Why Should Women’s Inheritance Be Half That of Men?

Inheritance is defined as property of a deceased person, which is transferred to his/her heirs under the laws of inheritance, or by bequest through a will.

Inheritable property consists of movable and immovable objects, as well as intangible assets such as shares, debt claims and rights to compensation.

Inheritance may be understood further as the practice whereby the property of a deceased person goes to his/her heirs.

The practice of inheritance is universal and it is regulated by various laws and customs around the world. These laws are believed to be closely in line with and indicative of the society’s normative system, social structure and principles of family organization.

Islamic law of Inheritance may be described as revolutionary to the laws of inheritance in Pre-Islamic Arabia, where the original sources of Islamic law were established. In Pre-Islamic Arabia, the basis for inheritance was partly the eligibility to attend war.

Because they could not go to war and secure booty, the right of females and minors to inherit their relations was circumscribed. The chief criterion of eligibility was the ability to contribute to the strength of the individual tribe through effective participation in the popular sport of tribal warfare.

It is important to note that it is only Islam that has guaranteed women a share of inheritance. In some religions or cultures a woman as a wife is counted as part of the inheritance, and if not married she is automatically ignored.

Qur’an 4:7 says:

“Unto the men belongs a share of that which parents and near kindred leave, and unto the women, a share of that which parents and near kindred leave; whether it be little or much, a determinate share.”

However, some people have picked on Islam on the issue of the ratio of a woman’s share, which is sometimes half that of a man, and attributed this to injustice, and a mark of inferior status.

First of all the method of division of inheritance is clearly given in the Qur’an by Allah, the All-Wise, Who gains nothing from oppressing anyone. Secondly, it is not in all cases that a woman gets half the share of man, in some cases ‘Daughters’ inherit more than ‘Sons’ , while in some other cases Females inherit equally with Males.

The injunction only appears unfair when taken in isolation from other legislation. In particular, Qur’an 4:34 says: “Men are maintainers of women with the bounties which Allah has bestowed more abundantly on some of them than on others; and with what they may spend out of their possessions”.

In this context, men are charged with the maintenance of all the women and children in their family, and therefore their necessary obligations of expenditure are far higher than those of women. The half share that a woman inherits may therefore be considered a generous one since it is for her alone.