Max Planck Society

Max Planck Institute for Comparative and International Private Law

Media Information
Online version Handwörterbuch des Europäischen Privatrechts

Dr. Lena-Maria Möller

Senior Research Fellow, Research Group: Changes in God's Law - An Inner Islamic Comparison of Family and Succession Laws

Phone: +49 40 419 00 - 254

Facsimile: +49 40 419 00 - 288


Main Fields of Research:

Islamic Law; Muslim Family Law, particularly in the Arab Gulf States; Private International Law; Comparative Law 


Academic Career:

Born 1984; 2004-2010 Study of Middle East Studies and Law at the University of Hamburg and Columbia University, NY; 2006 Scholarship awarded by the German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD); 2009 Visiting Researcher at the Center for Democracy, Toleration and Religion, Columbia University, NY; 2010 M.A. in Middle East Studies and Law (University of Hamburg); 2010-2013 Research Associate at the Max Planck Institute for Comparative and International Private Law; Winter term 2013/14 Visiting Assistant Professor at the Department of Middle East Studies, University of Hamburg; 2015 Member of the research initiative ‘The Gulf Family’, Center for International and Regional Studies, Georgetown University in Qatar; Summer term 2016 Visiting Professor of Islamic Law, University of Münster, Institute for Arabic and Islamic Studies.

Adjunct Professor at the University of Hamburg (2011-2013), the University of Augsburg (2014-2018) and since 2017 at the Landesbetrieb ZAF/AMD, Zentrum für Aus- und Fortbildung, Hamburg; April 2014 – April 2016 and again since October 2016 Senior Research Fellow Research Group: Changes in God's Law: An Inner Islamic Comparison of Family and Succession Laws.

2014 Ph.D. in Law (University of Hamburg); recipient of the doctoral prize from the Faculty of Law at the University of Hamburg and the Otto Hahn Medal 2014.

Memberships: Commission on Legal Pluralism; Deutsche Arbeitsgemeinschaft Vorderer Orient; Gesellschaft für Arabisches und Islamisches Recht; Gesellschaft für Rechtsvergleichung; International Society for Islamic Legal Studies; Middle East Studies Association

Post-doctoral project: Indeterminacy in Muslim family law

Recent Lectures:


Emirati Women and the Codification of Family Law

Varieties of Emirati Womanhood: Subjectivities, Creativities, and Confines

  • Location: NYU Abu Dhabi


The Best Interests of the Child in Contemporary Muslim Jurisdictions

Bouncing back: Conference on the wellbeing of children in cases of international child abduction (organized by Missing Children Europe)

  • Location: Antwerpen


Foster Care and Adoption Structures in Contemporary Muslim Jurisdictions

Establishing Filiation: Towards a Social Definition of the Family in Islamic and Middle Eastern Law? (Workshop organized by the Research Group on Family and Succession Law in Muslim Countries)

  • Location: CEDROMA/Université Saint-Joseph, Beirut

Recent Courses:

WS 2017/18


Introduction to Islamic Law


  • Location: University of Augsburg



Einführung in das internationale Privatrecht


  • Location: Landesbetrieb ZAF/AMD, Zentrum für Aus- und Fortbildung, Hamburg

SS 2016


Aktuelle Entwicklungen im Recht muslimischer Länder


  • Location: Westfälische Wilhelms-Universität Münster

Recent Publications

I. Edited Works

Parental Care and the Best Interests of the Child in Muslim Countries, Asser Press, Den Haag 2017, XVIII + 353 pp. (together with Nadjma Yassari, Imen Gallala-Arndt).

The book “Parental Care and the Best Interests of the Child in Muslim Countries” is the first publication to provide a comparative and cross-national analysis of parental care regimes in Islamic countries. The book is edited by Priv.-Doz. Dr. Nadjma Yassari, director of the research group “Changes in God’s Law: An Inner-Islamic Comparison of Family and Succession Laws” at the Max Planck Institute for Comparative and International Private Law, together with Dr. Lena-Maria Möller, a senior research fellow in the same research group, and Dr. Imen Gallala-Arndt of the Max Planck Institute for Social Anthropology. It compiles the results of a workshop on parental care held by the research group together with legal and Islamic studies scholars in Rabat, Morocco in April 2015. Drawing on the example of ten Islamic countries the volume analyses the emergence and evolution of the notion of the best interests of the child and investigates the question of whether and to what extent international conventions on the rights of the child have impacted the development of parental care regimes in Islamic countries. In particular, it examines the prevailing legal norms, both substantive and procedural. Special attention is also given to legal practice and the role of the judiciary. In addition to the country reports, the book also includes two comparative analyses on questions of parental care in both public and private international law. With its up-to-date assessment of parental care regimes in Islamic countries, which extends far beyond a pure analysis of statutory law, the book is of high practical relevance for legal practitioners working in the area of cross-border custody disputes.

Publisher version (DOI)

II. Books and Monographs

Die Golfstaaten auf dem Weg zu einem modernen Recht für die Familie? Zur Kodifikation des Personalstatuts in Bahrain, Katar und den Vereinigten Arabischen Emiraten (Studien zum ausländischen und internationalen Privatrecht, 325), Mohr Siebeck, Tübingen 2015, XXII + 259 pp.

  • reviewed by: Schneider Kayasseh, EJIMEL 3 (2015), 111-115.
  • reviewed by: Krüger, RabelsZ 79 (2015), 899-900.

In ‘Die Golfstaaten auf dem Weg zu einem modernen Recht für die Familie?’ Lena-Maria Möller considers the question of how a modern corpus of family law can emerge in Islamic law. Based on an interdisciplinary and comparative analysis of the recently enacted family codes of Bahrain, Qatar, and the United Arab Emirates, she explores the degree to which the reformed rules governing marriage, divorce and custody meet the countries' changing regulatory needs created by the rapid socioeconomic transformation that the Arab Gulf region has undergone in the past decades. In addition to having account of legal practice in the area of family law, the work analyses the historical and political context surrounding recent codifications of law in the Arab world and comprehensively examines their evolution.

III. Shorter Works in Collections, Commentaries, Handbooks and Encyclopaedia

Recht in Afghanistan ab 1920, in: Ludwig Paul (ed.), Handbuch der Iranistik, vol. 2, Reichert Verlag, Wiesbaden 2017, 243 - 252 (together with Nadjma Yassari).

Synopsis, in: Nadjma Yassari, Lena-Maria Möller, Imen Gallala-Arndt (eds.), Parental Care and the Best Interests of the Child in Muslim Countries, Asser Press, Den Haag 2017, 325 - 353 (together with Nadjma Yassari, Imen Gallala-Arndt).

Improving Women’s Rights through Children’s Rights? The Reform of Custody Laws in Contemporary Muslim Jurisdictions, in: Maarit Jänterä-Jareborg, Hélène Tigroudja (eds.), Women’s Human Rights and the Elimination of Discrimination / Les droits des femmes et l’élimination de la discrimination (Académie de droit international de la Haye), Brill Nijhoff, Leiden 2016, 465 - 489.

IV. Journal Articles

Überblick über das syrische Familienrecht, Das Standesamt 70 (2017), 298 - 303.

Wenn Jugendliche heiraten – Die Minderjährigenehe aus rechtsvergleichender und international-privatrechtlicher Sicht, Kritische Justiz 50 (2017), 269 - 285 (together with Nadjma Yassari).

An Enduring Relic: Family Law Reform and the Inflexibility of Wilāya, The American Journal of Comparative Law 63 (2015), 893 - 925.

  • Max Planck Private Law Research Paper No. 16/3

This Article discusses the rules governing guardianship over a child’s property and personal affairs in contemporary Muslim jurisdictions from a comparative perspective. Specifically, it questions the reasons for a less progressive reading and interpretation of wilāya (guardianship) in an era that has otherwise borne witness to family law codification and reform in the majority of Arab-Muslim countries. The Article first considers the legislatures’ reluctance to reform guardianship despite having adopted a progressive approach for other areas of family law in general and for custody, as an element of the parent–child relationship, in particular. It then classifies the current guardianship rules that can be found in (Arab) Muslim jurisdictions and concludes that, apart from the Maghreb, wilāya is still framed as a largely gendered legal concept and a male prerogative. Finally, these legislative choices are discussed with a view to potential reform impediments, namely a patriarchal reading of pre-modern Islamic legal doctrine, the legislatures’ preference for vesting financial control in men, and, lastly, the outsourcing of guardianship from the larger body of codified family law as can be witnessed in some jurisdictions. The Article concludes that, in addition to relying on pre-modern legal practice, changes in current guardianship rules can be equally brought about through an inter-Arab comparative approach to family law reform as well as an adjustment of wilāya to the themes and leitmotifs already permeating most codified family law in contemporary Muslim jurisdictions.

Publisher version (DOI)

Max Planck Private Law Research Paper No. 16/3 (Publisher version)

V. Reviews

Review of: Religiöses Recht und religiöse Gerichte als Herausforderung des Staates: Rechtspluralismus in vergleichender Perspektive. Ergebnisse der 35. Tagung der Gesellschaft für Rechtsvergleichung vom 10. bis 12. September 2015 in Bayreuth. Hrsg. von Uwe Kischel. Tübingen 2016, Rabels Zeitschrift für ausländisches und internationales Privatrecht 82 (2018), 229 - 233.

VI. Miscellaneous

Gleichberechtigung in Tunesien: Die Revolution frisst ihre Töchter, 2012,, 23.08.2012 (together with Jannik Veenhuis).