At a time when Islam and the situation of women in the Islamic world are increasingly of global interest, here is a study that unlocks the mystery of why women's fates vary so greatly from one Islamic country to another. Mounira M. Charrad analyzes the distinctive nature of Islamic legal codes by placing them in the larger context of the different historical bases of state power in various societies. Charrad argues that many analysts miss what is going on in Islamic societies because they fail to appreciate the logic of the kin-based model of social and political life. She examines the fundamental features of the kin-based model of politics, which she contrasts with the Western class-centered model. In a skillful synthesis, she shows the links between the logic of Islamic legal codes, kin-based political power, and the subordination of women. These links in turn provide the key to Charrad's empirical puzzle: why, at the end of colonial rule, Tunisia made bold reforms expanding women's rights while Morocco immediately promulgated conservative legislation and Algeria was gridlocked for over two decades before also enacting a conservative family law. Charrad's elegant theory, crisp writing, and solid scholarship make a unique contribution in developing a state-building paradigm to discuss women's rights in postcolonial societies.
"This book is a 'must read' not only for students of North Africa, but for everyone interested in the impact of nation-building and state policies on gender relations." - Theda Skocpol, author of States and Social Revolutions "Necessary reading for those who wish to understand the role of state formation and cultural identity in diverse patterns of Muslim family law reform in North Africa, a legacy which continues to impact contemporary Muslim politics." - John L. Esposito, author of Islam and Politics"