‘Talaq’ Ruled Not Valid in Maryland
The Maryland Court of Appeals has declared that the pronouncement of divorce by a Muslim husband under Shariah law is contrary to Maryland’s constitutional provisions of providing equal rights to men and women, the Washington Post reported on Thursday.
The court stated in a unanimous 21-page opinion on Tuesday, “Talaq (the pronouncement of divorce) lacks any significant ‘due process’ for the wife, its use, moreover, directly deprives the wife of the ‘due process’ she is entitled to when she initiates divorce litigation in this state. The lack and deprivation of due process is itself contrary to this state’s public policy.”
The decision affirms a 2007 ruling by the Court of Special Appeals, the state’s intermediate appellate court, which also said that talaq does not apply in the Free State.
Under Islamic traditions, talaq can be invoked only by a husband, unless he grants his wife the same right. The court gave its opinion while hearing a divorce case of a couple with a Pakistani origin, according to the paper.
In the Court of Appeals’ opinion, Irfan Aleem, who has worked for years as an economist with the World Bank, had assets worth about $2 million, half of which his wife Farah Aleem is entitled to under Maryland law.
When Irfan tried to divorce Farah through talaq, a sum of $2,500 was proposed as a “full and final” divorce settlement, according to the appellate decision.
That amount was written into a marriage contract Farah signed at the day she married Aleem in Pakistan in 1980, according to the appellate decision. The contract was in accordance with Pakistani custom. The couple moved to Washington in 1985.
“I don’t even know how to express how happy I am. I am ecstatic, relieved,” the newspaper quoted Farah Aleem, 46, as saying.
“All I ever wanted was my fair share, not a penny more,” she said.
At the direction of the judge who presided over the divorce proceedings, the couple’s Potomac home was to be sold and half the proceeds — about $200,000 — was to go to Farah, said Susan Friedman, her attorney.
Friedman alleges Aleem, who recently retired, invoked talaq to avoid paying Farah half of his World Bank pension, which provides him with $90,000 annually, the attorney said, adding that the World Bank would have to pay Farah half her ex-husband’s pension.
Julie Macfarlane, a jurist who is researching a book about Islamic divorces in North America, said the decision was not surprising because there was no legal enforceability for talaq in US courts.