Current Issues Economic Equality and Inheritance Rights
Summary of the Issue
Jakarta, Indonesia. 2008. A post office worker counts rupiah bank notes as Muslim women wait to cash in their fuel compensation coupons. Photo Credit: Dita Alangkara/AP Images.
Women worldwide face systematic discrimination in education, healthcare, employment, and control of assets. Statistics show that women represent 70 percent of the world’s poor.1 They face low wages, poor working conditions and limited employment and professional opportunities.2 According to Islam, God created for mankind the earth to secure his or her share of world’s wealth and sustenance. Women in Islam have certain rights supported by the Qur’an to protect them financially, emotionally, and physically. However, these rights are not only dependent on different interpretations of scripture but also on women's social and legal protection.
The Muslim woman is an independent legal entity that retains her own name and financial independence before and after marriage. Unlike men, in marriage women are entitled to retain all and any of their wealth and earnings for themselves without having to consult their spouse. However, men are required to support the women in his family, regardless of their financial condition. Azizah Al Hibri, founder and president of KARAMAH: Muslim Women Lawyers for Human Rights, states: “the logic of these differences in obligations may lie in fact that the Qur’an is simply providing women with added security in a difficult patriarchal world. Put in today’s legal language, the Qur’an engages in affirmative action with respect to women."3
Women are entitled to accumulate wealth in a variety of ways, such as in their right to mahr, or dowry, their right to work, and their right to inheritance. Islam gives the woman a share of her family’s inheritance. Contrary to common misunderstandings, females of different degrees of kinship may inherit more than other males. However, the Qur’an specifies that the male sibling inherits double the amount inherited by the sister. The brother receives more inheritance as he has the responsibility of supporting the various women, elderly men and children in his family, whereas the sister does not. Unfortunately, the reality on the ground is often different from the teachings of Islam. Many Muslim women receive no share of inheritance and some are forced to return inheritance to their brothers. Some male members also neglect to use their inheritance money to support their family. These injustices go unnoticed and can be tried for years in courts. Some women’s rights groups also question whether men should receive double the inheritance in today’s day and age, as now both men and women often share financial responsibility within a household.4
 UN Women: Women, Poverty & Economics
 UN Women: Beijing Platform for Action, 1995
 Aizah Hibri, Muslim Women’s Rights in the Global Village: Challenges and Opportunities p. 112
 Suad Hamada, World Pulse: Seeking Gender Equality in Quran.
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Organizations Active on this Issue
Charrad, Mounira. "Nation-building, Islam, and Women’s Rights: Perspectives from the Maghrib." Conference Papers -- American Political Science Association (2002)
Fassihi, Farnaz. "Iraqi Shiite Women Push Islamic Law On Gender Roles." Wall Street Journal - Eastern Edition 09 Mar. 2005:
Leggett, Karby. "Women Win New Rights in Morocco by Invoking Islam." Wall Street Journal - Eastern Edition 10 Aug. 2004.
Ezeilo, Joy. "Feminism and Islamic Fundamentalism: Some Perspectives from Nigeria and Beyond." Signs: Journal of Women in Culture & Society 32.1 (2006): 40-47. 1 July 2010.
Suad, Joseph. (ed.) & Susan Slyomovics (ed.). “Women and Power in the Middle East.” University of Pennsylvania Press, 2000.
Therese, Saliba. (ed), Carolyn, Allen. (ed), Judith, Howard. (ed). “Gender, Politics, and Islam.”, University of Chicago Press Journals, 2002.
John, l. Esposito & Natana J. Delong-Bas. “Women in the Muslim Family Law.” 2002.
Leila, Ahmed. “Women and Gender in Islam: Historical Roots of a Modern Debate”. Yale University Press, 1992.