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Muslim Families in Contemporary Black Africa
Vol. 26, No. 5 (Dec., 1985), pp. 563-570
Published by: The University of Chicago Press on behalf of Wenner-Gren Foundation for Anthropological Research
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/2743075
Page Count: 8
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Islam has spread into many different civilizations. Although these civilizations have accepted the Islamic faith, they have frequently distorted, if not actually rejected, the rules of filiation and of family relationships, the rulings of the Koran on engagement, marriage, and conjugal relations, and the right of inheritance, all in the name of ijtihad, the right of interpretation. The black African populations that have embraced Islam have thus placed more emphasis on the actual faith than on its legal, political, or social aspects. Islam has contributed to the breakdown of the extended family as it was traditionally conceived by instituting the right to a share of the land inheritance, which had formerly remained undivided and was managed by the oldest male of the line. It has affected the principle of the total separation of property between spouses by introducing the notion of inheritance from one another but has not contradicted the practices which form the basis of marriage: authority over the marriage of the children, dowry, preferential marriage. By stressing patriarchal power it has, in fact, reduced feminine authority. Muslim families today are involved in a capitalist- or collectivist-type industrial revolution as well as in the process of urbanization and the spread of Western culture. They are undergoing profound changes. This, however, is not leading to Western-type marriages, at least not for the time being, because the solidarity of family relationships, even if modified, is very strong.
Current Anthropology © 1985 The University of Chicago Press