunni dominance program. The veracity of the report can only be guessed at here, although it raises intriguing questions about Sunni interest in the family law and the prospect of a unified law. Without a doubt, the situation in Bahrain has produced the curious image of Islamists and self-described liberal women activists standing on the same side of an issue that has often divided these groups.

At press time, a vote on the family law had not been scheduled. observers say that the king will wait until “the time is right,” and that time is not now, with the fallout from Bandar-gate spreading onto the international scene and degenerating into youth riots at home. [22] What that means for the ICS and its demands remains to be seen. Under the current constitution, Parliament has very limited authority to pass legislation. As has been the case since the abrogation of the 1972 constitution, the most common method of passing laws in Bahrain is still by royal decree. The ICS has demonstrated that it has considerable power over the kingdom’s Shi‘a, however, and that the government is responsive to the pressure it exerts. Evidence of this responsiveness can be found in the king’s decisions to shelve the 2003 draft law and, in 2006, to cancel his plan to present the 2005 draft for a vote prior to the elections. Therefore, the way in which the ICS decides to use its power in the near future will play a decisive role in whether a family law will be passed, and if so, what that law will look like.

Author’s Note: I would like to thank the Fulbright US Scholar Program for supporting this research; my friends and colleagues in Bahrain for their generosity of time and spirit; my husband Toby Jones for accompanying me to meetings with clerics; and my mother Gloria Russell for help with child care during the writing of this article.


[1] For a thorough analysis of domestic politics in Bahrain, see International Crisis Group, Bahrain’s Sectarian Challenge (Amman/Brussels, May 2005).
[2] Bahraini Shi‘a are Twelvers, meaning that they believe (along with most Shi‘a in the world) that the last true heir to the prophet Muhammad’s mantle as imam was the twelfth, who went into occultation in the ninth century.
[3] While Bahrain was never a colony of Britain, it was subject to various treaties throughout the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries that granted the latter authority over Bahrain’s political and economic affairs.
[4] Hassan Radhi, Judiciary and Arbitration in Bahrain (The Hague: Kluwer Law International, 2003), pp. 63–69.
[5] It has been argued that reducing the length of the training period was more attractive to the Al Khalifa than raising judges’ salaries, which were extremely low compared to what other legal professionals could earn. The language regarding what kind of work must be ac- complished during those two years was also made more vague to include a greater variety of experiences. For instance, a person who merely lectured at a law school for two years could legally be appointed as a shari‘a court judge. See Radhi, pp. 137–138.
[6] “Personal opinion” here does not refer to ra’y, the classical legal technical term for a judge’s informed use of reason based on consideration of authoritative texts, but to the deciding of cases based on individual biases and convictions, a distinction that warrants discussion beyond the scope of this article.
[7] Interview with Muhammad al-Mutawwa‘, March 19, 2006.
[8] Interview with Jalila al-Sayyid, March 12, 2006.
[9] Interview with Sheikh Muhsin al-‘Asfour, March 9, 2006.
[10] Interview with Sheikh Yasir al-Mahmid, March 20, 2006.
[11] Interview with Sheikh Khalid bin ‘Isa al-Khalifa, March 11, 2006.
[12] The king did not offer a reason for the dismissal of the six judges. Legal authorities interviewed for this article, however, attributed his decree to the Badriyya Rabi‘a case and the work of Ghada Jamshir.
[13] Interview with Zinat al-Mansouri, legal adviser to the PLC and member of the 2003 draft committee, February 20, 2006.
[14] Sheikh ‘Abdallah al-Ghurayfi, Hadith al-Jum‘a, May 23, 2003.
[15] Interview with Farida Ghulam, November 13, 2003.
[16] Interview with Lulwa al-‘Awadhi, secretary-general, Supreme Council for Women, March 26, 2006.
[17] Interview with Hala Ansari, deputy secretary-general, Supreme Council for Women, February 13, 2006.
[18] Interview with Layla Rajab, chair, Gulf Center for Democratic Development, March 15, 2005.
[19] See Gulf Daily News, September 24–28, 2006.
[20] Interview with MP ‘Abd al-Nabi Salman, March 30, 2006.
[21] Interview with Sheikh Nidham Ya‘qoubi, April 5, 2006.
[22] Interview with ‘Abd al-Hadi al-Khawaja, president, Bahrain Center for Human Rights, February 18, 2007.

How to cite this article:

Sandy Russell Jones "The Battle Over Family Law in Bahrain," Middle East Report 242 (Spring 2007).

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