Inheritance: Reading and hearing this word nowadays, I feel proud, prosperous, and comfortable. Inheritance is a big subject with a large amount of detail written about it in the Holy Quran.
From what is left by parents and those nearest related there is a share for men and a share for women, whether the property be small or large—a determinate share. (Quran 4:7).
According to Islamic law, a woman’s share of an inheritance is half the amount of a man’s. To some people this may seem unfair.
We understand the matter better if we keep in mind the reality that in Islam the financial obligation of males is greater than females. A bridegroom must provide a marriage gift to his bride at the time of Nikah, or marriage ceremony, which becomes her property forever. Even if she is divorced later, the marriage gift remains her part of the property.
On the other side, there is no gift for the groom provided by the bride. All the financial needs of a household are on the shoulders of the man. A woman’s property and earnings are for her use only. There is no forced contribution toward the household expenses except for what she offers voluntarily.
Unfortunately, in my country, the Islamic rule is broadly interpreted like so many other aspects of life. Our males provide the marriage gift on a piece of paper, which always remains in writing. Anything left by the parents and nearest relative is left to male heirs. There is no share for females—not because of Islamic rule, but based on our cultural values.
Although we are Muslim, we always follow and respect our cultural values first. In very few cases, male members ask their female relatives to take part in dividing up the inheritance as a formality, but in the end, the female members usually say, “We dedicate what is meant for us to our brothers or any male member.”
If a woman dares to get her share, the male members of the family do not like her anymore and she seems to be against Afghan culture.
A few months ago, my husband’s family decided to divide their inheritance (including the land and house that was left by his parents) among the brothers. There are six brothers and seven sisters from two mothers.
I was wondering, despite all of them being educated, why they do not follow Islamic rules. I asked my husband and he said that the brothers will ask their sisters if any of them wants her share and if so the brothers will happily provide it.
It was not the answer to my question. It was a general rule in Afghanistan.
The next day, I called my eldest sister-in-law. She is the mother of four girls and two boys. I said to her, if you do not take your share this time, remember that your daughters will repeat this mistake again and their brothers will probably want them to do the same.
She was not sure what to say, but I understood that she was a little happy, a little hopeful, and a little afraid. I told her that I was going to call her other sisters and I would be with them during the whole process.
Talking with each of them, I found out that all the sisters wanted their shares. It was the first step. Next I needed to find out what the men thought about it.
I talked about the idea with my husband and said that the sisters were a little afraid of losing the relationship between brothers and sisters if they asked for their part of the inheritance.
My husband assured me that he would talk about this issue first with his brothers to see what their ideas were. They all agreed to provide their sisters with what is their right.
Everything that we thought might be very difficult went very smoothly.
Now I think that every difficult task only needs a start up and the end is much easier than what we first think. My in-laws are now the first family in their village to provide their females with their rightful share.
I am very proud of them!
Photo: Farzana Wahidy/Associated Press