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
(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
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
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 =
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
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
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.
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
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.
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.
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
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 8/19/2015 2:30:19
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.
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
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
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
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
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