There have been a lot of disputes on the equal rights and protection of women under Islam and these disputes are even more severe in Muslim majority countries. Contemporary feminist movements often accuse the laws of Islam regarding the women in the inheritance property and their main accusation is that the women gets half share in inherited property. But in reality, Islam, as a code of life, has made the most equitable and justifiable formulation of property laws between husband and wife as an effective mechanism of protection of women rights.
Provisions for Maintenance or allowance-
Maintenance under Islam is known as nafaqah. The word infaq, which is derived from the root “nafaqa” means to spend money on charity. The plural of nafaqa is “nafaqat”, and as a term,it means the food, clothes and housing sufficient for one person. Nafaqa means something given as maintenance; provisions for food, clothes, housing and similar things that the head of the family has to provide (1). Thus, it includes all basic necessities of a life bound to be provided by the husband to the wife during the continuance of marriage and the period of iddat after the dissolution of marriage.
A woman has the right to get maintenance from her father/ guardian until she gets married and from the husband after her marriage. The amount of maintenance shall be determined by the equitable means as the Quran says “Let the men of means spend according to his means, and the men whose resources are limited, let him spend according to what God has given him” (Al- Quran Surah, Al-Talaq, LXV: 7).
Islam has secured the financial burden of a woman giving on the shoulder of male, father or husband, irrespective of their economic capability. The provisions of maintenance also include the reasonable expenses of the family members of wife when they visit her home. Thus, Islam protects the women form bearing the financial burden by the formulation of law of maintenance.
Provisions of inheritance with maintenance
Generally, the female gets half and the male gets double from the inheritance property as the Quran says ‘Allah commands you as regards to your children’s (inheritance); to the male, a portion equal to that of two females’ (Quran [4:11]).
That, when a man dies leaving one daughter and one children then, one third of the property goes to the daughter and the rest two third of the property goes to the male children of the deceased person. This provision seems to be partial in a blank eye but the fact is that this has to be seen together with the provisions of maintenance.
Islam has given half share in property but at the same time removed all liabilities from the neck of women through the life. The men have been burdened with all expenditures of his wife and children irrespective of his economic capability.
Imam Ja’far Sadiq replied, on the question that “why the women get half to the men get whereas the women seem to be weaker than men?” that the reason for this is that a man has more responsibilities and he must go to war, enduring many expenses in the process. Aside from his own expenses, a man must also take upon himself the expenses of his spouse and children. What’s more, he must give money to the family of a person accidentally injured by one of his family members (2).
Even though apparently the inheritance of a man is double that of a woman, when we probe into the matter more thoroughly, we find that the inheritance of a woman is two times that of a man. The responsibilities that have been placed on the shoulders of men necessitates that they spend half of their income on women. (2)
There are several special liabilities that have been exclusively made on the shoulder of the men. Dowry is one of them and that has to compulsorily give to the wife under Shariah law. A man must to go war with his own expense. Financial liability, if imposed as a criminal responsibility excluding family expenditure, has also been made on the male.
Lastly, if any situation arises as to a need for giving the woman more than man, Islam provided the provisions of gift and will and by these two instruments, a man can give the property both his lifetime or after the death. Islam gives the equitable solutions in all spheres of human life.
Right to work for wife and the liabilities of the spouses
There found a misconception that by enforcing the maintenance and inheritance, Islam has bound the wife within a certain place removing from working as their capability and willingness.
Islam has recognized the right to work for the wife but this right is not unfettered in nature. As the liability and other financial burden of women have been shifted on her husband, the right to work for the women has to be used by the recognition of the husband or the father of the woman.
Now, the most crucial question is that the nature and scope of right to impose restriction on the wife for work by the husband. Islam-at the one hand-gives the right to work for the wife and at the other hand-makes the right subject to the satisfaction of the husband but the right of husband is not beyond the reasonableness on any matter.
The husband is required by Islam is approve the reasonable right of women in any matter. Thus, a co-operation between men and women is to be ensured by the formulation of these provisions. The prophet of Islam Hazrat Muhammad (SM) says ‘make justice to your wife’ that postulates the liability of a husband to recognize the reasonable rights of his wife.
Women rights converting the postulation of Islam; Bangladesh context
There are lots of feminist movements found in Bangladesh who often refer Islamic formulation of property laws as very unequal and unjust and in most of the cases; they are very aggressive towards Islam.
They often claim the equal share in property as that of men without further consequences in the contemporary society of Bangladesh. Since the question is same and equality, then the distribution of family expenditure would be divided between the husband and wife equally. This would be a logical debate from the male society.
Two fold problems will be severe if the financial liability is imposed on the women. Firstly, the distribution of proper work for women would create immense burden on the state. Now, Bangladesh has the highest youth unemployment rate in South Asia (3) and considering this situation, it is a big question that whether Bangladesh is ready for their ‘same and equal’ right in all sphere of life for the women with financial liability.
There is another severe problem that, in Bangladesh, there are lots of people who always claim dowry to their wife and repress their wife if they don’t get the claimed money.
According to the statement by ALRC, a part of the Asian Human Rights Commission, “In 2004, 267 women including one child were victimized due to dowry-related matters. Among them, 165 were killed, 77 tortured by acid violence and one were divorced and 11 committed suicide due to incessant dowry demands”.(4) This report shows how the financial burden would make the women violently repressed in the present social context of Bangladesh.
Juvenile delinquency and the family structure under Islam
There is a strong connection between the modern criminological approaches on juvenile delinquency and the formulation of family structure under Islam. Absence of parents’ affection could lead to the juvenile in criminal activities and most of the delinquents are often deprived of the love and affection they need from their mother (5).
Kevin Wright, professor of criminal justice at the State University of New York at Binghamton, writes: “Research confirms that children raised in supportive, affectionate, and accepting homes are less likely to become deviant. Children rejected by parents are among the most likely to become delinquent.” (5)
If parents have job or they are single, do not get sufficient time to care about their children personally and that separation of parents from their children could lead them to the criminal behavior. If a child’s emotional attachment to his mother is disrupted during the first few years, permanent harm can be done to his capacity for emotional attachment to others. He will be less able to trust others and throughout his life will stay more distant emotionally from others. (5)
The reason for the imposition of liability on the men under Islamic is to free women from any sort of mental anxiety and in this way, the women can contribute to her family, which is the cornerstone of society, and the society as well and that will be filled with warmth and love of women. That contribution of women will lead the society in the right way for the benefit of human society. Thus, Islam is committed to build a consolidated society by the formulation of family structure with laws of inheritance and maintenance.
Patrick F. Fagan, Senior Fellow and Director of the Center for Research on Marriage and Religion at the Family Research Council, says that the dominant role of fathers in preventing child delinquency is well-established. In a well-functioning family, the very presence of the father embodies authority, an authority conveyed through his daily involvement in family life. This paternal authority is critical to the prevention of psychopathology and delinquency. (6)
In the very last, it can surely be said that Sharia law is the most fruitful solution for the human being. In a fragile society, like ours, Islam can emancipate the women from all forms repression and also in a developed society, like the Europe, Islam has the finest protection for the women. Europe or the North America (7) has the highest women employment rate in the world and if the provisions of Islam are protected in that region, then the women would be wealthier, since there was no liability on the women and they could save their whole earnings.
Absence of visualization, proper implications and knowledge as well make the people unaware about the significance of Sharia. These situations have made even the Muslims susceptible about the equitable and justifiable position of Islam about the protection of women rights.
The writer is a LL. B. student at the University of Dhaka.