The division of inheritance is a vast subject with an enormous amount of details (Quran 4:7,11,12, 33,176).
The general rule is that the female share is half the male’s. This general rule if taken in isolation from other legislations concerning men and women may seem unfair. In order to understand the rationale behind this rule, one must take into account the fact that the financial obligations of men in Islam far exceed those of women.
Women in Islam receive assets mainly from three sources: inheritance, Mahr and maintenance. On the other hand male receives double on first source inheritance but they need to give Mahr to wives and maintenance to wives and other dependants. A bridegroom must provide his bride with a marriage gift. This gift is considered her property and neither the groom nor the bride’s family have any share in or control over it and remains so even if she is later divorced. The bride is under no obligation to present any gifts to her groom. This symbolizes an assurance of economic security from the husband towards wife. “And give the women (on marriage) their dower as a free gift; but if they, Of their own good pleasure, remit any part of it to you, take it and enjoy it with right good cheer” (4:4)
Moreover, the Muslim husband is charged with the maintenance of his wife and children. The wife’s property and earnings are under her full control and for her use alone since her, and the children’s, maintenance is her husband’s responsibility. No matter how rich the wife might be, she is not obliged to act as a co-provider for the family unless she herself voluntarily chooses to do so. Women are financially secure and provided for. If she is a wife, her husband is the provider; if she is a mother, it is the son; if she is a daughter, it is the father; if she is a sister; it is the brother, and so on. In this circumstances if we deprive the female completely from inheritance, it would be unjust to her because she is related to the deceased. Likewise, if we always give her a share equal to the man’s, it would be unjust to him. So, instead of doing injustice to either side, Islam gives the man a larger portion of the inherited property to help him to meet his family needs and social responsibilities. At the same time, Islam has not forgotten her altogether, but has given her a portion to satisfy her very personal needs. In fact, Islam in this respect is being more kind to her than to him.
The fact is that in Islamic law as a whole, women are much more favored financially than their male counterparts for the following reasons:
1 Before marriage any gift given to women is her own and her husband has no legal right to claim on it even after marriage.
2 On marriage she is entitled to receive a marriage gift (Mahr) and this is her own property.
3 Even if the wife is rich, she is not required to spend a single penny for household; the full responsibility for her food, clothing, housing, medications and recreation etc. are her husband’s.
4 Any income the wife earns through investment or working is entirely her own.
5 In case of divorce, if any deferred part of the Mahr is left unpaid, it becomes due immediately.
6 The divorcee woman is entitled to get maintenance from husband during her waiting period (iddat).
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