“Men shall have a share in what parents and kinsfolk leave behind, and women shall have a share in what parents and kinsfolk leave behind, whether it be little or much—a share ordained by God” (4:7).
“Allah instructs you concerning your children: for the male, what is equal to the share of two females. But if there are [only] daughters, two or more, for them is two thirds of one’s estate. And if there is only one, for her is half… (4:11)”
“They ask you for instruction concerning the women, say: God instructs you concerning them and what has been recited to you in the Book, concerning the orphaned women (widows) to whom you do not give what has been prescribed to them and yet whom you desire to marry, and also the vulnerable children: that you stand firm for justice to the orphans. What you do of good dealings, God knows it well. (4:127)
The Muslim woman is a legal being who has the right to retain her maiden name, receives a share of inheritance, retains her financial independence and accumulates wealth if she chooses. Qur’an engages in affirmative action with respect to women by providing clear cut entitlements of inheritance for her. A women has the freedom to use her dowry as she sees fit, earn a living and retain the earnings for herself without having to consult her spouse. Husband/ Males on the other hand are responsible financially for the entire family and after their death, the responsibility of the widow and children falls on either the son or male relatives
Even though 1400 years ago Islam safeguarded women social and economic status, many think that the terms of inheritance are unfair towards Muslim women who receive half of the inheritance while their brothers receive twice. In traditional societies this ruling was justified because even though women received half a share of inheritance she had no financial obligations as a wife or a mother for the maintenance of her family, the responsible of supporting the household, its women, elderly men as well as children was carried out by the man.
Although Muslim women have the right to inheritance the reality on the ground is often different from the teachings of Islam. Many receive no share of inheritance and some are forced to return inheritance to their brothers. In other cases, 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. Just like in the United states women’s groups are fighting for equal pay to men, many Muslim 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.
WISE is calling for a fair, just and equitable share for both men and women who have equal financial obligations and responsibilities. In contemporary societies where many women are caretakers of their family and in light of their financial responsibilities a women should be entitled by to an equitable share of inheritance received by the male, and sometimes an equal share may be fair, just, and generous.
The tradition of women’s financial independence in Islam reaches back to the earliest periods of Islam, when the Prophet Muhammad’s wives Khadija and Umm Salama ran their own businesses, Khadija in trade and Umm Salama selling crafts. Not only did Khadija manage her business independently, but she met the Prophet through his work for her as a tradesman; even after their marriage, she continued to manage her own finances.
The field of microfinance continues to develop in the Muslim world, offering women with more opportunities through financial assistance and entrepreneurial skill-building. Muslim women are providing important opportunities for other Muslim women in their communities. For example, WISE provided financial assistance to midwives in exchange for a commitment to end their FGC practices. Additionally, women such as Dr. Humaira Islam have founded organizations like The Shakti Foundation for Disadvantaged Women in Bangladesh, which provides economic resources for women through an Urban Credit Program and other business services.
Another innovation in economic empowerment is the development of cooperatives for Muslim women. These co-ops are springing up throughout the Muslim world, and a 38 woman cooperative in a small Sri Lankan town is just one example. With the help of the organization Caritas, the women established this neighborhood cooperative and have been trained in cooking and tailoring. Additionally, cooperative societies such as the Green Mountain Women’s Cooperative Society in Jordan are providing loans to rural Jordanian women to expand their farming projects and generate more income.