The Inheritance Law

 

By

 

Ansar Al-'Adl

 

The allegation is as follows:

And it just doesn't add up: Sura 4:11-12 and 4:176 state the Qur'anic inheritance law. When a man dies, and is leaving behind three daughters, his two parents and his wife, they will receive the respective shares of 2/3 for the 3 daughters together, 1/3 for the parents together [both according to verse 4:11] and 1/8 for the wife [4:12] which adds up to more than the available estate. A second example: A man leaves only his mother, his wife and two sisters, then they receive 1/3 [mother, 4:11], 1/4 [wife, 4:12] and 2/3 [the two sisters, 4:176], which again adds up to 15/12 of the available property.

The verses mentioned are the following:

4:11-12 Allah (thus) directs you as regards your Children's (Inheritance): to the male, a portion equal to that of two females; if only daughters, two or more, their share is two-thirds of the inheritance; if only one, her share is a half. For parents, a sixth share of the inheritance to each, if the deceased left a child; if no child, and the parents are the (only) heirs, the mother has a third; if the deceased left brothers (or sisters) the mother has a sixth. The distribution in all cases (is) after the payment of legacies and debts. Ye know not whether your parents or your children are nearest to you in benefit. These are settled portions ordained by Allah; and Allah is All-knowing, All-wise.

In what your wives leave, your share is a half, if they leave no child; but if they leave a child, ye get a fourth; after payment of legacies and debts. In what ye leave, their share is a fourth, if ye leave no child; but if ye leave a child, they get an eighth; after payment of legacies and debts. If the man or woman whose inheritance is in question, has left neither ascendants nor descendants, but has left a brother or a sister, each one of the two gets a sixth; but if more than two, they share in a third; after payment of legacies and debts; so that no loss is caused (to any one). Thus is it ordained by Allah. and Allah is All-knowing, Most Forbearing.

4:176 They ask thee for a legal decision. Say: Allah directs (thus) about those who leave no descendants or ascendants as heirs. If it is a man that dies, leaving a sister but no child, she shall have half the inheritance: If (such a deceased was) a woman, who left no child, Her brother takes her inheritance: If there are two sisters, they shall have two-thirds of the inheritance (between them): if there are brothers and sisters, (they share), the male having twice the share of the female. Thus doth Allah make clear to you (His law), lest ye go astray. And Allah hath knowledge of all things.

1. The first major point to note is that there are two types of inheritors. The first category are those who have recieved a fixed inheritance, which includes the spouse and the parents. The second category includes those who take their share AFTER the shares of the first category are distributed. This includes siblings and children.

So if we understand this, we know that the parents and the wife would recive their amount, and the daughters would get a share of what remains. This explanation on its own solves the problem, because:

-1/3 for the parents together
-1/8 for the wife
-And for the daughters 2/3 of what remains = 2/3 of 13/24=13/36 of the total amount

So what remains after is 13/72 of the original amount. This remaining portion is to be given to whoever the deceased person appointed as their heir. The deceased can choose to have it given in charity or to the local masjid etc. If they have not specified any destination for the remaining wealth then it is given to the closest male relative.

After understanding this, it become clear that the allegation is based on ignorance of the fact that siblings and children get the remaining wealth after the parents and spouse have taken their share. Islamic rulings come from both the Qur'an and the Sunnah.

2. Let us now address the specific claims. The first claim is that 2/3 (daughters) +1/3 (parents) +1/8 (wife) will add up to more than available. But the truth is that the Qur'an does not specify what the parents and the wife will recieve if there are three daughters. The Qur'an states that the parents get 1/6 each if the deceased left a child. And the wife gets 1/8 if the deceased left a child. Both times it is singular, but in the proposed scenario, there are three daughters, not one.

Some confusion may have caused this misunderstanding because in some translations, the word walad (child) is mistranslated as children. But in most translations like Pickthall, Asad, Shakir, Daryabadi, Irving, etc. the word has been correctly translated in the singular form.

3. The second claim is that 1/3 (mother) + 1/4 (wife) + 2/3 (two sisters) also adds up to more than available. Again, one of the shares being used is not mentioned in the Qur'an. The number 2/3 is derived from verse 4:176, which speaks of a Kalalah, a man who leaves no descendants nor ascendants. In other words, the mother's share is not mentioned in this scenario. Verse 4:176 is for the deceased who does not have any children nor parents. So the problem is once again, confusing values from different scenarios.

4. One may also object that in the case of a deceased with no descendants nor ascendants, verse 4:12 appears to allocate 1/6 of the wealth to the brother and sister each (or 1/3 together), while verse 4:176 gives 2/3 to the same group in the same scenario. The first point that may be mentioned in response to this is that verse 4:12 speaks of a brother and a sister, while verse 4:176 speaks of two sisters and no brothers. So again, this is a confusion of two different cases. Secondly, there is a prevalent interpretation mentioned in the tafsir that verse 4:12 speaks of a brother and sister from the mother, while verse 4:176 speaks of full siblings. It is mentioned by Ibn Kathir commenting on verse 4:12:

 

Allah says,


(But has left a brother or a sister), meaning, from his mother's side, as some of the Salaf stated, including Sa`d bin Abi Waqqas. Qatadah reported that this is the view of Abu Bakr As-Siddiq.

Hence, this was how it was explained by Prophet Muhammad to his companions, and his Sunnah is a source of rulings in Islam. Some commentators take the view that verse 4:12 gives instructions on the inheritance for others that the deceased may nominate.

5. The last point that needs to be mentioned here is in regards to the inheritance of women in comparison to men. Many may wonder why the womna recives half of that given to the man. The answer has been provided by muslim scholars. Ibn Kathir explains in his tafsir:

 

The people of Jahiliyyah used to give the males, but not the females, a share in the inheritance. Therefore, Allah commands that both males and females take a share in the inheritance, although the portion of the males is twice as much as that of the females. There is a distinction because men need money to spend on their dependants, commercial transactions, work and fulfillling their obligations. Consequently, men get twice the portion of the inheritance that females get.


Dr. Zakir Naik further elaborates:

 

In Islam a woman has no financial obligation and the economical responsibility lies on the shoulders of the man. Before a woman is married it is the duty of the father or brother to look after the lodging, boarding, clothing and other financial requirements of the woman. After she is married it is the duty of the husband or the son. Islam holds the man financially responsible for fulfilling the needs of his family. In order to do be able to fulfill the responsibility the men get double the share of the inheritance. For example, if a man dies and after giving the shares of other relatives, if the children (i.e one son and one daughter) inherit Rs. One Hundred and Fifty Thousand, the son will inherit One Hundred Thousand rupees and the daughter only Fifty Thousand rupees. Out of the one hundred thousand which the son inherits, as his duty towards his family, he may have to spend on them almost the entire amount or say about eighty thousand and thus he has a small percentage of inheritance, say about twenty thousand, left for himself. On the other hand, the daughter, who inherits fifty thousand, is not bound to spend a single penny on anybody. She can keep the entire amount for herself. Would you prefer inheriting one hundred thousand rupees and spending eighty thousand from it, or inheriting fifty thousand rupees and having the entire amount to yourself?


And an additional explanation is provided by Moiz Amjad:

 

The Qur'an says:


You know not who among your children and your parents are nearest to you in benefit. This is the law of Allah. Indeed Allah is wise, all knowing.

Obviously, the extent of help and co-operation which a person receives from his parents, children and other close relatives cannot, normally, be paralleled by any other association. Undoubtedly, the world has always considered the kins of a deceased as the rightful beneficiaries of the wealth that he leaves behind. But certain issues, in this regard, have always remained unresolved. For instance, who among the relatives is nearest with respect to the benefits he holds for the deceased, and how should the shares of inheritance be calculated on this basis. It is not that the human endeavour in this regard has fallen prey to lack of application, rather it is due to certain inherrent limitations of the human mind which have made this task beyond its reach. Love, hatred, prejudice and other emotions have made it very difficult for the human intellect to come to grips with this challenge. Consequently, the wise and the all knowing has Himself guided mankind in this regard to relieve them from the disorders which have originated and can originate on this account.

Thus, the basic principle on which the shares of the various relatives of the deceased have been assigned is the benefit that accrues or can accrue from these relations to the deceased.


After having examined the claims, we find that they are built on misunderstandings. The Qur'an does not address the cases mentioned, and the reason is because the Qur'an gives the general details, while the Prophet Muhammad's teachings go in more detail in explaining the Qur'anic concepts. If the reader requires further clarification, they may examine the articles provided at the start.

 

 

 

 

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