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Islamic Ideology (19 Aug 2015 NewAgeIslam.Com)



Inheritance Related Calculations Based On the Quran



By Naseer Ahmed, New Age Islam

19 August 2015

There are only three main verses relating to inheritance based on which books have been written to cover all possible situations which number 200 or more. Imagine the Quran containing say 200 verses covering each distinct case of inheritance alone! The Quran covers the subject in three verses and these three verses are both necessary and sufficient to cover every possibility. However, it requires us to know some basic school level arithmetic covering fractions and proportions and nothing more. It is not at all surprising however, that there are very few who have even such rudimentary knowledge of arithmetic because of which they blame God that He does not know His arithmetic!

The three verses are:

(4:11) Allah (thus) directs you as regards your Children´s (Inheritance): to the male, a portion equal to that of two females: if 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 the inheritance to each, if the deceased left children; if no children, and the parents are the (only) heirs, the mother has a third; if the deceased Left brothers (or sisters) the mother has a sixth. (The distribution in all cases (´s) after the payment of legacies and debts. Ye know not whether your parents or your children are nearest to you in benefit. These are settled portions ordained by Allah; and Allah is All-knowing, Al-wise.

From 4:11 above, we deduce that siblings of the deceased inherit only in the absence of child of the deceased. The presence or absence of parents of the deceased has no effect.

(12) In what your wives leave, your share is a half, if they leave no child; but if they leave a child, ye get a fourth; after payment of legacies and debts. In what ye leave, their share is a fourth, if ye leave no child; but if ye leave a child, they get an eighth; after payment of legacies and debts. If the man or woman whose inheritance is in question, has left neither ascendants nor descendants, but has left a brother or a sister, each one of the two gets a sixth; but if more than two, they share in a third; after payment of legacies and debts; so that no loss is caused (to any one). Thus is it ordained by Allah; and Allah is All-knowing, Most Forbearing.

The Arabic word Kalala has been translated as “without ascendants and descendants”. My view is that it means without descendants alone since we have seen in 4:11 that siblings inherit when parents of the deceased are survivors but not when a descendant or child of the deceased is a survivor. The same applies for the word Kalala used in 4:176 below.

(176) They ask thee for a legal decision. Say: Allah directs (thus) about those who leave no descendants or ascendants as heirs. If it is a man that dies, leaving a sister but no child, she shall have half the inheritance: If (such a deceased was) a woman, who left no child, Her brother takes her inheritance: If there are two sisters, they shall have two-thirds of the inheritance (between them): if there are brothers and sisters, (they share), the male having twice the share of the female. Thus doth Allah make clear to you (His law), lest ye err. And Allah hath knowledge of all things.

The brother/sister in 4:12 is understood to be uterine brother/sister meaning having a common mother but different father. Otherwise, 4:176 would appear to contradict 4:12. Also, uterine siblings can inherit only in the absence of descendants and siblings from common father.

The division starts after all debts of the deceased are settled including outstanding Mehar (if any) and one year maintenance of his wife or wives and the legacies or the will of the deceased if he has left a will.

The deceased leaves assets in the form of property, cash, jewellery etc. All assets can be valued and it is the value that is divided and each inheritor can then choose in what form he will take his share of the value. What cannot be divided can then be sold and converted to cash or the excess/shortfall settled in cash. For example, if a property is worth Rs 40 lacs and a person’s inheritance is determined as Rs 30 lacs, he could still choose to take the property by paying Rs 10 lacs which will be used to settle the inheritance of the rest. This person will then obviously not take anything from the Jewellery and other assets because he has taken the full value of his inheritance from the property alone.

Let us work through a few examples to understand the principle of distribution enunciated in the Quran.

A couple of points can be stated upfront: A son (or a brother in the absence of descendants), always inherit as residuary or what is left after those with fixed fractions are given their share. In the presence of a son, the daughter inherits as a residuary. In the absence of a son, the daughter(s) inherit as residuary if what remains after those with fixed proportions get their share is less than the maximum fixed share of the daughter(s) or as inheritor with fixed fraction if what remains is more than their maximum fixed share. The same goes for a sister with/without brother.

When there are residuary, the maximum residuary is 1 or 100% and the minimum residuary is after reducing the share of spouse, and both parents. If the deceased is a male, then the minimum residuary is (1-(1/8+1/6+1/6))= 13/24

If the deceased is a female, then the minimum residuary is (1-(1/4+1/6+1/6)) =5/12

So there is never a problem about distribution when there is a residuary meaning either a son or a brother in the absence of a child or children.

When there is no residuary (neither a son or brother) and only inheritors with fixed fractions, then it goes without saying that the fixed fractions will in general not add upto 1. Such a case is dealt with by treating the fractions as relative proportions for the distribution.

For example, if a person is survived by only parents and no children or spouse or siblings, then the fathers fixed share is 1/6 and mother’s 1/3, Since there are no other inheritors, the fractions will be treated as proportions and the father and mother will inherit in the proportion 1/6:1/3 or  1/6:2/6 or 1:2 and the father will inherit 1/3 and the mother 2/3.The calculation follows simple rules of logic and arithmetic and there is no flaw in the Quran. Those who talk about arithmetical flaw in the Quran are poor in logic and arithmetic.

In general, when there is no residuary as inheritor, treat the fractions as the relative proportion for distribution.

Now take the case when a person is survived by both parents and one daughter only. Each of the parent’s share is then 1/6 and the daughters is ½ or less. Now since the residuary after each of the parents get 1/6 is 2/3 which is more than ½, the daughter’s share will also be treated as a fixed fraction. They will therefore inherit in the ratio 1/6:1/6:1/2 0r 1:1:3. The father gets 1/5, the mother 1/5 and the daughter 3/5. Notice that each one gets more than the fixed fraction because the fixed fractions add upto less than 1. However the final distribution is in accordance with the law since the proportion of each inheritor is maintained.

Take the case of the deceased survived by both parents and 2 daughters. The fixed share of two or more daughters is 2/3 or less. Since after the parents are given their share of 1/6 each, what remains is exactly 2/3, the two sisters will share this equally or each one gets 1/3. This is a rare case when the fixed fractions add upto 1. If we solve this problem with proportions also we get the same result as may be expected.  The proportions now are: 1/6:1/6:2/3 = 1:1:4 The father therefore gets 1/6, mother 1/6 and each of the two sisters get 2/6 (=1/3).

Let us now take the case of a person survived by his wife, both parents and 2 daughters.

What remains after the wife gets her share of 1/8 and each parent 1/6 is (1-(1/8+1/6+1/6)) = 13/24 which is less than 2/3. The daughters will now inherit as residuary and each one will get 13/48.

Now consider the case where the deceased is survived by only one parent and two daughters.

The proportions now are 1/6:2/3 or 1:4 The parent gets 1/5 and each of the two daughters get 2/5

The calculations with son/brother as residuary are shown below:

Let us say a man is survived by a son and daughter only (no spouse, parents or grandparents).

The son gets 2/3 and the daughter 1/3.

In general, if there are x sons and y daughters only, then the share of each son is 2/(2x+y) and the share of each daughter = 1/(2x+y). If the sons and daughters are residuary then the share of each son = (residual fraction)*2/(2x+y) and the share of each daughter = (residual fraction)*1/(2x+y)

Now let us take the case where a man is survived by spouse, both parents and a son and a daughter.

The wife gets her fixed share of 1/8 and each of the parents 1/6, leaving a residual of 13/24 which is distributed among the son and the daughter in the ratio 2:1 or the son gets 2/3*(13/24) = 26/72 and the daughter 13/72.

The share of the son and daughter in the residue could also have been calculated using the formula: Share of each son = (residual fraction)*2/(2x+y) and the share of each daughter = (residual fraction)*1/(2x+y), where x and y are the number of sons and daughters respectively. In this case, since x and y are both 1, the share of son = 13/24*(2/(2*1+1) )= 26/72 and the share of the daughter = 13/24*(1/3)=13/72

Let us consider a controversial case. Let us say a deceased is survived by only daughter and sister (no parents, spouse or brother).

According to 4:11, if only daughter, her share is ½ and according to 4:176, if only single sister without brother her share is ½. So do the daughter and sister inherit ½ each? Remember that siblings inherit only in the absence of descendants and the daughter is a descendant. Siblings cannot inherit when there are descendants. The daughter therefore inherits 100%. Most Muftis are likely to not allow a daughter more than ½ as per 4:11 which is clearly incorrect.

With the help of the examples worked out above, the methodology has been made clear and you should now be able to work out any case.

All the above rules derive logically from the Quran. If the Quran was to explicitly cover each and every situation, a separate chapter with 200 verses would have been required just to cover each distinct case of inheritance since the number of combinations of inheritors in the absence of a male who is a residuary run into more than 200.

Read a book on inheritance and try to cover the same in three verses and then you will be able to appreciate the beauty of these verses which succinctly cover every case but require us to use rules of logic and arithmetic.

Disclaimer: You can trust our Ulema to muddy the clearest of waters. This subject is more amenable for muddying than any other subject because very few understand it in any case. You will therefore find variations depending upon the various schools of jurisprudence. I have not followed any school but directly derived the rules from the three verses in the Quran and rules of logic and arithmetic.

Naseer Ahmed is an Engineering graduate from IIT Kanpur and is an independent IT consultant after having served in both the Public and Private sector in responsible positions for over three decades. He is a frequent contributor to NewAgeIslam.com.

URL: http://www.newageislam.com/islamic-ideology/naseer-ahmed,-new-age-islam/inheritance-related-calculations-based-on-the-quran/d/104318





TOTAL COMMENTS:-   22


  • The purpose of the previous comment was also to show that the various sayings and reports in the form of the ahadith are a record of the human struggle to come to grips with divine guidance on inheritance but not succeeding too well as none of these provide a solution in conformity with the Quran. The shortcoming in the human effort is on account of the lack of required knowledge of Math and logical inferences among the people of the seventh century. This establishes in no uncertain terms, the limitation of the ahadith as merely products of human thinking. We can also see that the Quran is on a different plane altogether and not a product of the human mind. If the Quran was the word of the Prophet, then verse 4:176 should have been in accordance with the hadith which says that whatever remains after the faraid shares are distributed goes to the nearest male relative.  Doing so would have solved all problems of distribution. The Quran however does not say that but merely relaxes the rule for inheritance by siblings in the absence of children to be similar to that of the children making the brother a full residuary just like a son. However the residue for distribution is reduced since the share of the spouse is doubled in the absence of progeny of the deceased. It is easy to see that the divine guidance is not diluted merely to suit what the people of the seventh century could understand, although some allowance was made when verse 4:176 was revealed. However, the fact that 4:176 was not meant to be is also clear which makes it possible for later generations to treat it as a temporary measure for those times which can be discontinued now. The reason why the Muslims have struggled to this date with the inheritance laws is because we take the ahadith seriously even when the defects glare us in the face. The ahadiths in this case are no more than quick fix solutions not meant to become a rule since these do not even conform to the Quran.


    By Naseer Ahmed - 9/1/2015 4:57:23 AM



  • The purpose of the previous comment was also to show that the various sayings and reports in the form of ahadith dealing with the issue of inheritance are a record of  human struggle to come to grips with divine guidance and not succeeding too well. It shows the limitations of the ahadith to provide guidance as none of them provide a solution in conformity with the Quran on account of  the lack of required knowledge of Math and logical inferences which was beyond the ability of the people of the seventh century. This also underlies the fact that the divine guidance is not tailored for the infirmities of the people of the seventh century, although some allowance and accommodation was made when verse 4:176 was revealed.
    .

    By Naseer Ahmed - 9/1/2015 3:00:56 AM



  • The following ahadith show that people in the Prophet's times struggled with how to deal with what remains after the fixed sharers get their share in the absence of a son who is a residuary in its purest sense and can inherit all that remains even if it is 100%.

     80:726  Narrated Al-Aswad bin Yazid: Mu'adh bin Jabal came to us in Yemen as a tutor and a ruler, and we (the people of Yemen) asked him about (the distribution of the property of ) a man who had died leaving a daughter and a sister. Mu'adh gave the daughter one-half of the property and gave the sister the other half.  

      Please make a note that as per verse 4:12, siblings of the deceased inherit only in the absence of a child and since the daughter is a child, siblings are not entitled to inherit.  The hadith therefore contradicts the Quran.

     727 Narrated Ibn 'Abbas: Allah's Apostle said, "Give the Fara'id (shares prescribed in the Qur'an) to those who are entitled to receive it; and whatever remains, should be given to the closest male relative of the deceased.'  

     The hadith above also is not supported by the Quran. There is no verse which talks about what to do with what remains. The hadith prescribes an arbitrary rule to take care of what remains in the absence of a satisfactory solution which the people of those times could not find.

     728  Narrated Huzail bin Shirahbil: Abu Musa was asked regarding (the inheritance of) a daughter, a son's daughter, and a sister. He said, "The daughter will take one-half and the sister will take one-half. If you go to Ibn Mas'ud, he will tell you the same." Ibn Mas'ud was asked and was told of Abu Musa's verdict. Ibn Mas'ud then said, "If I give the same verdict, I would stray and would not be of the rightly-guided. The verdict I will give in this case, will be the same as the Prophet did, i.e. one-half is for daughter, and one-sixth for the son's daughter, i.e. both shares make two-thirds of the total property; and the rest is for the sister." Afterwards we came to Abu Musa and informed him of Ibn Mas'ud's verdict, whereupon he said, "So, do not ask me for verdicts, as long as this learned man is among you."  

     The above hadith has value since it prescribes what can be inherited by the daughter of a predeceased son. In my view, it should be half for the daughter and half for the son’s daughter. Sister does not inherit in the presence of a child of the deceased as per verse 4:12 or 4:176 of the Quran.

     18:2885 Narrated Jabir ibn Abdullah: We went out with the Apostle of Allah (peace_be_upon_him) and came to a woman of the Ansar in al-Aswaf. The woman brought her two daughters, and said: Apostle of Allah, these are the daughters of Thabit ibn Qays who was killed as a martyr when he was with you at the battle of Uhud, their paternal uncle has taken all their property and inheritance, and he has not left anything for them. What do you think, Apostle of Allah? They cannot be married unless they have some property. The Apostle of Allah (peace_be_upon_him) said: Allah will decide regarding the matter. Then the verse of Surat an-Nisa was revealed: "Allah (thus) directs you as regards your children's (inheritance)." Apostle of Allah (peace_be_upon_him) said: Call to me the woman and her husband's brother. He then said to their paternal uncle: Give them two-thirds and their mother an eighth, and what remains is yours.  

     The hadith above is also dealing with the problem of what to do with what remains and giving what remains to the brother of the deceased although the brother is not entitled to receive anything as per verse 4:12 or 4:176.

     736 Narrated Al-Bara: The last Quranic Verse that was revealed (to the Prophet) was the final Verse of Surat-an-Nisa, i.e., 'They ask you for a legal verdict Say: Allah directs (thus) About those who leave No descendants or ascendants as heirs....' (4.176)  

     The last hadith confirms what I said about verse 4:176 in my earlier comment which is reproduced.

     Verse 4:176 was never meant to be. Verses 4:11 and 4:12 contain all that is needed on the subject of inheritance. Verse 4:176 is one of the last verses revealed after Surah Maida and Taubah although Surah 4 or An Nisa where this verse finds a place was revealed much earlier. It was revealed after a persistent demand for clarity by people who did not know how to deal with the problem when the fractions do not add upto 1. 

    If the deceased died without child/children or without a residuary, which must have been a common occurrence with many men/women dying young because of war/disease or in childbirth, the people had a problem dividing the inheritance with the fractions not adding upto 1.  Verse 4:176, in the absence of children or residuary, simply makes the siblings take the place of residuary with the brothers and sisters inheriting exactly as sons and daughters would, thus solving the problem of division!

    Hopefully, since we are now better at Math, verse 4:176 can be ignored as it was never meant to be. The division for brother and sister in 4:12 which is different from the modified division in verse 4:176 is what it was originally meant to be. Notice that brothers and sisters inherit equally in verse 4:12 and together not exceeding 1/3 and individually not exceeding 1/6 irrespective of their number. It makes sense since siblings are least deserving compared with spouse, parents and children because of which they do not have any share at all if the deceased left behind children.  Siblings actually fit the definition of Kalala which means a weak relationship. In this case, the weakness refers to their entitlement in the inheritance. 

    Scholars could not explain the division for siblings in 4:12 which is overridden in 4:176  by a different rule and have given a far-fetched explanation that the division in 4:12 refers to the division for uterine siblings! Some conjecture!

    My explanation for verse 4:176 is also conjecture. It however makes sense since people even today are weak in Math and have a problem when the fractions do not add upto 1. That verse 4:176 was added after a long gap and persistent demands for clarity is however fact as evidenced by the cited hadith and the fact that it is the last verse number 176 in the Surah.


    By Naseer Ahmed - 9/1/2015 12:41:29 AM



  • Dear SR,

    The following verse speaks about leaving behind a will:

    (2:180) It is prescribed, when death approaches any of you, if he leave any goods that he make a bequest to parents and next of kin, according to reasonable usage; this is due from the Allah-fearing.

    The verses regarding inheritance are subsequent to the revelation of the above verse. Be that as it may, I do not believe in any theory of abrogation and the verse above is good in Islamic law unless overridden by man-made laws. Moreover, both the verses 4:11 and 4:12 talk about distribution after the payment of legacies (meaning will or bequests) and debts. If all of the assets are covered in the will and nothing remains for distribution beyond the will, it is the will that then becomes the basis for distribution. The inheritance as per the law in 4:11 and 4:12 is therefore for cases where the deceased has died intestate or has not covered all his/her assets by the will.

    Having said that, the fiq of the imams says that not more than 1/3 may be covered under a will and the beneficiary of a will cannot be a natural heir who inherits as per the laws of inheritance. The will therefore can cover only those who are not natural heirs such as an adopted child or the children of a predeceased child etc. In countries where this fiq is law which appears to be the case in Dubai, a will that dispossesses fully or partially one heir to benefit another is null and void. Under these laws the relative proportions of the heirs cannot be varied through a will.

    In general, there is value in having a stable and fixed law and the fiq of the imams has considerable merit. In the absence of such certainty and rigidity, the children in general will show a tendency to exert pressure on their parents to garner a larger share leading to much heart burning and intense rivalries. In their wisdom, the imams have put the issue beyond all such pulls and pressures and several countries have codified it into law. In my opinion this is good fiq and good law and saves everyone from unnecessary pressures.


    By Naseer Ahmed - 8/31/2015 9:36:35 AM



  • Are the divine laws the best for all people over the ages? Are there not situations when injustice may have been done? I know a case of a man who came to the Bank with a will saying that he wanted to give more to the daughter and less to the son because the daughter took care of him and the son did not care. This was in Dubai. However, when he died, the will was disregarded saying that it has no place in Islamic law. What do you think?

    By SR - 8/31/2015 8:59:11 AM



  • Dear SR,  Do have a look at the tool and play around with it. The meaning of the verses will become crystal clear. The advantage with the tool is that it requires no words to explain. Take any hypothetical situation and combination of heirs and you have an immediate answer. Validate the answer with the verses. After you do this for several examples, you will gain perfect understanding of the verses. You will then also be able to see what is wrong with the numerous books on the subject which cover gaps in understanding through numerous arbitrary rules which perhaps relate to the fiq on the subject or some hadith or the other. There is no need to rely on any other source since the Quran does a perfect job of laying down the rules without ambiguity. Without doubt, ambiguity has been there about these laws in the past due to lack of comprehension. The good thing about any correct solution however is that once the correct solution is given and explained, all ambiguity and confusion evaporates. 

    The only area fiq needs to cover and probably does is what if father/mother of the deceased is predeceased but paternal/maternal grandparent(s) are alive. In my opinion, the father's/mother's share should then go to his/her parent(s).

    So also, if the son/daughter of the deceased  is predeceased but survived by children, then what would have been the share of the son/daughter had he/she been alive should be distributed among his/her children.

    By Naseer Ahmed - 8/31/2015 2:26:12 AM



  • I am yet to see your spreadsheet tool, but I read your article about 6 times trying to rework your examples. The verses are brilliant. However, if there is an almighty and theses verses are from that source, there are many other creations that are far more intriguing than compressing all required inheritance rules in just two verses. For example, consider the details in the functioning of our body parts, or the creation of human brain. What I don't understand is why, even after having these rules for so many centuries,  families with Islamic values have always fought over inheritance rules. Probably that is human nature. In all these, what got my attention, though,  is your excellent work in understanding and explaining these verses.
    By SR - 8/31/2015 12:59:12 AM



  • I have prepared an Excel file to calculate inheritance for any combination of heirs. You may write to naseer.hmed@yahoo.in to obtain it or write to the Editor and request him to forward it to you.
    Play around with it to see how the distribution works under different situations. You will be able to appreciate how  evolved, elegant and meaningful the system of inheritance is and how the same has been said in just two verses.

    By Naseer Ahmed - 8/30/2015 5:50:13 AM



  • Bro Yusuf,

    Since I have given detailed workings for several examples which includes in general x sons and y daughters with or without those with fixed shares such as spouse and parents, and also cases where there is only single daughter or two or more daughters and cases without children, it should be possible for you to be very specific and say "This is what you have said, and according to your workings or formula or methodology, the share of the heirs in the following situation works out as follows,  and this is my solution which differs from yours and the reason why I am right and you are wrong is ...". I have not left out any situation in my examples.

    Also, please see my comment below regarding uterine siblings which I agree is non Qranic and an explanation given by scholars since the distribution to siblings in 4: 12 contradicts the distribution in verse 4:176.

    By Naseer Ahmed 8/19/2015 2:30:19



    By Naseer Ahmed - 8/26/2015 10:00:33 AM



  • Brother Yusuf,
    You say "if one sixth goes to the mother then this is taken out from the total sum available, and then what IS LEFT OVER is then divided to sons, daughters etc. "

    I agree if there are no other heirs with fixed share such as father and spouse.

    This is exactly the meaning of residuary. As long as there are residuary available to take what remains after those with fixed share have taken their shares, there is no problem. 

    Go through all the worked out examples and if you have a different opinion, show in what way you differ with what I have said.

    By naseer ahmed - 8/26/2015 9:01:31 AM



  • Dear Br Naseer, you have unnecessarily gone through so many hoops to make the simple complex, and inaccurate. - “Uterine” relationship for inheritance is extraneous to Quran. - Making son, brother or a daughter as a residuary is also un-Quranic. - It was never meant to adding up all fractions to equaling to 1; and thus erring in “treating fractions as relative proportions for the distribution.” The answer lies in the simple BODMAS mathematics principle, where you solve the operations in the brackets first, then division, then multiplication, and then apply addition and subtraction. Any other way will land you at a different answer. With inheritance, if one sixth goes to the mother then this is taken out from the total sum available, and then what IS LEFT OVER is then divided to sons, daughters etc. You have missed one of the most relevant inheritance verses 4:8 in your detailed analysis, and that’s probably the reason you ended up making assumptions that are nowhere mentioned in the on
    By Yusuf, TX - 8/26/2015 3:44:13 AM



  • Rational,   You can only project your weakness of poor Math and Logic on the Quran. Did you also not say that Kaba as qibla does not make sense on a spherical earth because line of sight is not possible? You showed the thinking level of a person who can only think in terms of a flat earth and that was surprising for a telecom engineer! So there is nothing surprising if a person cannot deal with fractions that do not add upto 1. That there are a residuaries and in their absence, the fractions will not add upto 1 is a certainty. What is surprising is that anyone should even expect them to add upto 1! How to deal with it is also simple in Math. I can think of not one but three different ways which will give you the same result. 

    1. Treat the numbers as representing relative proportions.

    2. Normalization: Modified fraction = Original fraction divided by sum all the fractions.

    3. Iterative process. What remains after distribution gets redistributed using the same fractions until nothing is left for distribution.

    The Quran lays down the most comprehensive, the most reasonable, the most meaningful inheritance laws in just two verses. Try as you may to improve upon it but you will not succeed. The Quran is clearly not revealed keeping the limitations of 7th century man or of the  21 st century to understand it as it should be understood. That is why its understanding  increases progressively as our understanding of the world increases.  That is its greatness. There are people such as you who are without understanding and will never understand as the Quran itself confirms.


    By Naseer Ahmed - 8/26/2015 12:40:14 AM



  • naseer ahmed, i need not to understand the poor logic and math of the Quran.
    Since the Quran is said to be from all-knowing, all-mighty Allah, and the Quran calls itself a book easy to understand, any single weakness is in any claim is enough to refute its claim.
    and that is the reason why you jerk on any comment on the Quran.

    By rational - 8/25/2015 4:19:23 AM



  • Rational,

     I get the feeling that you have not understood the Math and the logic of the laws of inheritance although I have explained it in detail.

    Yes, if the Quran had merely listed all the possible heirs and said divide the inheritance equally among them; it would have made matters simple. God balances between what is right (those more in need and deserving should get more) with what is simple. I cannot envisage a better distribution than what is prescribed in the Quran.

    The objective of this article is also to remove the blind spots that plagued all the four imams which has seriously impacted the lives and attitudes of Muslims towards the female child.

    The discussion that follows shows the implicit logic of the distribution. 

    1. No fraction is mentioned for the male child. He can therefore inherit whatever remains after those with fixed shares have taken their share and take the rest if he is the only child or divide among the siblings with the male getting twice of what a female gets. If there are no surviving heirs with fixed share in the inheritance , then 100% is inherited by the single male child or divided among all siblings in the manner described. The male child is therefore a residuary in its purest sense.

    2. In the absence of a male child, a female child is also a residuary but becomes a heir with a fixed share of 1/2, if what remains as residuary is more than 1/2. In case the female children are two or more their fixed share together becomes 2/3. If what remains after distribution to others with fixed share is less than 2/3, they divide what remains equally among the sisters and if it is more than 2/3, they become part of fixed sharers with their collective share at 2/3. A female child is therefore also a residuary who becomes a fixed sharer if what remains is more than the upper limit fixed for her.

    3. In the absence of children, the brothers and sisters become residuary inheritors just like a female child/children but with lower upper limit of 1/6 for a single sibling and 1/3 for two or more. The siblings share equally among brothers and sisters. This takes into account only verse 4:12 ignoring 4:176  

    4. As discussed in the article, when all those with fixed share are alive, what remains for the residuary is 13/24 if the deceased was a male and 5/12 if it was a female. Since 13/24 is more than ½ and if there is a single female child, her share will then get fixed at ½ and all heirs then become heirs with fixed shares and their respective fixed share will be treated as their proportion in the inheritance and all will inherit proportionately more in the ratio 1/8:1/6:1/6:1/2  or 3:4:4:12. The wife of the deceased will now get 3/23 instead of 3/24, each of the parents will receive 4/23 instead of 4/24 and the daughter will receive 12/23 instead of 12/24. As can be seen, each one gets 24/23 times their fixed share or proportionately more.

    If the deceased is a female, and all those with fixed share are alive, then the residuary of 5/12 is less than half and all of this can be inherited by a single female child or divided among multiple siblings in the manner described.

    Every other case follows the same logic and any case can be dealt with. I can create a utility and automate the process of calculating inheritance.

    Now, let us discuss the points of departure with the existing rulings of imams of various schools of jurisprudence.

    What if the deceased is survived by only a single daughter - no spouse or parents but with siblings? Siblings can inherit only in the absence of child or descendants and daughter is very much both a child and a descendant. Siblings cannot become inheritors in the presence of child/children. The single girl therefore takes 100% of the inheritance. The upper limit of ½ fixed for a single female child is simply a number to be used as her proportion when other fixed sharers are present and the residue is more than ½ after taking into account the shares of all fixed sharers. In such a case, her share becomes ½ divided by sum of all the respective fractions. In case when the deceased is her father and all other fixed sharers are alive, we have seen that it is ½ divided by (1/8+1/6+1/6+1/2) or 1/2 divided by 23/24  or 12/23. Let us follow the same rule here to determine her share which is now ½ divided by (1/2+0) which is 1 or 100%.

    The imams however, do not allow the daughter more than ½ and make the siblings inheritors for the remaining ½. This goes against the clear wording of the verse. When people do not take the literal meaning and try to interpret unnecessarily, we end up with such problems. They have filled up tomes of fiq to fill up the gaps in their understanding thinking that the gap in their understanding is the gap in the wordings of the Quran. Deficiency in Math and logic can have serious consequences.

    Now you can understand why people are so desperate to have a male child to ensure that the inheritance remains in the family when there is actually no need for any anxiety on that count!


    By Naseer Ahmed - 8/22/2015 1:44:16 AM



  • There are several lessons that we draw from the laws of inheritance

     1. Any rearrangement of the verses would place verse 4:176 alongside 4:11 and 4:12. The special nature and historical purpose behind its delayed and reluctant revelation would be lost.

     2. The law laid down in the Quran satisfies two conditions: a) What is good for man and b) What is easy to follow. Verse 4:176 is proof that ease of following was the criterion for adding this verse although it detracted from what is "best". A less than perfect solution is better than confusion and inability to act. It is better to act and implement a less than perfect solution rather than dither faced with ambiguity and uncertainty.

     3. The notion that a male inherits twice that of a female under all circumstances is false. When a deceased is survived by both parents but without children and without siblings, the mother’s inheritance is twice that of father. No surviving siblings of the deceased means that the parents are now without surviving children for ongoing financial support and the mother is in greater need of financial support than the father who may still be able to earn for himself. Hence her portion is twice that of the father.

     4. A son undeniably has the responsibility to discharge all his parents’ debts and obligations. His inheritance of twice of daughter is therefore justified. He is also responsible to support his family including his parents and dependent siblings. A female has no such responsibility. Even in today's world with increasing number of females having become economically independent and undoubtedly many of them supporting their parents and younger siblings as well, this number overall, is still very small and insignificant. Any change in the law will free the male from his sense of duty and responsibility to the family and will harm all the females who need the financial support of their brothers. The interests of the community of economically dependent females are more important than ensuring legal parity for the economically independent woman. The will can still be used as an instrument by the parents to will equal inheritance to their sons and daughters if they so wish. 

     5. The inheritance as siblings where applicable is the same for male and female as originally legislated in 4:12. This makes sense since siblings in any case have the weakest claim on the inheritance besides the fact that they undertake no additional responsibility by being heirs of their siblings. It is a gain without any additional responsibility and does not call for making any difference between the male and the female heirs. 

     Now with both 4:12 and 4:176 in existence, we are faced with a choice to follow or not to follow 4:176 in preference to 4:12. Keeping the historical context in mind, it would be in order to legislate that 4:176 was meant to be a temporary measure for a people unable to divide the inheritance without it and that it will no longer remain in force.

     The other important observations are:

     The fixed fractions for parents and spouse protect as well as limit their inheritance. The protection for parents and spouse is understandable. The limit is also on account of the fact that they are more likely to be only responsible for themselves. The children’s share is from what remains after those with fixed share get their share.  In case their number is large, then the share of each child is less than that of those with fixed share and in case of only child then his/her share is greater than those with fixed share. The Children are the future and in general capable of earning for themselves and so an insignificant share because of large number does not matter very much. An insignificant share for parents and spouse matters more. If only child, then their share is large but since they represent the future, they can make better use of the larger share than those who are responsible only for themselves.  If only child is a girl, then she gets what remains after those with fixed shares get their share if this is less than ½ or she also becomes a person with a fixed share of ½. The logic of limiting a girl’s share which then has the effect of proportionately increasing the share of all with fixed shares should be obvious. Half is still twice as much as her father’s share if the mother is the deceased and four times her mother’s share if her father is the deceased.

     God in His wisdom has given us the laws of inheritance which make eminent sense under most circumstances. They protect the interests of the weak without ignoring the interests of the young and strong who represent the future. As explained, the laws of God balance what is best for most with what is easy to follow. What is easy to follow may change with the times. What is best for most may not be best for all under all circumstances. As said, the Quran provides the flexibility by allowing a person to will his inheritance as he pleases. The laid down laws of inheritance are not a hurdle to those who think that these are not appropriate for them. They can use the legal instrument of the will. However, a will that affects a heir’s share adversely vis-à-vis other heirs without his/her willing consent is likely to create a situation in the family that will do more harm than the good that was being sought to be achieved by altering the share of the heirs. 


    By Naseer Ahmed - 8/21/2015 12:56:05 PM



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