inheritance percentages

So I’ve already written about inheritance, but this evening, prompted by an article on AltMuslimah on the topic, Zeina and I decided to torture ourselves by figuring out how much daughters are entitled to inherit in each of the three instances outlined in the Qur’an (minus contextual application of exegesis).

Check our math! It could be hugely incorrect. The graphs have two fixed sections–the wife (12.5%) and the parents (33.3%)–but Word tends to round in outrageous ways to make the pieces fit, so the constants don’t remain fixed on each graph but you should still get the picture.

First we deciphered this verse:

God charges you, concerning your children:
To the male the like portion of two females
and if they be women above two, then for them two-thirds
of what the deceased leaves.
But if she be one,
she shall have one-half thereof.
(Qur’an 4:11)

I swear we spent half an hour on the language alone. Most people interpret the second line to be 2:1 (with the male receiving twice as the female) throughout, but obviously if the conditions are described differently in the following lines, with an only daughter receiving half and more than two daughters receiving two thirds, then that is not meant to be applied to the following designations.

There was one thing we knew for sure: if there is one daughter she receives half (regardless of how many sons there are)—so we started there, since it was the one that was the clearest.

[Given: the wife of the deceased is entitled to 1/8 (different verse) and the parents (2 people) of the deceased are entitled to 1/6 each (or 1/3 combined.)]

She receives half of what is left over after the inheritance has been distributed to the deceased’s wife and parents if she is the only daughter: “But if she be one, then to her a half.”

inheritance: 1 daughter

An only daughter gets HALF. The verse says nothing about the number of sons. If there are two, they get EACH get HALF of that percentage and of what she receives. If there are three or more, the percentage each receives is even smaller. The verse itself is centered around what women are entitled to;–this was the primary focus in the last post on inheritance.

So then we calculated how much it would be for 3 daughters, because that seemed simple enough—allotting 45.25% to the wife and parents, we merely take 2 thirds of what’s left for the daughters and designate the rest to the sons who are left. “If they be women above two, then for them two-thirds.”

inheritance 3 or more daughters

Each daughter (if there are 3) is receiving about 12 percent. If there are more, divide the percentage by their number accordingly. If there is only one son he receives 19 percent. If there are two they each receive half of the 19 percent; three, a third and so on.

So far, it is the woman in the first graph who receives at least as much if not more than her brother(s). It is the women in the second graph who receive only a little less than their brothers only if there is just one brother and much more if there are two or more. The odds are in the women’s favor.

We calculated the combination of boy(s) and 1 girl and of boy(s) and 3 or more girls. The only combination left (other than being childless) is boys and exactly 2 girls. The first designation.

“To the male the like portion of two females.”

The question kept arising of whether the verse meant like the portion of two females combined (as most argue) or like the portion of two females each. We ended up charting the former. (Even though the verse says like the portion of two females [in both the translation and the original], and not equal to the portion of two females which would have been inarguably referring to the combination.)

inheritance 2 daughters: to the male the like portion of two females

Each of the two daughters would receive 13.7%. In that 27.38% for the sons (shows up as 27% on the graph) there could again be multiple sons who share that “space.” The percentage grows smaller the more sons the deceased has.

But the inheritances for the daughters are constantly fixed—whether 1, 2 (27% combined), or 3 or more. Their amounts are prevented from diminishing.

45 thoughts on “inheritance percentages

  1. Wow, that must taken a lot of time, but it now appears a lot clearer!! I know this is out of the ‘inheritance of children’ context, but doesn’t the wife seem to get too little out of all this??


    1. The wife keeps ALL her wealth. The wealth she already had, I mean. So this is only what she inherits from her deceased husband after her children have already received their designations. She inherits from her parents, is entitled to all of her husband has (while he is alive), and it is her Islamic right to keep whatever she earns from working for herself. And the grandparents are probably pretty old, so they need it a little more to get by. xD


      1. ummhumayra

        “entitled to all of her husband has (while he is alive)”
        She is entitled to food, lodging, clothing etc. according to her class. She certainly isn’t entitled to ALL his income, or his assets.


  2. Nahida, Thanks for this post! I like the visuals because they are easier to understand than numbers alone.

    BTW, Is your blog being plagiarized (link removed). I hope not but it’s so common that I thought I’d share it with you and see if you know about this.


    1. Thanks Metis. That site left a trackback, but I deleted it because it’s obviously spam (an attempt to get commenters to click the link). It looks like they took the whole post, definitely without permission, which *is* plagiarism. I think it’s just one post. If it happens again I’ll report them to their host (which appears to be GoDaddy).

      Edit: Screw it, that shit’s mine. I’m notifying GoDaddy now.


  3. Khadeeja

    I haven’t really gone through this ayat in depth because I always contend the pick and choose argument as you do- thank you for writing this post :)

    I reflected about this post quite a bit. A couple of things:

    (1) On Altmuslimah the article you link says “but it is always true that Muslim daughters receive less than Muslim sons, and the reasons for this have been laid out by Islamic jurists and scholars.” In your first scenario, which to me seems pretty clear that when a daughter is an only daughter she receives the same if there is one son. If there is more than one son, then the sons receive a quarter each of what is left by this deduction? Or am I missing something major?

    (2)What are the different words for equal and like in Arabic?


    (4) I love you and Zeina.


    1. Yeah I never really cared about getting in depth into this ayat either. (Especially since it involved so much math.) But–

      (1) I was *extremely* frustrated with the guy who wrote the AltMuslimah article… I commented but he continued to brush it off. You have it right: the daughters don’t always receive less.

      (2) The word used in the verse is mithlu (likeness) instead of sawaan (equal).

      (3) Thank you!!

      (4) I love you too <3


  4. Allah instructs you concerning your children: for the male, what is equal to the share of two females. But if there are [only] daughters, two or more, for them is two thirds of one’s estate. And if there is only one, for her is half.

    I would think this means if there are children, male and female, then the males get twice the share of the female, number of children irrelevant.

    If there’s only daughters though, then if there’s more than one they get two thirds of the total estate. If there’s only one daughter (one child of the dead) she gets half.


    1. We did talk about that… but it doesn’t say “only daughters” because then it would say waheeda and not waahida. And it isn’t grammatically parallel if each of the previous ones includes the male.


      1. Especially the presence of the preposition “but”, which would imply that the previous condition (of men inheriting the share of two women) does not apply in the consequent cases which are 1) the presence of 3 or more sisters and 2) the presence of 1 daughter.
        So the only case that is left is the presence of two daughters which applies to the first condition.

        And Khadeeja we love you too! <3


      2. Hmmm … a couple of wizards I checked out online doesn’t agree with what you just said, they seem to hold the original view. I will check this out more and get back to you on this, but it looks like being an only daughter is good for the daughter in terms of inheritance! :-D lol


      3. A wizard? What sorcery is this! =P

        Look at this, Mezba:

        verse continued–“[…]and to his [the deceased’s] parents to each one of the two the sixth of what he leaves, if he has children; but if he has no children, and his heirs are his parents, a third to his mother, or, if he has brothers, to his mother a sixth.”

        His mother gets a third, but if he has brothers regardless of the number of brothers the mother still gets a sixth (half of a third.) The brothers divide the remainder amongst themselves. That’s also parallel to how we interpreted the beginning of this verse.


      4. Nahida, which are the verses that you used in making this post? Right now, I have

        2: 180-182, 240
        4: 7, 11-12, 33, 176
        5: 106-107

        Are there any other verses that you can think of that applies to inheritance? I want to have a complete list before starting my diagrams. Thanks.


        1. Yeah, I think that’s all of them. I incorporated less though, with the intention of producing graphs that are more focused and clear–but I think it’s much better idea to use all the verses at once because everything is interrelated and interreferenced. I also realized a couple of days ago that I made the spouse’s and grandparents’ parts of the chart fixed (designated first) but the children’s parts have to be allotted first, and then the grandparents and wife etc. Because 4:11 says children get “of what the deceased leaves” and not of what the grandparents and wife leaves after taking their share. So those parts are different.

          Looking forward to your diagrams Mezba!


  5. Wow! That’s some workout there :D Bravo to you girls! Really happy with your comments in the other article.

    I think I’m getting to understanding this a little esp with Zeina’s latest input on the condition.But why do most scholars don’t consider it as one,even the altmuslimah article author? It’s always the boys share of 2:1 that takes centrestage.And from there the calculations begin.
    And I just want to check about the mother’s share.Does she receive more than the father in some instances or all? I’ve read that in Umar’s time,a situation arose that according to this computation the mother’s share was more than the father,which they found unacceptable.So to base on the 2:1 ratio,the father was given more.Didn’t like what I read really,if the point as you said Nahida that the primary focus of inheritance rules is concerned with women.Thanks for the wonderful post again!


    1. It doesn’t surprise me they would interpret it as 2:1 every time–that would be in their best interest as men. When women were given inheritance rights in the first place there was HUGE resistance . They tried to make up contracts to find ways around giving women any inheritance at all!

      And considering the 2:1 ratio is specifically only for sons and daughters (not for fathers and mothers) it is outrageous that the mother receiving more would be interpreted as unacceptable based on this verse, which clearly has to do with children. That’s *deliberately* malicious that this verse is applied in that situation!


  6. Notice: I just fixed the last pie graph; we’d taken half one time too many and so it had previously been displaying the amount for just 1 of the two daughters while it was labelled for 2. (That’s why it looked so strange!) Everything should be fine now.


  7. almostclever

    Does this happen in real life (the inheritance of the daughters being fixed) or is this where they get screwed due to men wanting the entire pie for men?


    1. I’m guessing it doesn’t happen… but it might be because they’re genuinely confused about the 2:1 or interpret it differently from how we interpret it, but then again they could just be happily applying to everything out of context, like Lat’s example where they do it to the wife.


  8. ummhumayra

    “There was one thing we knew for sure: if there is one daughter she receives half (regardless of how many sons there are)”
    it would make sense for a female only child to receive a substantial share, as she has no brothers to support her, but a girl child with, say, 7 brothers, still getting a half???
    what happens if it’s one daughter and one son? according to your calculation, the daughter should get 50% and the son 100% (To the male the like portion of two females) ??
    I reckon your basic assumption is false, and therefore all subsequent calculations too


    1. as she has no brothers to support her

      And when she does have brothers and receives half, they need to support her even less.

      according to your calculation, the daughter should get 50% and the son 100%

      Um. No. You have serious math issues. Percentages don’t work like that.


        1. That was not a joke. If you had understood it you wouldn’t need to ask.

          The girl gets half what the parents have left. The son gets the other half. They receive the same amount. I said clearly in the post that I’ve only applied 2:1 when there are two girls.


  9. Maria

    I’m curious about the end of the verse about division of inheritance:
    “Remember, this distribution shall take place after fulfilling the will of the deceased and after paying off all debts. As for your parents and your children, you know not which of them is more deserving of benefit from you. Such is the Ordinance from God. God is Knower, Wise.” (The translation is from Shabbir Ahmed)
    Does this mean that inheritance laws are only to be followed in the absence of a will? If so, then that means people are entitled to divide up their assets amongst their heirs however they want, whether it’s equally amongst sons and daughters or not. I’m only raising this issue up because some people assume that the 2:1 percentage is the only way to hand down your possessions.


    1. Yes, I would think that is what it means. This is only a model that is a suggestion, but ultimately you should write a will. The word for the inheritance in the verse is also “excess wealth” or “opulence”–not necessity.

      This also isn’t my primary argument. I don’t need it, or even particularly care for it. *shrug* As Khadeeja mentioned, it’s not one we rely on: our main point on the matter is that men give the justification that women are supported by them for why women receive less, yet most women do not receive what they are entitled from their husbands and the duty is unfulfilled, and therefore men cannot Islamically continue to take more from their parents. To give men what they are entitled while refusing to give women what they are entitled is to pick and choose from the Qur’an, and is indeed a way of unfairly and unIslamically privileging men, when the verse was meant to check their privilege.

      This post is responsive, merely to illustrate the obscurity and the extent to which it is abused by men. But it’s not like a fatwa or anything =P


      1. ummhumayra

        how many women forego their right to proper maintenance by entering a marriage, agreeing (tacitly?) from the outset that they will (continue to) work and use those earnings to pay towards household bills without stipulating that it’s a gift or a loan?
        This falls under ‘marriage choice’, as mentioned by the author in his comments.
        They should either marry someone richer or make do with less, but can’t try to
        usurp the rights of their brothers upon inheritance.
        Seeing that you brought up the polygamy aspect in your comments, in my experience, MANY first wives have effectively subsidized their husband’s polygamy, by contributing to the household from the outset which resulted in a) him not having a clue what it takes financially to maintain a household and b) him having enough energy to even entertain the thought of a second wife (instead of getting that second job) PLUS incidentally, the workplace is the number one locale for meeting second wives


        1. You are talking about privileged women. They can’t just “make do with less” when what’s at risk is their housing and food.

          …And your last paragraph is ridiculous. If they can already do that they can just forbid polygamy in their marriage contracts. They don’t have to continuously see that he’s exhausted.

          The Qur’an cross-references itself, and each line has the entirety of the Qur’an within it. You cannot isolate something like this that is balanced on an intricate network and expect it to work or continue to be practical. That is picking and choosing, and it is a serious exploitation. If a brother demands twice as much as his sister, he’d better expect to contribute twice as much.

          It’s incredibly interesting that those who argue that men are to provide basic necessities for women simultaneously hold that it is the woman’s responsibility to ensure that he does not abuse his situation–by doing EVERYTHING. If your definition of marriage involves so much mistrust that you have to actively prevent your husband from going against your wishes, something is seriously flawed.


  10. ummhumayra

    I looked it up: ‘waahidatan’ mean it’s a single, sole girl child (i.e. NO brothers and no other heirs) that gets half of the estate.This definition, by extension, is used to rule that a sole, male child (with no other heirs) gets ALL (once again, half x 2).
    Furthermore, “and if they be women above two, then for them two-thirds” means if there are only girl children, NO BROTHERS AT ALL, they share two thirds.
    So, if there is a son, he will always get DOUBLE the share of a daughter.


    1. This is the orthodox view, yes.
      We didn’t magically forget about it, and Dr. Google is right around the corner to double check. We are offering an alternate derived solely from the linguistics of the texts. Considering that we are not Islamic scholars, nor Arabic scholars, we are not assuming that the interpretation is foolproof and not subject to any change. A disclaimer was made in the post.

      And let’s be clear on one thing, the women should definitely not “usurp the rights of their brothers in inheritance”. This is not what the post was about. This was about what the verse actually means and what the women are actually entitled to. If it proves to be a wrong model, and the more I read the more I know that there are a lot of flaws in it, then we won’t go all like “OMG NO WE STILL HAVE TO FOLLOW IT”.



    2. (i.e. NO brothers and no other heirs)

      Right. Are you sure you didn’t just add a little of yourself to this part?

      You can’t be sure if waahidatan is referring to her childness or her girlness. It means one, and it happens to be feminine. It could easily mean she is the ONLY GIRL (not the only child). Considering the line before it is referring to TWO GIRLS it’s most likely that the following is referring to one GIRL–not one child. The Qur’an use of ELSE IF means that the 2:1 doesn’t apply even when the rest of the conditions (the presence of a son) are constant in the following situations. The only time 2:1 is applied for children is when there are exactly two daughters.

      This definition, by extension, is used to rule that a sole, male child (with no other heirs) gets ALL (once again, half x 2).

      half x 2 of what? Here’s the thing about ratios: they don’t stand on their own. You cannot say a son gets twice what a daughter gets if there is NO daughter for comparison!


      1. ummhumayra

        ‘waahidatan’ refers to her ‘oneness’, i.e. the fact that she is the SOLE heir.
        I copied from an Islamic book, not google, and added nothing myself, unlike your mathematic and Arabic acrobatics.


        1. Her oneness in relation to WHAT? You need to make a CASE for why it refers to her state of being a child instead of being a female child. If you’re not going to contribute (you’ve resorted to petty insults since your arrival) and simply regurgitate the interpretation we’ve heard before without real supporting argument, move along. We are not obligated to entertain you. You’re not “educating” anyone here, and certainly not if your sole function is to merely “copy.” There are others (like Mezba) who have much more politely represented your perspective.


  11. Womble

    I studied Islamic law of inheritance a long time ago and unfortunately I’ve pretty much forgotten most of it. I was taught many interesting ways in which to divide up the deceased’s estate when there were many beneficiaries. One thing I do remember is that if the deceased has many children including female and male, the male was always entitled to double the share of one sister.

    I can’t do pie charts but I’ll use fractions.
    Scenario 1
    The beneficiaries are three brothers and one sister: brothers get 2/7 each and the sister 1/7.

    Scenario 2
    The beneficiaries are three sisters and one brother: sisters get 1/5 each and the brother 2/5.

    An only child who is female (ie no brothers) inherits half of the deceased’s estate. Two or more female children (again no brothers) inherit two-thirds of the estate.

    Where there are numerous beneficiaries who are entitled to a share ie children, the deceased’s parents and spouse, then adjustments need to be made when apportioning the estate to accommodate everyone’s share.

    I hope this adds something to the discussion.


  12. Womble

    The line that says ‘I was taught many interesting ways in which to divide up the deceased’s estate when there were many beneficiaries’, sounds misleading. It should read ‘I was taught how to divide up the deceased’s estate when there were many beneficiaries.’


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  14. salam. thanks for great discussion and points being raised. these are a few quick thoughts.

    i find the terminology interesting and neglected. quranic terminology is specific and it uses female/male and women/men in different ways. i think that understanding why it uses the specific words in different places will clarify many points.

    and im not sure that the reason males receive more is that they are supposed to take care of their sisters. it seems more reasonable that the reason is because boys will seek out marriage with their wealth while girls will be receiving more wealth when they marry. plus because males are responsible for children in a family while women are not so men have more responsibilities with their money while women can spend it on themselves.

    quran teaches us and guides us back to healthy soceities, instead of just adding bandaids, which then makes people want to change quran to fit them, but we have to change to fit quran, inshaallah.

    allah bless you and your loved ones my dear sister.


    1. another issue that needs more discussion that should shed light on this issue for muslims is marriage as it is described in quran versus the lies we are being taught by scholars and imams.


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