Inheritance in legal terms is the property received from an ancestor under the laws of inheritance or property that a person receives by bequest or devise. The issue of disinheriting women in our society is inflating. Violation of women rights is an effect of this cause. Ancients considered that male children were the only source of continuation of their lineage. In Hindu Vedas and Greek and Roman laws, power of generation and inheritance was confined to men only. Islam eliminated this old conception. In earlier practices of the legal culture, what was left behind used to become national property which would not be passed to anyone. It was known as a combined property of the family and only the male heirs deserved it.
Islam, in the seventh century, gave inalienable rights to the women in moveable as well as immoveable property. The laws of inheritance constitute at least half the knowledge of Islamic jurisprudence. Allah Almighty himself described the procedure of inheritance in the Holy Quran. The Quran states, “There is a share for men and a share for women from what is left by parents and those nearest related, whether, the property be small or large, a legal share” (An-Nisa 4:7).
One of the key concepts of Islam is that it is based on the concept of maslahah (gaining of good and refraining from bad), while other secular laws are based on the principles of equality. By virtue of hadith attributed to Hamman Bin Munabbih (RD), Abu Huraira (RD) narrated that the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) said, “And who amongst you leaves property, his inheritor is entitled to get it, whoever he is” (Tirmizi).
When a Muslim dies, there are four duties to be performed, one of those four is distribution of his estate among his legal heirs. Allah Almighty has explained who inherits and who does not, so it is not permitted for any person to transgress the limits set by Allah - “And whoever disobeys Allah and His Messenger and transgresses His limits – He will put him into the fire to abide eternally therein, and he will have a humiliating punishment” (An-Nisa 4:14).
Depriving women of inheritance is also a violation of the Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR), which are international conventions ratified by the state of Pakistan.
The concept of dowry should also be abolished because it is beyond morality and creates a gap between different societal groups. Dowry has become a curse as it puts great burden on the society. We should legislate according to Islamic injunctions for the protection of inheritance because that would lead the way to eliminate domestic violence as well.
Marriages to Quran in Baluchistan and Sindh are often carried out to escape inheritance laws. The transfer of family property should be ensured by the state. Misogynists in the society compel women to forego their right to inheritance. As a result, women are forced to choose between saving their relation or their inheritance.
Women’s right to inheritance plays a vital role in their socio-economic and political empowerment, unfortunately women are often denied this right due to a deep-rooted patriarchal system, biased interpretations and biased laws of the land. Above all, due to the insufficient mechanism for the implementation and enforcement of laws, 40.81% women are deprived of inheritance in Pakistan while there are no inheritance rights at all in 70% of the rural areas. Women who are denied their due share, mostly face more challenges in the society owing to customary practices, a complex legal system and cumbersome procedures. Most of the women are forced to withdraw their rights in favour of the male members seemingly voluntarily or under undue influence.
It is high time to educate women to stand for their rights. Proper legislation should be in place. Mere resolutions are not the answer – implementation is the need of the era. Awareness should be raised through electronic media and via political and socio-legal movements. It is the responsibility of all citizens to ensure that their mothers, sisters, wives and daughters are secure and independent.
The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of CourtingTheLaw.com or any other organization with which he might be associated.