Some people like to attack Islam through women. They say: “How can a religion that oppresses women, allows polygyny, gives women half the rights of men in inheritance, forces women to wear a veil in disgrace, allows men to beat up their wives, prevent women from driving, etc., be considered divine?! Are you Muslims crazy? This religion teaches sexism and your Holy book couldn’t be but from satan.”
I have already posted about Veil before; hence, in this post I’m going to talk about another accusation, that is the one of inheritance. First, I will get started with an overview on how the Qur’an defines the relationship between men and women:
“And the believers, men and women, are protecting friends one of another, they enjoin the right and forbid the wrong, and they establish worship and they pay alms, and they obey Allah and His messenger. As for these, Allah will have mercy on them. Allah is Omnipotent, All-Wise.” [The Qur’an (9:71)]
“And of His signs is that: He created for you spouses from yourselves that you might find tranquility in them, and He ordained between you love and mercy. Lo, herein indeed are signs for folk who reflect.” [The Qur’an (30:21)]
“On the Day when you will see the believing men and the believing women, their light proceeding in front of them and by their right hands, this is a glad tiding for you, from that day on, you shall dwell in gardens beneath which rivers flow, that is the supreme triumph.” [The Qur’an (57:12)]
The above verses emphasize that men and women complete each other. As long as they are righteous, they shall not be separated, neither in this life nor in the next. There are many other verses that convey the same meaning. Likewise, Prophet Muhammad taught his companions about women’s partnership and great role in building the society, among his teachings are the following:
“Women are the twin-halves of men” [Recorded by Ahmad and others]
“The best wealth in this worldly life is nothing but good companionship, and the best companionship is that of a righteous wife.” [Recorded by Muslim]
“Commend tenderness towards your women.” [Recorded by Bukhari]
“Men propose to women for four reasons: her wealth, her noble ancestry, her beauty and her piousness. Win her who is pious or you shall end up empty handed.” [Recorded by Bukhari and Muslim]
Islam defended women’s right to inheritance. For every woman left behind the deceased person, a known share of the heritage has been prescribed by Allah in the Qur’an whether she is a daughter, a sister, a widow, a mother, a step sister, a granddaughter or a grandmother. Allah says in the Qur’an:
“For men there is a share in what the parents and the nearest of kin have left. And for women there is a share in what the parents and the nearest of kin have left, be it small or large, a determined share.” [The Qur’an (4:7)]
If you continue reading this chapter of the Qur’an, you will read the details of these shares. They are distributed in such a way that preserves the unity of the family. The Islamic laws of inheritance abolished the custom of maintaining the property monopolized by men. Allah says:
“Allah directs you concerning your children: for a male there is a share equal to that of two females. But, if they are (only) women, more than two, then they get two thirds of what one leaves behind. If she is one, she gets one-half. As for his parents, for each of them, there is one-sixth of what he leaves in case he has a child. But, if he has no child and his parents have inherited him, then his mother gets one-third. If he has some brothers (or sisters), his mother gets one-sixth, all after (settling) the will he might have made, or a debt. You do not know who, out of your fathers and your sons, is closer to help you, all this is determined by Allah. Surely, Allah is All-Knowing, All-Wise. For you there is one-half of what your wives leave behind, in case they have no child. But, if they have a child, you get one-fourth of what they leave, after (settling) the will they might have made, or a debt. For them (the wives) there is one-fourth of what you leave behind, in case you have no child. But, if you have a child, they get one eighth of what you leave, after (settling) the will you might have made, or a debt. And if a man or a woman is inherited in Kalalah (i.e. has neither parents alive, nor children) and has a brother or a sister, then each one of them will get one sixth. However, if they are more than that, they will be sharers in one-third, after (settling) the will that might have been made, or a debt, provided that the will must not be intended to harm anyone. This is a direction from Allah. Allah is All- Knowing, Forbearing.” [The Qur’an (4:11-12)]
Later on in the same chapter, Allah says: “They seek a ruling from you. Say (O Muhammad): ‘Allah gives you the ruling concerning Kalalah (i.e. has neither parents alive, nor children), If a person dies having no son, but he does have a sister, then, she will get one half of what he leaves. (On the other hand) He will inherit her if she has no child. If they are two (sisters), they will get two third of what he leaves. If they are brothers and sisters, both male and female, then, the male will get a share equal to that of two females.’ Allah explains to you, lest you should go astray. Allah has full knowledge of everything.” [The Qur’an (4:176)]
All jurisprudence books contain a big chapter concerning inheritance, it includes hundreds of different cases in the forms of problems and answers to teach Muslims how to calculate the inheritance in all cases as was taught by the prophet P.B.U.H. during his life and his companions after him. Amazingly there are about 30 more cases in which women inherit more than men. Today, many computer programs have been designed to calculate the share of each one of the family members. The controversial issue that most non-Muslims always raise is: “Why didn’t Allah equate the shares of brothers and sisters, husbands and wives, etc…?” The answer to this question is also in the same chapter where Allah says:
“Men are the protectors and caretakers of women, with what Allah has favored each of them above the other (i.e. the men with strength and bigger share in inheritance, and the women with their emotional sympathizing hearts and tenderness) and because the men spend from their means (i.e. taking care of their families)…” [The Qur’an (4:34)]
Sheikh Mufti Muhammad Shāfe‘i wrote about this issue extensively in his magnificent exegesis “Ma’aref Al-Qur’an”, for simplicity, an extract from what he said shall follow in indents:
This verse explains and removes the possible doubt that may creep up due to the share of men being twice that of women as described in the verses of inheritance. This is done by the present verse when it declares that all financial responsibilities rest with men. As for women, all her financial responsibilities before her marriage rest with her father, and after marriage, these pass on to the husband. If a woman contributes in the daily expenses of the house, this is considered as charity for her and a highly esteemed deed in Islam, but it’s not an obligation, her husband should really appreciate her doing this. Islam also imposed a dowry on men that should be paid to their wives upon marriage, and the responsibility of preparing a house, buying its furniture and needs are all the responsibility of the man. With this in view, giving a twofold share to a man is not really too much, for it zooms back to women after all and raises her to the rank of an honored queen whose requests are orders to her caretaker.
Islam has dignified all women and elevated their status to that of queens by laying their responsibility upon their men and emphasizing the principal that a woman, in terms of her tender creation and nature, should not be subjected to go out, work and earn her own livelihood. The attributes of her gender are hardly conducive to her running around offices and markets, doing jobs and laborious work to earn a livelihood unless there is a certain urge behind that. So, to keep her safe from roughing it out like men, Allah Almighty has placed her responsibility on men. Think of the women’s creation, Laying down the burden of being the ones who conceive the children and mainly the one who is responsible for their feeding, upbringing and education, while also being responsible for managing the house and fulfilling the family members’ home needs, all this comes in conflict with the idea of her sweating it out in the work places in the name of income, career or liberation. Any person with the least sense of mercy should understand that. Most men cannot handle the burdens of responsibilities laid down upon women by creation.
Keeping this in view, it is totally unjust to deduce that the status of women has been reduced by making them dependent on men in the matter of her expenses. There is no value judgment being made here. This is no more than a functional distribution of duties based on the nature of each gender according to creation. This is no more than a brief explanation that the precedence of men does not lower the status of women, nor does this hold any special gain for them. On the contrary whatever gain there is, it reverts back to women after all.
From the previous verses, Muslim jurists deduced the following rules:
- Men must protect their wives and work to provide for their families and comply with their needs.
- Men are the ones responsible for spending on their families, this is why Allah has given them a bigger share of inheritance.
- Women have independent financial assets from men.
- If the man’s income wasn’t enough and his wife supports him, this is considered charity for her and she shall be rewarded for it by Allah.
Written By: Ehab Shawky