Laws of Religion

Laws of Islam Concerning Women and Men

 

Equality and Inequality of Women and Men

 

Inheritance

 

From the hadith compilations of al-Bukhari and Muslim

 

 

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Inheritance by men and women (hadith).† Hadiths explain that before the time of Muhammad, property would be inherited by oneís children, with parents getting only what was specified in a will.[1] When Jabir, a close companion of Muhammad, was seriously ill, he asked Muhammad how to distribute his property and then the rules of inheritance were revealed.[2] These rules are stated in the verses of Qurían (4:11-4:12) summarized above for inheritance by male and female children, parents and spouses of the deceased.[3]

 

Jabir told Muhammad that he had sisters.[4] Thus the verse of Qurían (4:176) was revealed concerning inheritance when there are no children or parents to inherit.[5] This was the final verse of the entire Qurían to be revealed.[6]

 

When a person dies leaving behind only a daughter, a sonís daughter and a sister, one-half of the inheritance goes to the daughter, one-sixth to the sonís daughter (which combined make two-thirds) and the remaining one-third to the sister.[7] Muhammad said that a person may bequeath some of his wealth to the cause of Allah, but no more than one-third. It is more important to keep oneís heirs from becoming poor than to give too much to charity.[8]

 

Once a personís estate is distributed according to the rules prescribed, the remainder is to be given to the deceasedís closest male relative.[9]

 

A person who knowingly falsely claims that someone other than his true father is his father is to be charged with disbelief[10] and will have no share in Paradise.[11] (Such a false claim could result in inheriting that which does not rightfully belong to him.)

 

A non-Muslim cannot inherit from a Muslim, nor can a Muslim inherit from a non-Muslim.[12]

 

Initially Muhammad would say a prayer for a dead person who had enough money to pay his debts, but not for one whose funds were insufficient for that. When he became victorious,[13] Muhammad said that he would pay the debts of those Muslims who died in debt,[14] but the money of those who died with money would go to their heirs.[15]

 

When Muhammad died, his property was treated differently than the property of other people.† This was because Muhammad had said that his own property was not to be inherited as other peopleís property is.[16] He said that after the special bequests he made for his wives and servants, the rest of his property was to be donated to support the whole community.[17] After Muhammadís death, when his family members went to Abu Bakr (Muhammadís successor as leader of the community of Muslims) asking for their share of the inheritance, Abu Bakr said that Muhammad had ordered that all his property go to the community as charity rather than to his family members.[18] Abu Bakr quoted Muhammad as saying that his family members may eat from the community property, but only the amount that they need.[19] As a result of this decision, Fatima (Muhammadís daughter) never again spoke to Abu Bakr.[20] After Abu Bakr died and Umar became the leader of the community of Muslims, Ali (Muhammadís son-in-law) and Abbas (Muhammadís uncle) made a claim to Umar for their inheritance from Muhammadís property. After two years as leader, Umar distributed Muhammadís property to them with the stipulation that they manage it as Muhammad and Abu Bakr said it should be managed (rather than using it as their own personal wealth). Ali and Abbas continued to complain to Umar about this stipulation, but Umar refused to change it.[21]

 

 

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Laws of Religion is a project of the Religion Research Society.

 

Updated October 12, 2016

 

 

Abbreviations used in footnotes:

QR:†† Qurían, with surahs (chapters) and ayahs (verses) numbered as in most modern translations, including those found here, here and here.

BK:††† Hadith collection of al-Bukhari as found here (USC website) and here (ebook download). In a few instances, the hadiths on the USC website differ from those in the ebook download, either by having slightly different numbering of the hadiths or because the hadith appears only on the USC site and not in the ebook download. Such cases are noted in the footnotes by putting either ď(USC)Ē or ď(ebook)Ē after the relevant hadith number when it applies to only one of these two sources.

ML:††† Hadith collection of Muslim as found here and here.

●† The sources cited are described on the page Source Texts Used for Laws of Islam.



[1] BK 4:51:10, BK 8:80:731

[2] BK 8:80:735, ML 11:3932, ML 11:3933, ML 11:3934, ML 11:3935-3936

[3] ML 11:3933

[4] BK 8:80:735

[5] ML 11:3932, ML 11:3935-3936

[6] BK 8:80:736, ML 11:3939, ML 11:3940, ML 11:3941-3942, ML 11:3943

[7] BK 8:80:728, BK 8:80:734

[8] BK 7:64:266, BK 8:80:725

[9] BK 8:80:724, BK 8:80:727, BK 8:80:729, BK 8:80:737, BK 8:80:738, ML 11:3929, ML 11:3930, ML 11:3931

[10] BK 8:80:759

[11] BK 8:80:758

[12] BK 8:80:756, ML 11:3928

[13] ML 11:3944-3945

[14] BK 8:80:737, ML 11:3944-3945, ML 11:3946, ML 11:3947

[15] ML 11:3944-3945, ML 11:3946, ML 11:3947, ML 11:3948

[16] BK 5:57:60, BK 5:59:368, BK 5:59:546, BK 8:80:718, BK 8:80:719, BK 8:80:721, BK 8:80:722

[17] BK 8:80:721

[18] BK 5:57:60, BK 5:59:368

[19] BK 5:57:60, BK 5:59:368, BK 5:59:546

[20] BK 5:59:546, BK 8:80:718

[21] BK 7:64:271, BK 8:80:720