Controversial Questions About Islam & Comments

Prepared by: Dr. Saeed Ismaeel Sini

Why does a Female Inherit a Half in Some Cases?

     As we mentioned before, Islam has assigned man as the head of the household. But it did not give him this authority without burdening him equally with extra responsibilities. At the top of these responsibilities is to provide his family with a decent standard of living, within his capabilities, and with varied degrees of obligation depending on the type of his authority (a father, a brother, an uncle...). His close family means his wife and children. Sometimes, it could mean his parents who are unable to work, as well as his younger brothers and sisters or unmarried sisters.

     On the other hand, Islam did not burden the female with these responsibilities, even regarding her parents and their helpless children. In fact, even a rich wife is not required to support her poor husband or family.

     Therefore, Islam forbids the husband to pay from his obligatory charity, zakaah, to his wife or children, because his duty to provide them with the decent means of living comes before paying zakaah. For zakaah should only be paid to some fixed categories. Allah says: {as-Sadaqat [the obligatory charity) are only for the poor and the needy and those employed to collect them, and those whose hearts are to be reconciled and to free the captives and the debtors and for the cause of Allah, and a wayfarer, (a traveler who runs out of his money); a duty imposed by Allah}[1]

     In Islam, the woman has her independent legal identity, and she maintains that after marriage. Before marriage she is the daughter of her father, and after marriage she is still the daughter of her father. She does not have to change her family name after getting married, unlike the case in the Western culture, where she has to change her family name as if she were a property of her fathers’ family then becomes a property of her husband’s family.

      She has full control of her properties before and after marriage, whether she owned them before or after marriage. She is also entitled to hire her husband or any other person to manage her business on her behalf.

      Islam also grants a woman some free or semi-free services in addition to burdening the man with the financial responsibility of looking after her. In return, Islam gives the male twice as much of what it gives his female counterpart (the wife or the sister) of the inheritance.

     In other words, only in some cases do males receive twice as much as females. If we ponder on just one single verse on inheritance, we soon come to recognize that this increase is bound to financial responsibility. For example, Allah says: {Allah commands you as regards your children’s inheritance; to the male a portion equal to that of two females. If there are only daughters, two or more, their share is two thirds of the inheritance, if only one, her share is half. For parents sixth share of 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. In all cases, after the payment of legacies he may have bequeathed or debts. You know not which of them, whether your parents or your children are nearest to you in benefit. These fixed shares are ordained by Allah.}[2]

     It is clear from this verse that an only female child inherits half of her father’s inheritance alone, and the rest is divided among all other relatives, whether they are males or females. The two daughters inherit two-thirds of the inheritance, and the rest is divided between the other heirs.

     In fact, inheritance is not the only financial source of income for any human being. For Allah has bestowed men and women with many gifts, which make them capable of earning their own living, and distinguished each of them with qualities essential for the survival of human communities. As for those who have been deprived, wholly or partially, of these capabilities, Allah has made the community as a whole responsible for them. Islam assigned their share in the properties of the wealthy (the zakaah), in addition to the responsibilities of the Muslim State to provide for them from the public treasury. It also encouraged the prosperous members of the community to pay charity in addition to zakaah.

     In the West, if women demanded equality in inheritance it would be quite reasonable, since her financial responsibility is equal to her male counterpart. It is her right, especially if the law divides the property of the divorced couple into two equal halves, regardless of who contributed most in acquiring these properties.


[1]. Holy Qur’an, 9:60

[2] . Holy Qur’an, 4:11