Following the independence of Muslim countries, they introduced family laws in the areas of marriage, divorce, custody of children and inheritance. The laws are based on Islamic Shari’a and are taught at law schools as part of the curriculum in countries whose majority of people are Muslims.

Over the centuries, Muslim jurists constructed a body of legal interpretations (Arabic FIQH) of the Quran and Hadith traditions which include sayings and deeds attributed to the Prophet of Islam. A lawyer who graduates from law schools in such countries is equipped with the knowledge of Islamic family law and its application in the United States. Accordingly, when Muslims marry, they enter into a marriage contract. One of the chief features of this contract is the mahr agreement or sadaqa, a sum of money that the husband agrees to pay to his wife. Are these contracts enforced in the United States? Should the mahr agreements honored by U.S. courts? Should the mahr provision in Islamic marriage be treated as a prenuptial agreement? After all Muslim conception of marriage is based on a contract between the parties.

Another issue faces U.S. courts is the validity of divorce decrees obtained from those countries whose family law is based on Islamic shari’a, where a husband has the right to divorce his wife at will, without a judicial interference and without Due Process.

Won A Landmark Case In New York

In a recent case, I wrote an affidavit to the Supreme Court of Westechester County in New York seeking recognition of a divorce obtained from Abu Dhabi in the United Arab Emirates, including a mahr agreement valued at $250,000. The Supreme Court agreed with our opinion and handed down a judgment recognizing the foreign divorce as valid. The entire judgment of the Court can be accessed at this link: https://law.justia.com/cases/new-york/other-courts/2012/2012-ny-slip-op-51875-u.html

The Appellate Division Affirms

On January 20, 2016, the Appellate Division affirmed the judgment of the lower court and recognized the divorce decree obtained from Abu Dhabi, including the mahr agreement. The opinion of the Appellate Division reads:

Here, the mahr agreement, although not acknowledged in accordance with Domestic Relations Law § 236(B)(3), was signed by the parties and two witnesses, as well as the Imam of the Islamic Cultural Center of New York. Under the circumstances presented, the Supreme Court properly recognized so much of the foreign judgment of divorce as incorporated the mahr agreement under the principles of comity, as no strong public policy of New York was violated thereby (see Greschler v Greschler, 51 NY2d 368; Rabbani v Rabbani, 178 AD2d 637). Accordingly, the court properly granted that branch of the plaintiff’s motion which was to enforce so much of the judgment of divorce as awarded the plaintiff the sum of $250,000 pursuant to the mahr agreement.”

The Opinion is available at this link: http://law.justia.com/cases/new-york/appellate-division-second-department/2016/2012-11549.html

Won A Landmark Case Involving Custody of Children

Saudi Arabia’s Shari’a Court issued a custody order against a U.S. citizen woman who was married to a Saudi husband. The husband obtained a court judgment from Saudi Arabia granting him custody of his two daughters. The Court in Allegheny, Pennsylvanian agreed with our argument that Saudi Arabia does not have jurisdiction, and the custody order violates Pennsylvania public policy and that Saudi Arabia is in violation to international human rights treaties. The Court in Allegheny said:

Mother’s expert, Professor Gabriel Sawma, testified that women in Saudi Arabia are considered “second class citizens”, and women of all ages are not permitted to do anything including, but not limited to, attending school, driving a vehicle, or seeking medical treatment, without their guardian’s permission. Every girl and woman must have a guardian under Saudi Arabia law. Professor Sawma further testified that under Saudi Arabian custody law, once a female child has obtained the age of 7, the father is automatically granted sole custody of the child, and under no circumstances would a mother be granted custody once a female child is over the age of 7. Additionally, Mother would require a “sponsor” to be permitted entry to Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. Because Mother would have no opportunity to gain custody of the Children in Saudi Arabia, and Father could refuse to sponsor her entry into Saudi Arabia, Father could potentially prevent Mother from seeing the Children again.”

The court order is not published yet, but I have a copy at request. Once published, I will post the link online. For more information on Abduction of children or fear of abduction to Muslim majority countries, please see our website at: www.gabrielsawma.blogspot.com

As Expert Consultant, we offer the following services on:

  • International Law, including laws of the Middle East and Islamic Shari’a.
  • Abduction of children to Muslim majority countries, and fear of parental abduction.
  • Custody of children in Muslim majority countries.
  • Iranian divorce, custody, and mahriah in U.S. courts.
  • Abduction of children or fear of parental abduction to Iran.
  • Enforcement of mahr agreements in U.S. courts.
  • U.S. immigration cases dealing with Islamic divorces obtained overseas.
  • Islamic marriage, divorce, custody and abduction or fear of abduction to Muslim majority countries.


Professor Gabriel Sawma is a lawyer with Middle East background, and a nationally recognized expert consultant on Islamic marriage and divorce in USA, with over 40 years experience in International Law, mainly, recognition and enforcement of Islamic and Hindu divorces in USA. His expertise helped clients, attorneys and judges understand the nature of the mahr agreement in an Islamic marriage contract and its application in the United States and Canada.

Professor Sawma is also expert consultant on Islamic finance; he taught Islamic finance for the MBA program at the University of Liverpool in United Kingdom.


For  information on Islamic divorce in USA, please read our articles listed on the right column on this page, or visit our website at:  http://www.muslimdivorceinusa.com

For information on Hindu, Sikh, Buddhist and Jain divorces in USA, please visit us at: http//www.hindudivorceinuscourts.com

For information on Iranian divorce in USA, please see this link: http://www.iraniandivorceinusa.com

You may also see Professor Sawma’s Curriculum Vitae at this address:  http://muslimdivorceinusa.com/professor-gabriel-sawma-curriculum-vitae/

A list of all my articles on International Matrimonial Law can be found at: http://www.gabrielsawma.blogspot.com

BBC News“International lawyer Gabriel Sawma, an authority on Sharia law, including Islamic marriage contracts.”CNN International Edition“Gabriel Sawma, an attorney specializing in Muslim divorce law and professor at Farleigh Dickinson University.”
FAIRLEIGH DICKINSON UNIVERSITYGabriel Sawma, “Islamic Shari’a in Theory and Practice.”

Contact Information
Tel: (609) 915 2237
Email: gabrielsawma@yahoo.com
Email: gabygms@gmail.com

Coverage: In addition to the United States and Canada, our sevices cover consultations on the Islamic law of marriage, divorce, and child custody of: Afghanistan, Algeria, Egypt, Indonesia, Iran, Israel, Jordan, Kuwait, Lebanon, Libya, Malaysia, Morocco, Pakistan, Palestine, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, Tunesia, Turkey, Yemen, Bahrain, Oman, Qatar, Syria, United Arab Emirates, Europe, Australia, New Zealand, Bangladesh, Iraq, India, Brunei, Nigeria, Azerbaijan, Kyrgyztan, Tajikstan, Turkmenistan, Kazakhstan, and Uzbekistan.

Media: For media interviews, please use contact information listed above.