Max Planck Society

Max Planck Institute for Comparative and International Private Law

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Max Planck Research Group: "Changes in God’s Law: An Inner-Islamic Comparison of Family and Succession Law

The Research Group “Changes in God's Law - An Inner Islamic Comparison of Family and Succession Laws" is led by Dr. Nadjma Yassari and has been in existence since 2009. Until the start of 2016 it was funded by the Max Planck Society; owing to the generous support of the Max Planck Foundation and Mrs. Traudl Engelhorn-Vechiatto, herself a long time supporting member of the Max Planck Society, the Research Group will be able to continue its successful work until 2021.

The first project of the Research Group primarily focused on marriage and the possibilities for its individual design as well as the impact and scope of family law codifications in selected Islamic countries. Two doctoral dissertations and two post-doc studies have had as their central theme the scope and limits of this freedom of design. Since March 2014, the Group focuses more intensively on child law. Two areas will stand at the foreground of the inquiry: the principle of the best interests of the child and its legal development (post-doctoral project of Lena-Maria Möller) and the permissibility and structuring of adoption in selected Islamic countries (Nadjma Yassari). The methodology of the Research Group is built upon three pillars: a) an interdisciplinary approach and discussion of the law in practice, b) an inner-Islamic comparison and c) a consideration of the influence of procedural law on the substantive law.


The project requires interdisciplinary skills: The members of the group conduct on-site field research, observe legal proceedings and analyse court decisions cooperatively with local actors. An identification of the historic, social and economic background of each respective country is no less essential than an appreciation of the prevailing legal culture.

Inner-Islamic Comparison

While most research work has focused on one country or on comparative studies of "Western" and "Islamic" laws, the Research Group concentrates on inner-Islamic comparison. An in-depth consideration of the family law as encountered in various Islamic countries not only contributes to its better comprehension, it also allows the relevant legal institutions to be more effectively mapped within the context of the European legal framework. Furthermore, the systematic examination of family law within different Islamic countries allows conclusions to be drawn as to the transformability of religiously shaped norms.

Inclusion of Procedural Aspects

The significance of procedural law for substantive family law is sometimes fully veiled. Yet at the same time, the interrelation of substantive and procedural law is manifold. Particularly in the Islamic world, procedural law has a significance that reaches beyond the obvious connections. As procedural law is mostly seen as a "value neutral" area of law, it is in that area that rules are introduced which aim to effectuate substantive law reform or filter out undesired substantive law effects.

By having regard for these three pillars, a fuller and less distorted picture of family law may be obtained which reflects the true dynamics of legal developments in these countries.