Report No. 257
(iv) Islamic Law
2.2.13 In Islamic law, the father is the natural guardian, but custody vests with the mother until the son reaches the age of seven and the daughter reaches puberty. Islamic law is the earliest legal system to provide for a clear distinction between guardianship and custody, and also for explicit recognition of the right of the mother to custody.37 The concept of Hizanat provides that, of all persons, the mother is the most suited to have the custody of her children up to a certain age, both during the marriage and after its dissolution.
A mother cannot be deprived of this right unless she is disqualified because of apostasy or misconduct and her custody is found to be unfavorable to the welfare of the child.38 In judicial decisions under the GWA involving Muslim children, courts have sometimes upheld the mother's right to custody over children under Islamic law and on other occasions have given custody to the mother out of concern for the welfare of the child. These cases are discussed below.
37 Paras Diwan, Law of Adoption, Minority, Guardianship & Custody (2012) Universal Law Publishing Co.: New Delhi, at P. xvi.
38 Id., at P. xvii.