Many ignorant people masquerading as experts criticise Islam saying that Islam gives only half a share to male than it gives to female, hence Islam is an inherently unjust, flawed and discriminatory religion. Of course, this is all non-sense and those who are speaking it are completely ignorant of Islam and culture that Islam develops among its followers and the reason for the shares of inheritance as they are. They are bringing a gender debate in where none exists. First of all inheritance in Islam is not based on gender but roles and responsibility each relationship plays. Inheritance is a family matter hence it is divided as per everyone’s role and responsibility in the family.
But before I start let me tell those who started giving females share of inheritance not even 100 years ago and that too came with restrictions. Such people should not debate with those who have been giving female share of inheritance for over 1400 years. Just by sheer experience we know 14 times more than you know about how to distribute inheritance.
Few years ago till I had my children, my sister was the highest recipient of my inheritance, followed by my mother, then father and then my wife. My mother would have inherited twice that my father would have inherited, so those who think Islam is discriminatory towards women should bring me answer to that, why is mother inheriting twice than father. Today after a boy and two girls my sister gets nothing, and my parents get an equal share. I will lay some ground rules here for inheritance in Islam, and then justify everything through my own example.
The first rule of inheritance is that the debts need to be settled before anything is distributed. The second rule is when a person is on his deathbed he ceases to be owner of his wealth, as soon as signs of death starts showing, the estate ceases to be his and passes to his heirs. Third rule is anything given to anyone before signs of death become visible, that is considered gift, inheritance rules apply only after sign of death are visible. The fourth rule is that only a living will inherit and dead will not inherit, ie, if I die while my father is alive, my children will not be my father’s heir. Fifth rule is only upto 1/3 of inheritance can be made into will and given to whomsoever the owner wants to give, the rest 2/3 HAS to go to those with fixed shares as prescribed in Islam. Sixth rule is that the 1/3 of inheritance that can be given to anyone, CAN NOT be given to anyone who is already receiving a fixed share in the 2/3 of inheritance. This 1/3 of the inheritance is for those who are not inheriting, it is this allocation that can be used for cases like grandchildren whose parents have died.
These two Ayahs from Quran are the foundations of how inheritance is to be distributed among various relation
So let us see how I get inheritance through a table, I am the youngest child in my family, hence when I was born, my parents had already had my sister. Let us suppose that my father leaves £100 in inheritance
|My Father With a Son & Daughter||After My Grandmother died, ie today||If my Mother died before my Father||If my Father died Earlier|
So let us start with the role my father has in the family, he is supposed to take care of all financial needs of my Granny who was alive when I was born, although my Grandpa was no more. My father has responsibility of my mother for 4 months and 10 days after his death (if the wife is pregnant, till the baby is born), and he had life long financial responsibility for my sister and my responsibility till I was an adult.
With my father’s death, everyone suffers a loss, but my Granny is among the hardest hit. She is old, frail and on medication, a son would have funded her through her old age, but he is now gone, hence a generous share is allocated to parents (if both of my father’s parents were alive they would have inherited (1/3 of my father’s estate, 1/6 each, but since only my grandma is alive, she gets 1/6). Now, my Grandma would have to wait till her grandson, ie I became old enough to take care of her, till that time it is hoped that her other children and surely this amount that she inherits from my father, helps her with her expenses. As stated previously, I not only inherit my father’s estate with most generous share, I also inherit his responsibilities, hence caring for my Granny is not just a duty but also an obligation and if I were to refuse to take care of my grandmother, she can take me to an Islamic court where I would be forced to fix a reasonable amount for her.
Next my mother, she has obviously lost her husband so it is a big deal, she has to stay back in her husband’s home for another 4 months and 10 days, thereafter she is free to marry anyone she wants to. I and my sister are not my mother’s responsibility but my father’s brother, who would take charge of his brother’s estate, till children grow up. Again for those who are saying why should mother be not in charge, because if she wants to marry someone else who does not want someone else’s children, she can leave her children with their paternal uncle, they are not her responsibility but my father’s brother’s. But no one can take children away from mother if she does not want to give, but if the mother wants the father’s family to take care of children, it is duty and responsibility father’s family to to raise children of their son or brother.
Lastly, it is my sister and I, as child our estate would remain in custody of my Paternal Uncle, who is supposed to take of me and my sister. He is allowed to take something reasonable as expenses he has made on us, even wages (if poor) but nothing else.
When I and my sister grow up, my uncle has to give us our inheritance. Thus he divides the inheritance, gives my sister her share of inheritance, and I get double of whatever my sister got, but I also get all the financial responsibility of my sister. I have to fund everything for her, while her money is her money that she can spend on anything. I have known brothers who kept their young widow sister, all through their lives in their homes, spending 100-1000 more than what they more in share of inheritance. And it does not just end with the sister, if she has children with no husband or source of income, the responsibility of the her children also comes on the brother. My mother’s uncle kept her young widowed sister in his house all throughout her life, while knowing fully well not to expect any compensation. When another of his young sister died and her widowed sister wanted to keep her orhpaned niece with her, he accepted the niece as well. My mother’s uncle paid for both of them all through his life, because both of them were his responsibilities, he loved and cherished them. Yes he did get twice the share than the sisters, but he must have spent 100 times more than the additional share he inherited.
Same thing applies to me, God Forbid if something goes wrong in my sister’s life, all her financial responsibilities are transferred to first my father and then to me and then to my son. And if I were to shy away from my responsibilities either towards my sister or my mother, they can take my court which will force to fulfill my obligations. Such laws are quite common in eastern societies, not just in Islam but modern India and China have laws that force children to take care of their parents in their old age, and they could even go to prison for not doing that. But, unlike modern China and India, where such caring laws are only for parents, Islam has extended to all close female relatives. Even if an aunt of mine has no one to take her, she becomes my responsibility because my father inherited more than she did, and this additional inheritance of my father might have trickled down to me. And of course, if I do not take care of such an aunt, she can take me to court and have it enforced on me.
Economically speaking, these ignorant people who masquerade as experts on Islam criticising its inheritance laws do not see the responsibility that it comes with. Having this additional inheritance is not a good news for males because it comes with an unacceptable economic risk attached, ie life long responsilibity. Any person who has ever worked in Risks would tell you to drop the additional inheritance because it comes with too many strings attached, it is not a beneficial deal.
Coming back to a very real scenario, my elder sister gets half of what I get, but think of this, most women outlive their husbands. So it is far more likely that she will become my responsibility or my son’s. The additional inheritance I get is never going to compensate for the money I will have to spend on my sister when she is my responsibility. If I was asked whether I would trade away this responsibility for giving up the double share I got? Economically it makes sense, the risk of having to take care of not just your sisters but nieces as well, this risk is just not worth the additional inheritance one gets. But as far as answer to the question is concerned, NO WE WILL NEVER trade our responsibilities toward our female relatives. We are raised to be loving and generous to our female relatives, we have been given their financial responsibility and it is not a burden for us. We are happy to take care of our sisters, mothers, aunts, grannies and our nieces. Allah has given us a bit of extra share to help but truly, should need arise it is never going to be substantial enough to compensate for the money we will have to spend on them.
The others I will inherit from would be my mother (whose distribution of will be exactly like my father’s), my wife and my sister (because she only has one daughter).
Next let us take the case of my inheritance from my wife, to keep the confusion to minimum we are only analysing the current scenario and not what would have happened if there was another scenario. My wife’s inheritance will be divided like this if she dies in the current scenario with £100
|My Father in Law||My Mother in Law||I i.e. Her Husband||Her 1st Daughter||Her 2nd Daughter||Her Son|
Another interesting feat of my family inheritance is that I not only inherit from my parents (as above) and my wife (1/4), I will also inherit from my sister as she has only one daughter, so it allows us to explore another scenario. One third of my sister’s wealth would be inherited by my parents (ie 1/6 each) as they are among those with primary responsibility for my niece. Her husband ie my brother in law will inherit 1/4 of what she leaves, like I inherited from my wife. And the rest will be divided equally between me and my only niece. And I have this allocation because I am responsible for well being of my niece, she is my responsibility (after father, paternal side and my parents). So in simple terms if my sister dies under current circumstance with £100, this is how her inheritance would be divided if she left £100
Every scenario one after the other, the criteria for allotment of share is the role and responsibility a relationship plays in the family/household. Now let me show you how my inheritance has worked out in last few years. If I would have died at the time-points how my estate would have been divided. And keep your focus on how the allocation is fair and linked to each relationship is their share in terms of my responsibility towards them, and if I leave them with my responsibilities.
|Unmarried||Married with no Children*||Married with 1 Daughter||Married with 2 Daughters||Married with 2 daughters and a son|
* There are different interpretations in this case, some say the siblings get nothing and mother gets 1/3, father gets 1/6 and the spouse gets everything else.
General principle says, in case of my death the first custodian of my estate would be my Son, if he was too young or not born, then it would be my father then mother then sister…. so on and so forth.
So if I had died when I was not married and had no hiers my mothers gets 1/3, and father gets 1/6. The rest would go to my brothers and sisters, since I only have a sister, all of it goes to my sister. I am dead and I haven’t left anyone behind to take care, hence my wealth is being divided among those who would have benefited from my life. My parents and siblings.
Next scenario is when I get married. Here my father receive his share of 1/6 each, and my mother gets double of my father, hence 1/3. The new entrant is my wife who gets 1/4 on my death, as I have no children, so her share is larger and the rest goes to my siblings, ie my sister. Again as I am not leaving anyone who would become someone’s responsibility, my inheritance is being divided among those who would have benefited from my life. Some others say that nothing would go sister, 50% would go to parents and the rest to spouse.
Now comes the more complicated scenario as I am leaving children behind. I am dead with my first daughter, someone has to take care of her, send her to school, buy her dresses, take her out and give a good childhood, whosoever does that must get some compensation as unlike a son for whom no one has lifelong financial responsibility, responsibility for my daughter comes with her entire life. Moving to what I leave in inheritance, my parents gets their usual £33.33 (ie 1/6 each), as they would be seen as primary caregiver and financier for my children. My wife’s share gets halved as I am leaving a child behind hence instead of getting 1/4 she is getting her 1/8th and whatever is left is to be divided among my daughter who gets half of whatever is left, and my siblings gets the rest of the half. Now, the money that is being given to my siblings is a kind of compensation for them as they hold primary responsibility (after my parents) of taking care of my daughter. While my parents may die in sooner, but most likely my daughter and sister would have lived much longer together. And hence she would have been responsible for my daughter for a much longer time, hence a much larger compensation. Another good reason for my sister’s share is that because I am no longer their to support her in case something goes wrong in her life, and I have not left a son behind who bears the financial responsibility.
Situation changes again when I had my second daughter. My parents and wive’s share remains the same, but the share of my children, my two girls remains linked with my siblings as they would become responsible for them during the lifetime of my parents and after it. But this time, the share allocated to two daughters is 2/3 and my sister is 1/3. Even if I would have had a third daughter, the three sister would have to split their 2/3 share into 3 parts, while my Sister would have got 1/3, ie in this scenario sister’s share would be greater than each of my daughters’ individual shares. Again as you can see, everyone is being give share according to the role they play in the family and the responsibilities that being pushed over to their shoulder. Since my sister is going to be funding my daughter, she must not get any lesser share as her responsibilities are getting bigger, hence my daughters are taking a cut.
And lastly, with the birth of my son, someone is born who will bear my financial responsibilities, hence my siblings will not inherit my financial responsibility, hence they will also not inherit any share from my inheritance. Even if something was to go wrong in my sister’s life, my son is there to take responsibilities of his father. So my sister should not inherit anything now, but my son inherits her responsibility as I got a share double her size. My parents and wife’s share remains the same as they are still the primary financiers of my children’s expenses till they grow up.
After reading all this I hope that you know that the reason it is okay for my son to inherit double the share than her sisters, is because my son is taking over my financial responsibilities towards my parents, sisters and daughters. My daughters do not inherit any of these responsibilities, hence their share is smaller than their brother’s. It is fair and just for the brother to inherit twice that of sisters, because it comes with additional responsibilities that can be enforced in any Islamic court and society. My son can not say that I am not going to take care of my paternal aunt or sisters, they are his responsibility and court will order him to pay them, the judge can go to the limits of seizing my son’s property and could even sell it to raise funding to fulfill my son’s obligations.
I do not know any other society that has such enforceable laws to take care of aunts, sisters and nieces. For this reason it would be great injustice to the son or brother to burden him with financial responsibilities of his father without giving him extra compensation. Hence it is just and fair for son to inherit more than daughters.