MESA Banner
Codification of Sharia and Women’s Rights in Iran: A Narration of Legal Exclusion and Resistance
Amid an ongoing uprising in Iran, where women fight and resist in the streets, through their outfits, their bodies, their presences, their beings, in the name of Zan, Zendegi, Azadi (Women, Life, Liberty), this paper examines the impact of the codification of Islamic rules into the 1905 Constitution and 1979 Constitution as well as civil codes on women’s lives in Iran. It is an analytical attempt to understand women’s resistance and their legal agency in a setting where Sharia is codified into the modern legal system. This paper takes three analytical steps to discuss the sociolegal implications of the codification of Sharia into modern laws for Iranian women. The first step discusses approaches toward the meaning and social connotations of the codification of Islam, reviewing the ideas of Wael Hallaq (2005) and Emon (2016). It also highlights scholarly debates on the possibility of embedding and codifying Sharia into modern constitutions and national laws and the possibility of having the rule of law in a codified Islamic setting. In the second step, this paper briefly reviews the codification of Islam in constitutions and laws and the modern legal system in the Constitutional Era (1905-1911), Pahlavi Era (1925-1979), and the Islamic Republic Era (beginning in 1979) and discusses its impacts on women. Most scholars, acknowledging the discriminations associated with the codification of Islamic law in each period, see the codification of Islam into the Constitution and laws in the Islamic Republic period as different from the other periods, as it is an ‘ideological act’ of Islamization. In the last step, in discussing the various forms of resistance by Iranian women who faced discrimination due to codified Islamic laws, this paper mainly focuses on two manifestations of resistance: Islamic feminism and ordinary women’s claims in courts. This paper elaborates on how ordinary Iranian women, women rights activists, and new religious intellectuals apply these forms of resistance while it also points out structural barriers they face in their struggle with the legal system.
Political Science
Religious Studies/Theology
Geographic Area
All Middle East
Sub Area