Excerpt from Chapter 6 – “THE QURAN AND WOMEN”Published March 16, 2018
There were pre-Islamic societies in which women not only
inherited property but inherited on equal footing with men.
Pompeii, which was destroyed by a volcanic eruption in 79 CE, is
one example. Though Roman law may not generally have been
entirely favorable to women, “in the inheritance of her father’s
estate the daughter took an equal share with the son”—in certain
circumstances, at least.3
There are also examples of societies in which women could
rule. Queen Hatshepsut, for instance, was on the throne for about
two decades in the first half of the fifteenth century BCE in
Ancient Egypt—which was nearly two millennia before the advent
Because our primary interest is the Bedouin culture of Arabia,
it is worth noting that even amongst the Arabs of Mecca, women
seem to have been well regarded. We know, for instance, that
Khadija, Muhammad’s first wife, was a wealthy businesswoman.
She engaged Muhammad as her trading agent before marrying
him. This indicates that women were entitled to hold property and
to engage in businesses in their own right. Khadija must also have
inherited property from her family or previous husbands4 in order
to be able to do so, which suggests that Islam did not bring any
sea change by allowing Arab women a share in inheritance.
Indeed, Quran may only have adopted the existing custom, as it
did in many other instances.*