Egypt’s Al-Azhar, the world’s most prominent authority on Sunni Islam, condemned an announcement on Tuesday by Tunisian president, Beji Caid Essebsi, that his country is working to permit equal inheritance between men and women.
“The concept of equal inheritance is against Islamic teachings. Equality in inheritance is unjust for women and is not in line with Islamic Sharia,” deputy of Al-Azhar, Abbas Shuman, said in a statement.
“The call for equality in inheritance between genders is unfair because women can already inherit more than men in some instances,” the statement read.
According to Sunni Islam, inheritance for males is double than that of females in most cases, with some exceptions, including the mother and father of a deceased person both receiving one-sixth of the deceased’s possessions.
Al-Azhar’s statement also named an example where a mother would receive a bigger part of her deceased daughter’s legacy, with the mother receiving one-third and the brother inheriting one-sixth.
”Inheritance is a matter for mankind that God left to the diligence of the people according to their era,” Essibsi said.
Tunisa is the first Arab country to take this stance and make a move on such a measure.
Essibsi stressed that Islam does not conflict with democracy and development. “In Tunisia, democracy goes hand in hand with respect for Islam,” he said.
He also announced the formation of a committee to study the matter.
Al-Azhar’s statement also criticized a motion, by the Tunisian president, to amend the law to allow marriage between a non-Muslim man and a Muslim woman.
“Such a marriage would obstruct the stability of marriage,” Shuman said, arguing that a non-Muslim husband would not allow his Muslim wife to practice her beliefs as he does not share her religious beliefs.
The President of the Egyptian Women Union and Arab women’s union, Hoda Badran, however, strongly supports Tunisia’s move, describing it as “a courageous step towards progressive enlightenment.”
“Women now are responsible for being breadwinners in a family, just like men, therefore it’s their right to have an equal inheritance,” Badran said.