INHERITANCE: RIGHT OF A MUSLIM WOMAN
Updated: May 6
Author: Yukta Sharma, III year of B.A.,LL.B.(Hons.) from REVA University, Bengaluru
“Despite the facts that around half of the world’s population is acquired by the women and the significant contributions made by them in economic, social and political areas, they are denied to inherit their deceased parents’ property”.
The Muslims does not acknowledge the concept of “inheritance by birth”. The property can only be inherited after the death of a person and not when he alive. The two genders maybe equal in the law of legacy but it’s not the case in Islam. Due to the customary laws and patriarchal mind-set, the infant daughters, in ancient Islamic societies, were slaughtered out of the fear of inheritance of the property (family’s wealth). The period was known as Jahiliyyah and during that era women were not regarded as the heirs to their parents’ estate. At that time it was usual that the ones who ride horse or know to fight the battle can only have the right of inheritance and there was no tradition of inheritance to females. According to Iman-al-Tabari, women and children were not entitled to take any share for inheritance in the property. To overcome the same expression, Quran allows the women to inherit their share in the virtue of these verses.
INHERITANCE RIGHTS OF MUSLIM FEMALE IN QURAN
The Quran states that a mother, wife, widow and daughters are entitled for inheritance and provides some rights to them which are mentioned in verses 7 and 33 of Surah-al-Nisa. Verses 11 and 12 of the Surah provide comprehensive guidelines of inheritance of property and how it would be allocated according to Qur’anic procedures. When it comes to inheritance the share of the man is twofold from that of the woman. Women are deemed inferior as that of their male counterparts and this is known as Nafaqah. Also there is an additional responsibility on man to pay Mehr; which is considered as a token of love and dignity provided by the husband to his wife, agreed at the time of marriage as a future security. So, a mehr automatically comprises a woman’s property which she may utilize whenever and however she needs.
DIVISION OF SHARE: SHARIAT LAW
Unlike Hindu law, the division of share is already fixed under Muslim law. There is a fixed proportionate of share division. It is believed that a man has additional responsibilities to look after, maintain and fulfil their needs, also a woman is also maintained by her husband but her brothers are only dependant on ancestral property, thus a Muslim man is entitled for twofold of the share than that of a Muslim female. There are certain rules for the same in different scenarios:
1. SHARE OF DAUGHTER
A son is entitled to take double share as that of daughter. Where there is no brother she is entitled to take half share from the total property. She is considered as the absolute owner of the property or share she receives and she is legally entitled to manage, control and dispose it off as per her wishes and needs.
2. SHARE OF WIFE
In case of death of the husband a widow is entitled to get one-eighth share when there are children and in case where there are no children she will get one-fourth share. And if there is more than one wife, the share will decrease to one-sixteenth.
3. SHARE OF MOTHER
A muslin woman, being a mother is entitled to get one-sixth of the share from her son’s property if he is a father as well. And when there are no grandchildren she will get one-third of the share.
RIGHT TO MEHR: SPECIFICALLY
Mehr is also known as dower. It is the right to a Muslim woman provided by the Quran. And the Verses 4 of Sura-ul-Nisa provides the right to Muslim woman to claim their dower. Mehr is paid by the husband to his wife, either at the time of marriage or anytime during the marriage or at the time of dissolution of marriage. He has the right to increase the dower, at any time after the marriage but no right to decrease the dower. And he may willingly give his entire property as mehr to his wife.
The objective behind paying the Mehr is:
It acts as a prestige of Muslim marriage.
Token of respect
To provide substance to marriage
To keep a check on husband’s power to give divorce
To curb the practice of bigamy
The mehr is considered as the absolute property of a Muslim woman and can be used by her as per her want and need. It acts as a future security for her. Denial to pay mehr can result into non fulfilment of marital obligations from the woman’s part.
In the matter of inheritance of property the Muslim women are getting comparatively less share than their male counterparts. And there are various reasons and responsibilities which are covered in the above paragraphs. Though the early Islamic society has not a systematic and equal manner of distribution of property and the female heirs were discriminated but later when Quran came, it has given the rights to Muslim females as well to inherit the family property.
Looking into the current situation the female, though getting less share than their male counterparts but possess a right to Mehr by their husbands, which is a compulsory practice under Muslim law. Such a variety of practices differentiate the ways of inheritance in Muslim law to that of in Hindu law.
EkankshShekhawat, Examining the inheritance rights of Muslim women under Muslim Law, IPLEADERS INTELLEGENT LEGAL SOLUTIONS (April 27, 2022, 10: 15 pm), https://blog.ipleaders.in/examining-the-inheritance-rights-of-muslim-women-under-muslim-law/ Sneha Sharon Mammen, What is a Muslim woman’s right to property?, HOUSING NEWS (April 27, 2022, 10:20 pm), https://housing.com/news/property-rights-of-muslim-women/#:~:text=Muslim%20woman%20and%20her%20right%20to%20Mehr,-The%20Quranic%20right&text=The%20husband%2C%20during%20marriage%2C%20pays,ask%20for%20a%20reasonable%20Mehr  Ibid.  It was an ancient Islamic era, the period preceding the Prophet Muhammad’s revelation of the Quran. EkankshShekhawat, Examining the inheritance rights of Muslim women under Muslim Law, IPLEADERS INTELLEGENT LEGAL SOLUTIONS (April 27, 2022, 10: 15 pm),https://blog.ipleaders.in/examining-the-inheritance-rights-of-muslim-women-under-muslim-law/ Gunjan Piplani, Examining A Muslim Woman's Right To Property, MAKAAN IQ (June 15, 2020), https://www.makaan.com/iq/legal-taxes-laws/examining-a-muslim-womans-right-to-property Nafaqah is a monetary spending that a man is supposed to do for his spouse and children, which consists of food, clothing, shelter and all essentials.  Mehr (dower) is the money or property which the wife is entitled to get by her husband in consideration of the marriage. RaghvendraNath, Inheritance rights of Hindu, Muslim, Christian women are not the same, THE ECONOMIC TIMES (Mar 8, 2022, 10:58 am),https://economictimes.indiatimes.com/wealth/legal/will/inheritance-rights-of-hindu-muslim-christian-women-are-not-the-same/articleshow/90067981.cms Ibid.  Ibid. Sneha Sharon Mammen, What is a Muslim woman’s right to property?, HOUSING NEWS (April 27, 2022, 10:47 pm), https://housing.com/news/property-rights-of-muslim-women/#:~:text=Muslim%20woman%20and%20her%20right%20to%20Mehr,-The%20Quranic%20right&text=The%20husband%2C%20during%20marriage%2C%20pays,ask%20for%20a%20reasonable%20Mehr  LEGAL SERVICE INDIA E-JOURNAL, https://www.legalserviceindia.com/legal/article-5105-mahr-under-muslim-law.html (April 27, 2022) Sneha Sharon Mammen, What is a Muslim woman’s right to property?, HOUSING NEWS (April 27, 2022, 10:47 pm), https://housing.com/news/property-rights-of-muslim-women/#:~:text=Muslim%20woman%20and%20her%20right%20to%20Mehr,-The%20Quranic%20right&text=The%20husband%2C%20during%20marriage%2C%20pays,ask%20for%20a%20reasonable%20Mehr