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White Islamic law schools have differed in the details of their rules of divorce, women often could not obtain a divorce unless their husbands cooperated.
In contrast, a husband was able to divorce a wife anytime simply by uttering a divorce formula.
The provisions of Islamic law affecting women have been jealously guarded over the centuries, in part because so many of them are set forth in the text of the Qur'an, regarded by Muslims as the eternally valid Speech of God to mankind.
Thus, the influence of European powers, which dominated the Middle East in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries both politically and culturally, did not lead to an abandonment of Islamic law in the areas of family law and inheritance even though other areas of law were being Westernized through the borrowing of European law codes.
While the situation of women has been generally worse under customary than under Islamic law, Islamic law itself has many provisions that leave women at a clear disadvantage - an irony of history, since these same provisions at the time of their promulgation in seventh century Arabia originally advanced women's rights vis-a-vis the then existing norms.
In contrast, where Middle Eastern women have been severely disadvantaged has been in the areas of family law and inheritance, where women are accorded fewer rights than men and are subordinated to male authority.The only country of the Middle East to resist any concessions to modernity has been Saudi Arabia.