Islamic inheritance regimes in the Muslim world continue to beguile advocates and feminists, non-Muslim and Muslim alike. One single characteristic, that women inherit far less property than men under Islamic inheritance arrangements, has for long been utilized as marker, in the West, for a perceived lack of gender equality. However the complexity and sensitivity of inheritance practices among Muslims has rarely been directly engaged. This chapter is concerned with developing such an engagement, for very pragmatic reasons.
Over 20 percent of the world’s population is influenced to varying degrees by Islamic principles, which intersect customary, informal and statutory land laws. Despite their relevance, global land reviews and interventions rarely consider the application of Islamic land principles.
This second revised edition of John L. Esposito's landmark work expands and updates coverage of family law reforms -- marriage, divorce, and inheritance -- throughout the Middle East, North Africa, South and Southeast Asia.
Qur’anic verses define as heirs several classes of kin that were previously unable to inherit – most notably women such as wives, daughters, mothers and sisters – and distributed the estate in an equitable way that was a drastic improvement from the pre-Islamic scheme. The Qur’an specifies three main classes of heirs: (1) the Qur’anic heirs called “Sharers,” (2) agnatic heirs called “Residuaries,” and (3) uterine heirs called “Distant Kindred.” Not all possible heirs always inherit; some classes may exclude others, and some heirs within a class may exclude others within the same class.
In this article Chaudhry argues that the ratio of distribution between men and women is not two to one in all cases where men and women of the same class are inheriting together, and more importantly, that the distribution of inheritance through the fixed shares legislated by the Qur’an is not inherently gender-discriminatory, nor based on concepts of gender inferiority. If this was true, it would violate the two most central concepts of Islamic law.