In our global village, marriages, finance and commercial transactions are crossing borders. U.S. courts, therefore, must regularly interpret and apply foreign law — including Islamic law — to everything from the recognition of foreign divorces and custody decrees to the validity of marriages, the terms of an Islamic finance deal, the enforcement of money judgments or the elements of damages in a commercial dispute or a tort action.
Shari’a can be relevant in various circumstances as a result. For example, a choice of law provision may require disputes to be governed by a country’s law that is derived from shari’a or the courts apply American conflicts of law jurisprudence to determine the extent of shari’a’s applicability. In other cases, courts might look to shari’a to clarify an ambiguity and understand the expectations of a party to a dispute, before they apply U.S. law. One thing, however, is very clear on the use of any foreign law by any U.S. court in any circumstances, and that is that court consideration of foreign law is subject to the strictures of our Constitution and public policy.
Notwithstanding the above, there is a lot of confusion spreading around the country about the role and relevance of shari’a in American courts. Noticeably absent from the anti-shari’a discourse are the above case-specific legal nuances, subtleties and facts that determine the role shari’a, or any religious law or foreign law, plays in a court’s decision. This blog hopes to fill the void by providing the legal nuances and analysis for specific cases in our blog commentaries. The case summaries found in our digest were professionally prepared by lawyers or law students without editorializing. Ultimately, our goal is to provide an objective resource and destination for lawyers, professionals and anyone who is interested in learning about shari’a in America – whether it be sheer curiosity, scholarly interest or related to litigation. We look forward to your comments and suggestions on improving our blog. We encourage you to check our blog periodically for the latest updates.