Dr Rajnaara C. Akhtar

Job: Senior Lecturer

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: https://unregisteredmarriages.org/


Personal profile

Rajnaara's  research interests focus on marriage formalities and unregistered religious-only marriages. Her research into informal marriages looks at transitional relationship norms utilising the theoretical framework of liminality, normative influences, legal consequences, autonomy and cultural expression. Her fieldwork in this area has focussed on the UK and more recently, Qatar and Australia. 

Further areas of interest include children in international law; and gender and law, particularly issues around care and social reproduction.

Rajnaara received her PhD from the University of Warwick in 2013, where she continued as a part-time lecturer before joining Leicester De Montfort University Law School in February 2016. Her research focussed on legal pluralism, family law and family dispute resolution.

Rajnaara obtained an LLM in Human Rights Law from the University of Nottingham and is also a qualified solicitor, having trained with international law firm Eversheds LLP.  She completed the Legal Practice Course at Nottingham Law School. Rajnaara teaches at both undergraduate and post-graduate levels. Her teaching areas include Family Law, International Child Law, Gender and the Law, and elements of international law and human rights.  

2018-2019 Academic year: Rajnaara is on research leave, conducting fieldwork as 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:

Muslim Marriages in Transition: England, Qatar and Australia (2020) Hart Publishing

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


In Draft:

Rajnaara C. Akhtar, (2019) 'Unregistered Marriages in Qatar: A Balance of Rights and Power' [In draft]

Rajnaara C. Akhtar, (2019) 'Marriage Law in Qatar; Complexity and Evolving Social Drama' [In draft]

Rajnaara C. Akhtar and Kate Wilkinson Cross (2019) 'Patriarchy as Corruption; How Gender Imbalance Impacts on Rights in the Family and the Environment' [In Draft]


Published / Under Review:

Rajnaara C. Akhtar (2019) 'Religious-Only Marriages and Cohabitation; Deciphering Differences' [Under Review]

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

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
  • Human Rights and International Law


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

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

'Marriage Law in Qatar; Complexity and Evolving Social Drama', The Gulf Reseacrh Meeting Workshop, 15-18 July 2019, University of Cambridge, 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. 

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))

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

 '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

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

Co-Editor in Chief for the Journal of Law, Social Justice and Global Development


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



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