Are Islamic inheritance laws fair to women and men in modern times?


A lady from the UK sent a question to Hazrat Amirul Momineen, Khalifatul Masih Vaa, asking, “The reason why a son receives double the share of a daughter in inheritance is that the son is responsible for the expenses of his parents, wife, and children. However, nowadays both husband and wife work. Similarly, if a daughter is unmarried, divorced, or separated through talaq or khul‘ and living alone, she does not receive anything from the man. Additionally, some sons do not take on the responsibility of their parents, whereas daughters, working and earning, shoulder the household responsibilities. I believe it is necessary to clarify these matters so that any woman’s right is not infringed upon.”

Huzoor-e-Anwaraa, in his letter dated 22 August 2022, provided the following guidance on this issue:

“The first point to understand is that the teachings of Islam are perpetually lasting, immutable, and as practicable for every era as they were during the blessed time of the Holy Prophet Muhammadsa. This is because the Being Who revealed these teachings is fully aware of all the changes and events that have occurred and will occur in the universe from the beginning to the Day of Judgement. The same Being has also taken the responsibility for the protection of these teachings. Therefore, to say ‘the teachings of Islam were practicable in olden times, but now, as women have started working and taking on household responsibilities, there is a need to change these Islamic teachings’, is a frivolous and inappropriate statement.

“Regarding the matter of women owning property or taking on household responsibilities, it is not a phenomenon unique to this era. Even in ancient times and during the blessed era of the Holy Prophet Muhammadsa, there were women of substantial wealth who spent their resources on their husbands and children. However, they never raised the question that, since they were spending on their husbands and children, they should receive an equal share of inheritance as men do. For instance, Hazrat Khadijahra was a wealthy woman who, after marriage, entrusted all her wealth and property to the Holy Prophetsa. (Allamah Fakhr al-Din al-Razi, al-Tafsir al-Kabir, under verse 9 of Surah ad-Duha; ‘wa wajadaka ‘a’ilan fa aghna’) Similarly, the Companion, Hazrat Abdullah bin Mas‘udra, who was a poor labourer, had a wealthy wife, Hazrat Zainabra, who used to spend from her wealth on her husband and children. (Sahih al-Bukhari, Kitab al-zakah, Bab az-zakati ‘ala z-zawji wa l-aytami fi l-hajr)

“The notion that ‘since women have started working, the responsibility of household expenses has shifted from the husband to the wife’ is also incorrect. According to Islamic teachings, irrespective of whether the wife owns property or is employed, the responsibility for providing for the children’s lodging, clothing, and food lies with the husband, and he is bound to fulfil these responsibilities according to his capacity. The husband has no right over the property or income of his wife. However, a husband has the authority to allow his wife to work if he is adequately providing for the needs of his wife and children. If the husband does not agree to his wife’s employment, Islam grants him the right to prevent her from working. However, if the wife is working with her husband’s permission and consent, all her earnings belong solely to her, and the husband has no right to control or use her income. Islam has carefully considered the rights and responsibilities of both husband and wife at every turn. Accordingly, the responsibility for external affairs, including the provision of sustenance for the wife and children, has been entrusted to the husband by Allah Almighty. Domestic responsibilities (which include safeguarding household property, meeting the husband’s needs, and nurturing the children) have been assigned to the wife by Allah the Exalted.

“The point you made about granting a woman who has not married, or is divorced [talaq], or has obtained khul‘, an equal share in inheritance as a man, is also not correct. This is so because if a man has not married, or if he has divorced his wife, or if his wife has obtained khul‘, then he also does not receive anything from his wife’s inheritance. Generally, in the case of talaq and sometimes in the case of khul‘, the husband has to pay the wife her dowry [mahr], whereas, in the event of talaq or khul‘, the wife does not have to pay anything to her husband.

“In today’s Western-influenced society, women often have the misconception that their rights are being usurped in every aspect and situation. Islamic teachings provide a complete and eternal system based on equitable rights and responsibilities. There is no need for any kind of change in these teachings.”

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