This chapter focuses on the anxiety of performativity, which asks about the capacity of scholars or judges to successfully perform an Islamic act and to divorce a couple. Performativity can be distributed in differing ways between religious and state authorities. People are used to the idea that a religious marriage may have legal effects, because in many countries such is the law. Conversely, in many countries with Islamic courts, a court divorce is also—immediately and automatically—an Islamic divorce, because the laws say so. The shariʻa councils do not have that legal legitimacy. No state laws back them up, and the religiously performative quality of their acts is nowhere made explicit. Ultimately, the uncertainties around shariʻa council performativity point toward a much broader problem regarding the capacity of a state to say when a religious act has taken place.
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