This thesis examines the reasons behind the consensus on the prohibition of interfaith marriage (IFM) between Muslim women and Scriptural men in Islam (Scriptuaries or Ahl al-kitāb are people belonging to a religion in which a scripture was revealed as the Torah or Bible). The thesis argues that the consensus behind that prohibition is fundamentally determined by (1) the gendered understanding of the construction of qiwwāmah and (2) the perception of the religious other in Islamic tradition. I argue that these conceptualizations of woman and the religious other in Islamic tradition result in a hierarchical marital relationship that intersects in interfaith marriage regulations between husband and wife and Muslim and Scriptural. First, I construct this argument by examining the three verses governing interfaith marriage regulations in the Qur’an. The three verses are variably read by Islamic legal scholars given that there is no definite textual evidence on whether an interfaith marriage between a Muslim woman and a Scriptural man is prohibited. Islamic legal scholars also resort to other forms of clarification to verify their position. Consequently, I examine how the consensus regarding the prohibition was built by providing a conceptual analysis of its two determinant factors. In marriage, the legal postulate of qiwwāmah is understood to sanction the husband’s authority over his wife. Marriage is also articulated as constituting an element of enslavement (riqq) for the wife in Islamic legal discourse. I argue that nature and scope of Qiwwāmah in marriage changes and shifts in meaning in tafsīr literature. With this also comes the tradition’s position marking the permanent socio-religious superiority of the Muslim community over all others. This position I argue overlooks the Qur’an’s varying and distinctive usage of concepts such as: believer (mu’min), Muslim, polytheist (mushrik), unbeliever (kāfir), and the identification of People of the Book (Ahl al-Kitāb). This thesis examines the discourse on these concepts in authoritative Qur’anic commentaries and Islamic legal discourse. Finally, I present early reformists, neo-traditionalists, and feminists’ perceptions and reading of these concepts, arguing that these readings can lead to an inquiry on how IFM regulations can be re-articulated in Islamic legal discourse.


Law Department

Degree Name

LLM in International and Comparative Law

Graduation Date


Submission Date

May 2015

First Advisor

Parolin, Gianluca

Committee Member 1

Moussa, Jasmine

Committee Member 2

Sayed, Hani


77 p.

Document Type

Master's Thesis

Library of Congress Subject Heading 1

Marriage (Islamic law)

Library of Congress Subject Heading 2

Dhimmis (Islamic law)


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Institutional Review Board (IRB) Approval

Not necessary for this item


First and foremost I offer my sincerest gratitude to my supervisor, Dr. Gianluca Parolin, who has supported me throughout my thesis research and writing with his knowledge, enthusiasm, and patience whilst allowing me the room to work in my own way. I attribute the level of my Masters degree and my evolved knowledge to his encouragement and efforts with me. Without him this thesis would not have been completed or written. I am forever indebted to him. My parents who endured all the challenges, my mood swings, and were always there for me, pushing me only to aspire for more. My sister, Lara Azzam, for her proofreading and honest criticism. In my daily work, I have been blessed with my cheerful colleague, friend, and writing companion Mona El Roby who made this a more enriching academic experience and a fun journey. I am grateful for all the moments we shared. Professor Mina Khalil, one of my great professors who inspired this topic, encouraged me to think critically about it, prompted me to investigate, and motivated me to turn it into a thesis. Ms. Sawsan Mardini, director of graduate student services and fellowships at AUC, for her continuous support and advice. I am honored to be one of the recipients of the Arab Women Professionals Program Fellowship Award. My fellowship companions and travel buddies Ayat Okaily, Neama Ebaid, and Mariam Yousry who have also been very supportive. My best friends, Ankur Dharane, Mohamed Ashour, and Mahmoud Desouki who mean so much to me, for their emotional support and caring over the last two and a half years.