“The male receives twice the share of the female…”

Many times when female inheritance in Islamic law is discussed, the issue of “The male receives twice the share of the female…” always comes up as evidence of the injustice that Islam imparts to woman in the areas of wealth, gender equity etc. This misunderstanding is based on either extreme ignorance or is intently malicious in nature.

Upon closer examination, we see that the context of this verse is speaking specifically about those cases in which siblings, both male and female, survive the deceased mother or father. The question remains if this principle is to be extended to other areas such as maintenance of children, etc. A cursory glance at the Sunnah of the Messenger of God would tell us that this principle is not to be applied in areas of maintenance, being that it is reported by Ibn ‘Abbas that he said “Give to your children equally and if I were to prefer one over the other I would have given preference to females.”*

In any case, bearing in mind the specific conditions set for each situation, it can be said that a woman’s inheritance has seven possibilities in Islamic inheritance law:

In three of these the woman takes more than the man:

1-A daughter with no siblings, but there is a grand-daughter surviving.

2-A sister with no full-siblings, nieces or nephews, nor any parents remaining, but there is a half-sister surviving.

3-A granddaughter with no siblings, uncles or aunts, but there is a wife, mother or grandmother surviving.

All three of these women will take half (1/2) the total inheritance.

In one case the woman will take an equal amount to the man:

4-In the three above cases, if the women mentioned are the only surviving females.

In the three remaining a woman will take less than at least one of the men, but may take more than another of them:

5-A daughter with siblings

6-A wife with or without children

7-A mother with or without children remaining**

In the above, we see that in 4 out of 7 cases, a woman takes either equal or more than a man, certainly proving wrong the supposition that a woman always takes less than a man.

It should be noted however that in the last three cases that the surviving men are obligated to maintain the woman who survive the deceased in this case. That said a woman who is not being maintained by her male relatives has the ability to seek damages for mistreatment and neglect if those surviving male relatives do not support her. One question that remains to be answered is: if the surviving woman in one of these three cases knows of previous negligence on the part of the surviving men, can she petition the probate council responsible for distribution of the inheritance so as to receive her maintenance prior to neglect, thus saving herself and the courts the hassle of seeking damages later?

* This hadith was narrated by Sa’id ibn Mansur, Al-Bayhaqi, and Al-Tabarani. Al-Hafiz Ibn Hajar declared it Hasan in Fath Al-Bari (8/72)

** Such as in the case when a woman dies and is survived by his mother, grandfather, and husband. The husband takes ½, the mother takes 1/3, and the grandfather takes the remainder. Here the female took less than one man (the husband) but more than the other (the grandfather).

20 Comments

  1. I’m not sure I understand. Is there a man who gets less than the woman? Who is this man?
    I’d love to see a post on the importance in Islam to have a will and on how these hirelings serve in situations when the person has not set up a will.

  2. Candice, in the first three examples, any men (such as uncles, etc.) will get less than the women who inherit in those situations.
    I like your post suggestion, inshallah I will work on that.

  3. I’m not sure I get it still. If we take the first example… “A daughter with no siblings, but there is a grand-daughter surviving.” So one of her parents died and she is the daughter… She has no brother, and no son or else both of these would get more than her…?

    If her mom is the one who died and her father is surviving, does she get more than her dad (the dead person’s husband)? Or are we assuming the dad is dead and she gets only more than an uncle or male cousin? An uncle would only be the dead person’s sibling – it would be nothing more than outrageous for a person’s brother to get more inheritance than a person’s daughter!

  4. By the way, I meant “guidelines” and not “hirelings” in the other comment! Thank you for taking the time to answer me.

  5. it would be nothing more than outrageous for a person’s brother to get more inheritance than a person’s daughter!

    Obviously, which is why the daughter takes more!
    Here’s one example, but I’d recommend to study the laws of inheritance in detail:
    A woman dies leaving a husband and daughter. The husband gets 1/4, and the daughter gets 1/2, and the remainder is distributed in different ways depending on the legal school used.

  6. Assalaamu ‘alaikum,

    I am a little confused, and have similar questions as Candace does. I think the wording could be better. I’m confused on who is dying, and who are the one’s receiving….

  7. salam alaikum Yusuf, there is a certain mode of expression used in inheritance law, which is what I was trying to convey. I’d highly recommend learning a primary text on the subject, and that might help clarify some of what is written. In general though, the people mentioned in the post are the survivors, so when I mentioned “a daughter with no siblings” it means a person died, and left behind a daughter. There may be other relatives that are left behind as well, but in all cases the daughter’s share will be the same unless she had siblings.

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