A County District Judge in Texas ordered a woman seeking a divorce to adhere to the prenuptial agreement she signed. The agreement dictates that a divorce can only be mediated by a Fiqh panel. Judge Andrea Thompson passed the decision in March 2021, ordering Mariam Ayad to divorce her husband, Ayad Hashim Latif, arbitrated by Sharia law.
Mariam Ayad filed for divorce in January 2021. In her ruling, Judge Andrea Thompson of the Collin County stated that the divorce proceeding could not go further in the standard legal route. The verdict is centered on the Islamic prenuptial agreement.
According to the ruling, the divorce may proceed under the function of a panel controlled by traditional Sharia courts via the Fiqh panel.
Fiqh refers to the application of Sharia laws, with Fiqh panels acting as quasi-judicial bodies that grant ruling based on Islamic teachings. Under Fiqh panels, a woman’s testimony is worth half versus that of a man under divorce proceedings.
Mariam responded to the ruling in her statement, stating that she did not realize that she was conceding rights to divorce through Texas courts when signing the prenuptial agreement. The first time she saw the documents (marriage contract and prenuptial agreements) was during the wedding ceremony. Mariam claimed that she was not given a chance to read the documents properly and could not identify what type of documents she was signing. Her family told her that the papers were just ceremonial.
An expert witness explained that asking questions during a wedding ceremony is a cultural taboo.
A revised order in June 2021 has reaffirmed Judge Thompson’s decision, downplaying the reference to the Fiqh panels. Instead, the new ruling transfers the jurisdiction of the divorce Mariam seeks to the Islamic Association of North Texas, based in Richardson, Texas.
Mariam’s attorney submitted a Writ of Mandamus petition to the Fifth Court of Appeals in Dallas, Texas. In the appeal, Mariam’s legal counsel called Judge Thompson’s decision an “abuse of discretion. Citing that she disregarded the U.S. and the State of Texas laws by substantiating the Islamic prenuptial agreement, encouraging its implementation. The attorney also added that the prenuptial agreement was signed under duress and is void.
Mariam corroborated her lawyer’s statement, explaining that she “was presented with certain documents to sign and, believing them to be multiple copies of the expected customary marriage contract, she signed what was in front of her.”
The couple got married on December 26, 2008, and they have a 6-year old son together.