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Nurul Huda Mohd. Razif

Postdoctoral Fellow, Marie Skłodowska-Curie Action
  • E-mailnurul.razif@uib.no
  • Visitor Address
    Sydnesplassen 7
    HF-bygget
    5007 Bergen
  • Postal Address
    Postboks 7805
    5020 Bergen

I am a social anthropologist interested in the intersection of intimacy, Islam, and the state in the Malay world & Muslim Southeast Asia. Since 2014, I have conducted multi-sited ethnographic fieldwork in Malaysia and Southern Thailand, studying cross-border marriages (elopements) and polygamy (specifically, polygyny) in family law and in everyday life. At UiB, I am working on a project called MALAYMATRIMONEY (2024-2026) with Eirik Hovden, which will investigate the division of matrimonial wealth in Malay polygynous marriages under the Malaysian Islamic family law. This project is funded by the Marie Skłodowska-Curie Action. 

I read Anthropology and French at Sciences Po Paris and the University of Western Australia, and hold a PhD in Social Anthropology from the University of Cambridge. Prior to this, I have held stipendiary research fellowships at Harvard Law School and centres for Southeast Asian Studies in Kyoto (CSEAS), Leiden (KITLV; IIAS), and Paris (CASE-EHESS). My work has been published in journals on Islamic family law, gender, and Southeast Asian Studies. 

2022: “Between Intention & Implementation: Recent Legal Reforms on Child Marriage in Contemporary Malaysia”Journal of Legal Anthropology, vol. 6, no. 1, pp. 1-23.

2021: “Chasing Fate & Fortune in the Borderland: Cross-Border Marriage and Migration at the Malaysian-Thai Frontier”Archipel, vol. 102, pp. 155-186.

2021: Nikah Express: Malay Polygyny & Marriage-Making at the Malaysian-Thai Border”Asian Studies Review, vol. 45, no. 4, pp. 635-655.

2020: “Intimacy Under Surveillance: Illicit Sexuality, Moral Policing, and the State in Contemporary Malaysia”Hawwa: Journal of Women of the Middle East & the Islamic World, Special Issue on Gender & Judging in Muslim Courts, edited by Monika Lindbekk & Susanne Dahlgren, vol. 18, no. 2, pp. 325-356.

MALAYMATRIMONEY: The Division of Matrimonial Wealth in Malay Polygyny & the Codification of Culture in Malaysian Islamic Family Law

Marie Skłodowska-Curie Project at UiB (2024-2026)

This project is a socio-legal study of the division of matrimonial wealth (harta sepencarian) in Shari’ah (Islamic) courts in contemporary Malaysia. Under Malaysian Islamic family law, matrimonial wealth can be claimed upon the death or divorce of a spouse, or before a monogamous marriage becomes polygynous – that is, when a husband is applying for a Shari’ah judge’s permission to marry a subsequent wife in polygyny.

In recent years, the division and distribution of matrimonial wealth has sparked great interest among Malay-Muslims in Malaysia, particularly where polygyny is concerned. Although polygyny makes up less than five percent of Muslim marriages, stories of co-wife competition for the husband’s wealth and intrafamilial inheritance disputes between children in polygyny have become heavily dramatized in public debates and popular culture, reflecting a heightening anxiety about the intensifying tension between polygyny and wealth distribution in Malay society. 

Although matrimonial wealth is integrated into the current Islamic family law enforced in Malaysia today, its origins are actually in Malay adat (customary traditions), not Islam. This points to the malleability of Malaysian Shari’ah law and its complementarity with Malay adat, which calls for a deeper investigation into the dialogical relationship between Islam, adat, and gender.

This research will address research gaps in two fields: first, in the study of marriage in the Malaysian Islamic family law; second, in the codification of law in Muslim-majority states. It is thus designed with the following objectives:

Objective 1: To capture, through ethnographic and archival research, the everyday experiences of men and women claiming for matrimonial wealth in polygyny applications;

Objective 2: To investigate the textual sources, legal reasoning, and judicial practice that allows for the “codification” of culture (Malay adat) in Malaysian Islamic family law.

Methodology: This project will implement anthropological methods of research based on long-term ethnographic fieldwork that will examine the practical and empirical outcomes of the codification of adat in Malaysian Islamic family law. This fieldwork will be conducted primarily in the Shari’ah Courts situated in the Kuala Lumpur metropolitan area.