Why is the Inheritance of Men twice that of Women?
By: Ayatullah al-Uzma Nasir Makarim Shirazi
Although it appears that the inheritance of men is twice that of women, a closer look reveals that from one viewpoint, the inheritance of women is twice that of men! This is due to Islam's support for the rights of women.
Islam has placed certain responsibilities upon men, as a result of which, virtually one half of their earnings is spent upon women whereas no such responsibilities have been placed upon women.
The male has to bear the expenses for all of his wife's needs such as housing, clothing, food and other necessities; apart from this, the expenses of his minor children are also to be provided by him, whereas the wife is exempt from every kind of payment, even if it is for her own self. Thus, a woman can stockpile her entire share of inheritance, whereas a man is bound to spend his share upon himself, his wife and children. Consequently, half of his earnings are effectively spent upon his wife and the other half is for him, whereas the entire share of the wife remains unused and intact.
For a better understanding, consider the following example: Suppose that the entire wealth existing globally is 30 billion tumans, which will be gradually distributed as inheritance amongst men and women (sons and daughters). When we compute the earnings of all men and women of the world by way of inheritance, we find that of this amount, the share of the men is 20 billion tumans while that of the women is 10 billion. However, as is customary, the women will marry, after which the responsibility of providing for their expenses will fall upon the shoulders of men and so, the women can conveniently put their 10 billion tumans aside while, at the same time, be a partner to the men in their share of 20 billion, since this amount would be utilized by the men to provide for the expenses of their wives and their children.
Thus, in reality, half of the share of the men - totalling 10 billion tumans - would be spent on the women. This, in addition to the 10 billion tumans, which the women had placed aside, would collectively amount to 20 billion tumans - two-thirds of the (supposed) global wealth - whereas the men, effectively, do not use up more than 10 billion tumans for themselves.
In conclusion, the actual share of women, with respect to 'consumption and use', is twice the actual share of men, and this distinction is influenced by the fact that, generally, their ability and strength for generating earnings is less than that of men. This is a kind of just and logical support, which Islam has offered to the women, allotting a greater actual share for them although, ostensibly, their share appears to be one half (that of the males).
Incidentally, upon referring the Islamic sources we come to infer that the above query had plagued the minds of the people from the very onset of Islam.
Time and again they would question the Imams in this regard and their answers predominantly pointed to one meaning, which is: Allah has placed upon the males the onus of bearing the wife's expenses and paying them the dower, and so, He has allotted them a greater share (from the inheritance).
In the book Ma'aniul Akhbar it has been reported that Imam 'Ali b. Musa al-Riza (a.s) in reply to this query, said: “The share of the females, in the inheritance, is half that of the males because when a female enters into marriage she receives something, while the male is obliged to give something. In addition, it is the responsibility of the males to shoulder the expenses of the females whereas the females are neither responsible for their own expenses nor that of the males.”
Why is Blood Money for Women half that for Men?
Some individuals might possibly object that in the verses of qisas (retaliation) it has been ordered that a man should not be subjected to retaliation for the murder of a woman; but is a man superior to a woman? Why should a criminal, having killed a woman and shed unwarranted blood of a gender constituting more than half the global population, not be subjected to retaliation for his crime?
In answer to this it must be stated that the verse does not intend that a man should not face retaliation for killing a woman, rather - as has been explicitly explained in the Islamic jurisprudence - the guardians of the murdered woman can seek retaliation from the male murderer, but upon the condition that they pay half the blood money (to the heirs of the murder).
In other words, when it is said that a man cannot be subjected to retaliation for the murder of a woman, what is intended is 'unconditional retaliation'. However, if half of the blood money is paid, then it is permissible to have him killed in retaliation (for the crime committed by him).
There is no need to explain that the payment of the abovementioned sum for seeking retaliation is not because the woman is any less human than man or inferior to him. This is a perception which is totally misplaced and illogical, and perhaps the expression 'blood money' is the basis for this misleading notion. The payment of half the “blood money” is only to compensate the loss, which is suffered by his family, after the retaliation has been extracted.
Predominantly, it is the men who are the instrumental members of households monetarily and who, by means of their activities, shoulder the expenses of their families. Thus, the difference between the death of a man and that of a woman, in financial terms, is something which is not concealed from anyone, and which, if not taken into account, would cause unjustified damage to be inflicted upon the survivors of the dead man and his innocent children. Hence, Islam, by stipulating the payment of half the blood money in the case of retaliation against a man, has taken into consideration the rights of all the individuals and has prevented this economic vacuum and irreparable blow to fall upon a family. Islam never permits that the rights of other individuals - like the children of the person facing retaliation - to be trampled under the pretext of the term 'equality'.
Of course, it is possible that some women may be higher earners for their families than men, but as we do know, rules and regulations are not determined by (a few) individuals but rather, the entire category of men is compared with the entire category of women (take note).
What is the philosophy behind the dower for women?
In the Age of Ignorance, since the people did not attach any significance to the women, they would essentially place the dower of the women, which was their incontrovertible right, in the hands of their guardians and it was looked upon as the rightful property of the guardians. At times, they would even stipulate the dower of a woman to be the marriage of another woman; for example, a brother would give his sister in marriage to a person, who, in reciprocation, would marry his sister to him and this itself would be the dower of the two women.
Islam abrogated all these unjust customs and, allocating the dower as a categorical right of the women, has repeatedly counselled the men, in the verses of the Qur`an, to strictly and completely respect this right of the women.
In Islam, no fixed amount has been ascertained for the dower and it is reliant upon the understanding reached between the two spouses. However, in numerous traditions it has been greatly emphasized to refrain from stipulating a weighty dower, but this is a ruling which is recommended, not obligatory.
At this point the question which arises is that both man and woman benefit equally from the matrimonial alliance - an alliance that is based on mutual benefits. This being the case, what is the need for man to pay a sum, large or small, as dower to the woman? Also, does this issue not deal a blow to the personality of the woman and impart an appearance of trade and transaction to marriage?
It is in the light of the above points that some individuals vehemently oppose the issue of dower, especially West-stricken ones, who derive their inspiration from the fact that dower is a custom, unconventional in the West. Whereas (the reality is that) not only does the excision of the dower not elevate the personality of a woman, rather, it serves to jeopardize her position.
Explanation: Admittedly, both man and woman derive equal benefits out of a matrimonial alliance. Nevertheless there is no denying the fact that in the event of a divorce, the woman has to sustain a greater loss, since:
Firstly: Man, due to his special physical ability, generally possesses a greater control and yields greater influence in the society. However much people may seek to deny this outright reality in the course of their discussions, the state of human social life which we observe with our own eyes - even in the European societies, wherein women enjoy the so-called total freedom - reveals that high earning jobs are principally held by men.
In addition, men possess greater options when embarking upon another spouse-selection, but this is not so in the case of widows - especially after witnessing some aging and being deprived of their assets of youth and beauty - since the options that lie before them, in selecting a new spouse, are greatly diminished.
Considering these aspects, it becomes evident that the conveniences and resources which a woman loses after marriage is much more than what a man loses and so, in actuality, the dower is something which serves to indemnify a woman's losses and a means for securing her future. Apart from this, the dower is also looked upon as a deterrent for man to seek separation and divorce.
Admittedly, the dower, according to the laws of Islam, becomes obligatory upon the husband as soon as the matrimonial alliance is entered into, and the wife is entitled to claim it from him immediately, but since it generally remains as an obligation upon the man, not only is it regarded as savings for her future but also a backing, which safeguards her rights and prevents the disintegration of her marriage alliance (of course exceptions do exist, but what we have stated holds true for the majority of the cases).
If there are people who have wrongly interpreted the dower as being a kind of 'price-tag' for the women, this meaning has no connection with Islam, for Islam has never looked upon the dower as a 'cost' or a 'price' of a commodity. The most excellent proof for this is the formula of marriage in which the 'man' and the 'woman' are officially looked upon as two fundamental parties of the marriage alliance whereas the dower is regarded as a surplus issue and is placed on the side-lines. It is for this reason that if, in the formula of marriage, the dower is not mentioned, the formula does not become void whereas if, in a transaction, the amount is not stipulated, it would definitely become null and void (of course, it should be noted that if the dower has not been stated in the formula of marriage, the husband, after the consummation of marriage, is obliged to pay the wife mahr al-mithl (suitable dower), i.e. the dower, which is usually paid to women of similar and equal stature.)
From the above we conclude that the dower is a kind of 'compensation of loss' and 'backing to safeguard the rights of a woman' and not a 'rate' or a 'price-tag'; probably, the use of the word nihlah - meaning largesse - in verse 4 of Suratul Nisa is an allusion to this very fact.
How does Islam permit the physical punishment of women?
In verse 34 of Suratul Nisa, we read:
æó ÇááÇøóÊöí ÊóÎóÇÝõæäó äõÔõæÒóåõäøó ÝóÚöÙõæåõäøó æó ÇåúÌõÑõæåõäøó Ýöí ÇáúãóÖóÇÌöÚö æó ÇÖúÑöÈõæåõäøó
“And (as to) those on whose part you fear desertion, admonish them, and (if ineffective) leave them alone in the sleeping-places and (if even this proves futile with no way of compelling them into fulfilling their responsibilities, except the use of force, then) beat them.”
The question that arises here is: How can Islam permit the physical punishment of a woman?
The answer to this objection, in light of this meaning of the verse, the traditions which discuss it, the explanations which have been presented in the books of jurisprudence and also the explanations which the psychologists offer today, is not very difficult, for:
Firstly: The verse sanctions physical discipline for those disobedient and irresponsible individuals for whom no other means have proved effective. Incidentally this is not an issue that is new and confined to Islam, rather, in all the laws of the world, when all peaceful and non-violent means to compel a person into fulfilling his obligations prove unproductive, there exist provisions to eventually resort to force. This resort to force is not restricted to mere beatings, but at times even extends to severe punishments and on occasions going all the way up to the death penalty!
Secondly: The 'physical punishment' in this case - as has been mentioned in books of jurisprudence - should be mild and moderate so as not to cause breakage of bones, injuries or (for that matter, even) bruises.
Thirdly: Modern psychoanalysts are of the belief that a segment of the female populace possesses masochistic tendencies and when this state intensifies within them, the only way to calm them down is by means of mild physical punishment. Therefore, it is possible that the physical punishment has been prescribed taking (the state of) such individuals into consideration, for in their case, this mild physical penalty would be lenitive in nature and serve as a kind of psychological remedy for them.
Without any doubt, if any one of these steps (mentioned in the verse) proves effective and the woman embarks upon performing her duties, the man has no right to inconvenience her and it is for this reason that the latter portion of the verse states:
ÝóÅöäú ÃóØóÚúäóßõãú ÝóáÇó ÊóÈúÛõæÇ Úóáóíúåöäøó ÓóÈöíáÇð
“Then if they obey you, do not seek a way against them.”
If it is asked: Such rebelliousness, violation and recalcitrance are also likely to be displayed by the men; would the males then be subjected to such punishments too? The answer to this is in the affirmative. In the event of their shirking their responsibilities, men too, like the women, face retribution and even physical punishment; the only difference being that, since this is something beyond the ability of women, it is the duty of the Islamic judge to utilize various means - even ta'zir (physical punishment) - to make such violators become aware and heedful of their responsibilities.
The incident of the man, who had victimized his spouse and who, under no circumstances, had been willing to submit before the truth whereupon 'Ali (a.s) with harshness and threat of the sword, forced him into submission, is well-known.
Åöäøó Çááøñåó ßóÇäó ÚóáÜÜöíøðÇ ßóÈöíÑÇð
“Surely Allah is High, Great.”
Finally the verse again cautions the men from abusing their positions as guardians of their respective households, and exhorts them to reflect upon Allah's Power, which is above all powers, for surely Allah is High, Great.
Why are men permitted to have more than one spouse whereas the women are not?
The Noble Qur`an has permitted polygamy (but, with strict conditions and within prescribed limits) and here we have to face up to a barrage of objections and assaults of the opponents, who, armed with a cursory study and influenced by imprudent sentiments, have set out to oppose this Islamic ruling. The Westerners, in particular, tend to criticize us by saying that Islam has permitted the males to create a harem and take for themselves an unlimited number of spouses. As a matter of fact, Islam has neither permitted the construction of harems - as they take it to mean - nor has it permitted unconditional and unqualified polygamy.
Explanation: Studying the conditions that prevailed in different regions before the onset of Islam, we infer that unreserved polygamy was a routine affair in those days even to the extent that on some occasions, when the polytheists would convert into Muslims they would have in their possession around ten spouses. Thus, multiplicity of wives is not an invention of Islam; on the contrary, Islam has confined it within the framework of the necessities of human life and qualified it by means of strict conditions.
Islamic laws are determined on the basis of the actual needs of humans and not on the basis of external propaganda and ill-considered sentiments. The issue of polygamy too has been given consideration from this angle. This is because none can deny the fact that men, in the various goings-on of life, are more exposed to peril than the women, and they are the ones, who predominantly bear the brunt of actual casualties in battles and other catastrophes.
It cannot also be denied that the sexual life-span of men is more than that of women since women, at a certain age lose their sexual strength whereas men do not.
In addition, during menstruation and certain phases of pregnancy the women are obliged to observe a restriction of sexual activity whereas the men have no such restrictions.
Apart from all the above there are women who, due to various reasons, lose their husbands and are usually not sought by the men as a first-wife, and in the absence of polygamy, they would always have to remain without a spouse; we read in numerous newspapers that this group of widowed women, due to the restrictions placed upon the issue of polygamy, complain of the tangles of life and regard this curb as a kind of sentimental oppression which they are subjected to.
Taking these realities into consideration, in such instances wherein the balance between men and women is disrupted due to certain factors, we are left with no option except to select one of the following three alternatives:
1. Men should, at all times, content themselves with just one spouse, while the extra women should remain without a spouse for the rest of their lives, suppressing and killing all their innate needs and internal desires.
2. Men should have only one official and legal spouse, but are permitted to establish illicit physical relationships with women, who are without spouses, and keep them as mistresses and paramours.
3. Those, who possess the means, should be permitted to govern more than one spouse. Individuals, who would not be inconvenienced physically, economically and ethically, and who possess the ability to maintain equity and even handedness amongst all their spouses and children, should be permitted to take more than one spouse for themselves.
Undoubtedly, there exists no other alternative than these three.
If we were to choose the first alternative, we would have to wage a battle against human innate instincts and spiritual requirements, and disregard these sentiments and feelings of the women - a battle which we would never win. On the assumption that this scheme is actually put into practice, the inhumane aspect associated with it is something which is clear for everyone to see.
In other words, when necessary, this issue should not always be scrutinized from the viewpoint of the first wife but should also be analyzed from the standpoint of the second wife. Those who consider polygamy to be the cause of the sufferings of the first wife, view this issue from only one perspective. It ought to be studied from three perspectives - from the standpoint of the male, the first spouse and the second spouse, and the issue should be judged after taking into regard the interests and well-being of all three of them.
As for the second alternative, if we were to select it, we would have to legalize and formalize prostitution. In addition, the women, who are kept as mistresses and used for sexual gratification, would neither have any security nor a future for themselves, and their status would be ruined, and these are things that no rational person should ever accept.
Thus, the only alternative that remains is the third one, which not only responds positively to the innate desires and the inherent needs of the women, but it also keeps women away from the evil consequences of prostitution. It prevents disruption of the lives of this group of women and thus serves to protect society from a multitude of sins.
It must be noted that although polygamy is a social necessity in certain instances and is one of the incontestable rulings of Islam, fulfilling the conditions necessary for it in the present times differs vastly from that of the past. In the simple and Spartan life of the past, it was easy for everyone to maintain equity amongst the spouses but in the present times, those who wish to make use of this ruling must ensure that comprehensive equity is observed. Basically, polygamy should not be pursued for the sake of carnal and physical desires.
Interestingly, the very opponents of polygamy (such as the Westerners), during the course of history, have encountered events that have clearly manifested their need for it. For example, after World War II, the need for polygamy was intensely felt in the war-torn countries, especially Germany, which even compelled some of their intellectuals to reconsider their views with respect to the prohibition of polygamy. In addition, they conducted a study of the Islamic program of multiplicity of wives from al-Azhar University. However, severe objections on the part of the Church forced them to shelve their plans; the consequence of which was wild and outrageous profligacy that eventually engulfed the length and breadth of the war-torn countries.
Apart from the above, the inclination of some of the men to possess more than one spouse is something that cannot be denied, although if it were to arise as a result of carnal desires, it is not to be taken into regard. A wife's inability to conceive and the husband's intense desire to have a child provide a rational support to such an inclination. There may be instances where the inability of the wife to satisfy the intense sexual desires of the husband leaves him with no alternative except to turn towards a second marriage - at times even compelling him to resort to illegitimate means to achieve his objective in the absence of legitimate ones. Hence, in cases such as these, his inclination cannot be regarded as being illogical or irrational. It is for this reason that even in countries that prohibit polygamy, in reality, relationships with several women are widely prevalent whereby one male tends to have illicit relationships with several women at the same time.
The well-known French historian Gustav Lebon considers the issue of Islamic polygamy, which is bound and limited by conditions, to be one of the distinguishing features of this religion. Comparing it with the free and illicit relationship of a male with several females in Europe, he states: In the West too, despite the fact that the weather and natural environment do not warrant such a custom (polygamy), monogamy is something that we come across only in books of law! For, I do not suppose that the presence of traces of this custom, in our actual socialization, can be denied! Honestly, I am at a loss and fail to comprehend what the legal, but confined, polygamy of the East lacks in comparison to the phoney polygamy of the West? In fact, I declare that the former is better and more seemly than the latter, in every respect.
Of course it is not to be denied that some of the so-called Muslims, without taking into regard the Islamic ideology behind this rule, have sought to misuse it, maintaining ignominious harems for themselves and violating the rights of their wives. This flaw is not in the law but rather in the individuals themselves, and their deeds should not be regarded as the laws of Islam. Is there any law, which, despite its excellence, is not put to misuse by profiteering individuals for their personal benefit?
Question: At this juncture some may question that if women find themselves in the abovementioned circumstances; would they be permitted to take two husbands for themselves too?
The answer to the above question is not very difficult:
Firstly: (Contrary to what is popular among the general public) the sexual desire in men is several times more than that in women; books relating to sexual issues state frigidity to be the disorder which is prevalent in the majority of women whereas, in the case of men, it is just the opposite. Even with respect to animals it has been observed that sexual advancements are usually initiated by the males of the species.
Secondly: Polygamy, in the case of men, does not entail any social or legal complications whereas, if the women were to possess two husbands, it would lead to numerous problems - the simplest of them being the issue of genealogy of the child, for it would not be known to which of the husbands it belongs, and such a child would certainly not be cared for and supported by any of the husbands. Some of the scholars are of the opinion that a child, whose father's identity is unknown, tends to be less loved and cared for by the mother. Thus, such children find themselves deprived and denied with respect to love and affection, and unclear about their legal rights.
It may perhaps be unnecessary to mention that resorting to contraceptives such as pills or the like can never yield certainty or confidence that a child will not be conceived, for there have been innumerable instances where women, who have used them or made mistakes while using them, have conceived children. Thus, no woman can, by trusting and relying upon such measures, take multiple spouses for herself.
Due to these factors polygamy, in the case of women, cannot be rational, whereas in the case of men, after observing its conditions, it is not only logical, but practical too.
 The currency used in Iran - at present (2005), one US Dollar is approximately 900 tuman.
 Tafsir-e-Namunah, vol. 3, pg. 290
 Tafsir-e-Namunah, vol. 1, pg. 611
 Tafsir-e-Namunah, vol. 3, pg. 263
 Tafsir-e-Namunah, vol. 3, pg. 373
 Le Civilisation des Arabes (Tarikh-e-Tamaddun-e-Islam Wa Arab), translated by Fakhr Gilaani, pg. 509
 Tafsir-e-Namunah, vol. 3, pg. 256