Before Islam, women were not considered to be the owners of their own property. Their husbands were. In fact, things were so tough for women that they were more often than not considered to be the property of their husbands to do with as they pleased. To most of us today, this concept seems completely absurd and luckily, it is because of the advent of Islam that this is just a history lesson for us rather than a harsh reality.
One of the questions that Muslims get asked a lot is that: if Islam is such a huge advocate for equality for both men and women, why does the Qur’an say that a woman should be given half the inheritance to that of a man? Let’s take a look at one of the verses of the Holy Qur’an that mention this.
Allah commands you concerning your children: a male shall have as much as the share of two females; but if there be females only, numbering more than two, then they shall have two-thirds of what the deceased leaves; and if there be one, she shall have the half. And his parents shall have each of them a sixth of the inheritance, if he have a child; but if he have no child and his parents be his heirs, then his mother shall have a third; and if he have brothers and sisters, then his mother shall have a sixth, after the payment of any bequests he may have bequeathed or of debt. Your fathers and your children, you know not which of them is nearest to you in benefit. This fixing of portions is from Allah. Surely, Allah is All- Knowing, Wise. [4:12]
This verse clearly says that both the mother and the father shall have an equal share of inheritance so a woman’s inheritance is not always half that of a man’s. Nevertheless, it also says sons shall inherit twice that of daughters. On the surface, this may seem unfair but everything in Islam has a reason for it that we need to try to understand. We need to look at the other commandments of Allah as well rather than just fixating on this one thing, such as the rights and responsibilities of men and women in a much broader scope.
In Islam, the responsibility of providing for the family falls on the husband. He must feed, clothe, provide a suitable home and take care of every need that his wife and children have, as well as himself. There are no ifs and buts about this. Even if the husband and wife are divorced and the children are living with their mother, it is still their father’s responsibility to take care of the financial needs of their children. Husbands must give a haq mehr to their wives in all circumstances except if their wife willingly relinquishes it and this must be agreed by both parties at the time of the nikah.
Wives, on the other hand, are responsible for taking care of their home and ensuring that it is a place of love and comfort and a whole lot of other things. This does not mean that women are confined to the home and must never leave. They may work if they want to and they have all sorts of rights that men have too – it’s just that they don’t have any financial obligations. They can spend their money as they wish. Also, a parent may give their daughters whatever they want in their lifetime or name them in their will as a beneficiary of a larger amount than the share specified so the amount of money they earn or receive adds up.
Therefore, men may receive more in terms of inheritance from their parents but women also receive a fair share from their husbands if the teachings of Islam are followed properly. Men and women do not have the same responsibilities in Islam and that is why some of their rights are slightly and understandably different too. Islam is a fair religion and it creates a beautiful and harmonious balance between men and women.