Prof. Akhtarul Wasey
These are strange times as we see Muslims questioning Islam’s tenets and its prescribed laws. Just a few days ago, a respected Muslim woman filed a petition in the Supreme Court seeking directions on why women in Islam are given lesser inheritance rights than men. She wants this inequality to end by abolishing the law and equal inheritance rights for men and women following Islam.
While it should be clear that after the death of a person, his heirs are entitled to his property, it’s also fine if the person gives due shares to his heirs in his lifetime and they become the rightful owners. The correct way of Shariah is that immediately after the death of the person his inheritance should be divided and all the co-sharers should be given their share.
One important thing about inheritance is that not only the property of the deceased person but all the recurring financial benefits, such as royalties from art or books, rental from his shop and company, its trademark and market values, or his shares, etc. shall be deemed to be his property. After the owner’s death, all these shall go into the ownership of all his successors after they prove their claim.
The importance of the distribution of inheritance in the eyes of Prophet Muhammad can be gauged from the fact that general instructions are given in the Qur'an and Hadith, and small things are not fixed; But only in a few cases, the Qur'an gives details and speaks of the division of properties clearly and concisely. Allah has not given the right of the division of inheritance to a human being; rather, He has decided who will be the heirs and who will get how many shares. Both the heirs and the amount of their shares have been determined by Allah, and at the same time it has been told in the Qur'an that this division of inheritance is the limit set by Allah and he would punish those violating these.
A woman's share in inheritance is determined by Allah; a daughter's share in a father's inheritance and a sister's share in a brother's property is God-given. As long as the property is not given to them, their right will remain intact and the non-giver will be considered as usurper of the property. Therefore, if a brother has not given a share in his father's property to his sister, or our paternal aunt has not been given a share in the property of one’s grandparents’ property, or one’s father has not given a share to his sister, then this property is illegitimate. That property is the right of another person, and it would be illegal to take advantage of it without his permission.
Even if our grandmother, or our sister, is no longer alive, they will not lose that right; rather their share will remain the same and their successors will be the inheritors of their share. Another important thing about a woman's inheritance is that she can inherit at any age, whether she is a small child, an older woman, the only child of her parents, or has siblings.
Muslim men offering prayers in Srinagar
Similarly, a woman inherits from her maternal home and also from her in-laws, not only from her father and husband, but also from her mother, and brother. In this way, she gets this share many times in his life. The inheritance includes not only the property of the deceased person but also all the material stuff left by him, be it agricultural land or residential house, bank balance or shares and trademarks, or any other kind of financial rights.
A fundamental point of the Islamic law of inheritance is that the share of an heir is not fixed in such a way that he gets a fixed share in every situation; Rather, each heir's share fluctuates depending on how many heirs the deceased has left. However, it is y decided which successor will get how many shares in any situation.
As for the women's share in inheritance, it is generally understood that in Islam the woman's share is lower than that of the man, but in reality, it is wrong. An analytical study of the law of inheritance in Islam in the light of the data leads us to the conclusion that overall (both in terms of quality and quantity) the share of women is more than that of men. Therefore, the range of possible cases of inheritance indicates that in most cases, a woman gets a share equal to that of a man and more than a man. In comparison only in four cases, the share of women is less than that of men and those cases are as follows:
1. If brothers and sisters are alive, then the share of the sister is half of the share of the brother.
2. If the mother and father are alive then the share of the mother is half of the share of the father.
3. If the father has a brother or a sister, the share of the sister is half of the share of the brother.
4. A wife's share in the husband's inheritance becomes half of what her husband would have in her property.
The important thing to remember about inheritance is that it is closely related to the Islamic law of alimony; That is, on the one hand, where a woman gets the inheritance, on the other hand, the responsibility for her expenses and economic needs is also on the men, so her share in the inheritance decreases and where the expenses for which she is responsible are less, her share in the inheritance increases.
Behind this is an understanding that the woman should not be financially helpless.
(The author is Professor Emeritus (Islamic Studies), Jamia Millia Islamia) Ideas are personal