Islam and the Quran

Why Men Inherit Twice the Women

Question: Qur’an requires 1 share to woman, 2 shares to man when dividing inherited properties. What is its wisdom? Islam gave shares of inherited properties taking the social structure and responsibilities (of man and woman) into consideration at the time the Qur’an came to us. However, today’s social structures and responsibilities have changed a lot. In this case, is it going to take place 1 to 2 share proportion? Or, will everyone receive equal shares according to changed structure?

The rules of Qur’an are effective till the Day of Judgment. The rulings that are set and not superseded in the Qur’an cannot be claimed as historic, and the rulings of verses cannot be changed. The following verses were sent down, after how the division of inherited properties should be made is explained in the verses 4:11 and 4:12 (Surah An-Nisa/The Woman) :

These are the bounds set by God. Whoever obeys God and His Book[1] voluntarily, God will cause them to enter the Gardens in which rivers flow. They will be immortal there. That is the great triumph. And whoever rebels God and His Book and transgresses the bounds set by Him – God will cause them to enter the Fire. They will be immortal there. A humiliating punishment awaits him.” (An-Nisa/The Women 4:13-14)

As seen, all regulations regarding the division of inherited properties are constant rules of God. Nobody has the right or authority to change these rules supposing various reasons. We need to submit ourselves with a total submission to God in this subject as such in all other ones. When it comes to why brother gets more than sister, its wisdoms, as much as we inferred, are as follows:

1. Men give mehr when they get married, women, on the other hand, receive mehr. For example, if one man and his sister are inheritors, their father inherited three apartments and three hundred million Euros, two of the apartments and two hundred millions will be left to the brother, one apartment and one hundred million to the sister. And if the woman gets fifty million mehr from her husband, her money increases to one hundred and fifty million, thereby equalizing their money. The man will allocate one of the apartments for his wife to live in, and the sister will reside in the apartment that her husband furnishes. In this way both sister and brother will have an apartment in hand for rental and will be equal in this case, too. Of course this example is not valid for every situation, but gives a clue about the issue. The shares of inheritance are not equal between wife and husband. An-Nisa verse 12 suggests:

And to you belongs half of whatever has been left behind by your wives if they die childless; but if they have any children then to you belongs a fourth of what they have left behind, after payment of the bequest they might have made or any debts outstanding against them. And to them belongs a fourth of what you leave behind, if you die childless; and if you have any child then to them belongs one-eighth of what you have left behind, after the payment of the bequest you might have made or any debts outstanding against you. ”  

It can be understood that this regulation is appropriate when considered that the marriage does not place any financial burden to the woman, man takes on all the burdens. Because woman has no responsibility to contribute to the family budget from her own earnings or spending for her own needs or that of her children. In this way, the property balance is disrupted to the detriment of man. The extra share that the man will have from inheritance will balance this.  

2. Man feels comfortable while meeting his duty that he takes on to his wife and children. Because the extra share will remind his responsibilities to him.

3. Better financial position of man enhances his position in the family. Because a man who cannot spend for his wife and children would feel ashamed and humiliated, and would not be able to rule the family. This affects the ambience in the family directly. It is always witnessed that unrest in the families outbreak, wife is unhappy and children are not grown up where the wife is rich and husband is poor.

4. Husbands must will that their wives be sustained for one year in case the husbands die. (2:240)

5. Widowed women’s or unmarried girls’ subsistence are provided by their father, or -if the father is deceased- by their brothers.


Considering all these financial responsibilities upon men and the ease provided for women, the wisdom of inheritance division becomes clear.

[1] The word “rasul = رسول” mentioned in the verse means both “information that is sent” and “the messenger who delivers the sent information” (Mufradat, art. رسل). The information is of higher worth than the messenger, and therefore the Almighty God has decreed: “Muhammad is only a messenger. Messengers have passed on before him. If he dies or gets killed, will you turn about on your heels?” (Al-e Imran 3:144). The information that the Messenger Muhammad (pbuh) brought is gathered in the Quran, and the “rasul” is the Quran Itself, becoming so after his death. Therefore, depending on the context, the word “rasul” is assigned the meaning “the Book of God” within this work, as well as “the Messenger of God”.

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