Women’s Right to Child Custody in Shi’i Fiqh: A Modern Fiqhi Perspective

Held at AMI on 21st February 2019

As part of his ongoing research on women’s jurisprudential issues, Sayed Hossein al-Qazwini presented the current juristic trend regarding the mother’s right to child custody in Shi’i fiqh, concluding with his own novel thinking. The popular opinion amongst early Shi’i jurists is that the mother has custody of the male child until he is two years of age and the female child until she is seven years of age. In addition to this, there are several other positions as well as the popular opinion amongst contemporary jurists that the mother only has custody of both the male and the female child until the age of two. The difference in opinions is due to the varying and contradictory narrations of the Imams on the issue.

According to Sayed Qazwini, these contradictory narrations should be read in light of their individual context and not as laying down a general law. In addition to being a legislator who explicates the law, the Imam is also a judge who rules on individual cases taking into consideration all the circumstances relevant to that particular case. As such, there is no universal law that can be applied across the board in every case of child custody. It is up to the jurist to rule on child custody cases based on the best interest of the child.

Sayed Hossein Al Qazwini graduated from UC Berkeley with a BA in Religious Studies in 2004. He joined the Islamic Seminary in Karbala from 2004-2010, and Seminary of Najaf from 2010-2014. In Najaf, he studied under Ayatollah Baqir Irawani and Ayatollah Mohammad Ridha Sistani. He began teaching upper level studies (Bahth al Kharij) according to the Shi’i school of thought in the Islamic Seminary of Karbala since December 2015. Sayed Qazwini’s most recent publication was ‘Studies in the Jurisprudence of Hajj’ in Arabic. He was recently certified with a license of Ijtihad by his father Ayatollah Qazwini. Sayed Qazwini has presented at many academic conferences around the world, including the US, the UK, the Netherlands, and Turkey.

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