All praises are due to Allah, the lord of the universe. May His peace and blessings be upon our beloved prophet, his households, his companions and all those who follow their path till the Day of Resurrection.
The law of inheritance has been determined by Allah, the Exalted Himself without entrusting it neither to a close angel nor to a sent Prophet, talk less of entrusting it to any human being. He determined the share of each inheritor in the inheritance, which He showed in detail in His Book, unlike many rulings which were mentioned in a general and brief way in the Book.
As regard the obligatory shares of inheritance, the verses of inheritance were revealed in detail as shown in the beginning and end of Surah An-Nisaa’. Allah the Almighty calls them His limits, and promises to give a great reward to the one who abides by them and does not transgress them, and threatens to punish the one who transgresses them. He says:
تِلْكَ حُدُودُ اللَّهِ ۚ وَمَن يُطِعِ اللَّهَ وَرَسُولَهُ يُدْخِلْهُ جَنَّاتٍ تَجْرِي مِن تَحْتِهَا الْأَنْهَارُ خَالِدِينَ فِيهَا ۚ وَذَٰلِكَ الْفَوْزُ الْعَظِيمُ * وَمَن يَعْصِ اللَّهَ وَرَسُولَهُ وَيَتَعَدَّ حُدُودَهُ يُدْخِلْهُ نَارًا خَالِدًا فِيهَا وَلَهُ عَذَابٌ مُّهِينٌ
“These are the limits (set by) Allah, and whoever obeys Allah and His Messenger will be admitted by Him to gardens (in paradise) under which rivers flow, abiding eternally therein; and that is the great attainment. And whoever disobeys Allah and His Messenger and transgresses His limits – He will put him into the fire to abide eternally therein, and he will have a humiliating punishment.” (Quran 4:13-14).
The Arabs before the advent of Islam used to assign the inheritance of the deceased to the eldest among his sons, excluding his young children, and women relatives like daughters, wives, mothers and sisters; or give it to his brother or paternal uncle, under the pretext that the children and women were too powerless to protect the sanctities that should be protected, take retaliation, gain booty (from wars) and fight the enemies. However, Allah the Almighty invalidated this pre-Islamic custom, and assigned to women and children a share of the inheritance of the deceased, and made their share an obligatory right, no matter how little or much the inheritance might be, as showing in His statements,
لِّلرِّجَالِ نَصِيبٌ مِّمَّا تَرَكَ الْوَالِدَانِ وَالْأَقْرَبُونَ وَلِلنِّسَاءِ نَصِيبٌ مِّمَّا تَرَكَ الْوَالِدَانِ وَالْأَقْرَبُونَ مِمَّا قَلَّ مِنْهُ أَوْ كَثُرَ ۚ نَصِيبًا مَّفْرُوضًا
“For men is a share of what the parents and close relatives leave, and for women is a share of what the parents and close relatives leave, be it little or much – an obligatory share.” (Qur’an 4:7)
يُوصِيكُمُ اللَّهُ فِي أَوْلَادِكُمْ ۖ لِلذَّكَرِ مِثْلُ حَظِّ الْأُنثَيَيْنِ ۚ فَإِن كُنَّ نِسَاءً فَوْقَ اثْنَتَيْنِ فَلَهُنَّ ثُلُثَا مَا تَرَكَ ۖ وَإِن كَانَتْ وَاحِدَةً فَلَهَا النِّصْفُ
“Allah instructs you concerning your children: for the male, what is equal to the share of two females. But if there are (only) daughters, two or more, for them is two thirds of one’s estate. And if there is only one, for her is half.” (Qur’an 4:11).
He the Exalted says about the inheritance of the mother:
وَلِأَبَوَيْهِ لِكُلِّ وَاحِدٍ مِّنْهُمَا السُّدُسُ مِمَّا تَرَكَ إِن كَانَ لَهُ وَلَدٌ ۚ فَإِن لَّمْ يَكُن لَّهُ وَلَدٌ وَوَرِثَهُ أَبَوَاهُ فَلِأُمِّهِ الثُّلُثُ ۚ فَإِن كَانَ لَهُ إِخْوَةٌ فَلِأُمِّهِ السُّدُسُ
For parents, a sixth share of the inheritance to each, if the deceased left children; if no children, and the parents are the (only) heirs, the mother has a third; if the deceased Left brothers (or sisters) the mother has a sixth.(Quran4:11).
He the Most High further says about the share of the wife:
وَلَهُنَّ الرُّبُعُ مِمَّا تَرَكْتُمْ إِن لَّمْ يَكُن لَّكُمْ وَلَدٌ ۚ فَإِن كَانَ لَكُمْ وَلَدٌ فَلَهُنَّ الثُّمُنُ مِمَّا تَرَكْتُم
“And for the wives is one fourth if you leave no child. But if you leave a child, then for them is an eighth of what you leave.” (Qur’an 4:12). All of this is accorded them as their right, when they received nothing in the pre-Islamic days of Jahiliyyah.
We can see that the system of inheritance set by Islam is distinguished from all modern human laws of inheritance. According to the Islamic system, inheritance is obligatory for both the owner of the property and the heir as well. The owner has no right to prevent any of his heirs from receiving his inheritance, and the heir gets his share, without the need for a court judgment. In some systems, the law affirms inheritance only with a court judgment, since in their right, it is optional and not compulsory to bequeath and receive inheritance.
The Quranic system limits the right of inheritance within the sphere of the family. It requires a sound relationship through blood or marital relation, and since walaa’ (allegiance of an ex-slave to his ex-masters) resembles kinship, it was joined with the categories of kinship. In this way, neither an adopted child, nor a child born out of wedlock has the right to inheritance. Within the limits of the family, the closest of kin, under Islam, is given preference, followed by the next of kin to the deceased.
The Quranic system assigns to the young child a share from the inheritance of his father equal to that of his eldest brother. Thus, there is no differentiation between the fetus in the mother’s womb and the eldest son in a big family. The Islamic system also does not differentiate between the eldest son and his brothers, as is the case in the corrupted Jewish canon, and the British law. That is because the young children might be in need of money to build their lives, and to meet their living expenses, more than their older brothers who can work and gather for themselves independent property.
The Quranic system has made ‘need’ the basic criterion for preference in inheritance. The deceased person’s children need his money more than his father because they are likely to face greater difficulty in fulfilling their requirements, being young and at a stage where they are beginning their life, unlike their grandfather. Moreover, the duties and obligations of the son under the Shari’ah of Islam are more than those of his sister. He is the one required to provide for himself once he reaches the age of maturity, and he is also required to pay his wife her dowry, provide for her and for the children. He is responsible for the expenses of education, medical treatment, clothing…etc. In addition to this, he is required to provide for his father or relatives if they are poor. However, the girl is more likely to have someone to provide for her, and not the other way round, since she will get married and will be the responsibility of her husband.
In conclusion, the above mentioned statements is just a few of the miraculous nature of the Qur'an in the distribution of inheritance .