Farah Shamsi’s marriage to her husband Abdul started out like many others in her family and society- it was arranged.
“I talked to him on the phone, one hour a week, monitored by my parents, for about six months. Then he flew to Saudi Arabia to meet me, and we were married three days later,” Farah said.
Apart of that ceremony, the couple signed a marriage contract known as a Sadaq.  It’s a traditional Islamic custom, in which a marriage gift from the groom to the bride is also written.
“My dowry is $20,000 unpaid.  Unpaid means it has to be paid at some time,” Farah said.
Two months later the newlyweds moved to the United States, where Abdul moved up the ranks as a radiologist.  
The arranged marriage wasn’t working for Farah.
“My life was like a bird in a cage, and this cage is not open to the world, it’s covered,” Farah said.
After asking for a divorce, Farah says her husband, now a successful radiologist in Clearwater, only was willing to pay her the $20,000 in the Sadaq.
“They argue that’s all the wife is entitled to. What she gets under that marriage contract,” divorce attorney Steven Hair said. “Our position is no, she gets that but she gets everything else that Florida law would otherwise provide for, including one half of the assets and spousal support.”
Attorney Steven Hair, who is representing Farah, says this case could have far reaching implications.
“Women who are married under Islamic law, under a marriage contract of this nature, would then be perhaps barred from a lot of property rights and support rights,” Hair said.
Farah’s name is on the couple’s waterfront home in Island Estates on Clearwater Beach that they bought for $900,000 in 2009. Along with cars, stocks and bank accounts, the assets are substantially more than $20,000.

“This country has certain rules and regulations that we need to follow,” Farah said.
Both sides agree that the marriage contract is enforceable, that at least $20,000 is owed.  But it’s up to a judge to decide if Florida law is enforceable as well.
“This is a question of Florida divorce law.  It’s not an indictment of Islam in any way,” Hair said.
The case makes it before a judge for a summary judgment on June 26th.
Abdul and his attorney both declined to comment for this story.