The Faculty of Law and Political Science at Beirut Arab University organised a seminar on “Personal Status Between the Holiness of the Text and the Legitimacy of ‘Al-Ijtihad’ with the participation of President of the Sunni Shari'a Court Dr. Mohammad Assaf, President of Shiite Shari'a Court Judge Mohammad Kanaan, Head of the Druze Religious Council Judge Faisal Nasreddine, President of Tripoli University Dr. Raafat Mikati, Professor of Islamic Shari’a at BAU Dr. Wafic Hijazi and Dean of Faculty of Law and Political Science Professor Mohammad Kassem.
Professor Kassem started the seminar stressing the importance of personal status and the care of the Islamic Shari'a for the family through legislations and peremptory texts, leaving the field of “Ijtihad” for those specialised in matters in which the provisions change according to circumstances, customs and interests.
Judge Assaf pointed out that the Islamic Shari’a allows the judge to pass acts in some cases related to personal status, especially if clear texts are absent, such as the estimation of alimony, determining the age of custody, and visitation. The judge also has discretionary authority in certain legal issues relating to trials, travel ban and taking any urgent and precautionary measures. He also spoke about the issue of the marriage of minors and responded to what has been raised lately regarding the legality of such marriage stressing the fact that in Islam, any female can marry as long as she is able to, and that the term “marriage of minors” is not an Islamic one.
Judge Kanaan indicated that Article 9 of the Lebanese Constitution allows for the unconditional freedom of belief and that the government respects all religions and sects and guarantees freedom of religious observances under its protection as long as these don’t violate the public order. The government also ensures that people, regardless of their religion, respect the personal status system and the various religious interests. This is one of the core structures of the Lebanese system where no western rules apply.
Sheikh Nasreddine believed that Islamic Jurisdiction represented by its Sunni, Jaafari and Druze sects is part of the Lebanese Judicial System. He referred to issues of jurisprudence in the Druze religious courts, such as the case of the will which is specified for an heir without identifying the kinship or the amount, as well as the issues of custody, divorce and inheritance. He concluded that the judge must have the courage to pass acts in certain cases in order to strengthen the judiciary to be more compatible with the modern era and the society.
For Dr. Mikati, Article 9 of the Lebanese Constitution refers to the independence of the religious affairs of the sects and personal conditions. He explained that what some associations and organizations strive to call for shall never affect our personal status, especially when it comes to civil marriage and its explicit violations of Islamic Jurisdiction as “Ijtihad” has its definite rules, principles and premises.
Professor Hijazi concluded that most of the provisions of personal status, being a group of natural or family characteristics affected by the law in social life, have been based on texts that vary between about 70 verses from the Holy Quran and more than two hundred “Hadiths” ( conversations from the Prophet Mohammad).