Muslim Family Law Ordinance 1961: Modernists And Traditionalists’ Perspectives

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Dr. Sarfraz Hussain Ansari , Dr. Naila Maqsood , Dr. Rafaqat Islam


The Muslim Family Law Ordinance (MFLO) of 1961, which was developed in response to the Marriage Commission Report of 1956, made the most substantial changes to Pakistan's family law in the preceding 61 years. Considering the impact of this law, which has been in effect for 61 years, would seem to be essential to nearly any study of Pakistani society. Some of its provisions, though, have caused some traditionalist ulama to express serious reservations.

This article addresses the conflict between Modernists and Traditionalists in the framework of Pakistani family law in general and Pakistani divorce law in particular. First, this paper asserts that the Muslim Family Law Ordinance's specific historical record shows that the conflict between modernists and traditionalists regarding the extent of ljtihad continued even after 1947. Second, and probably more significantly, this conflict made sure that the MFLO would be the compromise-based document. It would find a middle ground between the objections of those who supported a traditional interpretation of family laws and others who campaigned for genuine, substantial reforms for Pakistani women. Third, a careful analysis of the MFLO's divorce provisions serves as evidence of this balance.

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