53) The Qur’an does recommend that men are to receive twice the
portion of women in their share of inheritance. Is this not an explicit
In truth, the only religious text that grants the right of inheritance
to woman is the Qur’an. Indeed, many of the nations, termed
today as progressive, have conferred upon women the right to inheritance
only in the twentieth century. As for the Qur’an itself, it had
declared unequivocally in the seventh century itself that, “From what
is left by parents and those nearest related there is a share for men
and a share for women, whether the property be small or large, – a
According to the Old Testament of the Bible, only sons have
the right to inheritance. Therein can be seen verses, which suggest
that the wealth of the deceased is to be divided amongst the sons of
the deceased. (Deuteronomy 21:15-17). There is also the recommendation,
which requires that the daughters be given the right to inheritance
if there are no sons. “And you shall speak to the children of
Israel, saying: ‘If a man dies and has no son, then you shall cause his
inheritance to pass to his daughter” (Numbers 27:8). Even the widow
had no right in the wealth of her husband. (Rev.A.C.Clayton: Bible
Dictionary (Malayalam Version), P.113)
As far as the New Testament of the Bible is concerned, there
is no mention, whatsoever, of any proportioning of the wealth of inheritance
in it. The Christian church had, in all such matters, been following
the commandments of the Old Testament. It was precisely for this
reason that, until very recently, women had not the right to earn and
save – not to mention any right to inheritance – in all such areas where
the majority was Christian in population. It was in 1848 that women
were allowed to earn money in New York. It was in 1850 that the law,
which allowed for women to have the right to inheritance, came into
The Hindu scriptures, which saw woman as the private property
of man, and formulate laws in accordance thereof, does not even
make a mention of making her a beneficiery in the wealth of inheritance.
A reading of the Hindu books makes us to understand that the
wife is the private property of the husband, which he can always give
away in charity or for the use of another. Sudarshan who makes available
his wife for the entertainment of the guest (Mahabharath: commandments)
and Mithrasah who hands over his wife to Vasishta (Peace)
both are indicative of this. There is nothing in the Hindu scriptures,
which imply that the daughters are entitled to the wealth of their father.
Indeed, the Manusmrithi has laid down the law that it is the sons
who are entitled to the wealth of inheritance.
Oordan pishushcha mathrucha samethabrathrasamam
Bajeran Pytrakamriktha manishasthi hijeevatha (9:104)
“After the father and mother (are dead), the brothers should
assemble and divide the paternal estate equally, for they have no power over the two of them while they are alive”.
The Qur’an recognizes the right of the sons and daughters to
the wealth of their parents.Besides the right of the sons and daughters,
the Qur’an clearly recommends the exact share that the parents,
spouses and siblings of the deceased person have to be approportioned
from that person’s wealth. Indeed, the right of the son and daughter is
but a part of this share allotment. So goes the beginning of the Qur’anic
verses which deals extensively with the subject of inheritance: “God
(thus) directs you as regards your children’s (inheritance): to the male,
a portion equal to that of two females: if only daughters, two or more,
their share is two thirds of the inheritance; if only one, her share is a
half . For parents, a sixth share of the 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. (The distribution in all cases is) after the payment
of legacies and debts. Ye know not whether your parents or your
children are nearest to you in benefit. These are settled portions ordained
by God; and God is All knowing, All wise. In what your wives
leave, your share is a half, if they leave no child; but if they leave a
child , ye get a fourth; after payment of legacies and debts. If the man
or woman whose inheritance is in question, has left neither ascendants
nor descendants, but has left a brother or a sister, each one of the
two gets a sixth; but if more than two, they share in a third; after
payment of legacies and debts; so that no loss is caused (to anyone).
Thus is it ordained by God; and God is All-knowing, Most forbearing.”
( 4:11,12). In short, therefore, the son of the deceased is to have a
share in the inheritance that is twice to that of the daughter. However,
is this meant to be an act of discrimination towards the woman? Is this
a law that tends to highlight partiality towards the man? It will be of
benefit if the following facts are understood before any conclusions
are hastily arrived upon:
One: The Qur’an recognizes the right of woman to earn wealth.
Indeed, to earn as much as she desires. There is to be no right for the
man in any such earnings of hers. Her earnings will be hers alone.
Two: Under no circumstances will the protection and maintenance
of woman; children or the parents become the duty of the
woman. This then means that irrespective of how wealthy a woman
might be, she is not duty bound to bear the expenses of her own self,
children, parents or husband.
Three: Woman has the right to take, at the time of her marriage,
her dower from her husband. This dower (Mehr) is then effectively
treated as her own wealth.
Four: The protection of the family is the duty of man. It is man
who is duty bound to bear the expenses of his wife and children. Furthermore,
it is again his duty to protect his parents and other close
relatives. In effect, therefore, all financial burdens have to be borne
Five: Irrespective of how wealthy a wife might be, the husband
has no right, whatsoever, to take from any portion of her wealth without
her explicit permission.
The question may now be considered as to whether the Qur’an
has dealt justly or discriminatingly with the woman.
The wealth of inheritance received by woman is hers and hers
alone. None else has the right to this wealth. But what of that received
by man? He has to pay his marriage dower, take up the maintenance
of the women. And to bear her as well as the children’s expenses.
All falls under the responsibility of the man. Then is it man or
woman who has found favourable treatment in the Qur’an?
All other religious texts, which confer financial responsibilities
upon the man, have, in lieu of such duties, restricted the right to inheritance
with the man. As for the Qur’an, while it does stress upon the
fact that all financial burdens will be shouldered by man, it, nevertheless,
provides for the inheritance of woman as well. Indeed, by
approportioning half the inheritance of man to woman it has greatly
What then, can be the non-Qur’anic recommendations of the
critics on this subject? Two such recommendations may be raised:
1. Woman be given twice the wealth of man. Confer financial responsibilities upon woman.
2. Man and woman be given equal share in the wealth of inheritance.
Distribute financial responsibilities equally between them.
Both these recommendations seek to burden woman with the
yoke of financial responsibilities. This is an idea that is against the
very nature of womanhood. For, during times of pregnancy and childbirth
she yearns for the care and protection of the man. To burden
woman with financial responsibilities, as a rule, is to create conditions
of grave and far reaching consequences that will arise in the future.
As such, it is certain that the law which the Qur’an has put forward as
the subject of inheritance is, by far, the best that there is for woman’s