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Women’s share in inheritance

By Dr Riffat Hassan

THE most important Quranic injunction regarding inheritance is in Surah 4:7. It says: “Men shall have a share in what parents and kinsfolk leave behind, and women shall have a share, whether it be little or much – a share ordained (by God).

By enjoining that women shall have a right to inherit regardless of the size of the inheritance, the Quran makes it clear that in all cases women should have their share. The widespread misunderstanding that women’s share in inheritance is one-half that of men is not supported by a close reading of Surah 4:11-12 and 176.

“Concerning (the inheritance of) your children, God enjoins (this) upon you: the male shall have the equal of two females’ share; but if there are more than two females, they shall have two-thirds of what (their parents) leave behind; and if there is only one, she shall have one-half thereof.

“And as for the parents (of the deceased), each of them shall have one-sixth of what he leaves behind, in the event of his having (left) a child; but if he has left no child and his parents are his only heirs, then his mother shall have one-third, and if he has brothers and sisters, then his mother shall have one-sixth.

“And you shall inherit one-half of what your wives leave behind, provided they have left no child; but if they have left a child, then you shall have one-quarter of what they leave behind. And your widows shall have one-quarter of what you leave behind, provided you have left no child; but if you have left a child, then they shall have one-eighth of what you leave behind.

“And if a man or a woman has no direct heir in the direct line, but has a brother and a sister, then each of these two shall inherit one-sixth; but if there are more than two, then they shall share in one-third (of the inheritance).

“They will ask thee to enlighten them. Say: ‘God enlightens you (thus) about the laws concerning (inheritance from) those who leave no heir in the direct line. If a man dies childless and has a sister, she shall inherit one-half of what he has left, just as he will inherit from her if she dies childless. But if there are two sisters, both (together) shall have two-thirds of what he has left; and if there are brothers and sisters, then the male shall have the equal of two females’ share’.”

An analysis shows that there is not one uniform way in which inheritance is to be shared by the heirs. Given below is a listing of how inheritance is to be shared. The son’s share is twice that of a daughter; the son’s share is one-third if there are more than two daughters whose collective share is two-thirds; the share of mother and father is the same – one-sixth – if their deceased son had children; the mother’s share is twice that of the father being one-third whereas the father’s share is one-sixth, if their deceased son had no children; the mother’s share is one-sixth, if the deceased had brothers and sisters.

The husband’s share is one-half of what his deceased wife leaves behind, if there are no children; the husband’s share is one-fourth of what his deceased wife leaves behind, if there are children; the wife’s share is one-quarter of what her deceased husband leaves behind, if there are no children; the share of the wife is one-eighth of what her deceased husband leaves behind if there are children; if the deceased man or woman have no child but have a brother or sister, the share of the brother and sister is the same – one-sixth each of what is left behind; if the deceased man or woman have no child but have more than two brothers or sisters their collective share is one-third of what is left behind.

If the deceased man has no child, but has a sister, her share is one-half of what he leaves behind; if the deceased woman has no child, the share of her brother is one-half of what she leaves behind; if the deceased man has no children but has two sisters, their collective share is two-thirds of what he leaves behind; if the deceased man or woman has no children, but has brothers and sisters, the share of the male is twice that of the female.

A review of the above clearly shows that it is wrong to state that in inheritance the share of a man is always twice that of a woman. This is true only in some of the cases cited above. In other cases, the share of the man and the woman are the same. In one case the share of the woman (mother) is twice that of the man (father).

The writer teaches at the University of Louisville, US.
rshass01@gwise.louisville.edu
Source: Dawn
Date:7/3/2009

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