Recent Scholarship: Islamic Inheritance Law

Last month, we featured a roundtable discussion on Tunisian president Beji Caid Essebsi’s proposal to amend inheritance laws. A new paper on SSRN offers some historical context for these debates:

“Hope Springs Eternal: Reforming Inheritance Law in Islamic Societies” by Ahmed Souaiaia

Soon after the Committee on Individual Rights and Equality submitted its report in June 2018 to the president of Tunisia, Beji Caid Essebsi, the latter ordered the legislature to amend the 1956 family law to achieve equality between men and women in inheritance and property rights. Although the authors of the report had written forcefully about how Islamic texts (the Qurʾān and sunna) are compatible with modern law, some of their recommendations 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 to the fore questions such as whether classical Islamic law is reformable or obsolete. This paper aims to show that interpretations of Islamic texts that result in radically different inheritance laws have existed since at least the third Islamic century. Inequality has persisted always for political and institutional reasons, not substantive ones.

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