Kampala, Uganda | THE INDEPENDENT | Muslim activists are up in arms against the Succession Bill which was passed by parliament on Tuesday saying it disregards the teachings of Islam. The bill seeks to ensure equality and equity in the distribution of the deceased assets. The bill repeals the Succession law that was enacted in 1906. According to the bill, a surviving spouse or spouses is or are entitled to 20 percent of the deceased’s wealth, the dependent relatives take 4 percent, the linear descendants or biological and adopted children take 75 percent while the customary heir will take 1 percent.
But Kasim Mwasa, the head of Research at Muslim Center for Justice and Law-MCJL, a Ugandan faith-based NGO dedicated to promoting and advancing justice, tolerance and human rights says that the bill doesn’t take into consideration interests and teachings of Muslims. Mwasa says succession and specifically inheritance, are acts of worship in the Muslim faith, whose implementation is already stipulated in the Quran, the Muslim Supreme law.
Mwasa says the Quran provides for what family and relatives are entitled to when a member dies. For instance, in Islam, a man is entitled to half of the property of his deceased wife if the couple didn’t have a child and a quarter percent if the couple had a child or children.
Mwasa says that last year when the government invited stakeholders to contribute to the bill and raise concerns, they made it clear that Muslims prefer to follow the Islamic teachings and hence should be excluded from the Act.
They argued that since there was a provision of the law that establishes the Muhammadan Laws of Marriage and Qadhi Courts, these be used in administering the Islamic law on succession. He was however dismayed to learn that Parliament passed the bill without considering the interests of Muslims.
Dr. Abdulhafiidh Walusimbi, an expert in Islamic Law and Lecturer at Islamic University In Uganda, says that inheritance is a form of worship in the Muslim faith and is guided by Islamic jurisprudence.
Dr. Walusimbi argues that the 1995 Constitution provides for freedom of worship and establishes Qadhi Courts to administer the religious affairs of Muslims, which should be respected. He explained that in Islam, succession and inheritance starts right from the burial arrangements.
For instance, it is from part of the deceased’s wealth that burial arrangements are made and debts that he or she might have left are cleared before the burial proceeds and eventually distribution of the estate.
Imam Ahmad Kyeyune, a renowned Islamic Law Scholar says that succession being an act of worship, cannot be regulated by humans. He says God was cognizant of the conflict that could accrue in distributing a deceased’s estate and that’s why He (God) decided to dictate the process of succession and specifically inheritance.
Imam Kyeyune says that there is wisdom in God’s guidance regarding inheritance. For instance, he points out the fact that a boy child is entitled to double what a girl child inherits from a parent, something that has been interpreted by some people as oppressive and unjust.
“There is no better system than that provided for in the Quran. Allah is just, but it is because of our lack of knowledge that we do not understand the teaching of Islam,” said Imam Kyeyune.
Adding that, “God knew that males are the providers yet females have a right to be taken care of, say by their husbands. A female folk is entitled to benefit from a husband’s father’s and brother’s wealth even when they are still leaving, which is not the case with males.”
The bill is yet to be forwarded to the president to assent to it before it is gazetted and implemented.