American Jury Upholds Islamic Law in a Possible Precedent: Interview with the Plaintiff
By Jamal Laoudi
“Sadaaq” in Islam
means money or property brought by a groom to his wife at marriage.In case of divorce, Islamic law obliges the
man to fulfill Sadaaq if he had not already done so.The reality is that not all women see that
materialize.Such was the case for Hebatollah
(Heba) Eid who filed a civil lawsuit against her ex-husband Hanney Eltoumi after
he alleged that all obligations towards her were fulfilled, including Sadaaq.A Howard County
Maryland Circuit Court jury disagreed with him and ruled in favor of the
plaintiff at the end of the trial.Here
is a conversation with Heba Eid:
Laoudi (JL): Let me start by asking you to say a bit about your background:
Eid (HE):I am an Egyptian-American-Muslim
woman who was born in Egypt and came to the United States shortly after. I
pursued my studies in the US and I am a graduate of
the University of Maryland.
How did you meet your ex-husband, and when and where did you get married?
HE:We met through mutual friends in an
Arab/Muslim organization, and got married on March 26, 2005 in the state of Maryland.
What prompted this lawsuit?
HE:On January 10, 2007, Hanney and I had an
argument in which he pronounced the words “enty taliq” [which translates to “I
divorce you”]. He then proceeded by
telling me that I would not be getting one penny from the $20K Sadaaq. After all was said and done, I filed a lawsuit
against him to see that justice is served.
Going to trial, were you more skeptical or more confident about your chances of
winning given that you were asking an American jury to uphold an Islamic law?
HE:To be honest, I had mixed feelings initially;
however, I grew more confident about my winning chances after the second day of
trial as proceeding favored my arguments more and more.
What were the main points in arguing for your case?
HE:That a Sadaaq is an enforceable pre-marital
agreement, [a contract essentially], and that it should be enforced under American
What were the defendant’s counterarguments?
HE:The defendant had 4 different
stories/arguments and they are as follows:
There was never a Sadaaq.
The initial $20K Sadaaq was revoked by my father, Ahmed Eid.
He entered into Sadaaq agreement under duress and coercion.
I was not entitled to Sadaaq since I filed for a legal divorce.
How long did the trial last? How about jury deliberation?
HE:The trial lasted 3 days and the jury
deliberation lasted about 2 1/2 hours.
A press release issued by your attorney John Christopher Belcher on June, 25, 2010 reports
that he “believes that this case may be the first case nationally in which an
American jury has awarded damages for breach of an Islamic Sadaaq agreement”.
We are talking setting precedent:
HE:I am blissful beyond belief especially after
hearing that another Muslim woman recently contacted my attorney to represent
her in a very similar lawsuit involving Sadaaq.I am really glad to see that more Muslim women are aware that they could
exercise their Islamic rights under American law.
Islam has come under much criticism over its perceived mistreatment of women,
something moderate Muslims disagree with.They argue that Islamic laws are in place to protect women; it is lack
of enforcement mechanisms that are deficient. Your comments:
HE:Well, we now know that they could be enforced
under American law.After my experience,
I do encourage Muslim women to seek legal advice before entering into any prenuptial
agreement.That has become necessary
We appreciate your entertaining these questions. Last words:
Many thanks and please spread the word that no matter what happened in the
past, Muslims nowadays are getting justice and should never give up fighting
for their rights under any laws, Islamic, American, or otherwise..
Sadaq is Dowry in English. In Legal terms it is a pre nuptial agreement and thus is enforceable under US law. There is no way for any husband to get away from his obligation toward the wife he is divorcing. I believe there are many so Called "muslime males" who try to play games with their wives once in the west. The facts are, any agreement written on the marriage certificate under any other islamic country, can be enforced in the USA, so long as it does not violate a US law. Dowry is not prohibited in any US law, and thus remains a legal and enforceable part of a pre nuptial agreement.
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