Articles/Submissions > Inheritance
By Mahnaz B.
Compiled by: Mahnaz Badoran
Translated by: Ameneh Ayati
Edited by: Hajar Sinsuat
One of the oldest traditions of human history is ownership through inheritance, which like many other prevalent customs, has gone through lots of changes and transformations.
Inheritance is the property obtained by the immediate family and relatives of a deceased person after his/her death. It’s also defined as the right of a person for the possession of the above-mentioned property. The desire that one’s children and family possess one’s properties after death is innate in human beings. In fact, inheritance in Islam aims to determine where one’s property is to go after his death; which is implemented through special laws and regulations.
According to Islam’s point of view, acquiring the properties of a deceased person is authorized in two ways:
1. Kinship, which has nothing to do with the deceased person’s free will; and
2. The Will (bequest) of the deceased, which is legally binding and can be executed according to the wishes of the deceased.
Kinship is either affinity by blood like the relationship between children and their parents or affinity by marriage, including results of such union. Granting women the right of ownership at the pre-Islamic Era of Ignorance (Jahiliyah) was the impetus of an unprecedented advancement at that time. Before that, women were considered as chattels and thus could be owned by other people after their husband’s death; an act that destroyed their human dignity and respect.
Allah (S.W.T) said in the Holy Qur’an:
" لِّلرِّجَالِ نَصيِبٌ مِّمَّا تَرَكَ الْوَالِدَانِ وَالأَقْرَبُونَ وَلِلنِّسَاء نَصِيبٌ مِّمَّا تَرَكَ الْوَالِدَانِ وَالأَقْرَبُونَ مِمَّا قَلَّ مِنْهُ أَوْ كَثُرَ نَصِيبًا مَّفْرُوضًا" (النساء-7 )
“Men shall have a portion of what the parents and the near relatives leave, and women shall have a portion of what the parents and the near relatives leave, whether there is
little or much of it; a stated portion.” (An-Nisa’: 7)
These Divine Commands were the catalysts that were like miracles creating great transformations in the status quo of that era. Through this right, the oppression against women rooted in history was eliminated, resulting in the acceptance of women as equal to men in terms of making decisions about their possessions.
" يُوصِيكُمُ اللّهُ فِي أَوْلاَدِكُمْ لِلذَّكَرِ مِثْلُ حَظِّ الأُنثَيَيْنِ فَإِن كُنَّ نِسَاء فَوْقَ اثْنَتَيْنِ فَلَهُنَّ ثُلُثَا مَا تَرَكَ وَإِن كَانَتْ وَاحِدَةً فَلَهَا
النِّصْفُ وَلأَبَوَيْهِ لِكُلِّ وَاحِدٍ مِّنْهُمَا السُّدُسُ مِمَّا تَرَكَ إِن كَانَ لَهُ وَلَدٌ فَإِن لَّمْ يَكُن لَّهُ وَلَدٌ وَوَرِثَهُ أَبَوَاهُ فَلأُمِّهِ الثُّلُثُ فَإِن كَانَ لَهُ إِخْوَةٌ فَلأُمِّهِ السُّدُسُ ..." (النساء-11 )
“Allah enjoins you concerning your children: The male shall have the equal of the portion of two females; then if they are more than two females, they shall have two-thirds of what the deceased has left, and if there is one, she shall have the half; and as for his parents, each of them shall have the sixth of what he has left if he has a child, but if he has no child and (only) his two parents inherit him, then his mother shall have the third; but if he has brothers, then his mother shall have the sixth…”
Generally, the women’s portion of inheritance compared to that of men is in one of the following forms:
1. Man and woman having equal portions of inheritance;
When the parents of the deceased are alive, each inherits 1/6. In this case, the father’s portion does not exceed that of the mother because of being a male. Also, the portion of inheritance is equal for the siblings born from the same mother, the mother’s sisters, father’s sisters and mother’s brothers. Whenever the parents and children of the deceased are the only people inheriting the property of the deceased, the portion of inheritance for parents is also equal (1/6).
2. Woman’s portion exceeding that of man;
In case the only people inheriting the deceased are his father and daughter, the father’s portion is sixth whereas the daughter inherits the rest of the property. Another example is when the deceased has grandchildren with his children already deceased (had died in his lifetime); in this case, the son’s child inherits the portion of his father, the daughter’s child, the portion of his mother. If the son’s child is a girl and the daughter’s child is a boy, then the girl inherits the equal of two portions of the boy.
3. Man’s portion exceeding that of woman; like the daughter who inherits less than her brother(s).
It is noteworthy that the critics are usually sensitive to the third form ignoring the other two. The additional portion for the man in the third part is compatible with the responsibilities that accompany his right for additional portion. So, it must not be defined as the superiority of male over the female or a value for men that women are deprived of.
Apparently, men inherit twice as much as women do, but practically, men are responsible for all family expenses; whereas, women, free of any such kind of duties, are only responsible to obey their husbands. That’s the meeting point where balance is achieved.
Accordingly, Allamah Tabataba’i, in his commentary of the Holy Qur’an, “Al-Mizan”, Volume 4, has said:
“Based on this Islamic rule, women possess one third of the total property of the world with the other two thirds also owned by them under their husbands’ supervision. Men have various responsibilities to take care of whereas, women, free from their family’s financial obligations, can freely take the control of their own portion (one third) as if their husbands’ possessions are all theirs as well. So, it’s not right to speak in general that women always inherit the equal of half of men because there are some cases when they inherit equally or even sometimes, women’s portion exceeds that of men. There are only a few cases in which men inherit more than women.”
Imam Reza (P) has said:
“When a woman marries, she receives dowry (marriage portion) from her husband; he is responsible for all the family’s expenses. He must support his wife and provide her completely in terms of finances. The woman has no financial responsibility in her married life. That’s why men have more rights regarding the inheritance portion.”
(“Wasa’il-As-Shia”, Horre Aameli, Vol. 17, p. 437)
In conclusion, it’s important to know that the Islamic rules of inheritance are a set of rights to be observed for the fulfillment of the Divine Commands according to expediencies. Additional clauses can be included in the implementation of these rights upon the bequest of the deceased, within the bounds set by Islamic guidelines.