Skip to main content
The Rights of the Elderly in the Arab Middle East: Islamic Theory versus Arabic Practice
  • Radwa S. Elsaman, Ms., American University Washington College of Law
  • Mohamed Arafa, Mr.

By shedding light on an under-examined system of law, this article makes a necessary contribution to the beginning of a fruitful study in the west of Islamic law. Although the recent literature has paid increasing attention to the problems of the elderly and their rights, so far few authors have treated this issue in the context of Islamic law. Scholarly treatment of this issue is therefore urgent, all the more so considering that Islamic law represents a source of law affecting over one billion people living in the world’s 49 majority-Muslim nations. Therefore, this article brings balance to the global study of elder law by examining elder issues in the Arab Middle East, where Islamic law remains influential to varying degrees. As the global population ages, elder law issues are of increasing salience. Although these issues are receiving a commensurately increasing level of attention in the academic literature, certain regions of the world have been neglected, including the Arab Middle East. This article begins with a succinct backdrop of Islamic law and its development through centuries of Muslim jurisprudence, with focus on those sources of Islamic law which have implications for modern elder rights law. It then turns to a survey of elder law in the Arab Middle East today, finding that the legal systems of modern Arab states have failed to embrace the lofty standards for elder rights found in traditional Islamic law and jurisprudence. Despite this highly moral and comprehensive Islamic legal system, the elderly are not fully protected under domestic employment, labor, and social security laws or in the implementation of international human rights law. Moreover, awareness needs to be spread in the Arab Middle East on the difficulties of the elderly and how to face them. This is due to lack of specialized laws regulating the rights of the elderly in most Arab Middle Eastern countries. Accordingly, an Islamic model cannot be secured unless we establish a powerful and large state, strong in its economy, social institutions, education, etc.; i.e. a nation that produces enough to let its citizens enjoy decent life. Finally, the Arab Spring Revolutions have given rise to much legal and political chaos. This chaos could be partially alleviated by reforming laws in various sectors to bolster the societies in Arab countries, and the care of the elderly is a sector ripe for reform. The authors hope this article will be an important first step in the development of a western scholarly examination of Islamic law and jurisprudence on elder law and other vital issues.

  • Elder Law,
  • Elderly
Publication Date
Spring 2012
Citation Information
Radwa S. Elsaman and Mohamed Arafa. "The Rights of the Elderly in the Arab Middle East: Islamic Theory versus Arabic Practice" MARQUETTE UNIVERSITY LAW SCHOOL ELDER’S ADVISOR Vol. 13 Iss. 2 (2012)
Available at: