Interpretation of Sura an-Nisa - Verse 11
11. " Allah enjoins you concerning your children: The male shall have the equal of the portion of two females; and if they are more than two females, then they will have two-thirds of the inheritance; and if there is (only) one, she will have the half; and as for his parents, each of them shall have a sixth part of the inheritance if he has a child, but if he has no child and his parents be his heirs, then his mother shall have the third, and if he has brothers, then his mother shall have the sixth after (the payment of) a bequest he may have bequeathed or a debt. You do not know which of your parents and your children is closer to you in usefulness. (This is) an ordinance from Allah. Verily Allah is All-Knowing, All-Wise."
There are ordinances of inheritance mentioned in some other religions, too. For instance, in the Torah, the Book of Numbers, Chapter 27, verses 8 to 11 some laws of inheritance are referred to. They are as follows:
8. And thou shalt speak unto the children of Israel, saying, If a man die, and have no son, then ye shall cause his inheritance to pass unto his daughter.
9. And if he have no daughter, then ye shall give his inheritance unto his brethren.
10. And if he have no brethren, then ye shall give his inheritance unto his father's brethren.
11. And if his father have no brethren, then ye shall give his inheritance unto his kinsman that is next to him of his family, and he shall possess it: and it shall be unto the children of Israel a statute of judgment, as the Lord commanded Moses.
It should also be noted that Jesus (a.s.) has approved, in the Bible, the same law of the Turah.
In Islam, the inheritance of a person, who has no inheritor, is given to the Islamic judge and Imam.
The pre-Islamic Arab deprived women and small children from inheritance.
The Portions of Inheritance:
In this verse, the ordinance of the first class of inheritors (children, fathers, and mothers) has been mentioned. At first, it says:
" Allah enjoins you concerning your children: The male shall have the equal of the portion of two females;..."
This meaning is a kind of emphasis on the portion of daughters taking from the inheritance and challenging with the traditions of the people in the Age of Ignorance who deprived women totally. Then the verse denotes that if the heirs of the diseased are exclusively two daughters or more than that, two-thirds of the inheritance belongs to them. It says :
"... and if they are more than two females, then they will have two-thirds of the inheritance; ..."
But if there remains only one daughter, she will have half of the whole inheritance. The verse says:
"... and if there is (only) one, she will have the half; ..."
Now, the inheritance of fathers and mothers, who are also involved in the first class of inheritors and are in the same row with the children, is classified in three states: The first state: is when the diseased person has an offspring or offsprings; then there will be one sixths of the inheritance for the father and again the same portion for mother. It says thus:
"... and as for his parents, each of them shall have a sixth part of the inheritance if he has a child, ..."
The second state: is when there exists no child and the inheritors are only the parents. In this case one thirds of the whole wealth belongs to the mother and the rest of it belongs to the father, as the verse says:
"... but if he has no child and his parents be his heirs, then his mother shall have the third, ..."
The third state: is when the inheritors are only parents and he has no offspring but he has brother(s) from the side of his parents or only from the side of his father. Then, the portion of the mother decreases from one third to one-sixth and the remaining five-sixth of the inheritance belongs to the father. It says:
"... and if he has brothers, then his mother shall have the sixth, ..."
In fact, brothers, who do not inherit anything, prevent the additional amount of the inheritance of the mother, and that is why, in Arabic language, they are called: /h¤ajib/ 'chamberlain'. Then, the Qur'an says that all of these things are after fulfilling the bequest that the diseased has bequeathed, and paying his debts, saying thus:
"... after (the payment of) a bequest he may have bequeathed or a debt. ..."
It should be noticed, of course, that only one third of the property can be bequeathed on. Therefore, if a person bequeaths more than that, it is not valid unless the heirs permit. In the next sentence, it says:
"... You do not know which of your parents and your children is closer to you in usefulness. ..."
Then, at the end of the verse, it remarks that:
"... (This is) an ordinance from Allah. Verily Allah is All-Knowing, All-Wise."
This statement is considered as an emphasis upon the former subjects so that there remains no place for people to bargain about the laws of the portions of heritance.
Why Is the Heritance of Man Equal of the Portion of Two Women?
With reference to the Islamic literature we realize that this question has actively existed in the minds of people since the beginning of Islam. They sometimes asked questions from the leaders of Islam on this regard. For example, it is narrated that Imam Ali-ibn-Musa-r-Rida, in answer to this question, said: " The fact that the portion of women from inheritance is equal to the half of the portion of men is for the reason that when a lady marries she takes something (dower) and man should give something. In addition to that, the life expenses of the wife is upon the man while a woman has no responsibility for the expenses of man as well as that of herself."
Adopted from the book : "The Light of the Holy Qur'an; Interpretation of Surah an-Nisa" by : "Sayyid Kamal Faghih Imani and a Group of Muslim Scholars"
Share this article