Based on 14 months of fieldwork, this paper examines the influence of social norms, individual agency, and historical contingency on the practice of House of Obedience (bayt al-ta‘a) in the shari‘a courts of the Gaza Strip. It argues that the text of Islamic family law is only one dimension in the administration of House of Obedience. Aspects concerning the wider sociopolitical context are crucial, notably the preeminence of the notion of family honor (sharaf), the mutually constitutive relation between the shari‘a court and the community, and the specificities of court cases. As an ideological construct, the law does not necessarily correspond to a social milieu full of inconsistencies, oppositions, contradictions, and tensions. Thus, the practice of law has always been characterized by pluralism, flexibility, and a degree of ambiguity, whereas the text remains characterized by rigidity, restriction, stability, and in some aspects, superficial clarity.
Nahda Shehada; House of Obedience: Social Norms, Individual Agency, and Historical Contingency. Journal of Middle East Women's Studies 1 March 2009; 5 (1): 24–49. doi: https://doi.org/10.2979/MEW.2009.5.1.24
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