Marriage, Money and Divorce in Medieval Islamic Society

Publication Year



High rates of divorce, often taken to be a modern and western phenomenon, were also typical of medieval Islamic societies. By pitting these high rates of divorce against the Islamic ideal of marriage,Yossef Rapoport radically challenges usual assumptions about the legal inferiority of Muslim women and their economic dependence on men. He argues that marriages in late medieval Cairo, Damascus and Jerusalem had little in common with the patriarchal models advocated by jurists and moralists. The transmission of dowries, women's access to waged labour, and the strict separation of property between spouses made divorce easy and normative, initiated by wives as often as by their husbands. This carefully researched work of social history is interwoven with intimate accounts of individual medieval lives, making for a truly compelling read. It will be of interest to scholars of all disciplines concerned with the history of women and gender in Islam.

  • This study is on divorce in pre-modern Islam
  • Sheds light on gender relations and women's economic and legal independence in medieval Muslim societies
  • Uses a wide range of documentary, legal and literary sources

Table of Contents

List of abbreviations
1. Marriage, divorce and the gender division of property
2. Working women, single women and the rise of the female ribāt
3. The monetization of marriage
4. Divorce, repudiation and settlement
5. Repudiation as public power

Reviews and Endorsements

“Rapoport's important book certainly fills a necessary gap.... Marriage, Money, and Divorce in Medieval Islamic Society is undoubtedly necessary reading not only for those interested in Mamluk studies, but also for readers interested in the history of gender relations in Islamic society.” - American Journal of Islamic Social Sciences

"This small gem of a book is a major contribution to the social history of the medieval Middle East.... Based on a careful study of the literature on family history in the premodern Middle East and Europe, he skillfully formulates important research questions and devises ways to answer them. Not only are his conclusions brilliantly original, but also his method should serve as a model for future contributions to writing the social history of the premodern Middle East." - International Journal of Middle East Studies

“This excellent book should be on the reading list of every course on medieval women's history, whether or not it explicitly strives for cross-cultural analysis.... The book is sophisticated enough in its arguments to provide meat for several graduate seminar discussions, but clear enough in its explanations to be accessible to advanced undergraduates. The inclusion of a glossary of technical terms further facilitates use by the non-specialist.” - Medieval Feminist Forum

Series Title
Cambridge Studies in Islamic Civilization
Cambridge University Press
Cambridge and New York