Hope Springs Eternal: Reforming Inheritance Law in Islamic Societies


14 Pages Posted: 21 Jun 2019

See all articles by Ahmed Souaiaia

Ahmed Souaiaia

University of Iowa; University of Washington

Date Written: June 10, 2019


Soon after Lajnat al-Hurriyāt al-Fardiyya wa-l-Musāwāt (“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 Qurʾan 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.

Keywords: Islamic Law; Inheritance; Women Rights; The Arab Spring, Human Rights, Tunisia, Legal Reform in Tunisia, Equal Inheritance Rights Proposed Law in Tunisia

JEL Classification: K36, K49, Z12

Suggested Citation

Souaiaia, Ahmed, Hope Springs Eternal: Reforming Inheritance Law in Islamic Societies (June 10, 2019). DOI:10.1163/15692086-12341352, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3405094 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.3405094

Ahmed Souaiaia (Contact Author)

University of Iowa ( email )

314 Gilmore Hall
Iowa City, IA 52242-1097
United States

University of Washington

Seattle, WA 98195
United States

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