By : Badriyah Fayumi

Reading the Prophet’s hadith regarding women’s inheritance rights, is reading of an episode of a revolutionary social change history on women’s rights and access to the family inheritance property. How come, from the hadith literature we become known that the verses on inheritance issues drastically ended the injustices practices against women, which become a custom and hereditary tradition. From the hadith literature, we become know that although the inheritance verses had been revealed, the objection to women’s inheritance rights are still happened. In the such bloodless revolutionary transformational process, The Prophet came to change the civilization through his firmness in protecting women’s inheritance rights. Those action to achieve a common goal : to ensure justice for women and men for the sake of Islamic mission as the blessing for the universe (rahmatan lil alamin).

This article will try to elaborate the spirit of justice in the inheritance law that had been concluded from the moments that happened during the life of Prophet Muhammad PBUH and the implicit messages beyond the verses and hadith on inheritance. Some of those justice spirit are the following :

1. From Inheritance Property to the Heir 

Before the coming of Islam, the Jahiliyah (ignorance) of Arab people and some other big civilization put women as inheritance property. In the pre-Islamic era, commonly if a husband passed away, his wife became of the inheritance property which fate would be determined of her husband’s family. Whether she would be married again by her husband’s brother, or she would be married to another man with the dowry which must be given to her husband’s family, or she would let get marry with another men by with the provision of disbursing  amount of ransom which must be given to her husband’s family, all of them must be determined by her husband family because she is an inheritance property. This is a kind of ‘adhal (making women miserable) in the Jahiliyah era. Islam came and all ‘adhal practices were prohibited, as mentioned in QS. An Nisa’ : 19 , “O you who have believed, it is not lawful for you to inherit women by compulsion.” 

The coming of Islam change the tradition which make women as an inheritance property to become a  heir which her inheritance rights must be protected, in what kind of position she have. Whether as a daughter, an wife, a mother, or a sister of the person who died. Surah An Nisa’ on verse 7, 11, 12, and 176 firmly and detailly  mention them and also their inheritance sharing proportion. 

Even though, Prophet Muhammad PBUH gave the inheritance rights to  the grandmother (when a father or mother was died) and niece (if the niece’s father had passed away), a new thing which had not became a common sense of the Prophet’s companion at that time after the die of the Prophet. In a hadith narrated by Qabishah bin Dzu’aib, it was said that a grandmother came to the Caliph Abu Bakar ra., and questioned about her inheritance sharing proportion. Abu Bakar said, “ You are not mentioned at all in the Holy book, and I don’t know exactly about your sharing proportion in the Prophet’s sunnah. Come back to me after I asked this issue to the people.” Then Abu Bakar asked to the people, then Mughirah Ibn Syu’bah replied, “ I was present in front of the Prophet PBUH (at the time) he gave 1/6 proportion to a grandmother.”  Abu Bakar asked again, “Were there any people but you who witness    it?” Then Muhammad Ibn Maslamah al-Anshari stood up and said as mentioned by Mughirah. Then caliph Abu Bakar gave 1/6 proportion to the grandmother. Qabisyah then narrated that another grandmother came to Caliph Umar Bin Khattab and asked about her inheritance sharing proportion. Umat replied, “You don’t have any sharing according to the Holy book. But 1/6 of the inheritance sharing proportion is for you. If you are two, so the 1/6 proportion is for the both of you two. But if you are alone, s so 1/6 of proportion is for yourself.” (HR Ahmad, Abu Dawud, Tirmidzi, Ibnu Majah”). 

The moment as mentioned above showed that Prophet Muhammad PBUH in his historical lfe was a consistent leader who protected women’s inheritance rights, whether it was mentioned in the Quran or not. The Prophet’s execution to give inheritance sharing proportion to grandmother (biological mother or father) affirmed that, an execution which actually still vague known by Caliph Abu Bakar in his era. 

The verses and moments recorded in the hadith as mentioned above,  gave the affirmation that by the coming of Islam, women’s inheritance rights are protected, and nobody can deter women to gain their rights. 

2. Every Status Will Be Protected Their Rights

In the enheritance rights (QS. An Nisa’/4 : 7, 11, 12, and 176) and the Prophet’s hadiths, women’s inheritance sharing proportioned always mentioned explicitly,  whether her position as a daughter, a wife, a mother, a grandmother, a sister, or a niece from the person who died. So firmly and detail women’s inheritance sharing in every status, therefore there is no gap at all for not to give women’s inheritance sharing to them who have rights, just because of their  sex and age. 

 The total protection to women’s rights regardless of their age scraped out the practices which was commonly happened in the pagan community, for example inheritance only should be given to adult men who are assumed as productive and will be able to contribute in a war. The boys and girls, further more the orphans were not seen as a human being that worthy to receive inheritance sharing. The such tradition which was also become asbab an-nuzul (the cause of revelation) of QS. An Nisa’ verse 7. 

How the women were really unseen in the moments which become the revelation of the verse 11 and 12 of Surah An Nisa’. In a hadith narrated by Abu Dawud, Tirmidzi and Ibn Majah, from Jabir ra. narrated the moment of the coming of the wife of Sa’d Ibn Ar Rab’ to Prophet Muhammad PBUH who complained that Sa’d Ibn Rab’ who died as a syahid (martyr) in the Uhud war left behind 2 daughters. But the uncle of those 2 daughters (Sa’d’s brother)  had taken away all he inheritance property left by Sa’d. The two daughters will not be able to get married unless they own the properties. Hearing this complain, Rasulullah PBUH said, “Allah will give a decision on this”, then verse 11 and 12 of Surah and Nisa’ were revealted. Then the Prophet commanded to the uncle to give the 2/3 of Said’s inheritance properties to his two daughters and 1/8 to his wife. And then the remaining part for the Uncle. 

Declares, from the hadith literature can be unfold that the inheritance verses is the defend verses on women’s and children right’s inheritance, which before were considered as none. Allah and His Messenger always come at the time women and children feel injustices with the revelation of the Quran and Prophet’s execution that undoubtedly giving the protection and taking part on women’s side. 

3. From Manipulative to Substantive Justice 

The revelation of the inheritance verses, actually does not necessarily change the situation. The old fashioned way of thinking are still difficult to leave by somebody. Furthermore, for those whose priviledges had been reduced because they must share their inheritance property with women. The protection of Islam to women’s inheritance rights had been felt as a kind of ‘injustice” because the people who were seen as unproductive and did not contribute to the war such as wife, girls and little boys also received the inheritance sharing. The justice at that time were concluded manipulatively by them who enjoyed the injustices. 

In the middle of the such situation, Prophet Muhammad  PBUH were in the front line of the social change process. He did not only deliver and teach the message from Heaven, but directly participate in the process of traditional changes which definitely was not easy because of some certain groups which rights must be reduced. The firm attitude of the Prophet to protect the inheritance rights of women and children undoubtedly which were able to transform the meaning of justice, from the manipulative to substantive, from the justice which are concluded by certain groups of injustices perpetrator to the justice for all, especially for them who were powerless because of unseen. 

4. Proportional : Not Always Half Share of Men’s 

Nowadays, when we read the general norms of inheritance law which literally mentioned that the share of men’s twice of women’s share, some of us may be feel the injustice that exist. Wherea, if we explore further, literally the norms only exist if women and men together become the heirs in the equal position. For example, as the biological children  (daughter or son) of the person passed away, or as the siblings or from the same father with the person who was died. But the norm is not applied when woman become the single daughter, or as the daughters (having sisters who all of them are women). The proportion 2:1 can’t also be applied if mother or father from the deceased who leave children. In this situation,  both of the mother and father have the rights to heir 1/6 of the inheritance properties (QS. An Nisa’ verse 11). Similarly if the woman and man both are the same from the same mother of the deceased did not leave any children. Both of them have the same rights to heir 1/6 of inheritance property if he/she was alone, or 2/3 of the property if they are 2 or more brothers and sisters. 

This share shows that the inheritance proportion is not always 2:1 for men and women, but it had been adapted with burden and responsibility. A mother and a father whose son or daughter passed away, and the son/daughter leave a grandson are assumed as the elderly people whose age not young anymore and had been free from the responsibility of maintaining their children. They needs some similar attention from their sons/daughters because of assumed that they have reached the older age. Therefore, if their son/daughter passed away first, so there is no distinction of share between mother and father. While, their children who are left by their parents were assumed as still in the productive ages. If he is a man,  he must have an obligation to become breadwinner for his family. Therefore, it is fair if he got share twice of the woman. The assumption is 2 share of a man is for himself and for his family, while 1 share of woman is for herself because he doesn’t have obligation to become breadwinner for the family. In another word, the proportion of inheritance were adjusted with the assumption of responsibility of family maintenance which must be taken by the heirs. This is the proportional and contextual justice  because of law was concluded by considering the situation and condition as the social background. 

5. The Instruments of Concern and Empowerment of the Powerless Groups 

In addition to the inheritance sharing property issues, actually there is an important thing which probably rarely unthinkable, furthermore implemented nowadays. Namely the existence of inheritance properties as an instrument of concerns and empowerment for the powerless groups. In the verse 8 of Surah An Nisa’, it was clearly mentioned ,” And when [other] relatives and orphans and the needy are present at the [time of] division, then provide for them [something] out of the estate and speak to them words of appropriate kindness.” This verse implicitly delivered a message in order that inheritance property can become an instrument of care and to empower the powerless in general (not limited to the descendants). The non relative heirs (in the hadith and Fiqh literature are commonly called as dzawil  arhaam), the orphans and the poor (or whose those represent the powerless group) were encouraged to be given the proportional share, in order their inheritance property will be more blessing and benefited many people. 

In the early era of Islam, when Prophet Muhammad PBUH was still alive until the era of Tabi’in, the practice of giving inheritance properties which not only given to the people who  doesn’t have inheritance  rights as described above was seen as a mandatory thing. Those were the caring tradition which we feel lost nowadays because of crushed by the interpretation which say that this verse was been erased (nasakh) by the existence of verse 11, 12, and 179 of Surah An Nisa’. Wherease so many great Companions and Tabi’in (followers of the Prophet) who oblige the such positive practices. Such as Ibnu Abbas, Ibnu Mas’ud, Abu Musa, ats-Tsauri, Ibnu Sirin, az-Zuhri, Atha’ bin Abi Rabah  and Sa’id bin Jubair.

By understanding the message of verse 8 of Surah An Nisa’ and what had been done in the early era of Islam, we can say that if for the relatives who doesn’t have inheritance rights only we are suggested to share our inheritance properties as a kind of caring,  moreover if the caring can be implemented as a willingness to share with all brothers and sisters, both of heirs. The Inheritance of course will become a media to tighten the family solidarity (silaturrahim).  Based on this reason,  it seem that we don’t need any question anymore on what is the basic law argument if a brother with his concern and sincerity has a willingness to share the inheritance property equally with his sister. By doing this, the man actually had done the ihsan action (doing a good deed more than what determined or obliged. Moreover, nowadays there are many women who become backbone of the family (breadwinners) under several reasons, such as becoming single parent, the husband unemployed or experiences hard sickness or have permanent disability,  or their husband’s income  were not enough to cover minimum family needs. 

Then, what a noble man who make the inheritance law as a media to do ihsan action to his sisters,  moreover if because of that his sister become empowered. Because, at the end inheritance law is used to realize the prosperity of the heirs equitably after the leave of the deceased, and not to make the heirs in quarrels each other because of trapped  by seizure of inheritance property. Wallahu a’lam. Allah knows best! {}

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