The Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction was adopted on October 25, 1980. The purpose of the Convention was to address the increasing problem of abduction of children on international scale within the context of international law and at the same time, taking into account the rights of custody and visitation under national law. In most cases, the child is taken by one spouse to another country. He wakes up in that country surrounded by people he or she never met before, and told these are your relatives, whom the child do not understand their language. The house is different from the child’s house; the neighborhood looks different from the child’s neighborhood at home. But the child is told that this is the home he or she will be living in, and the left-behind parent will not be with the child anymore.

According to the preamble, “the Convention aims to protect children’s internationally from the harmful effects of their wrongful removal or retention and to establish procedures to ensure their prompt return to the State of their habitual residence.”

The United States ratified the Hague Convention on July 1, 1988 through enabling legislation codified by the International Child Abduction Remedies Act (ICARA). Among the countries whose majority of population are Muslims, only Turkey and Bosnia have ratified the Hague Convention in addition to Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan in Central Asia. Countries utilizing Islamic Shari’a-based family law are reluctant to sign on the convention for its non-compliance with Islamic religious doctrines regarding women and children. Our experience in the Middle East laws, mainly Islamic Shari’a, the Hindu law and other laws of Central Asia, will be of a great help for those who seek legal advice on the laws governing custody of the children.

Won A Landmark Case In New York

Professor Gabriel Sawma is Expert Consultant on international matrimonial law.  In a recent case, the client contacted me and sought my legal advice on  recognition of her foreign divorce obtained in Abu Dhabi including the mahr agreement. Accordingly, I wrote an affidavit to the Supreme Court of Westchester County, New York, seeking recognition of my client’s foreign divorce and her mahr contract valued at $250,000. The Supreme Court agreed with our opinion and handed down a judgment for recognition of the foreign divorce and awarded my client  the full amount. You may read the judgment of the Supreme Court at the following link: https://law.justia.com/cases/new-york/other-courts/2012/2012-ny-slip-op-51875-u.html

The Appellate Division Affirms

On January 20, 2016, the Appellate Division affirmed the judgment of the lower court and recognized the divorce decree obtained from Abu Dhabi, including the mahr agreement. The opinion of the Appellate Division reads:

Here, the mahr agreement, although not acknowledged in accordance with Domestic Relations Law § 236(B)(3), was signed by the parties and two witnesses, as well as the Imam of the Islamic Cultural Center of New York. Under the circumstances presented, the Supreme Court properly recognized so much of the foreign judgment of divorce as incorporated the mahr agreement under the principles of comity, as no strong public policy of New York was violated thereby (see Greschler v Greschler, 51 NY2d 368; Rabbani v Rabbani, 178 AD2d 637). Accordingly, the court properly granted that branch of the plaintiff’s motion which was to enforce so much of the judgment of divorce as awarded the plaintiff the sum of $250,000 pursuant to the mahr agreement.”

The Opinion is available at this link: http://law.justia.com/cases/new-york/appellate-division-second-department/2016/2012-11549.html

Won A Landmark Case Involving Custody of Children

Saudi Arabia’s Shari’a Court issued a custody order against a U.S. citizen woman who was married to a Saudi husband. The husband obtained a court judgment from Saudi Arabia granting him custody of his two daughters. The Court in Allegheny, Pennsylvanian agreed with our argument that Saudi Arabia does not have jurisdiction, and the custody order violates Pennsylvania public policy and that Saudi Arabia is in violation to international human rights treaties. The Court in Allegheny said:

Mother’s expert, Professor Gabriel Sawma, testified that women in Saudi Arabia are considered “second class citizens”, and women of all ages are not permitted to do anything including, but not limited to, attending school, driving a vehicle, or seeking medical treatment, without their guardian’s permission. Every girl and woman must have a guardian under Saudi Arabia law. Professor Sawma further testified that under Saudi Arabian custody law, once a female child has obtained the age of 7, the father is automatically granted sole custody of the child, and under no circumstances would a mother be granted custody once a female child is over the age of 7. Additionally, Mother would require a “sponsor” to be permitted entry to Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. Because Mother would have no opportunity to gain custody of the Children in Saudi Arabia, and Father could refuse to sponsor her entry into Saudi Arabia, Father could potentially prevent Mother from seeing the Children again.”

The custody order is available at request. For more information on Abduction of children or fear of abduction to Muslim majority countries, please see our website at: www.gabrielsawma.blogspot.com

As Expert Consultant, we offer the following services on:

  • International Law, including laws of the Middle East and Islamic Shari’a.
  • Abduction of children to Muslim majority countries, and fear of parental abduction.
  • Custody of children in Muslim majority countries.
  • Iranian divorce, custody, and mahriah in U.S. courts.
  • Abduction of children or fear of parental abduction to Iran.
  • Enforcement of mahr agreements in U.S. courts.
  • U.S. immigration cases dealing with Islamic divorces obtained overseas.
  • Islamic marriage, divorce, custody and abduction or fear of abduction to Muslim majority countries.


Professor Gabriel Sawma is a lawyer with Middle East background, and a nationally recognized expert consultant on Islamic divorce in US courts, with over 40 years experience in International Law, mainly, recognition and enforcement of Islamic and Hindu divorces in USA. His expertise helped clients, attorneys and judges understand the nature of the mahr agreement in an Islamic marriage contract and its application in the United States and Canada.

Professor Sawma is also expert consultant on Islamic finance; he taught Islamic finance for the MBA program at the University of Liverpool in United Kingdom.

Lectured at the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers in New York.

For  information on Islamic divorce in USA and abduction of children to countries whose majority of people are Muslims, please read our articles listed on the right column at: http://www.abductionofchildrentomuslimcountries.com

For information on Hindu, Sikh, Buddhist and Jain divorces in USA, please visit us at: http//www.hindudivorceinuscourts.com

For information on Iranian divorce in USA, please see this link: http://www.iraniandivorceinusa.com

You may also see Professor Sawma’s Curriculum Vitae at this link:  http://muslimdivorceinusa.com/professor-gabriel-sawma-curriculum-vitae/

A list of all my articles on International Matrimonial Law can be found at: http://www.gabrielsawma.blogspot.com

BBC News
“International lawyer Gabriel Sawma, an authority on Sharia law, including Islamic marriage contracts.”
CNN International Edition
“Gabriel Sawma, an attorney specializing in Muslim divorce law and professor at Farleigh Dickinson University.”
Gabriel Sawma, “Islamic Shari’a in Theory and Practice.”

Contact Information Tel: (609) 915 2237 Email: gabrielsawma@yahoo.com Email: gabygms@gmail.com INITIAL CONSULTATION IS FREE. Coverage: In addition to the United States and Canada, our sevices cover consultations on the Islamic law of marriage, divorce, and child custody of: Afghanistan, Algeria, Egypt, Indonesia, Iran, Israel, Jordan, Kuwait, Lebanon, Libya, Malaysia, Morocco, Pakistan, Palestine, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, Tunesia, Turkey, Yemen, Bahrain, Oman, Qatar, Syria, United Arab Emirates, Europe, Australia, New Zealand, Bangladesh, Iraq, India, Brunei, Nigeria, Azerbaijan, Kyrgyztan, Tajikstan, Turkmenistan, Kazakhstan, and Uzbekistan. Media: For media interviews, please use contact information listed above.