Imams Refusing to Recognise Divorces, Despite Swedish State Recognition

Policemen stand outside a mosque in Uppsala on January 2, 2015. The mosque suffered a fire

Despite recognition of divorce from the Swedish state, some women are having difficulties getting imams in the country to recognise their divorces under Islamic law and remarry.

One woman, a migrant from Iraq who wanted to divorce her husband ten years ago, claimed that because her husband did not want a dissolution to the marriage, no imam would recognise her as being divorced.

The woman, identified under the pseudonym “Leyla”, told broadcaster SVT that there were many other women in the same situation as her where she lives in the southern region of Skåne, where the multicultural city of Malmö is located.

According to Leyla, her estranged husband left the country and she has no idea where he currently is and so cannot get him to agree to end the marriage.

“He wanted to move abroad, but I wanted to live with my children in Sweden. We didn’t get along, so I wanted a divorce. Then he said he wasn’t going to go through an Islamic divorce,” she said.

Leila had had a similar problem dissolving her previous marriage, where while her divorce was recognised in Sweden, it was not in Iraq because it had not been sanctioned under an Islamic setting. As a result, her first husband in Iraq still has custody of their children.

She said: “It was very difficult because I was scared and alone. I couldn’t go to Iraq as long as I was his wife, then he could forbid me and my children from leaving the country.”

One Swedish imam who has helped women in such situations is Imam Adly Abu Hajar, who says he receives at least five requests a week from women who want a divorce.

“Many imams are afraid of getting threats from the men, which is why they send the cases to me — not only from Sweden, but from all over Europe,” Mr Hajar said. He added that he has also received threats from men who refused to accept a divorce.

Islamic laws, or the sharia, have caused controversy in Sweden including in 2018 when a so-called “lay judge” ruled on a case using sharia principles.

The case involved a woman who had claimed to be a victim of domestic violence but because the man in the case came from a “good family” and the woman had not turned to the Muslim community to resolve the issue first, the judge in the case found the man innocent.

Follow Chris Tomlinson on Twitter at @TomlinsonCJ or email at ctomlinson(at)


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