Women’s Property Rights in Muslim Matrilineal Communities
M. Siraj Sait
Contemporary research invariably focuses on widespread Muslim patrilineal inheritance practices where property is transmitted exclusively through male relations and women generally acquire lesser inheritance shares. Yet Islamic inheritance rules in theory are not exclusively patrilineal, and women negotiate their shares at the dynamic interesection of Islamic, customary and modern prescriptions. Matrilineal or bilineal social systems are far more extensive in the Muslim world than commonly assumed. In addition to the largest matrilineal group globally, the Muslim Minangkabau of Indonesia, dozens of other significant Muslim matrilineal groups exist in Muslim majority and multi-religious communities across the world. The alternate inheritance discourse serves to debunk the assumption that Muslim societies are or have to be necessarily patrilineal and offers potent advocacy opportunities for gender equality and enhancing property rights. This ongoing research on evolving Muslim matrilineal communities yields further insights into how overlapping custom, religion and statutory reforms have diverse outcomes for gender equality and access to land and property.