Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan, the Crown Prince of the United Arab Emirates, decreed Sunday that non-Muslims (citizens and foreign nationals) will now be allowed to marry and have their marriages recognized in the Emirates.
This is a significant shift in Emirate’s marriage law, which was previously based on Islamic Sharia law. Sharia law interprets several passages of the Qur’an to mean that marriage should be restricted to only those of the Muslim faith, including Qur’an 2.221 and 5.72-6.
The Crown Prince made the announcement through the Emirates State News Agency, saying, “the decision, which is the first of its kind in the world, will enhance the Emirate’s position and global competitiveness as one of the most attractive destinations for talent and skills.”
This is one decree in a line of many intended to make Emirates more attractive to global tourism, trade, and business. Other decrees intended to boost the competitiveness of Emirates globally are: expanding Olympic athletic programs, expanding vocational education, and expanding the laws on foreign ownership of Emirates land.
In order to enforce the new law, the judiciary will establish a new court that will be solely dedicated to non-muslim family matters. All court proceedings will be conducted in both Arabic and English. The court will also address divorce, joint custody of children, and inheritance for non-Muslims.