Negotiating love, law, and Islam in Swedish-Gambian marriages

Research output: Working paper


This paper is concerned with love, law and Islam in marriages between Swedish women and Gambian Muslim men: encounters with religion, religiosity, Islam, Islamic traditions, notions of Swedish, Gambian and Islamic law, and cultural differences. The chapter draws on the particular experiences of a number of Swedish women living in Malmö, Sweden, and it is based on in-depth interviews with them. These women have had to negotiate their own understanding of who they are – or who they have become – when facing Islam, Islamic traditions, and Islamic law in its Gambian, Swedish and intercultural context. The primary encounter with Islam has for these women taken place through their marriages. Their responses have been different, ranging from an interest growing out of love understood as a project that brings two people together – their desires, hopes, thoughts, longings for spiritual and moral guidance; to discovering a personal faith – not necessarily dependent on or compatible with the husband’s Islamic religiosity; to conversion to Islam – identifying with a religious community here and there; to confusion and perplexity – “how can he say he’s religious, when acting as if he was not?”; (mis)understandings of religious and legal consequences of the marriage – trying to understand the intersections between Swedish, Gambian and Islamic law; to the breakdown of marriage and its subsequent dissolution – love breaks down, yet the encounter with Islam remains a defining experience.

Coming myself from the field of law, I first approached my interviewees with questions of law: Swedish, Gambian and Islamic. They in turn offered me their life stories, inviting me to understand love, law and Islam as lived experiences and negotiated practices.


Research areas and keywords

Subject classification (UKÄ) – MANDATORY

  • Law


  • komparativ rätt, comparative law, allmän rättslära, jurisprudence, rättskultur, legal culture, islamisk rätt, islamic law
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusUnpublished - 2012
Publication categoryResearch