Personal Status Laws

General Information

February 2001

Personal status laws in Sudan govern legal procedures that pertain to familial relations, including marriage, divorce, child custody and inheritance. These laws are based on the Shari’a, the divine law of Islam, and unlike other aspects of Sudanese law, the realm of personal status was influenced only marginally by European legal models. Thus, the rights and obligations outlined in Sudanese family law differ significantly from Western conceptions. This paper provides a brief introduction to the major Sudanese laws that Americans may encounter.

Sudanese family law is based on the Sunni branch of Islam, particularly the teachings of the medieval Muslim scholar Abu Hanifa. The Hanifi School predominated in Sudan until the twentieth century, when legal reformers incorporated the ideas of the other major Sunni schools in order to modernize and codify Sudanese family law. Family law in Sudan is under the jurisdiction of religious judges or qadis. The qadis issued judgements on a case-by-case basis according to the principles of the Qur’an, the holy book of Islam.

The following are the five main subjects of contemporary Sudanese family law: marriage, divorce, maintenance, custody and inheritance.