Breaking the wrong kind of ground

The Telegraph and the Times today report on that guidance from the Law Society on how to draw up “Sharia-compliant” wills.

The Telegraph:

Islamic law is to be effectively enshrined in the British legal system for the first time under guidelines for solicitors on drawing up “Sharia compliant” wills.

Under ground-breaking guidance, produced by The Law Society, High Street solicitors will be able to write Islamic wills that deny women an equal share of inheritances and exclude unbelievers altogether.

The documents, which would be recognised by Britain’s courts, will also prevent children born out of wedlock – and even those who have been adopted – from being counted as legitimate heirs.

Frankly it just seems bizarre. Why are they doing this? It seems outside their remit, and as Lawyers’ Secular Society member Sadikur Rahman wrote, in places it’s contrary to their remit. If somebody wants a “Sharia compliant” will then that’s a job for a mosque or a cleric.

There’s no such thing as a “Christian” will is there? A will with special rules for systematically excluding certain categories of people or mandating that they inherit less than other categories of people? Not that I know of. Why make such an arrangement for “Islamic” wills? Individuals can leave their assets any way they choose, including doing just what Sharia would tell them to do. That doesn’t mean lawyers should do the Sharia-compliancy duties for them.

Chris Moos says the LSS are thinking about starting a petition and doing a protest, so if we spread the word, that could help. So spread the word. This is fucked up. One law for all, thank you very much.



  1. Claire Ramsey says

    This is fucked up. I don’t get it. Why? Why? It is 2014. What does religion have to do with a will? It’s as dumb as injecting religion into marriage. It’s a civil business. Period.

  2. Pierce R. Butler says

    … Lawyers’ Secular Society …


    How did the need for such a group arise? Does the US have anything similar?

  3. says

    Lawyers generally are hired guns, their remit being to get what their client wants, so far as the law allows. It makes every bit as much sense for lawyers to learn how to write wills that satisfy their Muslim clients, as it does for them to write pre-nups that satisfy their rich clients, and medical directives that satisfy their Jehovah’s Witness clients. Lawyers all the time help irrational clients get their desired outcome. Unless British law forbids parents from discriminating between sons and daughters in inheritance, I don’t see what the issue is.

  4. subbie says

    If someone wants a will that’s Sharia compliant but isn’t sure they are familiar with all aspects of it, why shouldn’t they be able to consult with a lawyer who has that familiarity and can advise them on all consequences of that decision? I don’t understand why anyone would object to that.

  5. subbie says

    Well, if parts of Sharia law conflict with existing civil law, a properly trained lawyer will tell them that. I certainly didn’t mean to suggest that someone who wants a Sharia complaint will should be able to override civil laws.

  6. says

    IANAL but I thought one could do whatever with their own estate. If I decide to cut my kids off and give it to my dog there should be a legal way to do that.
    It is certainly fucked up morally but legally? Not so much
    If you can cut off their genitals with impunity, law or no then cutting off their inheritance is small stretch.

  7. says

    Of course, and Sadikur Rahman said that, and I said that. A client can leave assets any way client wants to. That’s not the same as client telling lawyer “make this will Sharia compliant.” It’s even less the same as the lawyer telling the compliant “this part is not sharia compliant.”

  8. says

    Also, I don’t think anyone should be able to cut off anyone’s genitals with impunity, so I’m not sure what that “if” is supposed to be about.

  9. Decker says

    Britian’s Law Society issued these guidelines so that (mostly) white, male lawyers could get a piece of the ever growing sharia pie.

    A sharia-compliant will still doesn’t override secular law, but these guidelines go a long ways towards creating the atmospherics where one day that may no longer be the case.

    The Law society has given its benediction, at least in principle, to islamist gender discrimination. It raises the levels of threat and intimidation, already high enough, that muslim women face.

    Were you a women who’d just recieved only half of your brother’s inheritance in a sharia compliant will, and were you of a mind to contest that will, what are the chances you’d risk incurring the wrath of your entire extended family by doing so?

    To boot, the sharia-compliant will gains greater weight and legitimacy because it was drawn up in accordance with guidelines provided by the country’s official Law Society.

    Further oppressing already marginal and isolated women for a fast buck.

    But hey! None of this overrides secular law…

  10. says

    @subbie – just because a Sharia-compliant will which, for example, excludes non-Muslim children or discriminates against women is legal doesn’t mean the Law Society should help facilitate that kind of discrimination. Rahman is very good on this. I asked on Harry’s Place whether it was appropriate for a lawyer to help draw up a will which might certainly be overturned using the 1975 Act which allows appeals from inappropriately excluded family members.

  11. Shatterface says

    I’m not sure what the current law is on this. Obviously if someone divorces they may be obliged to pay maintenance but if they snuff it are they still required to provide support or can they just leave it all to the local donkey sanctuary if they want?

    While Sharia law might be inherent misogynistic is their any legal principle which requires someone to divide their worldly goods fairly? Can’t you already cut off kids for marrying someone you disaprove of or living a life style you don’t like?

  12. says

    British Law is not the same on this everywhere. I believe in Scotland it is illegal to completely disinherit your children for example, whereas in England and Wales you can. Northern Ireland may well be different again. So within those limitations a will that is also compliant with Sharia law may not always be legal. Lawyers have for years I’m sure prepared will to ensure compliance with Judaic principles so although I detest the idea, the lawyers job is to do what their client requires. It is up to the lawyer whether they go along with this.

    Wasn’t Nixon a lawyer?

  13. Shatterface says

    The Scotish law seems fair – and would have solved King Lear’s problems to boot.

    Wasn’t Nixon a lawyer?

    So was Harvey ‘Two Face’ Dent.

  14. says

    ianbertram@14 – I can speak with some knowledge on this, as far as Scotland is concerned. It is not illegal to write a will completely disinheriting your children, or for that matter, your surviving spouse or same-sex civil partner. There is no law preventing you from leaving everything to the proverbial donkey sanctuary. Rather, it is impossible to prevent your children or surviving spouse or civil partner from exercising their legal rights and claiming a fixed precentage of the dead person’s moveable estate, thus over-riding the will to that extent. But they need to choose to do so; if they don’t want to raise a claim against the dead person’s estate, no one can force them to – in which case the donkey sanctuary would get it all.

    I can’t speak for England and Wales, or for Northern Ireland, but certainly if a sharia-compliant will in Scotland would leave a surviving daugher less than she would have under her legal rights, she could make a claim.

    Though, because these rights only apply to a limited proportion of the moveable estate (either a third or a half, depending on whether there’s also a survining spouse or civil partner), it would be perfectly possible for someone to leave a will that gives their sons more than their daughters, especially if most of their wealth was tied up in land and buildings (which you’d think we’d call ‘immoveable estate’, but we don’t – for rather arcane reasons we call it ‘heritable estate’ instead) but which their daughters can’t gain anything by challenging because the share they get is still larger than their legal rights claim would have been.

  15. Sili says

    Individuals can leave their assets any way they choose, including doing just what Sharia would tell them to do. That doesn’t mean lawyers should do the Sharia-compliancy duties for them.

    Is that so in England?

    In Denmark you can’t completely disinherit your children. You’re only allowed to dispose of half your assets, the other half is to be distributed equally among all natural heirs. (Including adopted children and children born outside of marriage.)

  16. says

    No, I guess it’s not so; one source I read (I forget now which one – maybe the Telegraph) said dependent children can’t be totally disinherited. I take it though that that means adult children can.

  17. Shatterface says

    It’s interesting how much British fiction turns on disinheritance and inheritance. It’s all over it. Pervasive.

    King Lear, obviously, most stories about the monarchy, and most of Dickens and about half the detective fiction written before writers discovered more twisted motives.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *