4 - An Nisa (The women)

5 Tafsir(s) related to verse 4.11


God charges you, He commands you, concerning, the matter of, your children, with what He will mention: to the male, of them, the equivalent of the portion, the lot, of two females, if there are two [women] with him, so that half the property is his, and the other half is theirs; if there is only one female with him, then she has a third, and he receives two thirds; if he is the only one, he takes it all; and if they, the offspring, be, only, women more than two, then for them two-thirds of what he, the deceased, leaves; likewise if they be two women, since in the case of two sisters, more deserving of such a share, God says, They shall receive two-thirds of what he leaves [Q. 4:176]; and since a female is entitled to a third with a male, she is all the more deserving [of the same share] with a female. It is said that fawq, ‘more than’, introduces a relative clause; it is also said to guard against the wrong impression that the greater the number [of females] the greater the portion [they are entitled to], since, it is [mistakenly] thought that the entitlement of two females to two-thirds derives from the fact that a female is entitled to one third when with a male; but if she, the daughter, be one (wāhidatan, is also read wāhidatun, making the kāna [construction] syntactically complete) then to her a half; and to his parents, the deceased’s, to each one of the two (li-kulli wāhidin minhumā, substitutes for the previous li-abawayhi, ‘to his parents’) the sixth of what he leaves, if he has a child, male or female: the point of the substitution is to show that they do not share the sixth [but receive one each]. [The term] ‘child’ (walad) also applies to a grandchild, and likewise ‘parent’ (abb) to a grandparent; but if he has no child, and his heirs are his parents, alone or along with a spouse, then to his mother (read li-ummihi; also read, in both places [here and further down], li-immihi in order to avoid the cumbersome transition from a damma [‘u’] to a kasra [‘I’]) a third, of the property, or what remains after the spouse, the rest being for the father; or, if he has siblings, two or more, males or females, to his mother a sixth, and the rest for the father, and nothing for the siblings.


God charges you concerning your children, to the male the equivalent of

the portion of two females; and if they be women more than two, then for them

two-thirds of what he leaves; but if she be one then to her a half; and to his

parents, to each one of the two the sixth of what he leaves, if he has a child; but

if he has no child, and his heirs are his parents, then to his mother a third; or, if

he has siblings, to his mother a sixth after any bequest that he may bequeath, or

any debt.

Thc word 'charge' (waṣiyya) here means 'command'. He (s) set the terms of the inheritance among the inheritors for what is due from two aspects - the apportioning and the inheritance by the group of relatives (taʿṣīb). The inheritance by the group of relatives is stronger than the apportioning because it comprises all of the wealth whereas the greater part of the portions cannot exceed two-thirds [of the estate]. Therefore, the division [of the estate] begins with those who possess of the ordained portions and they are they weakest in terms of entitlement while the group of relatives (ʿaṣaba) has the stronger right. [The Prophet] (ṣ) said: Whatever remains of the portions goes to the nearest male relative. Thus is His way (sunna) forever, just as in [God] Most High's words: Then We bequeathed the Book to those of Our servants whom We chose. [35:32] We gave them the Book as the inheritance. Then He showed preference for the wrongdoer over those who take the lead. [Those who take the lead] are weaker in their claims for the showing of generosity with the wrongdoers because [the latter] are broken-hearted and unable to withstand the prolonged deferral.

To the male the equivalent of the portion of two females: If the matter were to be by strict measuring, the female would be more worthy in being preferred because of her weakness and her inability to move about freely, but His decree (s) does not require justification (ghayr al-muʿallal).

[4:11 cont'd] Your parents and children - you know not which of them is nearer in

benefit to you, a prescription from God; surely God is ever Knowing, Wise.

Children benefit you from their service and parents by their compassion, the parents in the state of your weakness in the beginning of your life and the children in the state of your weakness at the end of your life.

Asbab Al-Nuzul by Al-Wahidi

(Allah chargeth you concerning (the provision for) your children") [4:11]. Ahmad ibn Muhammad ibn Ahmad ibn Ja'far informed us> al-Hasan ibn Ahmad al-Makhladi> al-Mu'ammil ibn al-Hasan ibn 'Isa> al-Hasan ibn Muhammad ibn al-Sabbah> Hajjaj> Ibn Jurayj> Ibn al-Munkadir> Jabir who said: "The Messenger of Allah, Allah bless him and give him peace, and Abu Bakr came on foot to visit me at Banu Salamah when I was sick. He found me unconscious. He asked for some water, performed minor ritual ablution and then sprinkled some of the water on me and I woke up. I said: 'O Messenger of Allah! What shall I do with my wealth?' And so the verse (Allah chargeth you concerning (the provision for) your children: to the male the equivalent of the portion of two females")". This was narrated by Bukhari> Ibrahim ibn Musa> Hisham, and also by Muslim> Muhammad ibn Hatim> Hajjaj; and both Hisham and Hajjaj related this tradition from Ibn Jurayj. Abu Mansur Muhammad ibn Muhammad al-Mansuri informed us> 'Ali ibn 'Umar ibn Mahdi> Yahya ibn Sa'id>> Ahmad ibn al-Miqdam> Bishr ibn al-Mufaddal> 'Abd Allah ibn Muhammad ibn 'Aqil> Jabir ibn 'Abd Allah who said: "A woman came to the Messenger of Allah, Allah bless him and give him peace, with her two daughters and said: 'O Messenger of Allah! These are the daughters of Thabit ibn Qays, or perhaps she said Sa'd ibn al-Rabi', who was killed fighting on your side at the Battle of Uhud. Their uncle has taken possession of their fortune and inheritance and did not leave anything belonging to them except that he took it to himself, so what do you think, O Messenger of Allah? For by Allah, they will never get married unless they have some money'. The Messenger of Allah said to her: 'Allah will judge for you concerning this'. And so Surah al-Nisa' was revealed which contains (Allah chargeth you concerning (the provision for) your children: to the male the equivalent of the portion of two females"). The Messenger of Allah, Allah bless him and give him peace, then said to me: 'Summon for me the woman and her adversary'. He said to the uncle of the girls: 'Give the girls two third of the fortune, their mother one eighth and keep the remainder' ".

Sayyid Abul Ala Maududi - Tafhim al-Qur'an

The first guiding principle about the division of inheritance is that the share of the male shall be double that of the female, and this is very sound and just. As the Muslim law lays the major burden of the economic responsibility of the family on the male and keeps the female almost free from it, justice demands that her share of inheritance should be less than that of the male.

The same applies to the case of two daughters as well. It means that if the deceased leaves no son but only daughters, whether they are two or more, they shall be entitled to two-thirds of the whole inheritance and the remaining one-third shall be divided among the other heirs. As a corollary of this, if the deceased leaves only one son, there is a consensus of opinion that he shall be entitled to the whole of the inheritance in the absence of other heirs and if there are other heirs too, he shall receive the whole of the retraining inheritance after the allotment of their shares.

Each of the parents of the deceased shall be entitled to one-sixth of the inheritance, if he leaves behind a child or children whether they are only daughters or only sons or both sons and daughters, or only one son or only one daughter. As regards the remaining two-thirds, it shall be divided among the other heirs.

The remaining two-thirds shall be given to the father, if there be no other heir; otherwise the father shall share two-thirds with the other heirs.

If the deceased has brothers and sisters, the share of the mother has been reduced froth one-third to one-sixth. This reduced one-sixth will be added to the father's share, for in that case the father's responsibilities are increased. It should be noted that the brothers and sisters of the deceased are not entitled to any share if the parents are alive.

The mention of the fulfillment of the will precedes the payment of the debt, for every deceased person may not owe a debt, but he must make his will. As regards the enforcement of the law, the consensus of opinion of the whole Muslim Community is that the payment of debt must have priority over the fulfillment of the will. That is, the debt, if any, must be paid first and then the terms of the will should be enforced and after this the inheritance should be divided. In E.N. 182 of Al-Baqarah, it has been stated that one has the right to bequeath by will one-third of the whole property. This has been permitted to enable a person to leave for a deserving relative or relatives, who are not entitled to inheritance, a part of the property. For instance, if there is an orphan grandson or a grand-daughter, or the widow of a son or an indigent brother or sister, or a brother's widow, or a nephew, or some other relative, who needs help, he may leave a part of the inheritance for such a one by means of his will. One is even allowed to leave by will a share for any deserving person or for public service. In short, the law regulates the distribution of two-thirds (or a little more) of one's inheritance and gives option for the disposal of the remaining (about one-third) by the special circumstances of one's own family., (which obviously vary of each individual). At the same time provision has been made to wrong done by a will to the heirs in any way. The members of the rectify that wrong by mutual consent or take the case to the Muslim will to suit in the case redress any family may judge for redress. For further explanation, see my book: Yatim Potay Ki Warasat.

This is the answer to all those foolish people who do not understand the wisdom of the Divine Law of inheritance, and in their folly propose amendments to it in order to make up for "the deficiency" in the Law.

Tanwîr al-Miqbâs min Tafsîr Ibn ‘Abbâs

Allah then exposited the share of the male and female in inheritance, saying: (Allah chargeth you) Allah expounds to you (concerning your children) concerning the inheritance of your children after you die: (to the male the equivalent of the portion of two females) the share of two females, (and if there be women) blood daughters (more than two) two or more daughters, (then theirs is two-thirds of the inheritance, and if there be one) daughter ((only) then the half) of the inheritance. (And to his parents a sixth of the inheritance, if he) the deceased person (have a son) or daughter; (and if he) the deceased person (have no son) or daughter (and his parents are his heirs, then to his mother appertaineth the third) and the reminder is the share of the father; (and if he) the deceased person (have brethren) full brothers or half brothers from either the father or the mother, (then to his mother appertaineth the sixth, after any legacy he may have bequeathed, or debt (hath been paid)) after paying the debt of the deceased and extracting any bequest which does not exceed a third of the inheritance. (Your parents or your children: Ye know not) in this world (which of them is nearer unto you in usefulness) in the Hereafter in terms of rank; it is also said that this means: you do not know which of them is nearer in usefulness in this world with regard to inheritance. (It is an injunction from Allah) upon you that you divide the estates. (Lo! Allah is Knower) in relation to the division of inheritance, (Wise) in relation to the difference between the shares of the male and female.