The Islamic system has made ‘need’ the basic criterion for preference in inheritance. The deceased person’s children need his money more than his father because they are likely to face greater difficulty in fulfilling their requirements, being young and at a stage where they are beginning their life, unlike their grandfather. Moreover, the duties and obligations of the son under the Shari’ah of Islam are more than those of his sister.
In the name of Allah, the Beneficent, the Merciful
All praises are due to Allah, we praise Him, we seek His assistance and we seek His forgiveness. We seek refuge in Allah from the evil of ourselves and from our evil deeds. Whomever Allah guides there is none who can misguide him, and whomever Allah misguides there is none who can guide him. I testify that there is no deity worthy of worship except Allah alone without any partners, and I testify that Muhammad (SAW) is Allah’s slave and Messenger.
“O you who have believe! Fear Allah as He should be feared and do not die except in a state of Islam (as Muslims), with complete submission to Allah.” (Ali Imran, 3:102)
“O Mankind! Be dutiful to your Lord, who created you from a single person (Adam) and from him (Adam) He created his wife (Eve) and from them both He created many men and women and fear Allah through whom you demand your mutual rights, and do not cut off the relations of the wombs (kinship). Surely, Allah is Ever an All-watcher over you.” (An-Nisaa’, 4:1)
“O you who have believe! Keep your duty to Allah and fear Him, and always speak the truth. He will direct you to do righteous good deeds and will forgive you your sins. And whosoever obeys Allah and His Messenger, he has indeed achieved a great achievement (saved from the Hell fire and enter paradise).” (Ahzaab, 33:70-71)
As to what proceeds:
Verily the best of speech is the Book of Allah and the best of guidance is the guidance of Muhammad (SAW). The worst of affairs are the newly-invented affairs in the religion and every newly invented affair in the religion is an innovation and every innovation is misguidance and all misguidance is in the Hellfire. As to what proceeds:
Servants of Allah!
Know that, Allah the Almighty has already determined the obligatory shares of inheritance Himself – a task which He entrusted neither to a close angel nor to a sent Prophet, talk less of entrusting it to any human being. He determined the share of each heir in the inheritance, which He showed in detail (in His Book), unlike many rulings which were mentioned in a general and brief way in the Book. In addition, the Sunnah of the Prophet (SAW), also came to give a detailed explanation about these rulings, just like the rulings regarding Prayers, Zakah and Hajj.
In relation to the obligatory shares of inheritance, the verses of inheritance were revealed in detail as shown in the beginning and end of Surah An-Nisaa’. Allah the Almighty calls them His limits, and promises to give a great reward to the one who abides by them and does not transgress them, and threatens to punish the one who transgresses them. He says:
“These are the limits (set by) Allah, and whoever obeys Allah and His Messenger will be admitted by Him to gardens (in paradise) under which rivers flow, abiding eternally therein; and that is the great attainment. And whoever disobeys Allah and His Messenger and transgresses His limits – He will put him into the fire to abide eternally therein, and he will have a humiliating punishment.” (Qur’an 4:13-14)
Brothers and Sisters!
The Prophet (SAW) ordered that the obligatory shares of inheritance should be distributed among those entitled to them. He said:
“Distribute the property (of the deceased) among those who are entitled to the obligatory shares (of inheritance) according to the (law of) the Book of Allah, and what is left (from the property) after distributing the obligatory shares should be given to the closest male heir.” (Al-Bukhari and Muslim)
Also scholars called the science of the obligatory shares (of inheritance) half of the knowledge. Ibn Uyaynah, may Allah have mercy upon him, said;
“The science of the obligatory shares (of inheritance) is called half the knowledge for all the people are in need of it.”
Dear Brothers and Sisters!
But today, 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.
Servants of Allah!
As we all know, people in the time of Jahiliyyah (pre-Islamic period of ignorance) used to assign the inheritance of the deceased to the eldest among his sons, excluding his young children, and women relatives like daughters, wives, mothers and sisters; or give it to his brother or paternal uncle, under the pretext that the children and women were too powerless to protect the sanctities that should be protected, take retaliation, gain booty (from wars) and fight the enemies. However, Allah the Almighty invalidated this pre-Islamic custom, and assigned to women and children a share of the inheritance of the deceased, and made their share an obligatory right, no matter how little or much the inheritance might be, as shown in His statement:
“For men is a share of what the parents and close relatives leave, and for women is a share of what the parents and close relatives leave, be it little or much – an obligatory share.” (Qur’an 4:7)
“Allah instructs you concerning your children: for the male, what is equal to the share of two females. But if there are (only) daughters, two or more, for them is two thirds of one’s estate. And if there is only one, for her is half.” (Qur’an 4:11)
He says about the inheritance of the mother:
“But if he had no children and the parents (alone) inherit from him, then for his mother is one third. And if he had brothers (or sisters), for his mother is a sixth.” (Qur’an 4:11)
About the share of the wife, He says:
“And for the wives is one fourth if you leave no child. But if you leave a child, then for them is an eighth of what you leave.” (Qur’an 4:12)
Brothers and Sisters!
Allah the Almighty accorded inheritance for women in the following way:
• One daughter gets half the inheritance
• Two or more daughters get two-thirds the inheritance
• The mother gets one-third or one-sixth of the inheritance
• The wife gets one-fourth or one-eighth of the inheritance
• The half-sister from the side of the mother gets one-sixth
• The full sister or the half sister from the side of the father gets half the inheritance, or half the share of her brother.
In must be borne in mind that all of this is accorded them as their right, when they received nothing in the pre-Islamic days of Jahiliyyah.
Now, contrast this with modern era of Jahiliyyah which is no better than the ancient Jahiliyyah in many of its aspects, which gives room to deprive men, women and children of their rightful inheritance, and instead allows the owner of the inheritance to assign his property, which Allah the Almighty made a means of people’s sustenance, to animals.
Wallahi, the system of inheritance set by Islam is distinguished from all modern human laws of inheritance in that Islam adopts a moderate attitude – between communist socialism on one extreme, and capitalism and other similar doctrines that call for complete freedom of a person to dispose of his wealth according to his own whims on the other extreme. Communist socialism, as outlined by Karl Marx, rejects the principle of inheritance, and regards it as an erroneous act that opposes the principles of justice. Thus, it gives nothing to the deceased’s offspring or next of kin.
Capitalism and its corresponding economic systems, on the contrary, give the owner the full freedom to dispose of his property as he likes. He has the right to deprive all his kith and kin of his inheritance and bequeath it to a stranger, say, a friend or an employee. A man or a woman, in Western societies, even has the right to bequeath the whole or some of his/her property to a dog or a cat!
According to the Islamic system, inheritance is obligatory for both the owner of the property and the heir as well. The owner has no right to prevent any of his heirs from receiving his inheritance, and the heir gets his share, with no need for a court judgment. In some systems, the law affirms inheritance only with a court judgment, since in their right, it is optional and not compulsory to bequeath and receive inheritance.
The Islamic system limits the right of inheritance within the sphere of the family. It requires a sound relationship through blood or marital relation, and since walaa’ (allegiance of an ex-slave to his ex-masters) resembles kinship, it was joined with the categories of kinship. In this way, neither an adopted child, nor a child born out of wedlock has the right to inheritance. Within the limits of the family, the closest of kin, under Islam, is given preference, followed by the next of kin to the deceased.
However, in the other systems, the case is quite different. According to the Jews, for example, the heirs are the male sons, and the share of the eldest is equal to the share of two brothers, whether the child is legitimate or illegitimate. Moreover, the eldest son is not deprived of his share even if he is born from an illegitimate marriage.
According to the Western system, a stranger – like a friend or an employee – is eligible to receive inheritance, and the same applies to the child born out of wedlock.
The Islamic system assigns to the young child a share from the inheritance of his father equal to that of his eldest brother. Thus, there is no differentiation between the fetus in the mother’s womb and the eldest son in a big family. The Islamic system also does not differentiate between the eldest son and his brothers, as is the case in the corrupted Jewish canon, and the British law. That is because the young children might be in need of money to build their lives, and to meet their living expenses, more than their older brothers who can work and gather for themselves independent property.
Servants of Allah!
The Islamic system also assigns a share of the inheritance to women as mentioned. The mother, wife, daughter, son’s daughter, sister, and other women relatives, have definite share in the inheritance of the deceased, to ensure them an honourable life, free from the humiliation of destitution and mortification of poverty, unlike some systems that deprive the women of inheritance under all circumstances. Some laws previously deprived the wife of inheritance, and she was not given any share in it. In the past, the Jews did not give women any portion of the inheritance.
My respected people!
The Islamic system has made ‘need’ the basic criterion for preference in inheritance. The deceased person’s children need his money more than his father because they are likely to face greater difficulty in fulfilling their requirements, being young and at a stage where they are beginning their life, unlike their grandfather. Moreover, the duties and obligations of the son under the Shari’ah of Islam are more than those of his sister. He is the one required to provide for himself once he reaches the age of maturity, and he is also required to pay his wife her dowry, provide for her and for the children. He is responsible for the expenses of education, medical treatment, clothing…etc. In addition to this, he is required to provide for his father or relatives if they are poor. However, the girl is more likely to have someone to provide for her, and not the other way round, since she will get married and will be the responsibility of her husband.
These are some of the merits that distinguish the inheritance system in Islam from the old and contemporary laws legislated by human beings and that keep changing every now and then.
Servants of Allah!
The enemies of Islam and their messengers, the so-called women activists have been trying to find fault with the Qur’an through the verses of inheritance for several centuries. They allege that the Noble Quran gives the female in general, and the wife in particular, half of what it gives to the male in general and the husband in particular, thereby usurping the right of the woman and dealing with her wrongfully. In reply to this malicious allegation I say:
First: The claim that in Islam, the share given from the inheritance to a woman is less than the man is sometimes invalid. Indeed, there are four cases in connection with inheritance where the female’s share is equal to or even greater than the male’s share:
The first case: When the woman’s share is equal to the man’s, as it is in the (half) brothers and sisters from the side of the mother, each of whom takes one-sixth, whether they are male or a female, and a group (of more than two) share the third equally, in which the female’s share is like the male’s.
The second case: When only the female is the heir, and a cause of preventing the male from inheritance. A typical example is a man/woman who dies and leaves a daughter, a full sister, and a half-brother from the side of the father. The daughter takes half the inheritance, and the full sister the other half, and nothing is given to the half-brother from the side of the father, since he is prevented by the existence of a full sister, although he is a male and she is a female.
The third case: When a female takes more than what the male takes, such as, when a person dies and leaves a full sister or a half-sister from the side of the father; a mother, a paternal uncle or a half-brother from the side of the mother. In this case, the full sister takes half of the inheritance, the mother the third and the remaining sixth is taken by the paternal uncle or the half-brother from the side of the mother. Although in this case both the sister and the mother are females, the share of each is greater than the male’s i.e., that of the paternal uncle or the half-brother from the side of the mother.
The fourth case: When a female takes half of what the male takes; this happens in many instances, such as when the inheritors include a daughter along with a son; a son’s daughter along with a son’s son; a full sister along with a full-brother; a half-sister from the side of the father along with a half-brother from the side of the father; the wife’s share compared with the husband’s: each female in those cases takes half of what the male takes.
My good people!
What is the wisdom that lies behind this? Does this preference go back to gender or is there another reason lying behind the preference? In reply to these questions, let me say: This preference does not go back to gender, since there are some cases in which the female’s share of inheritance is equal to their male’s, and other cases in which her share of inheritance is equal to the male’s, and other cases in which her share is greater than the male’s, and many cases in which she prevents him from inheritance, as we have previously seen. Whoever thinks that the shares of the male and female heirs in the Quran are established only on the basis of the difference of gender, i.e., masculinity and femininity has indeed fallen short of understanding the Quran. That is because the Noble Quran has distributed the shares of heirs on the basis of three criteria as said earlier:
1. The degree of kinship between the heirs – be they males or females – and the deceased person: The closer the relation between them, the greater the share of inheritance is, regardless of the gender of the heirs.
2. The position of the generation of heirs in the sequence of generations: The young generation, who are at the beginning of their life and getting ready to receive its burdens, have shares of inheritance that are greater than the older generations that are at the end of their life and getting ready to relieve themselves of its burdens, regardless of the gender of the heirs. The daughter of the deceased inherits more than his mother, and both are females: and the daughter inherits more than the deceased’s father (i.e., her grandfather), even if she is still an infant and has not seen her father, and even if the father (i.e., her grandfather) is the source of the wealth of the son (her father), from which the daughter alone takes the half. In a similar context, the son inherits more than the father, given that both are males.
3. The financial obligation enjoined by the Islamic Shari’ah upon the heir: That is the only criterion which raises the difference of gender between the male and the female. However, this difference inflicts neither oppression nor injustice upon the female. On the contrary, it may be that the opposite is true. If the heirs are equal in the degree of kinship, and the position in the sequence of generations, e.g. the deceased’s children of males and females, the disparity of financial obligation often is responsible for the disparity of shares of inheritance.
This is why this disparity between the male and the female has not been made general to all the heirs (in all cases) in the Noble Quran, but just in some cases. The demands required of the son in life and under the system of Islam are more than those required of (the daughter who is) his sister. He is the one obliged, once he becomes mature, to spend on and maintain himself, pay the dowry to his wife, bear the marital expenditure, and the maintenance of children with regard to education, medication, clothing, etc. but the female usually gets married and is not required to pay dowry or bear expenses, since her maintenance is obligatory for her husband, unless if the husband is stupid.
Brothers and Sisters!
Those who are interested in the details about this important subject (inheritance) 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 Quran and Sunnah. Prior to passing any Judgment about “unfair treatment” of Islam to women in terms of inheritance, or claiming any “discrimination against women”, one must examine this subject closely.
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, unjust and nonsensical demand.
Servants of Allah!
Let me conclude my today’s Sermon with some beautiful words from Gustave Le Bon who says in his book, Arab civilization:
“The principles of inheritance which have been determined in the Quran have a great deal of justice and fairness. The Person who reads the Quran 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 those verses. I have compared British, French and Islamic Laws of inheritance and found that Islam grants the wives (women) the right of inheritance, which our laws are lacking while westerners consider them to be ill-treated by the Muslim men.”
Wallahu A’lam wa bihi at-Tawfiq
May the peace and blessings of Allah be upon our beloved Prophet and Master, Muhammad peace and blessings be upon him, his family and all his Companions.
This Khutbah (Friday Sermon) was prepared for delivery today Friday, Muharram 12, 1438 AH (October 14, 2016), by Imam Murtadha Muhammad Gusau, the Chief Imam of Nagazi-Uvete Central Mosque and Alhaji Abdurrahman Okene’s Mosque, Okene Kogi State, Nigeria. The Imam can be reached via: +234 803 828 9761.