This article is written by Ekanksh Shekhawat from Kirit P. Mehta School of Law, Mumbai and the article has been edited by Khushi Sharma (Trainee Associate, Blog iPleaders).
Despite the fact that women account for almost half of the earth’s population and contribute significantly in all areas of the economy, their social, economic, and political status is not the same as those of males. Many women are denied the right to inherit property when their parents die in Muslim regions. This is primarily due to a failure to follow Islamic principles on inheritance at both the individual and family levels. Nonetheless, Islam has given women a dignified role in the household and society in all aspects. The concept of inheritance of property, in particular, is stated clearly in the Holy Qur’an.
The customary laws are overwhelmingly patriarchal and discriminate against women. When you challenge the rights of inheritance, you are simultaneously fighting patriarchy, as well as family and relationship principles. It has been claimed that fathers and sons are unwilling to share the parental property with married women since they believe she belongs to the husband’s family and has already been rewarded with a dowry at the moment of her wedding. The Muslim laws in India governing Muslim women’s right to property are considerably different from those in other countries; there are two distinct schools of opinion. There are no defined property rights for Muslims in India, according to Muslim property law, and they are administered by two schools of Muslim personal law: Shia and Hanafi. The purported prejudice against women in society is attributed to society’s failure to apply Islamic inheritance legislation. Women’s roles and statuses in the Islamic community are steadily advancing in academics, economics, healthcare, and leadership in the twenty-first century, but they still fall behind in terms of inheriting property, which is provided by Islamic principles. Therefore, the goal of this research is to look into the Islamic principles that have been designated to women’s inheritance entitlements, as well as their contemporary status in the Muslim background in terms of obtaining inheritance alongside male counterparts. The research will concentrate on financially strengthening women by securing their inheritance share in the family, together with male family members, using Islamic inheritance distribution models.
Muslim women’s right to inheritance in ancient societies
In the Islamic region, the era preceding the Prophet Muhammad’s revelation of the Quran is known as Jahiliyyah. During this time, infant daughters were slaughtered for fear of inheriting a share of the family’s wealth. They would also be seen as a source of disgrace for their family’s reputation in societal structure. Women were not regarded as heirs to their parents’ estate throughout the Jahiliyyah (ignorance) period. Women and children in the Arabian Peninsula were not permitted to retrieve any inheritance bestowed by their parents before the arrival of Islam, as per Qatdah (companion of Prophet Muhammad). It was usual at the period that only those who could ride horses and demonstrate heroism on the battlefield would be eligible for inheritance. In the period of Jahiliyyah, ancient communities, and all other religions except Muslims, there was no tradition of transferring an inheritance to females. When we look at the social-economic traditions and patriarchal social systems of ancient civilizations, we can see that there is no thorough rule regarding women’s inheritance along with their brothers after their parents pass away. In most ancient civilisations, women were regarded as subordinate to men in the household and social levels. Women were thought to be the gateways of evil via which Satan could enter the human body and render God’s law void.
Muslim women’s rights in inheritance in the Quran
Following the introduction of Islam, it was decreed that no one, whether male or female, feeble or powerful, ill or well, abandoned or legally adopted, should be denied inheritance after their parents passed away. In Surah al-Nisa verses 7 and 33 of the Qur’an, the means of distributing inherited money is mentioned. It has provided a comprehensive guideline about the rights of inheritance of property among the generations and how it would be allocated as per Qur’anic procedures in verses 11 and 12 of Surah al-Nisa. Furthermore, these two verses not only embrace and safeguard women’s rights but also explain the inheritance transfer procedures for both men and women. It is vital to note that the revelation of the verses listed above took place during the Jahiliyyah period, which was a pre-Islamic period in which women had no privileges to inherit after their father, brother, or husband died. According to Imam al-Tabari’s work Tafsir, during the Jahiliyyah era, women and children were not allowed to inherit anything. To overcome this oppression, the Qur’an states that as a daughter, wife, and mother, women are entitled to a share of the inheritance, as stipulated in Surah al-Nisa, verses 11-12.
There is a widespread misunderstanding, especially in the Islamic community, that men receive a greater share of inheritance than women do. As a result, when it comes to inheritance, women are deemed inferior to their male counterparts. Therefore, there is a concept known as nafaqah (monetary spending) that a man must sustain for his spouse and kids. It comprises of food, clothing, a home, and other necessities for the wife and kids future. In addition, at the marriage ceremony, men are responsible for paying Mehar as a dowry present to the bride. He is also accountable for looking after himself, his wife, children, ageing parents, and close relatives depending on his competence. According to the analysis above, obtaining a double portion of inheritance compared to women does not confer any additional benefits on males, nor does it imply that men are superior to women in terms of inheriting more. It is believed that a man’s stake is twofold that of a woman’s because men have certain responsibilities as family caretakers, which have already been addressed. Nonetheless, as per Islamic inheritance laws, a man does not always obtain a double portion of an inheritance as a woman. Instead, in some circumstances, women are given more inheritance than their male counterparts. There are other instances in this respect; however, the present article merely emphasizes a handful. In the case of a deceased individual who left a daughter, wife, father, and mother, the daughter will receive half of the whole inheritance. The wife will receive one-eighth, while the father and mother will each receive one-sixth. In this situation, the daughter receives a larger portion than the father, who is a man. ii) If the deceased left a daughter and a husband, the daughter receives half of the whole property, while the husband receives just a quarter. As a result, in this case, women obtain a larger share of the inheritance than their male counterparts do. A man and a woman obtain an equitable distribution in another scenario. For instance, if the person who died left only maternal brothers and sisters, both will obtain an equitable distribution of the sixth, and if there are more than two, they will end up sharing a third after the deceased’s bequeathable and liabilities are paid.
Nonetheless, the Qur’an and Prophetic practices make it abundantly clear that a woman’s financial support is her husband’s responsibility, even if she has a substantial sum and is capable of looking after herself. She has the right to demand that her husband provides for her financial requirements, and he is obligated to do so. While I was studying the post jahillayah period, I found out how men receive a greater share of inheritance than women do, as a result, when it comes to inheritance, women are deemed inferior to their male counterparts. While analyzing different scholars, the logical explanation behind giving man the greater share was that, since upon marriage a woman receives MEHR, which is a pre-decided amount of money or kind, which she is entitled to receive compulsorily, either after marriage or after divorce. In all the cases above, it can be observed that women are on the receiving end when they fulfil the role of a daughter, wife and mother, whereas men are at the giving end while fulfilling the role of husband and father.
Barriers to muslim women’s right to inheritance
Old standards and patriarchal social systems determine women’s standing and role in every community, where women are ignored and regarded as submissive to males. It is a typical occurrence in Muslim families for women to be denied their liberties, notably when the subject of inheritance allocation among the deceased’s heirs arises. However, there are a number of barriers that prevent women from obtaining bequests in the family with their male family members, some of which are listed below.
- Socio-Cultural Traditions: The socio-cultural heritage has had a detrimental effect on the growth of women empowerment in our present day, in every aspect of their lives, especially in the domains of attaining inherited property ownership, as past has shown for ages. In today’s Islamic communities, a similar belief persists that women do not have the right to inherit property and dispose of it accordingly to their inclinations. After the death of their parents, many women do not get their share. Women are often intimidated and emotionally manipulated into handing over their property to their siblings. Traditional customs and socio-cultural systems discourage women from inheriting property. Even in certain cultures, it is considered shameful for women to inquire about their inheriting property from their brothers unless they have been awarded it.
- Prejudice against Women: Prejudice against females is a daily occurrence around the world in many aspects of their lives, and the Islamic community is no exception. Regardless of the fact that it is the twenty-first century, the socio-cultural heritage in Islamic communities is not in support of women. In terms of parenting, boys frequently exhibit additional attention and preference to boys over girls. This inclination exists irrespective of the family’s social standing, as it is widely recognized in society, both in wealthy and poor households. Women, on the other hand, must be free of any form of abuse or societal discrimination based on their gender, according to Islam. Islam forbids any form of gender inequality in the social lives of males and females. It indicates that Islam forbids prejudice between males and females, as well as between girls and boys. In a household and in a social structure, both boys and girls should be regarded appropriately.
- Lack of Religious Awareness: Ignorance of religious knowledge is another key factor that prevents women from inheriting once their parents pass away. It prevents vulnerable women from inheriting from their families. Nonetheless, some Muslim nations, such as Turkey and Tunisia, are attempting to provide women with equivalent rights in inheritance matters, but they are failing because they do not comprehend the Shariah in the application and in relation to the essential rights of women guaranteed by Islam. Oftentimes, the Islamic community takes action to encourage women without fully comprehending Islamic principles and beliefs. However, women’s positions and status are steadily changing around the globe, especially in Muslim countries, yet this is not in accordance with Islamic beliefs and values.
Suggestions and recommendations
The present article identifies a set of measures that could help to resolve the problem of women’s inheritance rights in the families, resulting in peace and less conflict among successors. To address the problem, Muslim communities must recognise the relevance of Islamic doctrines and practices in their everyday lives, as well as adhere to the Islamic inheritance distribution model following the death of their relations. Women should not be discriminated against in the handling of inheritance properties, as the Qur’an and Sunnah make it very clear. Islam forbids any form of favouritism between men and women in their lifestyles, especially when it comes to inheritance dispersal among successors. Parents should not expect only the male heir to bring joy and honour to the entire family; both male and female heirs should be equally expected to contribute happiness and honour to the family’s reputation. Experts should take measures to strengthen knowledge about the Qur’an and Sunnah’s teachings of the exclusive rights of inheritance bestowed on both sexes. The scholars are confident that current law is thorough in ensuring women’s share of Islamic inheritance, free of any existing prejudice in practice among Muslim communities across ethnicities. The state may also impose a legislative ruling on the practice of women’s inheritance rights predicated on Qur’anic principles, ensuring financial stability among family members and community as a whole.
The research finds that in Islam, women have a unique role and status in the family and community, relying on the foregoing discussion and analysis. From the moment she is born until she dies, Islam ensures her financial status, which is to be taken care of by competent men in her family and community. Nonetheless, it is discovered throughout the article that several circumstances, such as socio-cultural traditions, patriarchal social systems, and a lack of religious awareness and practice in ordinary routine, impede women’s claim to inheritance in the household. As per the research, if a Muslim household adopts Islamic inheritance distribution practices, abuse and injustice between men and women in reference to inherited property distribution among the heirs will be mitigated. India is among the world’s most welcoming and open-minded nations and it prides itself on being the globe’s most secular-democratic nation. It has always stood up for what is good and opposed what is unjust. The patriarchal Muslim population must acknowledge women’s rights, and it is past time for us, as Indian members of society, to do so as well. Nowadays, it is important for individuals to unite in their opposition to the sufferings of Muslim women who have been struggling for a long period. There has been an erroneous understanding of Islamic teachings, and it is the responsibility of the legislature and the judiciary to address this.
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