Department or Program



After gaining independence in 1956, Tunisia abolished Shari’a courts, established a secular legal system, and implemented extensive reforms to Islamic family law. However, it preserved the provision of Islamic inheritance law according to which women inherit half as much as men in its new Personal Status Code. This thesis examines why Tunisia preserved Islamic inheritance law while reforming almost all other areas of family law after independence. Building on existing scholarship, I argue that the preservation of Islamic inheritance law in the Personal Status Code reflects concessions made to the religious establishment at independence concerning the nature of the code as part of the regime’s strategy for political survival. I demonstrate thatbecause the incorporation of religious themes into the legitimating ideology of Habib Bourguiba’s regime required the regime to gain rhetorical support for the reforms from religious authorities, contestation over the regime’s authority at independence compelled the regime to coopt rather than outright suppress the religious establishment, thereby forcing the regime to make concessions to the establishment in drafting the new code—including the preservation of traditional inheritance law—in order to gain their support. By analyzing how state ideology, political environment, and institutional capacity interact to shape state policy on family law, the thesis provides insight into the distinctive challenges Middle Eastern states face in attempting to reform Islamic law.

Level of Access

Open Access

First Advisor

Aslan, Senem

Date of Graduation


Degree Name

Bachelor of Arts

Number of Pages


Open Access

Available to all.