It is impossible at this point for me to do a full presentation on Islamic Inheritance without talking about orphans in Islam. Orphans are fundamental to our understanding of inheritance rules in Islam. Inheritance is about justice. However, it is not about the justice or injustice done by other people. Rather, it is about the injustice we do ourselves. It is our parting shot to the world, where we can easily make what we leave behind, our families, far worse off than what it was like when we were alive. This is often because we as human beings can become victims of our vanity. We know better. We decide what is best. Islam is different. We need to leave our vanity in the back seat and follow a command of Allah. That is what Muslims do.
Start with the Quran
The best-known verses of the Quran concerning inheritance are at 4:11-14. It states the shares of inheritance, the reward for following Allah’s command and the punishment for not doing so.
But even if you read all those verses, you may be missing something. The verse that comes immediately before (4:10) is worth a look at as well when it comes to understanding a major problem being solved. It is a warning against eating the wealth of orphans.
Orphans in Popular Culture
In popular culture, the living are blamed for how orphans are treated. Think of Cinderella and the wicked stepmother weaponizing her wealth; Little Orphan Annie and Mrs. Hannigan who ran the Orphanage; the Baudelaire Orphans and Count Olaf scheming to steal their fortune. We are trained to think in those terms because of popular fiction that for the most part, rings true to most people. The true villains in the story of orphans are often not so much the living, though you can expect unscrupulous characters to try to exploit the weak, rather it is the parents who failed to look after the interests of their children. Then they died. This goes beyond shares of inheritance in many respects, and beyond providing for children when they are minors. Injustice can mean many more things.
You and Empires
Years ago, a British Prime Minister was asked to comment on solving the long-running saga of Kashmir. He stated this would likely not be helpful since past British governments are responsible for creating these problems in the first place. If you create a legacy of injustice, that legacy often has a way of an enduring year after year, decade after decade. This is true of empires, large, and small. The British imperial masters of old left their legacy of injustice. You may feel there may not be much you can personally do about that. However, you can do something about the legacy you leave behind.
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