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Article appeared Friday, July 1st, 2011 in The News Today, Bangladesh

The Revelation (185)

yousuf mahbubul Islam, PhD

Inheritance division is generally a very emotional and sentimental event. As for the problems that occur during such events, Pat Lunsford contributes the following in a website {1}, There can be a number of conflicts such as second marriages, stepchildren, adopted and foster children. All too often, tempers flare, unkind things are said, and feelings get hurtMany believe these types of situations only apply to wealthy families, but inheritance division problems are experienced by families from all walks of life. Grown children of a deceased parent can turn out to be lifelong enemies over something as simple as a mobile home on a half acre of land and an old used carFamilies have been devastated over the division of an inheritance and in some cases, there have been tragedies due to actual physical fights over sentimental objects such as portraits and collectibles. Ultimately, the family becomes torn. Siblings who at one time were very close, become cold and distant. Certainly that was not the intention of the parents. {1} Understandably, a decision that is fair in everyones eyes presents a challenge to say the least. Methods of division are therefore the subject of continuing innovation by professionals who are given the responsibility of dividing inheritance {1}. Such innovation includes lottery and a virtual online sentimental auction! It is therefore not surprising that our Creator guides us as to the basis of division in the most recent Revelation, the Quran, To (benefit) everyone We have appointed sharers and heirs to property left by parents and relatives. To those also to whom your right hand was pledged give their due portion: for truly Allah is Witness to all things. [4.33] The basis of division of inheritance should be such that it is of benefit to those left behind as well as to those who were given a promise (written or unwritten) by the parents after settling of all debts. So the purpose of inheritance is not that it should serve sentiment nor is it pocketmoney to be given away at whim. All parts and pieces of inheritance should be dealt with in a serious and responsible manner. At the same time, who is best to know what promises have been made by parents? Is a wonder therefore that our Creator addresses the parents themselves regarding division of inheritance in the following Verse?

4.11 Allah (thus) directs you as regards your children's (inheritance): to the male a portion equal to that of two females: if only daughters two or more their share is two-thirds of the inheritance; if only one her share is a half. 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. (The distribution in all cases is) after the payment of legacies and debts. You know not whether your parents or your children are nearest to you in benefit. These are settled portions ordained by Allah and Allah is All-Knowing All-Wise.
To help us understand the why the Creators Wisdom is undeniably better, consider the following quote by the American pastor and author Robert H. Schuller: Anyone can count the seeds in an apple, but only God can count the number of apples in a seed. {2}

Still, there are many who feel that an injustice is being done to female inheritors and therefore wish that the property be divided equally between males and females. Qutb (1999), in page 42 {3}, attempts to explain the logic behind the Creators Wisdom for those who wish to understand. There is no question here of favoring one sex over another. It is all a matter of maintaining balance and justice between the responsibilities of a male and those of a female within the family. In the Islamic social system, the husband is required to support his wife. He is further required to support all his children in all situations, whether he remains married to his wife or he divorces her. A woman, on the other hand, may be required to look after herself, or she may be looked after by a man both before and after her marriage. Under no circumstances is she required to maintain her husband or her children. This means that a man shoulders at least double the burden of a woman within the family and in the Islamic social system. This is how justice is maintained in this wise distribution which achieves perfect balance between rights and duties, claims and liabilities. All objections to this system of distribution betray ignorance on the one hand and impudence with God on the other. They serve no purpose other than to shake the foundations of the whole system, of family and society, to no avail whatsoever. {3} As parents are directly addressed by the Creator, it is best that the parents appoint legal counsel and create a legal document defining the proposed division as well as the reasons behind their decisions, e.g. for example if they have made any promises and pledges. Parents can also appoint trustees for children who are unable to look after themselves. The decisions should be based on apportioning shares as outlined by our Creator (in Verses 4.11 and 4.176) after taking out the direct percentage share of the spouse and parents of the deceased (Verse 4.12). To help understand and apply the laws of inheritance as directed by our Creator, Moiz Amjad, in his website, Understanding the Law of Inheritance in the Quran {4} provides a neat summary of how to apply the inheritance laws. In the website he also answers criticisms regarding the addition of the mathematical ratios and percentages given to all the stakeholders benefitting from the inheritance. It is best to follow the prescribed guidelines laid down by Allah as, Those are limits set by Allah: those who obey Allah and His Apostle will be admitted to Gardens with rivers flowing beneath to abide therein (for ever) and that will be the Supreme achievement. [4.13] -------{Notes}: {1} l?cat=3 {2} {3} Qutb, S. (1999). In the Shade of Quran. Translated by M.A. Salahi and A. A. Shamis, Vol.3, Markfield, Leicester and Nairobi, Kenya: The Islamic Foundation. {4}