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INHERITANCE BILL AND THE ISLAMIC PERSPECTIVE

 

Nigerians have been notified that a bill sponsored by Senator Biodun Olujimi (PDP, Ekiti) tagged “gender and equal opportunity bill” has scaled through second reading at the senate. While I support certain parts of the bill, which include protecting women against violence and sexual abuse; eliminating discrimination against women in employment, education amongst others; I vehemently oppose the section of the bill that advocates for equal share of inheritance between males and females.

As a Muslim, you are taught at an early age that you are only allowed to spend your wealth within the boundaries God Almighty has stipulated. In death, you do not have a choice as to what happens to your wealth. However, before you die, you can write a will and bequeath one –third of your wealth to anyone of your choice as long as they are not entitled to any share of your wealth as prescribed by Allah. This is only done after burial costs and debts have been paid for.

The laws of inheritance are very integral to Islam as a religion. It is considered “half of knowledge” in our religion. Narrated Abu Hurairah: The Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) said: “Learn the Fara’id (laws of inheritance) and teach it, for it is half of knowledge and it is (easily) forgotten, and it is the first thing to be taken (away) from my nation.” Ibn Majah Collection. Females are highly regarded in Islam and a male child is not preferred or better than a female child. The Prophet Muhammad (S.A.W) was reported to have said: “Whoever has a female (daughter) and doesn’t bury her alive nor scorn her nor give preference to his male child over her, Allah will admit him to Paradise.” (Abu Dawood). Another hadith reports that Prophet Muhammad (S.A.W) said “Whoever supports (i.e. raises) two girls until they reach adolescence (and get married), he will come on the Day of Judgment (like this) – him and I,” and he interlaced his fingers. (Muslim, Tirmidhi).

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 In pre-Islamic Arabia killing of female infants was very common and very often the moment a female was born she was buried alive. Islam not only prohibits female infanticide, but it forbids all types of infanticide, irrespective of whether the infant is a male or female. Qur’an Chapter 81, Verses 8 and 9 (81: 8-9) And when the girl [who was] buried alive is asked, for what crime she was killed?” (17:31)And do not kill your children for fear of poverty. We provide for them and for you. Indeed, their killing is ever a great sin”.

In Surah An Nisa Chapter 4:11 “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. And for one’s parents, to each one of them is a sixth of his estate if he left children. But if he had no children and the parents [alone] inherit from him, then for his mother is one third. And if he had brothers [or sisters], for his mother is a sixth, after any bequest he [may have] made or debt. Your parents or your children – you know not which of them are nearest to you in benefit. [These shares are] an obligation [imposed] by Allah. Indeed, Allah is ever Knowing and Wise.”

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In Surah An Nisa, “ALLAH commands you that your children male and female get your wealth in such a way that your male child gets double what a female child gets.” While some people may think this is unfair, it is important to note that In Islam, a female has no financial obligation. Food, clothing and accommodation are to be provided by her closest male relative (Husband, adult son, father, brother uncles in that order).

Supposing siblings (brother and sister in this case) lose their parents and they inherit N75,000, the male child gets N50,000 and the female child gets N25,000 as prescribed by Allah. Now remember that this same male has to provide food, clothing and shelter for his sister even though she received N25,000. He may even have a wife and children but that does not exempt him. Is this not justice?

Regarding the laws of inheritance, all Islamic school of thoughts are united. The laws of inheritance are the only laws that in which Allah says whoever does not fulfil them will go to hell forever.

“And whoever disobeys Allah and His Messenger and transgresses His limits – He will put him into the Fire to abide eternally therein, and he will have a humiliating punishment.” (Surah An Nisa 4:14)

The laws of Inheritance is very broad in Islam and talks about different scenarios and how your one’s wealth should be shared after death. For example if the deceased leaves one daughter then she gets half of the wealth left behind. And if the heirs are two or more daughters then they shall get two-thirds of the inheritance and the remaining one third will go to the other heirs. Even when the deceased leaves no children, the way one’s wealth should be distributed has been explained in Islam. In some cases widows end up getting more than their male children, depending on the scenario. Islam is not misogynistic.

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In conclusion, I believe distinguished Senator Biodun Olujimi has the best intentions to eliminate discrimination against females and promote equality across board. However, the issue of inheritance goes against the religion of more than fifty-percent of Nigerians. I urge the Nigerian senate to look at this issue again carefully.

 

Mai-Eka Bashir Mohammed writes from Abuja.

 

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