What religion says about property division

Islam and Christianity both put family first, but Quran favours men

In Summary

• Men are seen as having more responsibilities in Islam, hence get bigger share

• Spouse and children are given priority in Christianity, but proportions not specified

Supkem's Shiekh Haji Wafula addresses the press in Kakamega. He is flanked by Muslim and Christian religious leaders.
Supkem's Shiekh Haji Wafula addresses the press in Kakamega. He is flanked by Muslim and Christian religious leaders.

Cases of widows being denied their rights are not unique to Kisumu. Each part of the country has its own ‘traditions’, which are being used to deny these women their rights.

In the pastoral community, some in-laws take away livestock from widows. Livestock is highly valued by pastoralists and, therefore, taking them away from the bereaved family means impoverishing them.

In September, government officials in Kajiado were forced to intervene after a family took 20 cattle from Peris Sian, a mother of three who had recently been widowed.

“After the burial of my husband, my in-laws took all the money for funeral expenses from family friends and later took all my cows, leaving me and my three children without food or support,” Sian said.

Namanga, assistant county commissioner Mulle Komora said the widow had all the right to access the property of her husband.

“The late government official died when he was legally married to Sian and, therefore, no other family member can purport to be an overseer of the family left behind by the deceased,” he said.

Brothers of the deceased claimed the family intended to manage the resources of their late brother in “an organised manner” and ensure his three children complete their education.


But what do the holy books or various communities say in terms of inheritance?

According to Islam, sharing of inheritance is well stipulated in the Quran, giving no leeway for greediness or discrimination by the deceased’s relatives.

Yusuf Abubakar, an advocate of the High Court, said the holy book has clear instructions on how inheritance should be shared among the deceased’s dependants and what each dependant should get.

He said a widow who has children with her late husband gets an eighth of the total property, while if the couple did not have children, then the wife gets a quarter of the properties.

If the husband was polygamous then the wives share a portion among themselves.

Both parents of the deceased husband are also entitled to a sixth of the property.

“Children are expected to share what remains when the spouse and parents get their share. Male children are expected to get two times what female children get,” Abubakar said.

And when the wife dies, the husband gets a quarter of his wife’s property if they had children and half the property if they were not blessed with children.

But why does the husband inherit a larger percentage of his wife’s estate than what the wife gets when the husband dies?

Abubakar said men have more responsibilities and have more people to look after than the women, and that is why they inherit more than the women.

He further said there have been challenges when wives in a polygamous marriage do not agree with how the share for wives is divided.

“Like when it is a house which is supposed to be shared, how can you share it among two or three wives? That is when you find that the wives decide to sell the house and share the money,” he said.

Abubakar also noted that conflict also arises when maybe the deceased hid some of his or her properties.

In Christianity, the wife or husband and the children are given priority in the inheritance of the deceased’s property, while parents come next.

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