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Law and custom in the Maghrib, 1475–1500: On the disinheritance of women

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Chapter Summary

This chapter examines the tension between Islam and jāhiliyya in the central Maghrib at an undisclosed date in the last quarter of the ninth/fifteenth century. It first examines the basic outlines of the Islamic inheritance system, known in Arabic as the ʿilm al-farāʾḍ’ or 'science of the shares'. Pious Muslims faced two challenges: how to prevent the progressive fragmentation of property; and how to prevent the alienation of property by out-marrying females. Generally speaking, they responded to these challenges in three ways: by developing social strategies that neutralize the negative consequences of inheritance law; by developing legal strategies that make it possible to circumvent the letter of the law without violating its spirit; or by ignoring the science of the shares and distributing property in accordance with local norms and customs. Many Muslims no doubt came to regard these strategies as part of their vision of what constitutes sharīʿa.

Keywords: ʿilm al-farāʾḍ’; customary law; Islamic inheritance system; Islamic law; Maghrib



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