JISPIL Vol 9 Issue 2 2013 - Book Review 2

The Islamic Law of Inheritance

by Hamid Khan, Oxford University Press, Oxford, 2007, ISBN: 9780195473360
JP Dequen

Succession has always been considered one of the most ‘noble’ fields of law by Islamic jurists, supported in their view by the famous hadith according to which Muhammad enjoined Abu Hurairah (d. 681) to ‘learn about inheritance and teach it, for it is half of knowledge (…) This is the first thing that will be taken away from my nation’.1 Unsurprisingly numerous scholarly works exist in Arabic, the subject has however received little attention in Islamic legal literature in English, in great contrast to other family law issues such as marriage, divorce or maintenance. In this regard, Hamid Khan’s study of the Muslim law of inheritance is certainly the most notable synthesis since Noel Coulson’s textbook2 on the matter. Both authors indeed share the same goal, consisting in: offering the English speaking reader a general description of both intestate and testate succession in Islamic law according to the four major Sunni schools (Maliki, Hanafi, Shafi’i and Hanbali) as a well as from the main Shia one (Ja’fari), which given the technicality of the subject and the variations between the different madhab, is quite a feat.

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