This chapter describes the steps taken and processes employed when North American Muslims seek a religious divorce. In the absence of Muslim courts, and because Islamic divorce in North America has no force of law, almost all respondents obtained a civil divorce as well as sought religious approval. Some of those who sought religious divorce did so because of a sense of religious duty, but many others described their motivation in different terms—as an important affirmation of their cultural identity as a Muslim, or as meeting their needs of their family or community, or as a means of personal closure at the end of a marriage. This chapter describes the most common features of the highly informal process of religious divorce, usually overseen by an imam. The most common experiences described by respondents are a process of dialogue, often facilitated by an imam (26 percent); and divorce initiated by the wife and approved by an imam, in the absence of the husband’s agreement (36 percent). Twenty percent of respondents sought but failed to obtain a religious divorce, usually because they were unable to find an imam willing to overrule their husband’s refusal to agree to divorce.
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