Ownership Of Land In Monotheistic Religions

Ownership Of Land In Monotheistic Religions

‘Land’ and ‘inheritance’ have been widely discussed in all known heavenly scriptures of Christianity, Judaism and Islam. All these monotheistic religions unanimously share a common belief that ‘the world is God’s (creation)’ and all that is in the heavens and on earth belongs to Him only.

According to religious doctrines (Gospels, Bible, Pentateuch and Qur’an), Adam and Eve were the first people sent to dwell on earth, but not permanently. A deep study of these scriptures reveals that the ownership of this land was, in no way, granted to Adam and Eve. Interestingly, all these religions have framed different civil and religious laws and policies to deal with the ownership of personal and religious land properties. On this point, Professor Howard Johnson of Cardiff University (UK) proposes the idea of a research on how the basic religious texts of the main religions of the world might have influenced the development of land ownership policy in past societies or whether any are still influencing it in modern societies.

Professor Dr. Tony Claydon of Bangor University (UK) suggests starting a discussion on how religious disputes and the interpretations of sacred texts have affected ideas of land holdings in different periods (e.g. in the 15th century) and in different places (e.g. Europe). Professor Dr. Howard Lesnick of Pennsylvania University (USA) proposes a thesis on what religions teach about the use of land, especially the total disregard of the express scriptural prohibition on treating land just as any other commodity that can be bought and sold ‘in perpetuity’.

However the term ‘different usages of land’ may be seen in special reference with the land properties owned by churches, synagogues and mosques. These religious institutions own properties under trust/endowment property laws or canon law, etc. and use such land for different purposes, sometimes even for purposes other than those allowed by sacred doctrines e.g. sometimes such trust land is sold to third parties. Does the relevant religious law or text permit these religious institutions to do so, or is there any divine utilization of land? According to my understanding, the laws that govern properties under the control of different religious institutions are simply extensions of legislated state laws.

There are also numerous verses mentioned in different scriptures (e.g. in the Holy Quran) that speak about inheritance in unequivocal terms and this makes the topic more interesting. In these verses, detailed discussions have been carried out about the distribution and division of movable and immovable property among legal heirs. Even the drawing up of a will about the property a person is going to leave behind has been discussed in detail. Though ancient Roman Law talks about ‘land rights’, ‘legal guardianship’ and ‘inheritance laws’, it speaks in very vague terms, therefore, the question remains: when there is no ownership of land, where does the inheritance of land come from?

It may be quite interesting to perceive that God puts His claim on this earth but a believer (of God) does not pay heed to His claim. If we suppose that a person accepts what God claims then this land cannot be owned, inherited or divided. In that case, the concept of borders and boundaries will come under question and the issue of mass migration and free movement of persons from one land to another would gain credence. In my opinion, the question of inheritance would then become further controversial and there would be no privacy of persons.


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.

Hafiz Asad Javed

Author: Hafiz Asad Javed

The writer is a lawyer based in Islamabad. He is a Hafiz-e-Quran and a recipient of Roll of Honours (2001) from Government College Sargodha. He has also done Masters of Law from Bangor University, North Wales, UK and has served as an International Students Representative at Bangor Law Society UK and as Students Teachers Liaison Officer at Bangor Law School (2009-10). He has keen interest in consumer law, service laws and religious laws.

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