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The Basic Verses on Inheritance

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For the first time ever, in seventh century, warmonger Arabia, women, who were considered part and parcel of captured spoils for winners, and potential sources of dishonor for losers, are granted inheritance rights. Nevertheless, the complex Islamic inheritance law is often reduced to one formula: “women’s share is half of men’s.” Islamic inheritance is guided by three principles: kinship proximity; generational order: younger generations assuming household responsibilities favored over older generations, dependent on others; and material responsibility of successors. Only here are men (brothers) favored over women (sisters), due to their greater financial responsibilities, given the then prevailing extended-household structure. The Qur’ānic allocations were fair and just, given the household model of the Revelation era. Given today’s nuclear family standard, inheritance division rules merit re-examination.

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  1. 1.

    The 1804 Napoleonic Code established the legal incapacity of married women. In general, Western women did not gain full access to inheritance until the twentieth century.

  2. 2.

    The Qur’ān 4:7.

  3. 3.


  4. 4.

    Suyid and Akrama, respectively, the husband’s cousins and a family legal guardian.

  5. 5.

    Abū al-Hassan an-Nīsābūrī, Asbāb an-nuzūl, reviewed and corrected by Sa’īd Mahmūd ‘Aqil.

  6. 6.

    Tafsīr Ibn Kathīr , commentary on verse 7 of sūrah 4.

  7. 7.

    There are many versions of this, including one that was reported by Umm Salama, the wife of the Prophet. Cf. Tafsīr Ibn Kathīr , commentary of verse 32 of sūrah 4.

  8. 8.

    Al-Rāzī, Mafātīh al-ghayb.

  9. 9.

    Cf. Tafsīr Ibn Kathīr .

  10. 10.

    Al-Rāzī, op. cit.

  11. 11.

    Cf. Salāh ad-Dīn’s study on women’s inheritance in Islam: Mīrāth al-mar’a wa qadiyyat al-musāwāt (An-Nahda, 1999).

  12. 12.

    The Qur’ān 4:11.

  13. 13.

    Azizah el-Hibri, Droits des femmes musulmanes dans le village mondial.

  14. 14.

    The inheritance debate takes place in a rather tacit manner in Sunni milieus; paradoxically, in the Islamic Republic of Iran, it has taken place and has evolved. The Iranian parliament passed a law on May 21, 2004, that gives women the same inheritance rights as men. And even though this law has not yet received the approval of the Council of Guardians (of the revolution), it has the merit of showing that such discussion can take place within Islam.

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Lamrabet, A. (2018). The Basic Verses on Inheritance . In: Women and Men in the Qur’ān. Palgrave Macmillan, Cham.

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