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.