Distribution of Inheritance
1. When death approaches any one of you and you are leaving behind some wealth, it is incumbent upon you to make a will in favor of your parents and relatives according to the conventions [of society]. This is an obligation imposed upon the God-fearing. Then if anyone changes the will after hearing it, its sin shall rest on those who change it. Indeed God hears and knows [all things]. But anyone who fears partiality or wrongdoing on the part of the person who has made the will, and he makes peace between them, then there is nothing sinful in this. For Allah is Forgiving, Ever-Merciful. (2:180-182)
The verses of Surah Nisa (quoted below) which ascertain a specific share to each heir and their placement in the Qur'an clearly show that the above mentioned directive of making a will for the parents and relatives according to the conventions of society was revealed earlier. These verses of Surah Nisa also explain that the reason the Almighty has ascertained the shares of parents and relatives in the legacy of a deceased is that man cannot know who among his relations is near to him in benefit. Also, in these verses, the Almighty has called this ascertaining of shares as His will, against which no Muslim, it is evident, should dare to make his own will. In view of this, it is clear that the verses of Surah Nisa abrogate this directive of Surah Baqarah. However, the purpose of this directive in the words of Imam Amin Ahsan Islahi was:
- The directive of making a will in favor of one's parents and relatives mentioned in this verse was contingent upon the conventions of the society, and was given in the interim period when the Islamic society had not become stable enough to be given the directives which were later revealed in Surah Nisa. It was revealed as a temporary directive before circumstances became conducive for detailed directives in this regard. It had two basic objectives: first, to immediately safeguard the rights of those relatives which were being usurped by influential relatives and second to revive once again the conventions of the society in this regard which had existed in the nobility of Arabia but were engulfed in the dust of the age of ignorance (Jahiliyyah); this revival would pave the way for the detailed law that was to be revealed later. ('Tadabbur-i-Qur'an', Vol 1, pps. 439-440)
2. God enjoins you about your children that a boy's share is equal to that of two girls'. And, if there are only girls among the children and they are more than two then they shall receive two thirds of the inheritance, and, if there is only one girl, then her share is half. (4:11)
It is this directive of the surah which abrogates the verse of Surah Baqarah quoted before. It first of all mentions the share of the children:
The sentence Yusi kumullahu fi aawladikum (God enjoins you about your children) acts as a prelude to Lidhdhakari mithlu hazz al-unthayayn (that a boy's share is equal to that of two girls'). The word Aawlad denotes both the female and male offspring. Hence, the correct sentence analysis in this writer's consideration is: Lidhdhakari minhum mithlu hazz al-unthayayn ([among the children] a boy's share is equal to that of two girls').
If this directive had ended on the words Lidhdhakari mithlu hazz al-unthayayn, then it would have meant:
(i) If the children of a deceased are only a boy and a girl, then the boy will receive twice as much as the girl.
(ii) If the number of boys and girls exceed this, then the inheritance shall be divided among them in a manner that each boy receives twice the share of a girl.
(iii) If there are only boys or only girls, then the whole inheritance shall be given to whoever among the two is present.
The third case is also, quite evidently, an essential outcome of the style and pattern of the verse. If it is said that this money is to be distributed among beggars and a male beggar is to be given twice the amount of a female beggar, then this means nothing except that the money is actually meant for the beggars; hence if all beggars are men, all the money shall be distributed among them and if all the beggars are women, then also the same procedure shall be adopted. But the directive does not end here: an exception immediately follows, thereby amending it.
The sentence Fa inkunna nitha'an fawqa al-ithnatayni falahunna thulutha ma tarak (and if there are only girls among the children and they are more than two, then they shall receive two thirds of the inheritance) is an exception to Lidhdhakari mithlu hazzil unthayayn. This means that if among the children of the deceased there are girls then whether they are two or more, their share is two thirds. The words Wa in kanat wahidatan falaha al-nisf (and if there is only one girl then her share is half) are coordinated to this exception by the copulative particle (Harf-i- 'atf) waw (and), and do not form an independent clause.
This writer has interpreted the meaning of fawqa al-ithnatayn (more than two) as two or more than two. The reason behind this is that before it, the word ithnatayn (two) has been suppressed, which is due to the style and pattern of the Arabic language. If, in the language of the Qur'an, the share of a girl and of two or more girls are to be stated separately owing to a difference in their proportions then there can be two ways of doing so. If an ascending order is adopted, the share of one girl shall be stated first followed by the share of two girls. If the share of more than two girls is to be the same as that of two girls, there is no need to mention it in words. After specifying the share of two girls after that of one, owing to a difference in their amount, if a silence follows, then this is a clear indication that the share of two or more girls is equal to that of two girls'. If a descending order arrangement is employed, then again, the words fawqa al-ithnatayni aaw ithnatayn (more than two or two) are inappropriate as regards the linguistic style and pattern of Arabic; so after stating the shares of more than two girls, the share of one girl will be stated. In this style and arrangement, the commencement of a sentence by fawqa al-ithnatayn bears evidence to a suppression of the word ithnatayn before it. A little deliberation shows that the verse readily suggests this fact. The order of the arrangement demands that ithnatayn should come after fawqa al-ithnatayn while linguistic the pattern dictates that ithnatayn should come before fawqa al-ithnatayn. To fulfill both these requirements the Qur'an has suppressed the word ithnatayn by adopting an elliptical style of expression in the descending order arrangement. In the last verse of Surah Nisa, these shares are stated in an ascending order. Accordingly, we observe there that fawqa al-ithnatayn is suppressed after ithnatayn:
In umru'un halaka laysa lahu waladun wa lahu ukhtun falaha nisfu ma taraka wa huwa yarithuha in lam yakunlaha walad. Fa in kana al-itathnatayni fala hum al-thuluthani mimma tarak. (4:176) (If a man dies childless and he has only one sister, she shall inherit half of what he leaves and if a sister dies childless then her brother shall be her heir; and if there are two sisters, they shall inherit two thirds of what he [or she] leaves).
3. And if the deceased has children, the parents shall inherit a sixth each, and if he has no children and only the parents are his heirs then his mother shall receive a third, and if he has brothers and sisters then the mother's share is the same one sixth after the payment of any legacies he may have bequeathed and after discharging any debts he may have left behind. (4:11)
The connective particle waw (and) in wa li abwayhi li kulli wahidim minhuma al-sudus mimma tarak (and if the deceased has children, the parents shall inherit a sixth each) does not co-ordinate this clause either to fa in kunna nitha'an fawqa al-ithnatayn (and if there are only girls among the children and they are more than two) or to wa in kanat wahidah fa laha al-nisf (and if there is only one girl, then her share is half); in fact, it co-ordinates it to the whole directive above which relates to the shares of the children. Hence this co-ordination ('atf) is not copulative (lil jami'), rather it is emendative (lil istidrak) in nature. The reason is that though it is clear from the words Lidhdhakari mithlu hazz al-unthayayn that a boy's share is twice a girl's, their actual proportion has not been indicated. This linguistic style can be appreciated from an example: If it is said 'This money is for the children. Let each boy receive twice as much as a girl, and let the father receive half the amount', any person who has a little linguistic sense will clearly understand these sentences to mean that the money is actually meant for the children. If these sentences had ended without a mention of the father's share, all the money would have been distributed among the boys and girls in the proportion indicated. But since the father is also to be given half the amount, it is imperative that the father should first receive this amount and the what remains should be distributed among the children.
The verse under discussion is also of the same style. Consequently, if this is kept in mind, it is not at all difficult to comprehend that after the clause wa in kanat wahidah fa laha al-nisf (and if there is only one girl then her share is half), the shares of the parents and the spouses which are coordinated to the shares of the children by the connective particle waw (and) shall all necessarily be distributed first and whatever remains shall only be distributed among the children. Whether among the children there are only boys or both boys and girls, the same principle shall apply. Similarly, if only female offspring are present they shall receive two thirds or half (whatever the case may be) from the remaining inheritance and not in any case from the total inheritance.
This is the correct meaning of the verse. Any person, who after comprehending the implications denoted by the particle waw (and) in wa li abwayhi (for the parents), and the particle fa (but) in fa in kunna nitha'an (and if there are only girls) reads the verse, shall spontaneously reach the same conclusion.
Consider, next, the remaining part of the verse:
The word 'walad' in in kana lahu walad (if he has children) and fa in lam ya kun lahu walad (if he does not have children) is used both for male and female children. In the Arabic language, this connotation is conventional and customary. Besides being used here, it has also been used subsequently where the shares of the spouses are stated. In this writer's opinion, in all these instances it has the same meaning. There is no contextual indication, intrinsic or extrinsic, to believe that the word has specifically been used for male children. Linguists maintain that it is used in the singular as well as the plural sense and, also, both for the masculine and the feminine gender. In all the cases mentioned, whether boys and girls in the indicated numbers are present or absent, these connotations of the word shall be considered understood.
According to the linguistic principles of Arabic, after the words fali ummihi thuluth (the mother's share is one third) the words wa li abihi thuluthan (and the father's share is two thirds) or words of similar meaning are suppressed, as is readily suggested by the words wa warithahu abawahu (and his parents are his heirs). Hence, this mention is a clear proof of the suppression. When it is said 'If the heirs of this money are only Zahid and Ali, Zahid's share is one third', then after this there is no need to say that 'the remaining two thirds is for Ali' -- something which is understood by all requisites of common sense.
Also, in this writer's estimation, after fa in kana lahu ikhwatun fa li ummihi al-sudus (and if he has brothers and sisters then the mother's share is the same one sixth) the words wa li abihi al-sudus aaydhan (and the father's share is also one sixth) or words of similar meaning are suppressed. The contextual indication for this is also very evident. If brothers and sisters are present, then the mother's share is the same one sixth as in the case when a deceased has children. This also bears witness to the fact that the father's share is also the same and that there is no need to express it in words. If a reader relishes the finer aspects of a language, he instinctively concludes that if the mother's share has reverted to its original amount, so should the father's share. Thus, the correct analysis of these verses is 'If there are children, both the father and the mother shall receive one-sixth. If there are no children and only parents are the heirs, the mother's share is a third, but if there are brothers and sisters, the mother's share is the same one sixth'. One can very well see how this style effectively induces the mind to spontaneously jump to the suppressed words: 'and the fathers share is also the same one sixth.'
It is clear from these verses that in the absence of children, brothers and sisters take their place. This view is endorsed by the last verses of the surah also, but we shall delay an explanation until these verses shall be discussed.
The word 'ikhwatun', in this writer's opinion, only signifies the existence of an entity. It merely specifies that in the presence of brothers and sisters regardless that they are one, two, or more in number, the parental shares revert to their original amount. Plurality here does not indicate a numerical amount, rather it only denotes the existence of an entity. To quote a Hamasi poet:
Iyyaka wa al-amr alladhi in tawassa'at
Mawariduhu dhaqat 'alayka al-masadiru
[Avoid entangling yourself in a matter in which if the paths that lead to it (mawarid) are wide, those that come out (masadir) are narrow.]
The poet has used the words mawarid and masadir. It will be outright injustice to this literary composition if it is interpreted to mean that it urges the reader to refrain from getting involved in matters whose mawarid and masadir are, after all, three or more. The poet only intends to establish the existence of a mawrid and a masdar and obviously has no intention to convey their numerical amount. There may be only one way of getting involved and withdrawing from an affair and there may be several ways to do so. Similarly, a deceased may leave behind a brother and a sister and they can also be five or ten. The word ikhwatun encompasses all these different cases. To convey such meanings, a language employs this style of plurality. If it is said, 'If you have children, then give these sweets to them', no one will consider this to mean that if the addressed person has only one child, he cannot be given the sweets, merely because the word children has been used by the speaker. Such a meaning can only be inferred by someone who, instead of appreciating a language in literary perspectives, starts analyzing it on the basis of crude mathematical axioms.
The words mim ba'adi wasiyyatin yusi biha aaw dayn (after the payments of any legacies he may have bequeathed, and after discharging any debts he may have left behind) at the end of the directive imply that if a deceased has outstanding debts to his name, then first of all they must be paid from the wealth he has left behind. After this, a part of his legacy which he might have bequeathed shall be paid, and whatever remains shall be distributed among the heirs. Though the directive of discharging of debts has been stated at the end of the verse, it shall be given priority over all payments. The reason is that a person from whom money is borrowed has a rightful share in the wealth of a deceased borrower before his death, while an heir becomes a rightful shareholder in a person's wealth only after his death. As far as the precedence of the payment of any bequeathed legacy in the actual statement of the verse is concerned, it owes much to a touch of elegance in presentation, a distinctive feature of Qur'anic Arabic.
4. You know not who among your children and parents are nearest to you in benefit. This is the law of God. Indeed, God is Wise and all-Knowing. (4:11)
The reason why this part of the verse is juxtaposed between the ones which state the shares of the heirs is that it should become clear to people that, since the Almighty Himself has indicated who the heirs of a deceased should be, a more just law in this regard could not have been enacted. Hence, after this Divine Directive, no one has the right to bequeath his wealth in favor of the heirs designated by the Almighty Himself. This distribution is based on the immense knowledge and wisdom of Allah, which encompass all His directives. Man, in spite of his formidable talents, can neither acquire the vastness of His knowledge nor comprehend the profundity of His wisdom. If he is a true believer, he must submit to the Word of God.
This is the real meaning of the verse. However, a little deliberation shows that the right to obtain an inheritance is based on the underlying cause of Aqrabu naf'an (the most beneficial in kinship). This benefit is by nature present in parents, children, brothers, sisters, husbands, wives and other close relations. Hence, in normal circumstances, they will be considered the heirs to the legacy of a deceased. However, in certain unusual circumstances, if an absence of benefit in any of these relationships is diagnosed by sense and reason, the style and pattern of the verse demands that such a relative should not become an heir to the legacy. Therefore, in such cases, if someone is deprived from his share, it would be perfectly in accordance with the purport of the verse, to which its words so clearly testify. In view of this, the Prophet (sws) is reported to have said about the Idolaters and the People of the Book of Arabia:
- A Muslim cannot be an heir of a Kafir nor can a Kafir be a Muslim's. (Bukhari, Kitab al-Faraid)
In other words, after the Quraysh are left with no excuse to deny the truth which has been unveiled to them in its ultimate, their enmity and hostility has become very clear. Consequently, the benefit of kinship between them and the Muslims has completely been severed. Hence, they cannot inherit from one another.
A secondary guidance which is also obtained from this verse is that if in certain cases legacies are left over after distribution and the deceased has not made anyone an heir in them, then they too should be distributed to the Aqrabu naf'an (most beneficial in kinship). This is precisely what the Prophet is reported to have said:
- Give the heirs their share and if something remains, it is for the closest male [relative]. (Muslim, Kitab al-Fara'idh)
5. And to you belongs a half of what your wives have, if they die childless. And if they have children, a quarter of what they leave shall be yours after payment of any legacies they may have bequethed and after discharging any [outstanding] debts. Your wives shall inherit one quarter of what you leave, if you die childless. If you have children they shall inherit one eighth, after payment of any legacies you may have bequeathed, and after discharging any of your [outstanding] debts. (4:12)
The shares of the spouses are very clearly stated and need no explanation. After the payment of debts and any bequethed legacy, these shares shall be given from the total remaining estate of a deceased.
6. If a man or a woman is made an heir on account of his [or her] kalalah relationship [with the deceased] and he [or she] has one brother or sister, the brother and sister each shall receive a sixth, and if they be more than this, they shall be sharers in one third, after payment of any legacies bequethed and any [outstanding] debts -- without harming anyone. This is a command from God, and God is Gracious and All-Knowing. (4:12)
The most important word in this verse is kalalah. Originally, it is a nomen verbum (masdar) in the meaning of kalal i.e., 'feebleness and frailty'. To quote a line from Aa'sha's poetry:
- Fa aa laytu la 'arthi laha min kalalatin
(Then I swore that I shall not show any mercy on her because of her feebleness and frailty.)
Mutammim Ibn Nuwayrah says:
Faka annaha ba'da al-kalalati wa al-sura
'iljun tughalihi qazurum mulmi'u
(That [she] camel after the night's tiring journey is indeed like a wild ass whom even a pregnant donkey tries to overtake.)
Figuratively, the linguists attribute the following three meanings to this word:
i) A person who leaves behind neither parents nor children.
ii) Any relationship which is not through the parents or children.
iii) All of one's relatives except the parents and children.
Zamakhshari writes in his 'Kashshaf':
- Kalalah has three meanings: It is an adjective used for a person who leaves behind neither parents nor children; it also means all the relatives of a deceased except his parents and children, and it also denotes the relationships which are not through [the deceased's] parents or children. The Arabs say: ma warithal majda 'an kalalah, ie he could not become an heir to nobility because of a distant relationship. Likewise, you say: ma samata 'an 'ayyin, ie he did not become quiet because he was unable to speak and ma kaffa 'an jubnin, ie he did not stop because of cowardice. And kalalah is a nomen verbum (masdar) meaning kalal. Kalal means loss of strength because of weakness. Aa'sha says: Fa aa laytu la 'arthi laha min kalalatin, ie then I swore that I shall not show any mercy on her because of her feebleness and frailty. Later, it was figuratively used for the relationship which is not through the parents and children. The reason for this being that such a relationship is not as strong as the one through the parents and children. And when it is used as an adjective of a legatee or a legator it means dhu kalalah. Similarly, you say falanum min qarabati ie, falanum min dhawi qarabati, and it can also be an adjective like hajajah and faqaqah meaning foolish. (Vol. 1, p. 485)
This writer could not find the word used in the first meaning, ie a person who does not leave behind either parents or children, in pre-Islamic Arabic poetry though this usage is grammatically correct.
It is used at many instances in pre-Islamic Arabic poetry in the second meaning, ie the relationship not through the parents or the children.
To quote Tirmah:
Yahuzzu silahan lam yarith hu kalalatan
Yashukku bihi minha ghumuda al-maghabini
(He waves his weapon which he did not inherit because of a distant relationship. Through it he pierces the part concealed in her thighs.)
'Amir Ibn Tufayl says:
- Wa ma sawwadatni 'amirun `an kalalatin
(And the tribe of 'Amir did not make me the chief because of a distant relationship.)
According to 'Lisan al-'Arab':
- The Arabs say Lam yarith hu kalalah, ie owing to his distant relationship, he did not become an heir, but he inherited the legacy because of nearness and entitlement to it. (Vol. 11, Pg 592)
The third meaning attributed to it, i.e. all relatives of a person except his parents and children is verified by many examples in the pre-Islamic Arabic literature.
A Hamasi poet, Yazid Ibn al-Hakam, while admonishing his son says:
- Wa al-mar'u yabkhalu bi'l huquqi wa li'l kalalati ma yusim
(Man shows miserliness in discharging his duties and after his death, his distant relatives take away his animals which graze in the forests.)
Azhari, has quoted a poet's couplet:
- Fa inna aba' al-mar'i ahma lahu
Wa mawla al-kalalati la yaghdhabu
(If a person is oppressed and persecuted, it is his father who, in his support, is infuriated the most. Kalalah relatives are not infuriated to this extent in such a matter.)
To quote a Bedouin's saying:
- I have a lot of wealth and my heirs are kalalah, ie distant relatives. ('Lisan al-Arab', Vol 11, p. 592)
Imam Muslim has quoted the following words in a Hadith narrated by Jabir (rta):
- O Prophet of Allah ! only kalalah are my heirs. (Kitab al-Faraid, Ch. 2)
Many Ahadith, in which Qur'anic verses are explained, endorse this meaning. Abu Bakr Jassas writes in his ''Ahkam al-Qur'an':
- In this regard, there are two narrations attributed to Abu Bakr, 'Ali and Ibn Abbas. One of them says that all except the father and the children are kalalah and Muhammad Ibn Salim reports from Shu'bah, who reports from Ibn Mas'ud that all except the father and the children are kalalah and Zayd Ibn Thabit has also reported this meaning. (Vol 2, p. 87)
Now, let us consider the verse under discussion. Though our jurists have unanimously preferred the first meaning here, yet the verse itself testifies against this meaning. If we carefully analyze verses 11 and 12 of Surah Nisa from yusi kumullahu fi aawladikum (God enjoins you about your children), it is observed that after a mention of the shares of the children and the parents, the Almighty has directed us to carry out the distribution of legacy by the words mim ba'di wasiyyatin yusi biha aaw dayn (after the payment of any legacies he may have bequeathed and after discharging any debts he may have left behind). The directive is repeated in the shares of the spouses in the words mim ba'di wasiyyatin yusina biha aaw dayn and mim ba'di wasiyyatin tusuna biha aaw dayn. A little contemplation shows that in all these instances the verb is used in the active voice and the antecedents of yusi, yusina and tusuna are clearly stated in each of these sentences. But in the verse of Kalalah, the verb is used passively. This departure tells us that the subject (Fa'il) of the verb yusa ie, the legator in this verse is not stated. Therefore, in this verse, the word Kalalah cannot be regarded as an adjective for the deceased. The change conclusively testifies that the Qur'an has not used the word in its first meaning, i.e. a person who does not leave behind either parents or children.
As far as the second and third meanings are concerned, any of the two can be preferred on the basis of a more delicate grammatical construction, because in both cases the implied meaning remains the same. Hence in this verse the verb yurathu, in the opinion of this writer, is from the If'al category used in its passive form and Kalalah is Maf'ul lahu (an accusative on account of which something is done). Kana here is incomplete (Naqisah) and yurathu is its predicate (Khabr). Rajulun and imra'atun are the nouns (Asma') of Kana. Keeping in mind this analysis of the verse, it can be translated thus: 'and if a man or woman is made an heir because of his (or her) Kalalah relationship...'
Naturally, only the deceased person will have the right to make someone his heir. Since the second object of the passive verb yurathu is not stated, linguistic principles dictate that in the given context the verse should only mean that a Kalalah relative can be made an heir together with the rightful heirs as well in cases when a portion of the inheritance remains after it has been distributed among the rightful heirs and also when none of them is present.
Wa lahu akhun aaw ukhtun fa li kulli wahidim minhuma al-sudus. Fa in kanu akthara min dhalika fa hum shuraka'u fi al-thuluthi min ba'di wasiyyatin yusa biha aaw dayn, ie if a man or a woman from the associations of a single relationship is made an heir, then if the person who is made the heir has one brother or one sister, he (or she) will be given one sixth of what the heir himself receives and if the heir has more than one brother or sister then they shall share equally in a third of what the heir himself receives. After this, there remains no need to say that the remaining five sixths or two thirds (whatever might be the case) shall be given to the person whom the deceased had made his heir. If it is said 'Ahmad has made your son the heir of his wealth, but if he has a brother then the brother shall be entitled to a third of his share', it clearly means that after the brother receives his share the remaining money should be given to the son who has actually been made the heir.
This directive of the Qur'an has a very sound reason behind it. Naturally, a deceased can choose to make any brother, sister, aunt or uncle (the Kalalah relatives) his heir. But there can be other brothers or uncles besides the one who has been made an heir by a deceased. The case is no different for sisters or aunts also. A person can prefer any uncle or aunt. But the Almighty does not approve of totally depriving all other associations of the same relationship of any share. Therefore, if a person, for example, has made one of his paternal uncles, Saeed, the heir to his remaining estate in the presence of two other paternal uncles, then the two shall share equally in a third of what Saeed receives, and Saeed himself shall receive the remaining two thirds.
Ghayra mudar. Wasiyyatim min Allah Wa Allahu 'Alimun Hakim. These words at the end of the verse serve as a warning that making someone an heir should not be a source of harm for any of the rightful heirs. To dispel any element of foul play, the Almighty Himself has fixed the shares of the real heirs. Since, according to the verse, a person can make any of his Kalalah relatives his heir, it is emphatically stated that, while exercising this prerogative, the rights of a rightful heir should not be usurped -- this is not a piece of advice from an earthling. It is what the Creator of the heavens and the earth has directed us about. If any of His creation deliberately deprives a rightful claimant from his share, then he should be aware that God has knowledge of all his deeds, and, if he errs unintentionally, the Almighty is Gracious and Merciful. He does not burden a person with a responsibility he cannot fulfill. All His directives bring ease and facility for His creation and are not meant to put them through hardship and difficulty.
7. People ask your pronouncement. Say: God enjoins you about your Kalalah heirs that if a man dies childless and he has only a sister, she shall inherit half of what he leaves and if a sister dies childless then her brother shall be her heir; and if there are two sisters they shall inherit two thirds of what he [or she] leaves. If there are many brothers and sisters, the share of each male shall be that of two females. God expounds unto you that you err not and God has knowledge of all things. (4:176)
Since, according to the interpretation given above, all brothers, sisters, uncles and aunts are Kalalah relatives and a person can make anyone of them his heir, it is possible that he might prefer an aunt or an uncle over his brothers and sisters. If a deceased has children, the nature of the directive is proper in all respects, but if the deceased has no children and has brothers and sisters, then this authority vested in him stands objected. It is an unquestionable reality that after one's children, one's brothers and sisters among his Kalalah relatives are nearest to him. Common sense demands that in such a case they should receive a large portion of the legacy. Verses 11-12 of Surah Nisa clearly state that if a deceased has brothers and sisters, the parents shall receive a sixth each. Since this share is the same as what they receive in the presence of children, the question arises whether it has still been left to a person to make the brothers and sisters his heirs, or can he deprive them of a share in his wealth. While explaining verses 11-12 of Surah Nisa, it was written that the style of the verses is such that in the absence of children, the brothers and sisters of a deceased should be his heirs. But obviously, the meaning unfolded by a particular style cannot be as certain and definite as the one which is directly stated in words. In the absence of children, the question about the shares of brothers and sisters can even arise today. It had arisen in the time of the Prophet (sws) as well. Jabir (rta) reports:
- He says: I was sick and in a state of unconsciousness when the Prophet of Allah arrived at my place. He performed ablutions and the people sprinkled some water over me from which the Prophet was performing his ablutions. When I came to my senses, I said: O Prophet of Allah all my heirs are Kalalah. At this, this verse* of inheritance was revealed. (Muslim, Kitab al-Fara'idh, Ch 2)
From the words 'O Prophet of Allah all my heirs are Kalalah. At this, this verse of inheritance was revealed' of the above Hadith, it is evident that among the Kalalah relatives the question particularly concerned his brothers and sisters and the last verses of Surah Nisa were revealed as a result of this inquiry.
A special style of the Qur'anic verses is that in them certain questions are stated in a very concise and compact form. The actual nature of the question and its background is revealed by the answer which the verses subsequently give. By not taking into consideration this style, our commentators have come across many difficulties in understanding Qu'l lilahu yuftikum fi al-Kalalah. Here also, if only the answer is analysed, the meanings the verse convey are very evident. The verse is of the same style and pattern as Yusi kumullahu fi aawladikum (God enjoins you about your children). In the latter case, the directive is about the children as the heirs of a deceased while in the former case the pronouncement is about Kalalah relatives as the heirs of a deceased. The article Alif lam defines the word Kalalah in this verse, which testifies to the fact that the question concerns some specific relations among the Kalalah relatives and the answer shows that these specific relations are the deceased's brothers and sisters. Verse 12 of Surah Nisa has already empowered a person to bequeath a part of his legacy in favor of Kalalah relatives like uncles, aunts, brothers and sisters. Here, a particular case is mentioned after the general directive. Considering this, the correct meaning of the verse is: 'Say, Allah gives you a pronouncement about brothers and sisters among the Kalalah relatives'. An example of this Qur'anic style and construction can be seen in verse 189 of Surah Baqarah**.
It should be clear that the words in imru'un halaka laysa lahu walad.... (if a man dies childless....) do not state the meaning of Kalalah; they merely impose a condition which must be fulfilled if the brothers and sisters are to receive a share in a legacy. Just as in the verse Fa in lam ya kun lahu walad wa warithahu abawahu (if he does not have children, and his parents are his heirs) a condition is imposed that if the deceased is childless and only his parents are his heirs then they shall receive such and such shares. Similarly, in the given verse, a condition is stated that if a person dies childless, and he has brothers and sisters, then their share is such and such. Also evident from the condition in the verse is that brothers and sisters are heirs of a deceased, only in case he dies childless. If he leaves children, they do not have any share in his wealth except if a deceased makes a bequest in their favor according to the general directive mentioned in verse 12 of Surah Nisa.
The shares of brothers and sisters stated here are the same as those of the children stated earlier. Also, the style of the words In kanu ikhwatan rijalan wa nisa'an fa lidhdhakari mithlu hazz al-unthayayn (If there are many brothers and sisters, the share of each male shall be equal to that of two females') bears witness to the fact that these shares also shall be given after the parents and the spouses are handed over their shares. The relevant arguments are presented in the section which deals with the shares of the children. Hence, if the deceased only has sisters then two thirds or one half (whatever the case may be) of the share meant for the brothers and sisters shall be given to the sister or sisters.
We have indicated earlier that it is evident from verse 12 of Surah Nisa that in the absence of children, the brothers and sisters of a deceased take their place. This particular verse of Surah Nisa conclusively proves the premise. It was possible to misinterpret it from the style of verses 11-12, but here all doubts have been removed as to what the words imply. The Qur'an, therefore, says:
- God explains to you that you err not and God has knowledge of all things. (4:176)
*. It has been explained in the Ahadith that by 'this verse of inheritance' is meant the last verses of Surah Nisa in which the shares of the brothers and sisters are stated. Likewise, some other Ahadith clearly mention that Jabir (rta) had only sisters among his heirs.
**. See 'Tadabbur-i-Qur'an', Amin Ahsan Islahi, Vol 1, Pg 471
Topics: Children, Inheritance