ABU DHABI // The Supreme Court has ruled that the blood money for a foetus should be calculated as 10 per cent of that of an adult, depending on the sex.
Blood money for a female foetus would be Dh10,000; relatives of a male foetus that was killed would be awarded Dh20,000.
The decision, released on Wednesday, was issued as part of the court's reasoning for fining an insurance company about Dh1.2 million in damages for the incident.
The sex of the foetus was not determined, and the court ordered that the blood money used to calculate compensation should be equal to that of a woman - Dh100,000. The blood money, or diyya, for a man is Dh200,000.
The case involved a mother struck by a lorry while crossing a road in Fujairah in 2007. She suffered serious injuries, and her husband asked the lower courts to fine the insured driver Dh5m.
The Supreme Court upheld the decision of the lower courts that the insurance company should pay Dh1.2m in damages, including blood money for the foetus, which was 10 per cent of the total for an adult woman - in this case, Dh10,000.
The husband had appealed to the Supreme Court, arguing the damages should have been calculated using the full blood money - Dh200,000.
The ruling comes eight months after statements by the President of the Federal Supreme Court, Dr Abdul Wahab Abdul, calling for reform of blood money laws.
Dr Abdul and the other 16 Supreme Court judges recommended in April to the Judicial Co-operation Council - which oversees the judicial system at local and federal levels - that blood money be the same for males and females. Experts have also called for such reforms, arguing that the traditional reasoning for different levels of blood money no longer applies to modern life.
According to the Muslim scholar, Dr Jamal Mohammed, the loss of a woman has a considerable financial impact on her family.
"The reason some scholars insist on allowing a lower diyya for women is that they cannot be bothered to look at Sharia as a whole," said Dr Mohammed, who specialises in Islamic jurisprudence.
"They ignore the principle of 'purposes of Sharia', which is a major principle in Islamic law and focuses on the pragmatic aspect of every religious ruling. Scholars should consider the ultimate purpose of religious rulings before they present their opinions."
Sheikh Khaled Abdulaleem, a Muslim cleric based in Abu Dhabi, said the blood money system was not subject to debate and a man's blood money was double that of a woman. He added that blood money was the same for men and women only in murder cases.
In wrongful deaths, he said, a woman's blood money should be half.
But Dr Mohammed emphasised that the Quran never specified that a man's blood money must be more than a woman's. He reiterated that the idea behind allowing more damages for a man was that families were sustained by men.
"Those scholars take the hadith that dictates that a woman receives in inheritance half the portion of a man, and apply it to blood money," Dr Mohammed said.
The Constitution states that diyya is Dh200,000.
"Courts that have ruled women receive half the value of men relied on Sharia, while courts that applied equality relied on the constitutional right to equality between men and women," Dr Abdul said in April. "So, legally speaking, both are right."
Courts in Abu Dhabi, Dubai and Ras al Khaimah grant equal diyya for men and women. The rest of the emirates apply the gender variance system.
"In the UAE, it should not be that a woman is worth more in Abu Dhabi than in Ajman, for example. We are equal as human beings," Dr Abdul said.
President has final approval
In order to enact new legislation or amend existing laws, the relevant ministry drafts the legislation and sends it to the Cabinet.
Once the Cabinet approves a piece of legislation, it is sent to the Federal National Council (FNC). The FNC can amend laws, but not initiate legislation.
After the FNC approves a bill, it is then sent to the President for final approval. If the President is satisfied with the FNC's changes, he signs the draft into law, and it is published in the official gazette. If he is not satisfied, he can send it back to the FNC with his objections.
An emiri decree, which is issued by the Ruler, does not need to go through the FNC for approval.
* Kareem Shaheen