Bismillah al-Rahman al-Raheem
I wanted to share with y’all today something that I really struggled with as a convert to Islam, and something that I think a lot of Muslimahs in general struggle with who haven’t necessarily had the time to really study the religion and wisdom behind the rulings. Today I’m talkin’ about money, and specifically, inheritance.
I think I may have mentioned these issues before, but I thought it may be useful to expand on them.
We all know that Islamically, women get less of a share of inheritance than their male family members. Islamophobes cite this as one of the reasons that Islam is inherently backward and barbaric, (some) men cite it as a reason they are “better” than women, and women are left not understanding why there is such an unfair rule in what they are told is a perfect religion. On the surface, it does seem super old-fashioned and not fair at all; I had a huge problem with it that I have been sweeping under the rug since 2014.
But then I was listening to a lecture, and the wisdom behind the verses on inheritance were mentioned. What was a passing remark for the speaker, was a big “ah-ha!” moment for me. How had I never even thought about it like that before?
Here is what the speaker explained: men get more of the inheritance because they have more of the responsibility. Simple as that.
But let me break it down in case there are some that are still not convinced, because I wasn’t either until I had a good hard think about it (don’t worry, I won’t get into any actual math because that is soooo not my thing).
In Islam, women have the right to be taken care of by their closest male relative, i.e. brother, father, husband, sons. This means that it is the Islamic duty of a man to financially take care of any woman in his family that does not have anyone else. This care includes necessities such as a roof over your head, clothing, food, and basic daily needs. This rule gives women the option to be stay-at-home wives or mothers or whatever else they want, without worrying where their and their family’s next meal will come from.
Women, however, also have the option to make their own money thought business, investment, work, inheritance, etc. The first believer, the most beloved wife of the Prophet (saws), and one of the most looked-up to women in Islamic history, Khadija (ra) was a massively successful businesswoman.
The money that women earn is also not required to go to directly to the family. A woman’s money can be spent in any way she sees fit. Things for the household, something nice for herself, charity, gifts, whatever.
So going back to the inheritance thing, men get a higher share than women because that share is going to be used for taking care of more people, whereas a woman’s share is literally all her own.
Just as an (simplistic) example, lets say a man dies leaving his wife, son, and two daughters. The son will get the biggest share, and the rest will be divided between the wife and two daughters. But, when you think about it, that money will mostly be going straight back to the women anyhow because it is now his Islamic duty to take care of their basic necessities. That son will have to take care of his mom, sisters, plus his own wife and kids if he has any, while the smaller share that the women got can be used for whatever they think best.
We can also look at the verse comes from that states that men have a “degree over women” in this light. Some construe this to mean that men have control over women and we should be blindly obedient with no regards to our own selves, but really this is referring back to that extra degree of responsibility that men have for their female relatives.
And that translates on the woman’s side into a degree of extra respect for husbands, fathers, brothers, sons, etc.
If you are going out with a friend, and you know she is paying for the whole night out, aren’t you going to be pretty likely to defer to her opinions when choosing the place, ordering food, and making other decisions on what to do?
Same goes for my husband; if I know that he is the one primarily supporting the family, wouldn’t I think that he should have some definitive say in the household decisions? I’m not saying he gets to up and do whatever he wants without talking about it at all—Islamically consultation on decisions is encouraged within not only the family but the community at large—but I am saying that if we can’t agree on what we should do with our little extra savings, maybe I can give way on that one.
These kinds of subjects are not something that need to be avoided and swept under the rug as it seems is the normal practice, but we should be open to asking the tough questions with genuine curiosity to find out the wisdom behind what seems like an “unfair” rule.
Through my recent learning and study, I have come from not really acknowledging to really appreciating the rulings on money and inheritance, as just another way that Islam came to perfect every aspect of our lives and build functioning societies. It took me such a long time to come to these conclusions myself, and I hope that in sharing them with you I can begin to clear up some of the discomfort that I know many modern-day women are feeling over this subject.
So, what do you think about it? Has this information convinced you as to the beauty of these rules, or do they still not sit right with you? I would love to hear your thoughts on this in the comments!