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Women’s Right to Inheritance

by Tooba Arshad
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tooba Arshad

ccwere often marginalized and subjected to various forms of social and societal injustices. During this time, women were unj ustly blamed and held responsible for various wrongdoings. The pre-Islamic Arab society maintained a biased perspective towards women, as evidenced by the statement in the Quran: “And they attribute to Allah that which they dislike (i.e., daughters).” (Quran, Surah An-Nahl, 16:57)

This indicates the disdain of the disbelievers in Mecca towards the birth of female children. The Quranic verses make it clear that during the era of ignorance, women were undervalued. They were oppressed and denied opportunities, while qualities of excellence and honor were attributed solely to men. Sons, who were capable of participating in battles or held significant roles, were granted exclusive rights to inheritance.

In the context of inheritance, women were often denied any share. Instead, they were treated as commodities, sometimes sold for monetary gains or buried alive in the ground. Even in marriage, they were deprived of rights and dignity. A few notable exceptions existed, such as Khadijah (may Allah be pleased with her), the wife of Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him), who owned property. However, women, in general, had limited influence and significance within society.

With the advent of Islam, the situation drastically changed. Islam bestowed women with equal rights to inheritance, along with a range of social, legal, economic, and political rights. One of these rights was the right to inheritance. Both men and women were granted the authority to allocate a portion of their wealth to their heirs. They had rightful shares in the inheritance of their close relatives. Allah’s guidance declares: “For parents, a sixth share of the inheritance is given to each if the deceased left children.” (Quran, Surah An-Nisa, 4:11)

This signifies that both sons and daughters have a legitimate claim to their share of inheritance, and their rights cannot be disregarded. However, the male’s share of inheritance is larger than that of the female. The principles of inheritance between men and women are elucidated in Surah An-Nisa (Chapter 4) of the Quran. The Hadiths also validate the allowance to bequeath one-third of the property. The Quran also states: “For men is a share of what the parents and close relatives leave.” (Quran, Surah An-Nisa, 4:7)

All Forms

This implies that in the inheritance, men receive a larger portion compared to women. Furthermore, Allah’s guidance emphasizes: “That is the command of Allah; He judges between you.” (Quran, Surah An-Nisa, 4:13) This reinforces that both sons and daughters have a legitimate claim to inheritance, and their rights are inviolable.

However, in the case of a lone daughter, she is entitled to half of the inheritance, while the remaining half is distributed among other relatives. If the deceased left a sole daughter and both parents are alive, then the parents collectively receive one-sixth of the inheritance. In the absence of offspring but with living parents, the mother receives one-third, while the remaining two-thirds are divided among other relatives.

In instances where the inheritance includes maternal and paternal aunts and uncles, the mother’s share is one-sixth. The Islamic legal framework defines women as rightful heirs in various capacities in terms of inheritance, encompassing roles such as mother, sister, wife, daughter, grandmother, stepdaughter, granddaughter, maternal aunt, and paternal aunt. However, relationships like stepmother, stepdaughter, mother-in-law, daughter-in-law, half-sister, and niece are excluded from inheritance rights due to their non-direct blood relationships.

In contemporary society, misconceptions often surround women’s rights, particularly concerning dowries. Demanding a dowry from the bride’s family should not lead to the erroneous belief that women’s inheritance rights are nullified. Inheritance remains a divinely ordained right, and even if a woman receives a dowry, she retains her rightful share in inheritance.

By actively advocating for women’s inheritance rights and practicing fair distribution, we can contribute to a just and harmonious society. Similar to the rallying cry “Respect the Vote” in Pakistan, raising a similar call to “Respect Women’s Rights” could play a significant role in reducing corruption and discord within society.

However, in cases where women’s rightful shares are denied, it is essential to engage in familial discussions to find an amicable resolution. If resolution cannot be reached, legal recourse is available, and the matter can be addressed through the appropriate legal channels. By uniting to raise awareness about women’s inheritance rights, we can ensure that future generations are well-informed about these rights, thereby empowering women and fostering a just and peaceful society.

It’s important to note that while the text has been translated, some concepts and interpretations may vary based on individual perspectives and cultural contexts.

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