Dismissed Conditions: Men Inherit Twice What Women Inherit

What each member of the family receives upon the death of another is very straight-forward in the Qur’an, and the entire structure is intricately tied together:

Concerning [the inheritance of] your children, God enjoins [this] upon you: The male shall have the equal of two females’ share; but if there are more than two females, they shall have two-thirds of what [their parents] leave behind; and if there is only one, she shall have one-half thereof. […] (Qur’an 4:11)

(That’s just the first half of the verse, the rest goes into detail for other members.) The women weren’t up in arms because before Islam, they received no inheritance or property of their own at all, and were considered the property of their fathers and husbands. So this was a pretty sweet deal. In addition to this, in an Islamic marriage, the wife has a right to not only her own money and property, but also her husband’s–while he has no right to her’s. He has an obligation to give her whatever she wants, basically, as long as it does not interfere with their financial stability.

Upon marriage, give women their rightful marital gifts; but if they are pleased to offer you any of it, consume it joyously. (Qur’an 4:4)

She is more than welcome to work if she desires, but her wages belong to her, not to her husband–not even to both of them together, whereas before Islam anything she earned her husband would have the right to take. In Islam, the husband must provide for her even if she is wealthier than him.

Some may interpret this as benevolent sexism, and I would agree. I would not agree, however, that the men didn’t deserve it. Pre-Islamic society was the definition of suckiness for women. If the first male converts insisted on being so awesomely masculine and feeding their egos that they refused to accept a new religion that didn’t reinforce their awesome maskewlinez [sarcasm], this is God defining that the awesome maskewlinez they were sporting was only a pathetic measure of masculinity, and if they were really that manly then they’d take most of the responsibility. Bascially, you’re doing it wrong.

It was a way of compromise–some of the elements of the new religion were familiar enough for everyone to be comfortable. Drastic societal and financial changes rarely occur overnight, and when pushed to change over night, quickly, the results can be disastrous.

Back to the verse at 4:11. This verse, and the next, goes on to explain what portions of the inheritance each family member receives, including parents and siblings. In order for this work, ALL the laws of inheritance must all be obeyed just as they were outlined in the Qur’an, because they are dependent on each other for the portions allowed to each person.

This isn’t the case today. People pick and choose what to give parents and siblings, all while maintaining that daughters should still be given half that of sons–even while those daughters are not obtaining their rightful share from their husbands, even while those husbands are taking what is not allowed to them from their wives. But what were the conditions outlined the Qur’an itself? If a man refuses–or, for most cases, is unable–to fulfill the duty of caring for his sisters and mothers, on what account is he permitted to receive twice the amount of inheritance of his sisters? You cannot pick and choose from the Qur’an. If you’re not fulfilling most requirements you cannot enforce one that’s tied to the rest that you are not fulfilling, because you will deliberately be screwing someone over so that you can have more than to what you are entitled.

The same thing is happening with inheritance today that is happening with polygamy. Most men in polygamous marriages today are violating the laws of Islam, and yet they continue to take second wives in its name despite the fact that it is a clear violation of the Qur’an and in terms of the absence of the strict conditions outlined in the Qur’an.

Not only do they violate the laws and forge against them, they stretch the concept to accommodate their own greed and sexism by applying a corrupted version to other necessities: girls in Muslim families sometimes starve because the boys are fed first and are allowed to eat as much as they want. There is a potential marital law in Afghanistan that permits a husband to refuse to provide food for his wife if she does not sleep with him, because the “Qur’an says that men and women have a duty to each other and if she isn’t fulfilling hers he doesn’t have to fulfill his.”

That’s some serious pulling-shit-out-of-my-ass-to-excuse-marital-rape there. Sexual favors are traded for sexual favors–not for food. (wtf?) And, if you’ve noticed, it appears to only work one way. Men who are not fulfilling their duty, on the other hand, are not denied necessities.

This is what happens when patriarchal interpretations are applied to the Qur’an after women are barred for centuries from their right to an education in fear that they will actually decide to read and interpret the Qur’an for themselves. There is a reason the Qur’an demands that parents educate their daughters as well as their sons, and there is a reason that female education–under terrorist parties like the Taliban–is the first to go.

8 thoughts on “Dismissed Conditions: Men Inherit Twice What Women Inherit

  1. Hina

    There is so much wrong with your justification for this. Firstly maybe Arab women at the time had no property rights but women of Sparta were treated much better. They were given citizenship and had property rights. Fathers decided how much to give to each child and in case a man had no sons his daughter/s could inherit all of his property. Also Muhammad didn’t come up with the concept of men having no right over their wife’s property. In Sparta “upon marrying, a woman would tend both her husband’s and her own land, but her land did not become her husband’s. When a woman was widowed and she had children, the father’s land would pass to his children according to his wishes, but the wife remained in control of her own land.” So spartan women were already better off than women who followed Islam.

    An ex muslim convert did a very good job at explaining how wrong and misogynist family rights are in Islam.
    “I thought, women have been infantilized and you don’t even know it. You have been removed from the adult world of responsibility and autonomy and have been effectively disempowered, and this has been done so effectively that you don’t even see it. How does the society itself take women seriously when the ones who are working are doing it for shopping money? Is this not degrading, this false freedom, this trivializing of female life?”

    We bought this claim for years—the notion that Muslim women can keep whatever money they have as theirs alone to spend on whatever they want, while their husbands/fathers/other male relatives have to spend on them, and that this is liberation. It served rather like an opium for us, because it was one of the factors that prevented us from acknowledging what was actually going on. The fact was the due to our poverty, we never did get to keep whatever money might fall into our hands, whether it was through the odd gift from a relative, or finding money on the ground, or earning it by babysitting a neighbor’s kids. We always had to spend it on groceries or other household necessities.
    The idea that women don’t really need financial independence, and that if they have it they will just spend money on luxuries is trivializing, certainly. It plays into a number of negative stereotypes of women as foolish and childishly entranced by worldly trifles. It erases the experiences of the many women the world over who work hard so that they and their families can have a roof over their head and food to eat.”

    Also it doesn’t make sense why there’s a need for an obligatory dowry/marital gift from the husband if like you said, “He has an obligation to give her whatever she wants, basically, as long as it does not interfere with their financial stability.” If he’s already suppose to give her whatever she wants then the reason for meher makes no sense.

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    1. There is so much wrong with your entire first paragraph. Islam wasn’t revealed in Sparta (a place which still sucked for women) now was it? And for good reason. And no one said anywhere that Muhammad invented anything.

      Also the part you quoted is from A Sober Second Look, which, if you notice from the list on the blogroll to your right, I do already read. I’m aware of all these issues and have addressed them throughout this site. If what you want to do is lecture or parade into some reflective diatribe, I suggest you start your own site, since what you seem to be suggesting–rather than reclaim any power for women from within it–is to abandon the religion altogether or otherwise ignore its feminist roots, both of which are preposterous and entirely unhelpful–and unwelcome.

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      1. Hina

        I know Islam wasn’t revealed in Sparta and that was my point. Women of Sparta were better off than the Arab women and Muhammad didn’t do anything for women that had never been done before or wasn’t already happening. Other than rights of women there are many other scientific discoveries that muslims take credit for but people of sparta had known about those discoveries long before muhammad and it wasn’t knowledge god provided him with.

        Daughters and sons having an equal share would’ve been the right step towards equality. Even though, “this was a pretty sweet deal” it still wasn’t fair. It is still based on patriarchal
        model where men are the providers and the women are homemakers.

        Its great that you aim to help women value themselves more and you’re doing a good job.
        The only thing is when analyzing the teachings of Islam(or any religion) one must also be ready and willing to accept the idea that Quran may not be the word of God because otherwise you’re only playing into a self-serving bias.

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      2. So what? And there were women in areas that were even worse to them. Miraculously, I didn’t mention them either, because that wasn’t the point. The post isn’t a comprehensive analysis of women throughout history in every part of the world and the post *doesn’t* claim that the Qur’an did anything revolutionary–only restorative in the area in which it was revealed. You’re charging in here already making a bunch of assumptions and reading things that aren’t written. Look at you telling me about self-serving bias.

        And for the record I will believe whatever the hell I want, thanks.

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