Monday, October 17, 2011

Inheritance laws in Islam

Why do Muslim women inherit half what men do? Isn't that discrimination against women?

Salam, Nicky.

Thank you for your question. To answer, I need to make some points clear.

What you noted in your question, that women inherit less than men, is just part of the truth, and not the whole truth.

In Islam, there are three other cases regarding inheritance:

1. Women inherit as much as men.

2. Women inherit more than men.

3. Women inherit while men don't.

The variables that control values of inheritances are:

1. Closeness to the deceased.

2. Responsibility of the inheriting generation, which means that the young generations inherit more than the older ones because they are facing more responsibilities, and are obliged to look after the older ones..

Now, let's have some examples for the above-mentioned cases.

Women Inherit As Much As Men:

If a person dies leaving the two parents and even one child, each of the two parents inherits a sixth of the inheritance; the Qur'an rules that:

*{For parents, a sixth share of inheritance to each if the deceased left children.}* (An-Nisaa' 4:11)

Also, the brothers and sisters of the deceased from the same mother all inherit equal portions.

Women Inherit More Than Men:

If a person dies leaving one full sister and three half-brothers (by the father), the full sister gets half the inheritance, and the other half is distributed equally among the three half-brothers.

Women Inherit While Men Don't:

If a woman dies leaving a husband, a full sister, and a brother by her father, the husband gets half the inheritance and the sister gets the other half, and the half-brother gets nothing at all. But if there is not any full sister, the half-brother gets her share (i.e. half).

So as you can see now, the case is not always that a woman gets half what the man inherits. It depends on the closeness of the deceased.

A Case Study

As for the first case, when women inherit less than men, it may sound unfair to you, but let me explain the responsibility of men and women in Islam through the following example.

If a person dies leaving 150,000 dollars and a son and a daughter, the son gets 100,000 and the daughter only 50,000. There are two scenarios that may happen after this inheritance is distributed.

One is that both of them may get married. In Islam, the man pays the bridal money or dower gift to the bride. So the son will spend about 25,000 and the daughter will receive the same amount. Now both of them have 75,000.

Then after marriage the husband is responsible for the household expenses, while the wife keeps her money.

The husband is solely responsible for everything, while the wife is not required to pay a single penny. However, if she decides to help her husband, this will be considered as an act of charity.

The second scenario is that they don't get married, or the son marries and the daughter does not. Even if the daughter in the above example remains unmarried, her brother is obligated by Islam to be financially responsible for her.

If the woman is not married, still her male relatives have the responsibility to spend on her. If she is a mother, it is her son's responsibility; if she is a daughter, it is her father's responsibility; if she is a sister, it is her brother's responsibility.

Even if she has no male relatives, according to Islamic teachings, the society as a whole has the responsibility to provide for such a woman.

Islam is about perfect justice for both the man and the woman. If the son and the daughter get equal shares, this will be really unjust to the son.

The Concept of Submission

I hope the above answer clarifies to you the wisdom behind the distribution of inheritance in Islam.

At the end, I would also like to make another point clear: the concept of submission in Islam.

In Islam, we believe that Almighty God, Who created us, knows what is best for us. Sometimes He reveals the wisdom behind His commands, and sometimes the wisdom is hidden from us.

However, Islam is about submission to the Law of God whether we understand the wisdom behind His commands or not.

I hope this answers your question. Please stay in touch.

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