4 - An Nisa (The women)

6 Tafsir(s) related to verse 4.11

Al-Jalalayn

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.

Al-Qushairi

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' ".

Ibn Al Kathir

Learning the Various Shares of the Inheritance is Encouraged

This, the following, and the last honorable Ayah in this Surah contain the knowledge of Al-Fara'id, inheritance. The knowledge of Al-Fara'id is derived from these three Ayat and from the Hadiths on this subject which explain them. Learning this knowledge is encouraged, especially the specific things mentioned in the Ayat. Ibn `Uyaynah said; "Knowledge of Al-Fara'id was called half of knowledge, because it effects all people.''

The Reason Behind Revealing Ayah 4:11

Explaining this Ayah, Al-Bukhari recorded that Jabir bin `Abdullah said, "Allah's Messenger came visiting me on foot with Abu Bakr at Banu Salamah's (dwellings), and the Prophet found me unconscious. He asked for some water, performed ablution with it, then poured it on me, and I regained consciousness. I said, `What do you command me to do with my money, O Allah's Messenger' this Ayah was later revealed,

يُوصِيكُمُ اللَّهُ فِى أَوْلَـدِكُمْ لِلذَّكَرِ مِثْلُ حَظِّ الاٍّنْثَيَيْنِ

(Allah commands you for your children's (inheritance); to the male, a portion equal to that of two females)." This is how it was recorded by Muslim and An-Nasa'i. The remainder of the Six compilers also collected this Hadith. Another Hadith from Jabir concerning the reason behind revealing Ayah 4:11 Ahmad recorded from Jabir that he said, "The wife of Sa`d bin Ar-Rabi` came to Allah's Messenger and said to him, `O Allah's Messenger! These are the two daughters of Sa`d bin Ar-Rabi`, who was killed as a martyr at Uhud. Their uncle took their money and did not leave anything for them. They will not be married unless they have money.' The Messenger said, `Allah will decide on this matter.' The Ayah about the inheritance was later revealed and the Messenger of Allah sent word to their uncle commanding him,

«أَعْطِ ابْنَتَيْ سَعْدٍ الثُّلُثَيْنِ، وَأُمَّهُمَا الثُّمُنَ، وَمَا بقِيَ فَهُوَ لَك»

(Give two-thirds (of Sa`d's money) to Sa`d's two daughters and one eighth for their mother, and whatever is left is yours.)'' Abu Dawud, At-Tirmidhi, and Ibn Majah collected this Hadith. It is apparent, however, that the first Hadith from Jabir was about the case of the last Ayah in the Surah 4:176, rather than 4:11, for at the time this incident occurred, Jabir had sisters and did not have daughters, parents or offspring to inherit from him. Yet, we mentioned the Hadith here just as Al-Bukhari did.

Males Get Two Times the Share of Females for Inheritance

Allah said,

يُوصِيكُمُ اللَّهُ فِى أَوْلَـدِكُمْ لِلذَّكَرِ مِثْلُ حَظِّ الاٍّنْثَيَيْنِ

(Allah commands you for your children's (inheritance): to the male, a portion equal to that of two females;) Allah commands: observe justice with your children. The people of Jahiliyyah used to give the males, but not the females, a share in the inheritance. Therefore, Allah commands that both males and females take a share in the inheritance, although the portion of the males is twice as much as that of the females. There is a distinction because men need money to spend on their dependants, commercial transactions, work and fulfillling their obligations. Consequently, men get twice the portion of the inheritance that females get. Allah's statement,

يُوصِيكُمُ اللَّهُ فِى أَوْلَـدِكُمْ لِلذَّكَرِ مِثْلُ حَظِّ الاٍّنْثَيَيْنِ

(Allah commands you for your children's (inheritance): to the male, a portion equal to that of two females;) testifies to the fact that Allah is more merciful with children than their own parents are with them, since He commands the parents to be just and fair with their own children. An authentic Hadith stated that a captured woman was looking for her child and when she found him, she held him, gave him her breast and nursed him. The Messenger of Allah said to his Companions,

«أَتُرَوْنَ هذِهِ طَارِحَةً وَلَدَهَا فِي النَّارِ وَهِيَ تَقْدِرُ عَلى ذَلِك»

(Do you think that this woman would willingly throw her child in the fire) They said, "No, O Messenger of Allah.'' He said,

«فَوَاللهِ للهُ أَرْحَمُ بِعِبَادِهِ مِنْ هذِهِ بِوَلَدِهَا»

(By Allah! Allah is more merciful with His servants than this woman is with her own child.) Al-Bukhari recorded that Ibn `Abbas said, "The custom (in old days) was that the property of the deceased would be inherited by his offspring; as for the parents (of the deceased), they would inherit by the will of the deceased. Then Allah cancelled whatever He willed from that custom and ordained that the male get twice the amount inherited by the female, and for each parent a sixth (of the whole legacy), for the wife an eighth or a fourth, and for the husband a half or a fourth.''

The Share of the Females When They Are the Only Eligible Heirs

Allah said,

فَإِن كُنَّ نِسَآءً فَوْقَ اثْنَتَيْنِ فَلَهُنَّ ثُلُثَا مَا تَرَكَ

(if only daughters, two or more, their share is two-thirds of the inheritance;) We should mention here that some people said the Ayah only means two daughters, and that `more' is redundant, which is not true. Nothing in the Qur'an is useless or redundant. Had the Ayah been talking about only two women, it would have said, "The share of both of them is two-thirds.'' As for the daughters, two or more, the ruling that they get two-thirds was derived from this Ayah, stating that the two sisters get two-thirds. We also mentioned the Hadith in which the Prophet commanded that two-thirds be the share of the two daughters of Sa`d bin Ar-Rabi`. So this is proven in the Book and the Sunnah.

وَإِن كَانَتْ وَحِدَةً فَلَهَا النِّصْفُ

(if only one, her share is half.) If there are two daughters, then there are texts to prove they share a half. Therefore, two-thirds is the share of the two daughters or sisters, and Allah knows best.

Share of the Parents in the Inheritance

Allah said,

وَلاًّبَوَيْهِ لِكُلِّ وَحِدٍ مِّنْهُمَا السُّدُسُ

(For parents, a sixth share of inheritance to each) There are several forms of the share that the parents get in the inheritance. 1. If the deceased left behind children, the parents get a sixth each. When the deceased had only one daughter, she gets half of the inheritance and the parents each one sixth, and another sixth is given to the father. 2. When the parents are the only inheritors, the mother gets one-third while the father gets the remaining two-thirds. In this case, the father's share will be twice the mother's share. If the deceased had a surviving spouse, the spouse gets half, in the case of a husband, or a fourth in the case of a surviving wife. In both cases, the mother of the deceased gets one-third of the remaining inheritance. This is because the remaining portion of the inheritance is treated just as the entire legacy in regard to the parents' share. Allah has given the mother one-half of what the father gets. Therefore, the mother gets a third of the remaining inheritance while the father gets two-thirds. 3. If the deceased left behind surviving brothers and sisters, whether half brothers, half sisters or from the same father and mother, their presence does not cause reduction in the father's share. Yet, their presence reduces the share of the mother to one-sixth instead of one-third, and the father gets the rest, when there are no other heirs. Ibn Abi Hatim recorded that Qatadah commented on the Ayah,

فَإِن كَانَ لَهُ إِخْوَةٌ فَلاٌّمِّهِ السُّدُسُ

(If the deceased left brothers or (sisters), the mother has a sixth.) "Their presence will reduce the share of the mother, but they will not inherit. If there is only one surviving brother, the mother's share will remain one-third, but her share will be reduced if there is more than one surviving brother. The people of knowledge attribute this reduction in the mother's share from one-third (to one-sixth) to the fact that the father is the one who helps the brothers (and sisters) of the deceased get married, spending from his own money for this purpose. The mother does not spend from her money for this purpose.'' This is a sound opinion.

First the Debts are Paid Off, then the Will, then the Fixed Inheritance

Allah said,

مِن بَعْدِ وَصِيَّةٍ يُوصَى بِهَآ أَوْ دَيْنٍ

((The distribution in all cases is) after the payment of legacies he may have bequeathed or debts.) The scholars of the Salaf and the Khalaf agree that paying debts comes before fulfilling the will, and this is apparent to those who read the Ayah carefully. Allah said next,

ءَابَآؤُكُمْ وَأَبناؤُكُمْ لاَ تَدْرُونَ أَيُّهُمْ أَقْرَبُ لَكُمْ نَفْعاً

(You know not which of them, whether your parents or your children, are nearest to you in benefit.) This Ayah means: We have appointed a share to the parents and children, contrary to the practice of Jahiliyyah and the early Islamic era, when the inheritance would go to the children, and parents get a share only if they were named in the will, as Ibn `Abbas stated. Allah abrogated this practice and appointed a fixed share for the children and for the parents. One may derive benefit in this life or for the Hereafter from his parents, the likes of which he could not get from his children. The opposite of this could also be true. Allah said,

ءَابَآؤُكُمْ وَأَبناؤُكُمْ لاَ تَدْرُونَ أَيُّهُمْ أَقْرَبُ لَكُمْ نَفْعاً

(You know not which of them, whether your parents or your children, are nearest to you in benefit,): since benefit could come from one or the other of these relatives, We appointed a fixed share of inheritance for each. Allah knows best. Allah said,

فَرِيضَةً مِّنَ اللَّهِ

(ordained by Allah), meaning: These appointed shares of inheritance that We mentioned and which give some inheritors a bigger share than others, is a commandment from Allah that He has decided and ordained,

إِنَّ اللَّهَ كَانَ عَلِيماً حَكِيماً

(And Allah is Ever All-Knower, All-Wise.), Who places everything in its rightful place and gives each his rightful share.

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.