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What About Those Inheritance Laws?

May 6, 2016

Is it true that Islamic Religious Law (Shari’a) is unfair toward Muslim women when it comes to inheritance? Let’s explore if in fact Muslim women have anything to lose. The inheritance laws are actually in the Noble Qur’an and are found in surahs (chapters) 2, verse 240 and surah 4, verses: 8,11, 12 and 176.


  1. Parents and spouses: they must be the first ones to receive their share of inheritance.
  2. Children and siblings: once the first category is satisfied, then the second category must be met. In case there is no one in the first category, then all of the inheritance must be divided between people in the second category as instructed in the Qur’an.
  3. Relatives (maternal or paternal), servants, the poor people, etc.

Who Receives What?

The Parents–First Category

  • After the surviving spouse, each parent gets 1/6 of the inheritance from their deceased child if the child had children and siblings.
  • If the child had no siblings or children, then the first category candidate (the husband/wife) must first get the inheritance, then the parents share the rest equally.

The Spouses–First Category


  • If there were no children in the marriage, then the surviving husband gets 50%
  • If there were children, the surviving husband gets 25%


  • For surviving wife she gets 25% if there were no children in the marriage
  • If the surviving wife has had children with her husband, then she gets 12.5%
  • The woman has the right to stay in her husband’s house for a year and the deceased must left enough for her to live on for a whole year

The Children–Second Category

Shares divided only after the first category shares have been divided.


  • Sons receive the double amounts of daughters
  • If the deceased had only male children, then the sons get equal amount of inheritance
  • If the son is the only child, he gets all the children shares


  • If there was only one daughter, she gets 50% of the second category inheritance
  • If there are two or more daughters, each shares 2/3s of the property equally


  • If the deceased had no children, but had siblings then brothers get double the amount of sisters
  • If the deceased had only brothers, all brothers share equally
  • If he/she only had one brother, he inherits all after the first category is met
  • If he/she only had a sister, she gets 50% after the first category divisions
  • If there are two or more sister survivors, then each shares 2/3s


  • People are encouraged to leave something of inheritance for others not falling in the above categories, especially if after the property is divided up there is still some left.

What Does It All Mean?

Why do men seem to get more than women?

According to the religion of Islam, Muslim men are responsible to provide for their female family members/relatives even if the latter earn income. The men must provide housing, clothing, food and other necessities. So, for example if a woman is unmarried one or more of the following individuals would be responsible to provide for her: father, brother, uncle,  or grandfather. If it is a married woman in question, then the financial provider for her is her husband or son if the husband died.

In addition to Muslim women’s rights to inheritance, it is the woman that receives the dowry. The dowry is gift that the woman owns 100% and the husband has no right to take it back should they divorce unless she willingly gives it back or a portion of it. In some instances, the dowry is very expensive and large.

Further, if a woman divorces she must stay in the husband’s house for a period of time during which he is still responsible for her financially. The husband also must continue to financially provide for all children he had with her, no ifs or buts about it!

So, if you were a Muslim man in a traditional Islamic household, imagine your financial burden to take care of the parents, the children, some of the female relatives and your wife/wives? This is why, many Muslims agree, men are given larger shares than women when it comes to inheritance.

In essence, the women have not much to lose. If a married woman has deceased parents, she inherits portion of property from each. Should she also survive her siblings, husband or children, then she also has rights of inheritance from each of them too. In addition to that, someone must continue to take care of her financially (e.g. brother). What is there for her to lose really?

Are the Qur’anic Inheritance Laws set in stone? Not necessarily. Rather, they may represent a minimum of what is required of Muslims. As the times are changing, more and more women are becoming important financial contributors to the households. In some cases, they are the only ones earning an income. As such, many in the Muslim nations have sought to update their countries’ Inheritance laws to reflect the social changes.  Muslim-majority nations such Turkey and  Somalia have already amended the official laws of inheritance to be based on the gender equality. In many other countries there are movements to do the same. It really depends of the culture, country and social changes. The Qur’anic prescriptions for inheritance must be a minimum, but definitely not all Muslim people consider when they make their Wills.


The Noble Qur’an

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