By Naseer Ahmed, New Age Islam
25 April 2019
only two verses relating to division of inheritance among heirs based on which
books have been written which confuse rather than elucidate. These two verses
are both necessary and sufficient to cover all situations which leave behind
close family members such as parents, spouse, children and siblings as heirs.
However, we need to know some basic school level arithmetic covering fractions
and proportions taught at middle school level. There are however very few who
have even such rudimentary knowledge of arithmetic, and in the times of the
Prophet, it would appear that there were none, which necessitated revelation of
a third verse 4:176 which will be discussed later. The subject was poorly
understood even several centuries later by the Imams of Fiqh.
Verses Detailing Division Of Inheritance
(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.
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
(4:12) 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,
Arabic word Kalala is translated by some as “without ascendants and
descendants”. In these verses, it means without descendants alone since as per
verse 4:11, siblings inherit when parents of the deceased are survivors but not
when a descendant or child of the deceased is a survivor. The meaning of Kalala
covers grandchildren also. Siblings will therefore not inherit if the deceased
is survived by either children or grandchildren or even great grandchildren. It
follows logically, that in the absence of a parent, a grandchild will inherit
his/her share in what his/her parent would have inherited. This is something
that is denied in our Fiqh, and an orphaned grandchild most in need of support,
is denied inheritance from grandparents.
To Be Distributed As Inheritance?
(2:240) Those of you who die and
leave widows should bequeath for their widows a year´s maintenance and
residence; but if they leave (The residence), there is no blame on you for what
they do with themselves, provided it is reasonable. And Allah is Exalted in
is entitled to one year’s maintenance if she continues to live in the husband’s
house. The inheritance to be distributed is after all debts including Mehar,
maintenance of wife for one year and Wills. Those covered by the Will, will not
inherit as per 4:11, 12.
deceased leaves assets in the form of property, cash, jewelry 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 Jewelry 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.
1: The deceased is survived by parents, wife, a son, a daughter, a brother and
share – 1/6
share – 1/6
remains after the fixed shares are distributed is (1- (1/6+1/6+1/8)) or 13/24
and of this, the son gets 2/3 and the daughter 1/3.
share is therefore 26/72
daughter’s share is 13/72
division is correct, then these fractions must add upto 1 or
1/6+1/6+1/8+26/72+13/72 should equal 1 which it does and therefore the division
to note are:
siblings do not inherit anything in the presence of children of the deceased.
inherit as a residuary or from what remains after the fixed shares of those
with a fixed share are distributed.
both protects and limits the share of those with a fixed share. In the example
cited, both the daughter and the son inherit more than any of the fixed
- The deceased is a male and is survived by mother, wife, brother, two sisters,
but no children.
mother’s fixed share is 1/6, wife ¼, and 1/3 to be distributed equally among
works out to 1/6+1/4+1/3 = 9/12 or ¾ leaving ¼ undistributed. What do we do
the problem that we face when there are no children or residuary to inherit all
that is left after those with fixed shares get their share. The solution is
simple and will be illustrated with an easy to understand story followed by the
rule in mathematics.
A man owned twenty seven camels. This
was his total property. When he died he left behind a mother, wife and three
siblings. As per the Quran’s laws of inheritance, the property is to be
inherited as follows:
One fourth [1/4] of his
property by wife,
One-sixth [1/6] of his property by
One-third [1/3] 0f his property to be
equally divided among his siblings
The heirs were in a quandary
wondering how to divide 27 camels into one-fourth, one-sixth and one-ninth
parts. [Strictly going by the ratio specified in the will, it worked out to be
6.75 camels for the wife, 4.75 camels for the mother and 9 camels for three
siblings each getting 3 camels and 6.5 camel remaining undistributed].
They went to the Wise Man for
“No problem!” said the Wise
Man. “Add my 9 camels to yours and now how many camels do you have?”
“Thirty six camels,” they all said.
“Good,” the Wise Man said.
He looked at the wife and said,
“Your share is one fourth of the total camels – one fourth of thirty six works
out to be nine – so take your nine camels and go away.”
Twenty seven camels remained. [36
-9 = 27]
Then he looked at the mother,
“Your share is one sixth of the total camels – one sixth of thirty six works
out to be six– so take your six camels and leave.”
Twenty one camels remained. [27
– 6 = 21]
Finally he looked at the siblings,
“Your share is one third of the total camels to be divided equally among the
two brothers and one sister– one third of thirty six works out to be twelve– so
each of you take 12/3 or four camels and leave.”
When the last inheritors took
their share of camels and went away, there remained [21 – 12 = 9] the Wise
man’s nine camels . The Wise Man took his nine camels back and walked
home, having successfully divided the twenty seven camels amongst the
inheritors as per the share decreed in the Qu’ran.
We can see clearly that the
distribution was both just and in accordance with the Quran. The relative
proportions were maintained between the different heirs but the fractions
changed. For example, the wife got 9/27 Camels or more than one-fourth, the
mother 6/27 camels or more than 1/6 and the siblings together, 12/27 or more
than 1/3. Each one got his/her share multiplied by 36/27or 4/3 or 33.33% more.
The simple arithmetic rule therefore is:
Simple Arithmetic Rule
all the shares and if this number is a/b where a is not equal to b, then
multiply each of the shares by b/a. The resultant shares will now add upto 1.
In the example
above, the shares added upto 3/4. We therefore have to multiply each of the
shares by 4/3 to distribute correctly.
modified shares become – wife ¼ *4/3 = 1/3 or (1/3 of 27 camels=9 camels)
1/6 *4/3= 2/9 (2/9 of 27 camels = 6 camels)
1/3*4/3=4/9 (4/9 of 27 camels = 12 camels)
way of describing the solution is to say that, in the absence of residuary
inheritors, the numbers for the fixed shares may be taken as relative
proportions and not as fractions.
the distribution in Example 2, should be in the proportion:
Mother: Siblings:: ¼ : 1/6:1/3 or 3:2:4
share is then 3/9, Mother’s 2/9 and Siblings 4/9
4:176 is a compromise solution
people in the Prophet’s time could not apparently deal with a situation without
residuary when the fixed fractions did not add up to 1. The fact is that even
today, not many people understand the mathematics and logic involved. The cases
where a person died without children or residuary inheritors were however many
with the wars claiming many young men. There were therefore incessant demands
for clarification and guidance. The Prophet was not a mathematician or logician
either, and did not have a satisfactory solution and all the ahadith regarding
inheritance are in the nature of ad-hoc solutions and may therefore be ignored
in the presence of precise logical solutions. Allah therefore revealed 4:176
which is not just the last verse in the Surah, but the very last verse revealed
after a gap of several years. This verse makes the siblings residuary
inheritors on par with children eliminating to a large extent, the problem of
dealing with fractions that do not add upto 1.
(4:176) They ask thee for a legal
decision. Say: Allah directs (thus) about those who leave no descendants
(Kalala) 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
of siblings in 4:176 is now different from what was originally decreed in 4:12.
Our Fuquha explain this away by saying that the share described in 4:12 covers
uterine brother/sister meaning having a common mother but different father and
the share in 4:176 covers agnate (common father) and full siblings (common
parents). This is patently untrue. The Quran makes no difference between
different types of siblings. Besides, there is no reason why 4:12 covered
uterine siblings and left out full and agnate siblings for several years and
only covered them in the very last verse revealed. Now that we know how to deal
with 4:12 without 4:176, we must treat 4:176 as no longer required or
redundant. If in the example covered, we do it according to 4:176, then the
shares will be as follows:
Relation of Heir
1/3 or 33.33%
¼ Or 25%
2/9 or 22.22%
1/6 or 16.66%
4/9 or 44.44%
7/12 or 58.33%
4/27 or 14.81%
7/30 or 23.33%
7/60 or 11.67%
from revelation of 4:176
people were unable to deal with 4:12 in the absence of children or residuary
inheritors, a lesson we learn from the revelation of 4:176, is that a poor
solution (verse 4:176) is better than no solution,. The Prophet’s ad-hoc
solutions which do not conform to the letter of the Quran were also such
practical solutions which were better than no solution. Today, however, we do
not suffer from such deficiency of knowledge and skills to deal with what is
intended by verses 4:11 and 4:12, and we can now treat verse 4:176 and all the
Ahadith regarding inheritance, as no longer required.
ask, “why didn’t Allah send an Angel to teach the mathematics involved rather
than reveal 4:176?” The simple answer is that it is man who is given a certain
knowledge/potential for knowledge denied to the Angels because of which Allah
asked the Angels to prostrate before Adam. This is not a subject that can be
taught by the Angels therefore.
this is further proof that the verses regarding inheritance are from Allah and
not from Muhammad (pbuh). This is only one example of a verse from the Quran
exceeding the collective capacity/knowledge of the people to understand at the
time of revelation. We also learn that the Ahadith of the Prophet are not
divinely inspired solutions to problems posed, but his best answer to a
question. So, when we are able to better understand directly from the Quran, we
should not rely anymore on the Ahadith.
Same as in example 1 except that the deceased is survived by three sons
and two daughters.
remains after the fixed shares are distributed is once again 13/24 and each son
gets 2/8 of this and the daughter 1/8
shares of each of the sons is now 13/96 and that of the daughter 13/192
general, if there are x sons and y daughters, the share of each son is:
(2/(2x+y)) and the share of each daughter is
– Same as example 1 but with only one son.
gets the remaining 13/24
– Same as example 1 but with only one daughter.
remains after the fixed shares are distributed is 13/24, which is more than
half and therefore the daughter’s share is taken as ½. That leaves 1/24. What
do we do with it?
know how to deal with this problem. The sum of 1/6 + 1/6 + 1/8 +1/2 =23/24
The Modified Shares Are:
1/6*24/23 = 4/23
24/23 = 3/23
½ * 24/23 = 12/23
– Same as 1 but with two sons and no daughters
remains after the fixed shares are distributed is 13/24 and each son gets 13/48
or 27.08% of total inheritance.
- Same as 1 but with two daughters and no sons.
remains after the fixed shares are distributed is 13/24 which is less than 2/3.
The daughters will therefore inherit as residuary and each one will get 13/48.
share of ½ if only one daughter and no sons and 2/3 if two or more daughters
and no son are upper limits. This means that the daughters will inherit as
residuary or fixed sharer, whichever is lower. This logic follows from example
6. If we do not consider 2/3 for two or more daughters as the upper limit but
as a fixed fraction, then two daughters inherit more than what two sons would
have inherited in an otherwise identical situation. This is an example of using
an appropriate analogy to deduce the correct meaning.
if we proceed like dumb literalists, and take the shares as:
1/6+1/8+2/3 = (4+4+3+16)/24 = 27/24 = 9/8 and apply the rule for modified
shares, the share of the fixed sharers are reduced to 8/9 or 88.88% of what is
envisaged. The share of the two daughters is 2/3 *8/9 = 16/27 or each daughter
gets 16/54 = 29.62% of the inheritance
wrong in this division is that the fixed sharer’s share is reduced and the two
daughters get more than what they would have got had they been sons. This is
only daughter inherit 100%?
say a deceased is survived by only daughter and sister (no parents, spouse or
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 in the absence of descendants. 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%. I
doubt if any of our Muftis will allow a daughter more than ½ .
the Wise Man solution when the daughter is the only heir? Add from the Wise Man
an equal amount and let the daughter take away half of it and the Wise Man then
takes away what he brought or the daughter inherits 100%. Mathematically when
the daughter is the only heir, the total is ½ which we must multiply by 2/1 to
get the correct share which means the daughter inherits 100%.
(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
(181) If anyone changes the
bequest after hearing it, the guilt shall be on those who make the change. For
Allah hears and knows (All things).
(182) But if anyone fears
partiality or wrong-doing on the part of the testator, and makes peace between
(The parties concerned), there is no wrong in him: For Allah is Oft-forgiving,
verses making clear how to distribute inheritance, are the verses regarding
bequests abrogated? The Fuquha have ruled that a person may bequeath only 1/3
of his/her property to any person not covered by the laws of inheritance. In
other words, a person may bequeath upto 1/3 to an adopted child or to any
person or persons but not to spouse, parents,
children who are covered by verses 4:11, 12.
ruling is patently incorrect. First of all, verses 4:11 and 4:12 have been made
subject to (BaʿDi Waṣiyyatin Tūṣūna Bihā Aw Daynin), or after all debts and legacy/Will of the
deceased is executed.
specifically provides for bequests to enable a person to take care of those in
need and not adequately covered by the laws in 4:11,12. A person may therefore
bequeath more to a handicapped child or an old spouse depending upon their
need. The fixed share of 1/8 for a wife may be enough for a young woman who can
remarry but not for an old woman who has no independent means. Verse 4:11 and
4:12 are therefore to be applied in the absence of a Will by the deceased or
when the Will does not cover all the property.
regarding bequests is revealed afresh in Surah Al-Maida which is among the very
last Surahs and after Verse 4:11 and 4:12, making it clear that bequests take
precedence over 4:11 and 4:12.
(5:106) O ye who believe! When
death approaches any of you, (take) witnesses among yourselves when making
bequests,- two just men of your own (brotherhood) or others from outside if ye
are journeying through the earth, and the chance of death befalls you (thus).
If ye doubt (their truth), detain them both after prayer, and let them both swear
by Allah: "We wish not in this for any worldly gain, even though the
(beneficiary) be our near relation: we shall hide not the evidence before
Allah: if we do, then behold! the sin be upon us!"
That Are Compromises
the Ahadith that differ from the ruling in the Quran, may have been because of
verse 2:182. For example, a woman denied inheritance by father’s brother who
controlled the deceased brother’s property is given half the share in the
property and the woman who was the only surviving daughter of the deceased the
other half. In this case, the brother of the deceased was refusing to give
anything. If the Prophet had ruled according to the Quran that the daughter
should get 100%, the brother may not have complied. The daughter was happy with
getting half rather than nothing. Such
Ahadith represent compromises and cannot become the norm.
When the Will Does Not Cover All Property
of the fixed sharers (parents and spouse) will be calculated after all debts
are settled but before taking into account the Will, without affecting the
Will. This will only reduce what remains as residuary. For example, if what is left after debts is
Rs 1 Crore, and the deceased willed Rs 0.5 crore for his handicapped child, the
share of the parents will be 1/6 of Rs 1 crore and that of the wife will be
1/8. If both parents are alive and also wife, they will take away 11/24 of Rs 1
crore or Rs 45, 83,333. With Rs 50 lacs for the Will, we are left with a small
residuary of Rs 4,166.66 for the remaining children. If the Will was for Rs 60
lacs, then the fixed sharers will get the remaining Rs 40 lacs in proportion of
their fixed shares without leaving any residuary.
the Wife When There Are More than One
Fuquha have ruled that the wife’s share which is fixed as 1/8, will be equally
divided if there are more wives. This goes against the letter and spirit of the
Quran which makes some fixed sharers to protect their share. Each of the wives
must get 1/8 and if there are four wives, they inherit together 4/8 or half,
leaving enough for the parents and a residuary. If parents are also alive, the
residuary is (1- (1/6+1/6+1/2) 1/6 to be distributed among the children.
help of the examples worked out above, the methodology has been made clear and
you should now be able to work out any case.
(brothers and sisters) inherit equally as per 4:12
(father and mother) also inherit equally, 1/6 each. The mother inherits 1/3 if
the deceased is not survived by a child and a sibling, while the father
inherits only 1/6.
child’s share alone is twice that of a female child’s. The male has the
obligation to support relatives but not the females. What boys mostly inherit
is the obligation to support and not any property. Therefore, the ruling has
served the very large proportion of females from families that are poor.
Shariat is based on the Quran, the Sunna of the Prophet (pbuh), and legal
rulings of the Imams. What I have shown is that even the Sunna of the Prophet
may only have been a compromise or best solution for its times, and not
represent accurately what the Quran says, and what can be clearly understood
today. It is Allah’s blessing, that such a Shariat, built over several layers
of errors, which the Imams decided to freeze in the tenth century, should be
interrupted through several centuries of colonial rule to give the Muslims an
opportunity to rebuild afresh based on the Quran alone. Islamic Shariat errs on
every subject be it Jihad, Divorce, Witnessing, Crime and Punishment,
Non-Muslim subjects etc. Allah may have subjected us to colonial rule only
because we lost the dynamism to revise our Shariat from time to time based on a
better understanding of the Divine intent in the Quran. The call for a return
to the same old Shariat is therefore a dangerous call for being colonized once
again. We need to discard the defective Shariat completely and rebuild afresh.
Qur’anic Message Admits of Flexibility in the Shares of the Siblings / Heirs
Inheritance Related Calculations Based On the Quran
Islamic Inheritance and Wills (Part 1)
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
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There are two kinds of
knowledge complementing each other. The knowledge that is not accessible to man
in foresight but perfectly understandable in hindsight has been given to us through
revelations to the Messengers of Allah. Knowledge which is accessible to us in
foresight is in the pursuit of the Sciences and is only attainable through
study. There is no knowledge beyond these two. If our knowledge is not anchored
in the Quran or the Sciences, then it is not knowledge but a form of ignorance.
In the revelation of verse
4:176 there is a powerful message. Implementing correctly verses 4:11 and 12
requires knowledge made accessible to man in the pursuit of the Sciences and this
knowledge must be gained through study and personal effort in the normal course
and God does not impart such knowledge even to a prophet. He has given man the required
mental ability and man must use his intellect to develop the solution and live
with compromise solutions in the meantime.
Understanding of the Quran
requires a good knowledge of the Sciences. You cannot understand the Quran
perfectly, unless your knowledge of what God has created is accurate. Many of
the verses were misunderstood and continue to be misunderstood because our
knowledge of the world is defective. The simplest examples are the verses on
conception which speak about the intermingling of the seed from the man issuing
from his loins and the seed from the woman in her pelvis. People who thought
that the seed came only from the man understood the verses differently and said
that the seed comes from between the backbone and the ribs of the man. They
reasoned that if the seed came only from the man then Sulb which means like a
rigid rod must mean the backbone and Taraib
which means an arch must mean the ribs (rather than the pelvic area of a woman)!
Correct understanding of the Quran, is left to human
effort. A sincere seeker of the correct meaning who is also well versed in the Sciences,
mathematics and logic, will understand the Quran better. Piety alone is not
enough. Any saying of the Prophet (pbuh)
in explanation of the Quran is also his own understanding and not inspired by
Allah as demonstrated by the necessity of revelation of 4:176. There is
therefore no need to consider any hadith when the meaning of the Quran is clear.
And there is no verse of the Quran that is unclear today.
While it is beyond debate is that the Prophet (pbuh)
is the foremost among the Momineen and the Muslimeen, and so also the Vanguard
Muslims, it does not necessarily mean that they also had the most perfect understanding
of the Quran. It is also widely acknowledged that many of the stories or
ahadith about the Prophet (pbuh) and the Salaf are concocted to support the
views or stand taken by various groups in the past and in the present. So, when
the Quran is perfectly understandable today, why do we need
anyone’s real or imaginary practice to (mis)guide us?
What is said about the Jews in the Quran is today
true about the Muslims:
(9:31) They take their priests and their anchorites to be their lords in
derogation of Allah, and (they take as their Lord) Christ the son of Mary; yet
they were commanded to worship but One Allah: there is no god but He. Praise
and glory to Him: (Far is He) from having the partners they associate (with
When a Christian protested that they do worship
Allah and not their priests, the Prophet is believed to have asked him ‘Do you not follow what your priests and anchorites say rather than what your scriptures say?’, the questioner remained silent.
The call to return to the Islam of the Salaf is
therefore the blind trying to lead the other blind. First of all, the “Islam of
the Salaf” is poorly documented if at all, and therefore what is portrayed as
the Islam of the Salaf is a hideous caricature of the Islam in the Quran. What
we need to do is to correctly understand the Quran and build on it discarding
the errors of the past.