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Women's Right of Inheritance

Allah, the Exalted, stated in the Glorious Qur'an:

(Allah commands you as regards to your children's (inheritance); to the male, a portion equal to that of two females.)


Those who misunderstand Islam claim that Islam does injustice to women in terms of inheritance. They opine that it is unfair to grant the male a double to that of the female even though they are children of the same parents. Allah, the Exalted, offered a full and detailed method of women's inheritance in the Qur'an and Sunnah, and if an unbiased student of knowledge reflects on the details, he or she will discover the fault of this opinion.

To begin with, Allah has determined all the shares of all the relatives in respect to their relationship to the deceased. As He the Most Wise said:

(There is a share for men and a share for women from what is left by parents and those nearest related, whether the property is small or large, an obligatory share.)


Allah has stated three types of shares for a woman's inheritance as follows:

  1. A woman will have an equal share as that of the man.
  2. A woman will have an equal share to that of the man, or a little less.
  3. A woman will have half the share of a man.

This means that the minimum of her shares is half, and considering that a female has no continual financial responsibilities as a child, sister, wife or mother, and these responsibilities are always on the men of the family, this is very generous indeed.

Those who are interested in the details about this subject should review the discussions in books about the special branch of Islamic knowledge called "The science of inheritance and division of the estate." These books deal with all the different ways of dividing an inheritance, and the proper share of all relatives according to the Qur'an and Sunnah. Prior to passing any judgment about "unfair treatment" of Islam to women in terms of inheritance' one must examine this subject closely.

In contrast to all the other societies, Islamic Jurisprudence stipulates the rules and regulations about all the affairs of a man, from big to small, to bring harmony to their lives. Just like a person has specific instructions for how to live and use his money in his lifetime, his wealth after his death is dealt with the same way. Unlike other social systems, a person can generally do with his wealth in his life however he wants but his will has certain restrictions according to the Islamic Law. Through his will he can only give 1/3 of his wealth to whoever he wants, all the rest is distributed according to the law of inheritance derived from the Qur'an.

In the famous tradition; the companion Sa'ad ibn Abi Waqqas was ill and requested to bequest the majority of his wealth as charity, or a half of it since he was wealthy and only had one daughter. The Messenger of Allah (Peace be upon Him) forbade him and only allowed him to give a third, and said :

"A third and a third is a lot, and it is better that you leave your heirs wealthy rather than leave them needy begging from the people. You will not spend anything seeking Allah's countenance but you receive a reward for that expenditure, even the morsel of food you put into your wife's mouth."

[Bukhari #2591 & Muslim #1628]

An important point to note is that in many civilizations, man-made laws of inheritance are at the whim of a powerful individual; to give or deprive, as one will, however unjustly. Moreover, in these societies often there is no law that obligates a man with financial responsibilities and relieves the women from them. On the other hand, according to Islam, a male is required to take care of the entire financial needs of the female dependents of the family until they are married. From the time a female marries, her financial responsibilities are her husband's obligation. After the death of the husband, the son or other male relative is obliged to care for the widow.

Therefore, demanding a "fair," "just" or "equal" share of inheritance for both male and female Muslims, who do not have equal financial obligations and responsibilities, is an unfair and unjust demand. It is only fair and just to give preference to a male heir, in light of his financial responsibilities, over the female heir from the inheritance of the father, mother or others. Considering all this, the fact that a female is still entitled by the Islamic law to a half share of the portion of inheritance received by the male, and sometimes an equal share, is indeed fair, just, and generous.

Gustave Le Bon says in his book Arab Civilization:

"The principles of inheritance which have been determined in the Qur'an have a great deal of justice and fairness. The person who reads the Qur'an can perceive these concepts of justice and fairness in terms of inheritance through the verses I quoted. I should also point out the great level of efficiency in terms of general laws and rules derived from these verses. I have compared British, French and Islamic Laws of inheritance and found that Islam grants the wives the right of inheritance, which our laws are lacking while Westerners consider them to be ill-treated by the Muslim men."

Also, in accordance with Islam, the men of the family shoulder all expenses resulting from payment of "blood-money", and this is another subject of concern that we will discuss now.