A DISCUSSION OF THE SYSTEM OF INHERITANCE IN ISLAM
This article discusses some reasons for the legislations in the inheritance system in order to increase believers’ faith and answer some questions raised by some people who may not believe in the universality of Islamic inheritance law. The Prophet Mohammad said “Allah has given each one who has a right his right, so there is no bequeathal for one with a prescribed share of inheritance.” (narrated by Ibn Hajar)
Islam has given the woman certain shares in the inheritance of deceased relatives while the other systems may deprive her of them. Pre-Islamic Arabian practices completely forbade women from inheriting. Only men, who defended the tribe, rode horses, and earned money, inherited. Allah abolished this practice when he revealed what is translated as, “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, a mandatory share” (An-Nisa’ 7)
The following is a short list of the different types of relationships among male and female inheritors with respect to their shares. It should be noted that there are some situations where the share of the woman is greater than that of man:
Case 1: The share of the male is greater than that of the female. This occurs when there is a group of children or with a widower in relation to a widow. In those cases, the male gets a share which is double that of the female.
Case 2: The share of the males and females is equal as in the case of maternal brothers and sisters, and also in the case of the father and mother, whereby each one inherits a sixth if the deceased person has a male heir. Allah says, “For parents, a sixth share of inheritance to each if the deceased left children” (An-Nisa’ 11)
Category 3: The female’s inheritance is greater than that of the males in several cases. Allah the Almighty says, “If there are 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 inheritance to each if the deceased left children”. (An-Nisa’ 11) In these situations, the father gets a sixth, which is less than the share of the daughters.
Category 4: A woman inherits, while some male heirs don’t inherit; if a man is deceased and he leaves a son, a daughter, and two brothers, the son and the daughter inherit all of the shares with the while the brothers.
The allocation of inheritance in Islam is based on family relationships and gender. Allah, the Almighty said, “Men are the protectors and maintainers of women, because Allah has given them certain favors, and because they spend (to support them) from their means. “(An-Nisa’a 34). It is men, not women, who are responsible to pay financial responsibilities such as paying a ransom in case of accidental killing, or paying the wife’s expiation as the scholars say.
While Islamic law allots the woman half the share of the man (in some cases, it has freed her, in exchange, from family expenses and the difficulties of working outside of the house. It is the duty of the man to support her. If she is a daughter or sister, her expenditure is the responsibility of her father or brother. If she is a wife or a mother, her expenditure is the responsibility of her husband or children. Islam has freed the woman from certain financial duties and social responsibilities so she can focus on family. Therefore, the man’s money is more often exposed to consumption and expenditure, while the woman’s money has priority to be saved and protected. Since the man is, by default, responsible for financially supporting others, it is fair that his share of the inheritance may also be greater. There are also additional financial responsibilities for men in Islamic law such as paying a ransom in cases of accidental killing, or paying expiations, according to some scholars. In many cases, men materially contribute more to their deceased relatives during their lifetimes than female relatives. Therefore, with consideration of past and expected financial responsibilities, it is just that man have greater shares in inheritance in many cases. Allah makes an allusion to this in the Quran, “You know not which of them, parents or children, are nearest to you in benefit”. (An-Nisae 11).
Muslims believe in Allah and in His messenger, and abide willingly to Allah’s legislation. When the Creator orders something, He does it with wisdom. The rules of inheritance distribution are a part of that legislation. The Muslim believer accepts them whether or not he understands the wisdom in them. Allah the Almighty says in the Quran, “It is not for a believing man or a believing woman when Allah and His messenger have decided a matter, that they should (thereafter) have any other choice about it. And whoever disobeys Allah and His Messenger has certainly strayed into clear error” (AL-Ahzab 36)