Another Sharia Law that USA Follows: Right to Inheritance for All Children

As the Republican party, in USA excels in its Islamophobia, by scaremongering against Sharia Law, it will be useful to find examples of Sharia Law in the USA constitution and laws.

Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery!  Several examples can be cited where the USA and European Laws are derived more from Islam than Christianity.  Permission of divorce is one obvious example.  Over time we will collect a list of laws which meet this criterion of being closer to Islam than Christianity.  Here I want to bring out the fact that the eldest child’s exclusive right of inheritance was given up in USA in the first session of USA legislature after the Declaration of Independence.  Here I quote from a letter by President Thomas Jefferson to John Adams:

At the first session of our legislature after the Declaration of Independence, we passed a law abolishing entails [limitations on the inheritance of property to a specified succession of heirs]. And this was followed by one abolishing the privilege of primogeniture [the eldest child’s exclusive right of inheritance], and dividing the lands of intestates equally among all their children, or other representatives. These laws, drawn by myself, laid the ax to the foot of pseudoaristocracy. And had another which I prepared been adopted by the legislature, our work would have been complete. It was a bill for the more general diffusion of learning. Read more.

The Holy Quran prescribes very detailed laws for inheritance and provides for each and every child.  The Quran treats all children equally regardless of the birth order.  However, it prescribes twice the share for sons compared to daughters, because in Islamic paradigm, the economic responsibility to support the family lies with the men:
For men is a share of that which parents and near relations leave; and for women is a share of that which parents and near relations leave, whether it be little or much — a determined share.  … Allah commands you concerning your children: a male shall have as much as the share of two females; but if there be females only, numbering more than two, then they shall have two-thirds of what the deceased leaves; and if there be one, she shall have the half. 
This is an injunction from Allah, and Allah is All-Knowing, Forbearing.  These are the limits set by Allah; and whoso obeys Allah and His Messenger, He will make him enter Gardens through which streams flow; therein shall they abide; and that is a great triumph.  (Al Quran 4:8-14)
One of President Jefferson’s first tasks, after the Declaration of Independence, was to stop the uneven distribution of land. Jefferson took on the wealthy landowners with his programs to end entail and primogeniture. Entail required a property owner to, when he died, give his land to a family member. Primogeniture was the practice of leaving all land to the eldest son. Jefferson succeeded in ending both practices. His purpose was to get more people to vote. In order to vote, you had to own land. When large estates were broken up by Jefferson’s laws, more people could afford land, more people bought land, and more people could vote.[1]  Did President Thomas Jefferson get the idea to propose the bill to abolish exclusive inheritance of the eldest from the Holy Quran?  The Christian apologists, will of course, have their make belief reasons to deny that.  One thing is however certain that Jefferson did own a copy of the Quran, which was used by the first Muslim Congressman, Keith Ellison to take his oath of office, in recent years.  This I have documented in some details, in one of my previous posts: President Thomas Jefferson — Was he a monotheist?
To give the readers a historical perspective, of the privilege of primogeniture, i.e. the eldest child’s exclusive right of inheritance, let me quote from International Standard Bible Encyclopedia:
1. Recognition of Doctrine:The right of the firstborn to inherit the headship of the family, carrying with it certain property rights and usually such titles as those of the high-priesthood or kingship. The writings of the Hebrews take for granted the recognition of a doctrine of primogeniture from the earliest times. In the most ancient genealogies a distinction is drawn between the firstborn and the other son (Genesis 10:15; Genesis 22:21; Genesis 25:13; Genesis 35:23; Genesis 36:15). In the bestowal of parental blessings in patriarchal times great importance was attached to preferring the firstborn (Genesis 25:31; Genesis 27:29; Genesis 48:13; Genesis 49:3). The feud between Jacob and Esau (Genesis 27:1-28:21) grew out of the stealing of the firstborn’s blessing by the younger brother. Joseph was displeased when, in his blessing, Jacob seemed to prefer Ephraim to Manasseh, his firstborn (Genesis 48:18). The father in such cases seems to have had the right to transfer the birthright from one son to another, from the days of Abraham in the case of Ishmael and Isaac, through those of Jacob in the matter of Reuben and Joseph and in the matter of Ephraim and Manasseh, down to the days of David in the selection of a successor to the kingship. Nevertheless, the Mosaic code, which declared (rather than enacted) the law of primogeniture, prohibited the abuse of this parental privilege in the case of a younger son by a favorite wife (Deuteronomy 21:16 f).2. The Double Portion:The manner of acknowledging the firstborn incidentally referred to in Deuteronomy is “by giving him a double portion of all that he hath” (Deuteronomy 21:17), that is to say, double the share of each of the other brothers. Jewish tradition (Bekho. 46a, 47b, 51a, 51b; Babha’ Bathra’ 122a, 122b, 123a, 124a, 142b) accepts and elaborates on this right of the firstborn son. Thus, it applies only to the firstborn and not the eldest surviving son; it does not apply to daughters; it has reference only to the paternal estate, and not to the inheritance left by a mother or other relative, nor to improvements or accessions made to an estate after the death of the father.3. Reasons for the Custom:The object of the doctrine may be that the eldest son might be enabled to preside over the affairs of family with proper dignity, or that he might assume additional responsibilities, such as the support of unmarried sisters. Hence, one’s birthright could be waived or sold (Genesis 25:31, 34). On the other hand it may be based in the ultimate analysis on the primitive feeling of favoritism for the firstborn reflected in the disappointment of Jacob, when he speaks of Reuben as his firstborn, his might, and the beginning of his strength (re’shith ‘on, Genesis 49:3; compare Deuteronomy 21:17). This theory would be in accord with the right of the parent to transfer the right to a younger son. The suggestion of favoritism conveyed by the Hebrew bekhor is manifested in its figurative use: of Israel (Exodus 4:22), of Ephraim (Jeremiah 31:9), of one dearly beloved (Zechariah 12:10); (compare figurative usage in the New Testament: Romans 8:29 Hebrews 12:23; Hebrews 1:6 Revelation 1:5).



Additional Reading:

‘Let the Muslim be my Master in Outward Things.’ References to Islam in the Promotion of Religious Tolerance in Christian Europe

2 replies

  1. Quoting from an older version of Wikipedia

    Since the publication of legal scholar John Makdisi’s “The Islamic Origins of the Common Law” in the North Carolina Law Review,[98] there has been controversy over whether English common law was inspired by medieval Islamic law.[104] Several scholars have argued that several fundamental common law institutions may have been adapted from similar legal institutions in Islamic law and jurisprudence, and introduced to England after the Norman conquest of England by the Normans, who conquered and inherited the Islamic legal administration of the Emirate of Sicily (see Arab-Norman culture).[98] In his 1999 paper, Makdisi drew comparisons between the “royal English contract protected by the action of debt” and the “Islamic Aqd”, the “English assize of novel disseisin” and the “Islamic Istihqaq”, and the “English jury” and the “Islamic Lafif” in classical Maliki jurisprudence, and argued that these institutions were transmitted to England by the Normans,[98] “through the close connection between the Norman kingdoms of Roger II in Sicily — ruling over a conquered Islamic administration — and Henry II in England.”[105] Makdisi also argued that English legal institutions such as “the scholastic method, the license to teach,” the “law schools known as Inns of Court” in England (which he asserts are parallel to Madrasas in Islam) and the “European commenda” (parallel to Islamic Qirad) may have also originated from Islamic law.[98] He states that the methodology of legal precedent and reasoning by analogy (Qiyas) are also similar in both the Islamic and common law systems.[106] Makdisi claims these similarities and influences suggest that Islamic law may have laid the foundations for “the common law as an integrated whole”.[98]

    Other legal scholars such as Monica Gaudiosi, Gamal Moursi Badr and A. Hudson have argued that the English trust and agency institutions in common law, which were introduced by Crusaders, may have been adapted from the Islamic Waqf and Hawala institutions they came across in the Middle East.[60][107][108] Dr. Paul Brand also notes parallels between the Waqf and the trusts used to establish Merton College by Walter de Merton, who had connections with the Knights Templar. Brand also points out, however, that the Knights Templar were primarily concerned with fighting the Muslims rather than learning from them, making it less likely that they had knowledge of Muslim legal institutions.[104]

    Several legal institutions in civil law were also adapted from similar institutions in Islamic law and jurisprudence during the Middle Ages. For example, the Islamic Hawala institution influenced the development of the Avallo in Italian civil law and the Aval in French civil law.[109] The commenda limited partnership used in European civil law was also adapted from the Qirad and Mudaraba in Islamic law. The civil law conception of res judicata[98] and the transfer of debt, which was not permissible under Roman law but is practiced in modern civil law, may also have origins in Islamic law. The concept of an agency was also an “institution unknown to Roman law”, where it was not possible for an individual to “conclude a binding contract on behalf of another as his agent.”

    Islamic law also introduced “two fundamental principles to the West, on which were to later stand the future structure of law: equity and good faith”[citation needed], which was a precursor to the concept of pacta sunt servanda in civil law and international law. Another influence of Islamic law on the civil law tradition was the presumption of innocence, which was introduced to Europe by Louis IX of France soon after he returned from Palestine during the Crusades. Islamic law was based on the presumption of innocence from its beginning, as declared by the caliph Umar in the 7th century.[110]

    There is evidence that early Islamic international law influenced the development of European international law, through various routes such as the Crusades, Norman conquest of the Emirate of Sicily, and Reconquista of al-Andalus.[110] In particular, the Spanish jurist Francisco de Vitoria, and his successor Grotius, may have been influenced by Islamic international law through earlier Islamic-influenced writings such as the 1263 work Siete Partidas of Alfonso X, which was regarded as a “monument of legal science” in Europe at the time and was influenced by the Islamic legal treatise Villiyet written in Islamic Spain.[110][111]

    A number of Islamic legal concepts on human rights were also adopted in European legal systems, including concepts such as the charitable trust, trusteeship of property, human dignity, dignity of labour[citation needed], condemnation of antisocial behavior, presumption of innocence, caring, women’s rights, privacy, juristic personality, individual freedom, equality before the law, non-retroactivity, limited sovereignty, tolerance[citation needed]. Many of these concepts were adopted in medieval Europe through contacts with Islamic Spain and the Emirate of Sicily, and through the Crusades and the Latin translations of the 12th century.[112] After Sultan al-Kamil defeated the Franks during the Crusades, Oliverus Scholasticus praised the Islamic laws of war, commenting on how al-Kamil supplied the defeated Frankish army with food:[113]

    “Who could doubt that such goodness, friendship and charity come from God? Men whose parents, sons and daughters, brothers and sisters, had died in agony at our hands, whose lands we took, whom we drove naked from their homes, revived us with their own food when we were dying of hunger and showered us with kindness even when we were in their power.”[113]
    The 8th century English king Offa of Mercia minted a near-copy of Abbasid dinars struck in 774 by Caliph Al-Mansur with “Offa Rex” centered on the reverse.[114] The moneyer visibly had little understanding of Arabic as the Arabic text contains a number of errors. Such coins may have been produced for reasons of ruler’s prestige, or to trade with recently developing Islamic Spain.[citation needed]

    A gold dinar of the English king Offa of Mercia, a copy of the dinars of the Abbasid Caliphate (774). It combines the Latin legend OFFA REX with Arabic legends. British Museum.In Sicily, Malta and South Italy from about 913 tarì gold coins of Islamic origin were minted in great number by the Normans, Hohenstaufens and the early Angevins rulers.[115] When the Normans invaded Sicily in the 12th century, they issued tarì coins bearing legends in Arabic and Latin.[116] The tarìs were so widespread that imitations were made in southern Italy (Amalfi and Salerno) which only used illegible “pseudo-Kufic” imitations of Arabic.[117][118]

    According to Janet Abu-Lughod:

    The preferred specie for international transactions before the thirteenth century, in Europe as well as the Middle East and even India, were the gold coins struck by Byzantium and then Egypt. It was not until after the thirtheenth century that some Italian cities (Florence and Genoa) began to mint their own gold coins, but these were used to supplement rather than supplant the Middle Eastern coins already in circulation.[119]

    The preferred specie for international transactions before the thirteenth century, in Europe as well as the Middle East and even India, were the gold coins struck by Byzantium and then Egypt. It was not until after the thirtheenth century that some Italian cities


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