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Holy Quran Section > English Translation and Commentary of the Holy Quran by Maulana Muhammad Ali (Table of Contents) > Chapter 4 (Al-Nisa’ - The Women) > Section 2 (Verses 11 to 14)


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Section/Ruku 2 [Verses 11 to 14]: Law of inheritance:
Chapter Chapter 4: (Al-Nisa’: The Women)
(Revealed at Madinah: 24 sections; 176 verses)

1. Translation:

11 Allah enjoins you concerning your children: for the male is the equal of the portion of two females; but if there be more than two females,
a two-thirds of what the deceased leaves is theirs; and if there be one, for her is the half. And as for his parents, for each of them is the sixth of what he leaves, if he has a child; but if he has no child and (only) his two parents inherit him, for his mother is the third; but if he has brothers, for his mother is the sixth, after (payment of) a bequest he may have bequeathed or a debt.b Your parents and your children, you know not which of them is the nearer to you in benefit. This is an ordinance from Allah. Allah is surely ever Knowing, Wise.

12 And yours is half of what your wives leave if they have no child; but if they have a child, your share is a fourth of what they leave after (payment of) any bequest they may have bequeathed or a debt; and theirs is the fourth of what you leave if you have no child, but if you have a child, their share is the eighth of what you leave after (payment of) a bequest you may have bequeathed or a debt.a And if a man or a woman, having no children, leaves property to be inherited and he (or she) has a brother or a sister,b then for each of them is the sixth; but if they are more than that, they shall be sharers in the third after (payment of ) a bequest that may have been bequeathed or a debt not injuring (others).c This is an ordinance from Allah: and Allah is Knowing, Forbearing.

13 These are Allah’s limits. And whoever obeys Allah and His Messenger, He will admit him to Gardens wherein flow rivers, to abide in them. And this is the great achievement.

14 And whoever disobeys Allah and His Messenger and goes beyond His limits, He will make him enter fire to abide in it, and for him is an abasing chastisement.

2. Commentary:

11a. By females are here meant the female children. When the daughters are the sole heirs they are entitled to a share of two-thirds. The share of two-thirds to which “more than two” daughters are entitled remains the same even when the daughters are two only; a single daughter being entitled to one-half as made clear further on. Compare v. 176, where two sisters are mentioned but they include more than two. [Back to verse 11]

11b. This is the second case, and it deals with the question of inheritance when the deceased is survived by parents. In this case the parents first take their respective shares, and the residue goes to the children, if there are any, failing which, the share of the parents is increased. But in case the deceased has brothers, the mother receives the same share as she would have received if the deceased had children.

It may be noted that in all cases the payment of bequests and debts takes precedence of the shares of the heirs. [Back to verse 11]

12a. This is the third case, and it deals with the question when the deceased leaves a husband or a wife with or without children. The husband or the wife takes his or her share first, as in the case of parents, and the residue goes to the children.

If there are parents as well as husband or wife and children, the first two would take their shares first, and the residue would go to the children, whether males alone or females alone or males and females mixed. The two-thirds share for two or more daughters can only be given when there are neither parents, nor husband or wife; otherwise they take the residue, as in the case of sons or sons and daughters.

Practice is against this, and brings in ‘aul to solve the difficulty. The ‘aul was first legalised by ‘Ali, the fourth Caliph, who, being questioned about the share of a wife, the other heirs being the two parents and two daughters, gave the answer “without premeditation” that the wife’s one-eighth had become one-ninth, for the two parents should take one-third, the two daughters two-thirds, and the wife one-eighth, which make up nine-eighths, and hence ‘Ali decided that each of the heirs should take less than was due, so that the proportion might remain the same (T). The difficulty would not have arisen if there had been sons instead of daughters or sons along with daughters. If ‘Ali had decided to give the residue to the two daughters after taking away the wife’s one-eighth and the parents’ one-third as he should have done in the case of two sons or a son and a daughter, the question of ‘aul would not have arisen. [Back to verse 12]

12b. Commentators are of opinion that by a brother or a sister here is meant a brother or a sister on the mother’s side and that the case of real brothers and sisters, or brothers and sisters on the father’s side, is dealt with in v. 176 of this chapter. The reason for this is that here as well as in v. 176, the property to be inherited is that of a kalalah, and it is generally supposed that a kalalah is one who has neither parents nor children. But as a matter of fact kalalah bears two meanings. It means the person who has no children whether he has parents or not, and it also means the person who has neither children nor parents. It is derived from kalla which means he became tired or fatigued, and therefore its primary significance would be the person who has no children. I‘Ab is reported to have explained this word as meaning one who does not leave offspring whether he leaves parents or not. ‘Umar also is reported to have said that kalalah is one who has no children, that is all; see Ghara’ib al-Qur’an. Hence it is more reasonable to take the kalalah spoken of here as being different from the kalalah spoken of in v. 176. The kalalah in the present case is one who has no children but has parents, and therefore the brothers and sisters are not the only heirs and their share is only one-sixth, while the kalalah spoken of in v. 176 is one who leaves neither children nor parents, and therefore the brothers and the sisters take the whole of the inheritance. [Back to verse 12]

12c. As in the case of those who have no children there is much likelihood of their burdening the estate with unnecessary debts, or even admitting debts that have not really been contracted, and of making bequests that would leave nothing for legal heirs, the words not injuring others are added, to make it clear that debts and bequests in such a case shall not prejudice the rights of the legal heirs. [Back to verse 12]

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Holy Quran Section > English Translation and Commentary of the Holy Quran by Maulana Muhammad Ali (Table of Contents) > Chapter 4 (Al-Nisa’ - The Women) > Section 2 (Verses 11 to 14)


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