Islamic Inheritance Law

Hope Springs Eternal

Articles Peer-Reviewed

Abstract: Soon after the Committee on Individual Rights and Equality submitted its report to the president of Tunisia, Beji Caid Essebsi, the latter ordered the Legislature to amend the 1956 family law to equate between men and women in inheritance and property rights. The authors of the Report wrote forcefully about the compatibility of Islamic texts with modern law. However, some of their recommendations and the ensuing discussions suggested a broad inclination to reform the law outside religious tradition and as part of the exigencies of the civil state. These events and ideas brought questions to the forefront, such as whether classical Islamic law is reformable or obsolete. This paper aims to show that interpretation of Islamic texts resulting in radically different laws of inheritance is not new and that interpretations have existed since the formative period. The reason behind the persistence of inequality has always been political and institutional, not substantive. Recent radical institutional and political changes might provide an opportunity for an enduring, principled reconfiguration of economic and social rights in Islamic societies. [This is a pre-peer-review version of the article].

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