On November 10th, 2015, KARAMAH executive director, Ms. Aisha Rahman, spoke at the American Bar Association International Family Mediator Training organized by the American Bar Association Section of International Law Family Mediation Task Force. Ms. Rahman joined foreign mediator experts, premiere speakers from international organizations and the government, academia, and private practice to speak about family mediation procedures and cultural issues surrounding it in the Muslim community.
“And if you fear dissension between the two, send an arbitrator from his people and an arbitrator from her people. If they both desire reconciliation, Allah will cause it between them. Indeed, Allah is ever Knowing and Acquainted [with all things].”
Ms. Rahman relied on the research of KARAMAH’s Senior Advisor on Conflict Resolution, Dr. Amr Abdalla. She highlighted the basis of conflict resolution in Islam. On many occasions, the Qur’an and the prophetic example calls on dispute interveners to resort to Islam’s messages of justice, equality and freedom.
As Muslims aspire to model their behavior after the Qur’an and the Sunnah, it becomes the task of Muslim conflict interveners to replicate the process of restoring the Islamic principles by clarifying to conflicted parties the misperceptions and negative practices that have influenced their lives.
In the Islamic model of conflict resolution, the community is responsible for intervening in conflict situations and for taking part in resolution processes. God instructs the believers to “stand firm against injustice.” The Qur’an also provides guidelines and intervention techniques that can be adjusted according to the conflict situation and stages.
Moreover, in divorce cases, the Qur’an provides several rules and conditions. While Islamic Law focuses on a description of a divorce situation and a rule related to a certain aspect of the divorce (i.e., financial arrangements as a result of the divorce, custody or nursing children); dispute resolution attempts to maximize the benefit to the parties by applying additional elements relating to morality, justice and accountability.
Though there is a heavy presumption in favor of conflict resolution, whether through arbitration or mediation, in Islam, Ms. Rahman did discuss that these methods are sometimes misapplied. In matters of domestic violence, for example, the parities are not on equal footing and thus the ideal circumstances for mediation are not met. It is very important while engaging in conflict resolution between Muslim parties to disrupt the power and control paradigm, argued Ms. Rahman. Islamic law does set forth appropriate protections in place in these matters.
After explaining the Islamic model of mediation and conflict resolution, Ms. Rahman went on to explain how this model is applied in the US and the Islamic considerations taken into account in cases of divorce. Muslim divorce cases have the Islamic considerations of Mahr, custody and inheritance that can be ordered in US courts, especially if both parties agree to these issues in a mediation setting.
Ms. Rahman also briefly discussed conflict resolution in Muslim majority countries, such as Morocco and Iran. “Generally, in many Muslim majority countries the term ‘mediation’ is equated with arbitration and even reconciliation,” she posited. Ms. Rahman presented the case of Morocco and Iran. Articles 81, 82, 83 of the Moroccan Mudawwana (Family code) and Article 8 of the Iranian Family Protection Law detail steps of reconciliation and arbitration between disputing couples.
Since the inception of KARAMAH’s conflict resolution division with the leadership of Dr. Amr Abdallah, KARAMAH has been offering conflict resolution trainings on the principles of interpersonal dispute resolution models within an Islamic context. KARAMAH hopes to continue offering these trainings to provide attorneys, service providers and trainers with a better understanding of the dynamics influencing conflicts within marriage in the Muslim community.