Dr Rajnaara C. Akhtar

Job: Visiting Research Fellow in Law

Faculty: Business and Law

School/department: Leicester De Montfort Law School

Address: De Montfort University, The Gateway, Leicester, LE1 9BH

T: +44 (0)116 205 6112

E: rajnaara.akhtar@dmu.ac.uk

W: www.unregisteredmarriages.org/


Personal profile

Rajnaara is a socio-legal researcher with a focus on family law. In particular, her research centres on marriage formalities and legal treatment of non-state registered religious-only marriages. Her research into informal marriages looks at transitional relationship norms, normative influences, legal consequences and autonomy. She has conducted extensive empirical fieldwork in this area in the UK, Qatar and Australia. Further areas of research include gendered studies of family law, currently focussing on women’s marriage and divorce experiences in Qatar. Other areas of interest include international child law and gender and human rights law.

Other roles:

2020: Visiting Associate Professor, Georgetown University in Qatar. 

2018-2020 Academic years: Scholar in Residence at Georgetown University in Qatar. 

June-July 2019: Visiting Research Fellow, University of Sydney, Australia.

Research group affiliations

Publications and outputs

Books Under Contract:

Rajnaara C. Akhtar (2021) Muslim Marriages in Transition: England, Qatar and Australia, Hart Publishing, Oxford 

Books Published:

Rajnaara C. Akhtar and Conrad Nyamutata (2020) International Child Law, (4th Edition), Routledge

Rajnaara C. Akhtar, Patrick Nash and Rebecca Probert (Eds) (2020) Cohabitation and Religious Marriage: Status, Similarities and Solutions, Bristol University Press: Shorts Research

Other Publications

In Draft:

Rajnaara C. Akhtar, Anisa Buckley & Ghena Krayem, 'Legal solutions for religious-only Muslim marriages in England; taking lessons from Australia' 


Rajnaara C. Akhtar (2022), ‘Contemporary Issues in Marriage Law and Practice in Qatar’, HAWWA Journal of Women of the Middle East and the Islamic World, 124-158 (advance publication December 2020), DOI: https://doi.org/10.1163/15692086-12341389

Akhtar, R. C., Al-Sharmani, M., & Moors, A. (2022). 'Introduction', HAWWA Journal of Women of the Middle East and the Islamic World, 1-9 (advance publication December 2020), DOI: https://doi.org/10.1163/15692086-12341383

Rajnaara C. Akhtar (2020), Case Note: 'From ‘non-marriage’ to ‘non-qualifying ceremony’, Journal of Socal Welfare and Family Law, 42(4), DOI: 10.1080/09649069.2020.1796375

Rajnaara C. Akhtar (2020) 'Religious-Only Marriages and Cohabitation; Deciphering Differences', in Akhtar, R.C., Nash, P., & Probert, R. (Eds) Cohabitation and Religious Marriage: Status, Similarities and Solutions, Bristol University Press: Shorts Research 

Rajnaara C. Akhtar (2020) 'Non-Legally Binding Muslim Marriages in England and Qatar; Circumventing the State', Electronic Journal of Islamic and Middle Eastern Law, 8(1), 13-24, https://doi.org/10.5167/uzh-187603

Rajnaara C. Akhtar (2019) 'Plural Approaches to Faith-Based Dispute Resolution by Britain's Muslim Communities', Child and Family Law Quarterly, 31(3), 189.  

Rajnaara C. Akhtar (2018) ‘Ofsted v Al-Hijrah, The Case of Segregated Schools and Sex Discrimination’, The Denning Law Journal, 30 (1), 167-183.

Rajnaara C. Akhtar, Rebecca Probert and Annelies Moors (2018) 'Informal Muslim Marriages: Regulations and Contestations', Oxford Journal of Law and Religion, 7:3, 1 October 2018, 367–375, https://doi.org/10.1093/ojlr/rwy036

Annelies Moors, Rajnaara C. Akhtar and Rebecca Probert (2018) 'Contextualizing Muslim Religious-Only Marriages', Sociology of Islam, 6:3, 263-273. 

R.C. Akhtar (2018) 'Modern Traditions in Muslim Marriage Practices, Exploring English Narratives' Oxford Journal of Law and Religion, 7:3, 1 October 2018, 427-454, https://doi.org/10.1093/ojlr/rwy030.

Rajnaara Akhtar (2018) 'The human right to marry: a refugee’s perspective', Journal of Social Welfare and Family Law, 40:2, 262-269, DOI: 10.1080/09649069.2018.1451013.

R.C. Akhtar (2018) ‘Unregistered Muslim Marriages in the UK; Examining Normative Influences Shaping Choice of Legal Protection’, in M.C. Foblets (et al) (Eds) (2018), Personal Autonomy in Plural Societies, A Principle and its Paradoxes, Routledge: Law and Anthropology  

Book Review: Child and Family Law Quarterly, [2017] CFLQ 281: M. Zee (2016) Choosing Sharia? Multiculturalism, Islamic Fundamentalism & Sharia Councils, Eleven International Publishing

R.C. Akhtar, 'Unregistered Muslim Marriages: An Emerging Culture of Celebrating Rites and Compromising Rights', in R Probert, J Miles and P Mody (2015) Marriage Rites and Rights, Hart Publishing, Oxford

R. C. Akhtar, (2013) 'Towards Conceptualising User-Friendly Shariah Councils' Journal of Islamic State Practice in International Law, Volume 9, Issue 2, pp 112-135.

Book Review: Islam and the Secular State, Negotiating the Future of Shari'a (Abdullahi Ahmed An-Na'im), Law, Social Justice & Global Development Journal (LGD), Issue 16, 2011 (1)

R. C. Akhtar, ‘Muslim women, the Hijab and Activism in the United Kingdom’ in T Gabriel and R Hannan (Eds) (2011) Islam and the Veil, Continuum Books

R.C. Akhtar (2010) 'British Muslims and the Evolution of the Practice of Islamic Law with Particular Reference to Dispute Resolution' Journal of Islamic State Practice in International Law, Volume 6, Issue 1, pp27-39

Research interests/expertise

  • Marriage formalities/Family Law
  • Unregistered Religious-Only Marriages
  • Legal Pluralism
  • Gender, Care and Social Reproduction
  • Children's Rights
  • Human Rights

Areas of teaching

  • Family Law
  • International Child Law
  • Gender and the Law
  • International Law
  • Human Rights


LLB (University of Leicester)

LPC (Nottingham Law School)

LLM (University of Nottingham)

PhD (University of Warwick)

Courses taught

Family Law 

Gender and Law 

International Child Law 

International Law

Human Rights

Membership of external committees

DMU Representative, Society of Legal Scholars

Membership of professional associations and societies

  • Commission on Legal Pluralism (member)
  • Society of Legal Scholars (member)
  • Socio-Legal Studies Association (member)
  • International Society of Family Law (member)
  • Admitted to the Law Society (Qualified Solicitor – non-practicing)


Forthcoming events

Panel - Understanding Sharia Processes, Women in Family Disputes. Sixth ICLARS Conference,  11-13 October 2021, Cordoba, Spain.

'Child Custody and Marrying Out in Qatar – What implications for Human Rights?' - International Society of Family Law 17th World Conference, 20-23 July 2021, Barbados.

Conference attendance

Conferences Organised/Chaired: 

Muslim Marriages; Plurality of Norms and Practices. The Second International Conference of INSRUM, 11-12 April 2019, University of Amsterdam, Netherlands.(Collaboration with Prof. Annelies Moors, University of Amsterdam)

Relationship Breakdown; Informal and Legal Solutions, December 2018, Institute of Advanced Legal Studies, London. (Collaboration with Prof, Rebecca Probert (University of Exeter), Prof. Russell Sandberg (University of Cardiff) and Dr. Patrick Nash (The Wolf Institute)) [Output here]

Unregistered Muslim Marriages, Regluations and Contestations. The First International Conference of INSRUM. April 2017, De Montfort University, Leicester [Outputs here and here] (Collaboration with Prof. Annelies Moors, University of Amsterdam)

Joint seminar organiser (with Prof. Ann Stewart, University of Warwick), ‘Worlds Apart? Sharing Perspectives on Social Reproduction and Strategies in Relation to Care’, March 2015

Conferences/ Papers

'Child Custody and Marrying Out in Qatar – What implications for Human Rights?', Flashpoints: Human Rights, Law & Religion Conference, Nottingham Law School, 14 December 2020, Nottingham UK.  

'Non-legally binding Muslim marriages in England and Qatar; circumventing the state', Society of Legal Scholars annual conference, 1-4 September 2020, Exeter UK. 

'Unregistered Muslim marriages in England and Qatar; Circumventing the State', Islamic Family Law in Europe and the Islamic World, 25-27 September 2019, Hannover, Germany. 

'Marriage Law in Qatar; Complexity and Evolving Social Drama', Gulf Research Meeting, Family Changes in the Context of Social Changes in the Gulf Region, 15-18 July 2019, University of Cambridge. 

'Unregistered Marriages in Qatar: A Balance of Rights and Power,' Muslim Marriages; Plurality of Norms and Practices, 11-12 April 2019, University of Amsterdam, Netherlands.

'Religious-Only Marriages and Cohabitation; Deciphering Differences', Relationship Breakdown: Informal and Legal Solutions, 14 December 2018, London UK

Family Structure in the Wake of Genetic and Reproductive Technologies, 7-8 October 2018, Georgetown University in Qatar

International Course on Legal Pluralism, 17-20 August 2018, Ottawa, Canada

'Liminality of Muslim Marriage Practices: A Process of Integration', Re-formulating Matrimony and post-matrimony in Islamic Law: New Questions and Responses Amongst Muslims in Europe, 25-26 June 2018, Oxford

'Muslim Marriages Survey Findings', Europe’s New Migrants: Marriage Practices and Policies, 16-18 April 2018, Birmingham 

'Liminality: Unregistered  Marriages as Signs of Integration'
SLSA Annual Conference
26-29 March 2018
Bristol, UK

'Unregistered  Marriages in Human Rights Discourse'
SLS Annual Conference
5-8 September 2017
Dublin, Ireland

'Unregistered  Marriages in Human Rights Discourse'
International Society of Family Law World Conference
25-29 July 2017
Amsterdam, Netherlands

6th Annual Conference of the International Society of Child Indicators 
28-30 June 2017
Montreal, Canada 

'Unregistered Muslim Marriages in the UK; Examining Normative Influences Shaping Choice of Legal Protection'
SLSA Annual Conference
5-7 April 2016
Lancaster University, UK

'Unregistered Muslim Marriages'
23 October 2015
Ghent University, Belgium

Counselling and Mediation Amongst Muslims in Europe
18 September 2014
Leiden University, The Netherlands

Mediation and Religious Arbitration, Thinking Through the Issues of Gender Equality and Justice in Family Law Disputes
10 June 2014
SOAS, London

(Not) Outside my Culture: The Paradoxes of Personal Autonomy in a Plural Society
26-28 May 2014
Max Planck Institute for Social Anthropology, Germany

Islamic Family Law in Modern Europe and the Muslim World: Normative, Legal and Empirical Approaches Beyond the Women's Rights Issues
19-21 June 2013
University of Nijmegen, The Netherlands 

Externally funded research grants information

Nuffield Foundation - 'When is a wedding not a marrige? Exploring non-legally binding ceremonies', September 2020 - December 2021. Principal Investigator. Collaboration with Prof. Rebecca Probert (University of Exeter) and Dr Vishal Vora (Max Planck Institute of Social Anthropology, Germany). 

Doha International Family Institute and Qatar National Research Fund - OSRA Research Grant, 2019-2021. An Empirical Study of the Marriage and Divorce Experiences of Women in Qatar. Principal Investigator. Collaboration with Dr Alexandre Caeiro, Hamad Bin Khalifa University. 

SLSA Mentorship Award 2016-2017. 

Seed-corn funding from ERC Project 2013-AdG-324180, 'Problematizing 'Muslim Marriages': Ambiguities and Contestations. Initial fieldwork focussing on Muslim marriage practices in England.

Internally funded research project information

International Network of Scholars Researching Unregistered Marriages collaborations, Higher Education Innovation Fund, January - June 2019. Project Lead. Second international multi-disciplinary collaborative conference of INSRUM. Muslim Marriages, Plurality of Norms and Practices. Output to include a journal special issue. 

DMU Research Leave Scheme, August 2018-July 2019, Empirical research in Qatar. 

Unregistered Muslim Mariages Project, Higher Education Innovation Fund (HEFCE), October 2016-July 2017. Project lead. Focussing on non-state registered marriages: recognition, regulation, culturalisation and contestations. Output to include peer reviewed journal special/themed issue. 

Professional esteem indicators


Integration: Seeing the Bigger Picture, Law and Religion UK, Rebecca Probert and Rajnaara Akhtar, 21 March 2018

Gal Gadot, Amena Khan and the Perils of Being Famous, Female and Having Political Opinions, The Conversation, Rajnaara Akhtar and Kate Wilkinson Cross, 26 January 2018

International Visiting Fellowships

October 2018 - August 2020: Scholar in Residence, Georgetown University in Qatar

January 2020 - Janaury 2021: Visiting Associate Professor, Georgetown University in Qatar

June 2019 - July 2019: Visiting Research Fellow, University of Sydney