Surah an-Nisa' (Women ) 4 : 7

لِّلرِّجَالِ نَصِيبٌ مِّمَّا تَرَكَ ٱلْوَٰلِدَانِ وَٱلْأَقْرَبُونَ وَلِلنِّسَآءِ نَصِيبٌ مِّمَّا تَرَكَ ٱلْوَٰلِدَانِ وَٱلْأَقْرَبُونَ مِمَّا قَلَّ مِنْهُ أَوْ كَثُرَ ۚ نَصِيبًا مَّفْرُوضًا

Translations

 
 Muhsin Khan
 Pickthall
 Yusuf Ali
Quran Project
For men is a share of what the parents and close relatives leave, and for women is a share of what the parents and close relatives leave, be it little or much - an obligatory share.

1. Lessons/Guidance/Reflections/Gems

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Explanatory Note

In the days of jāhiliyyah, or ignorance, in pre-Islamic Arabia, no share of inheritance was given to females, and little, if any, was given to young boys. The reason being that neither group could fight against any aggressor. God’s law, on the other hand, made inheritance due to all kinsfolk, according to their degree of kinship and their shares, which will be detailed later. It is the view of Islam that members of the same family should help and look after one another. Everyone is required to look after his relatives when they are in need, and to share their liability in paying compensation in cases of causing death to or inflicting injury or bodily harm on others. Hence, it is only right that relatives should inherit each other, when they leave behind some property, according to their respective kinship. This gives practical effect to the rule that: “gain is commensurate with liability”. Islam is a complete and perfectly coherent system. This is reflected most clearly in the distribution of rights and obligations. This is the general rule of inheritance. Some people may question the concept of inheritance, but this only betrays their rudeness towards God, their ignorance of human nature and the requirements of practical life.

It is enough to understand the principles which form the Islamic social system to put an end to such futile arguments. The basic characteristic of this system is mutual care. In order to give mutual care a sound basis, Islam builds its structure on a solid foundation of natural human inclinations that have a basic role to fulfil in human life.
 
Family ties are genuine and natural. They have not been invented by any generation of humanity, nor indeed by the cumulative wisdom of all generations. These ties have a profound effect on human life, its preservation and betterment. No argument against the seriousness of these ties and their effect is worth any consideration. In view of this, Islam makes mutual care within the family the cornerstone of its system of social care and security. Inheritance is one aspect of that. It is also an essential element of the Islamic economic system.
 
Should this provision fall short of looking after all cases which need help, the next step, which is care within the local community, will complement it. If this also falls short, then the Islamic state will look after all those who need care after the family and the local community have fulfilled their duties. In this way, the burden is not thrown totally on the shoulders of the state. The reason being that care within the family or the local community is bound to create feelings of compassion which, in turn, promote co-operation in a most natural way. Moreover, these feelings of compassion constitute a net gain for humanity which cannot be dismissed by any person who has the interests of humanity at heart. Furthermore, family care in particular is bound to leave certain effects that are in harmony with human nature. When a person realises that the effort he exerts to improve his situation will also benefit his relatives, especially his offspring, he will have the motive to double his efforts. His increased productivity benefits the community indirectly. Islam does not create barriers between the individual and the community. Whatever an individual owns belongs to the community as a whole when it needs it.
 
This last rule is enough to make invalid all superficial objections to inheritance, which argue that inheritance gives money to people who have not worked or made an effort for it. The fact is that an heir is an extension of the person from whom he inherits. From another point of view, an heir is the very person to look after his relatives, should he be well off and they be in need. Moreover, all property belongs to the community when it needs it, on the basis of the rules of Islamic social security.
 
Furthermore, the relationship between testator and heir, especially offspring, is not confined to money and property alone. Relatives, both immediate and extended, also pass on their good and bad tendencies, susceptibility to certain illnesses, physical features, intelligence or the lack of it, and so on. All these inherited aspects stay with those who receive them throughout their lives. They cannot get rid of them, no matter how hard they try. It is only fair, then, that they should also inherit property when they cannot avoid, even with the help of the state and all its power, inheriting illness, evil tendencies and stupidity.
 
For all these practical and natural aspects of human life, and for many other social interests, God has laid down the general rule of inheritance: “Men shall have a share in what parents and kinsfolk leave behind, and women shall have a share in what parents and kinsfolk leave behind; whether it be little or much. It is an apportioned share.” This is the general principle by which Islam gave women, fourteen centuries ago, the same rights as men to have a share of inheritance and by which it has preserved the rights of youngsters who were treated unfairly during the days of ignorance. Ignorant society looked at individuals according to their value in war and productivity. Islam, which is a Divine code of living, looks first at the human value of man. This is his intrinsic value of which he cannot be deprived. His duties and obligations within the family and the community take a secondary position.

2. Linguistic Analysis

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Frequency of Root words in this Ayat used in this Surah *


3. Surah Overview

4. Miscellaneous Information

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5. Connected/Related Ayat

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6. Frequency of the word

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7. Period of Revelation

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This Surah comprises several discourses which were revealed on different occasions during the period ranging probably between the end of year 3 A.H. and the end of 4 A.H. or the beginning of 5 A.H. Although it is difficult to determine the exact dates of their revelations it is possible to assign to them a fairly correct period with the help of the Commandments and the events mentioned therein. A few instances are given below by way of illustration:

1. We know that the inheritance law for those martyred and protection for the rights of the orphans was sent down after the Battle of Uhud (in which 70 Muslims were martyred). From this we conclude that v. 1 -28 were revealed on that occasion.

2. We learn from the traditions that the ruling regarding the prayer (Salah) during war time was given on the occasion of the Zat-ur-Riqa’aan expedition. This took place in 4 A.H. From this we conclude that the discourse containing v. 102 was revealed on that occasion.

3. The last warning to the Jews was given before the Banu-Nadheer were exiled from Madinah in Rabi’-ulAwwal 4 A.H. It may therefore be assumed that the discourse containing v. 47 was revealed before that date.

4. The permission about performing ablution with dust in the event of no water (tayammum) verse 43, was given during the Bani-al-Mustaliq expedition which took place in 5 A.H. [REF: Mawdudi]

8. Reasons for Revelation

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Let us now consider the social and historical considerations of the period in order to understand the Surah. All the discourses in this Surah deal with three main problems which confronted the Prophet at the time. First of all he was engaged in bringing about an all round development of the islamic Community that had been formed at the time of his migration to Madinah. For this purpose he was introducing new moral cultural social economic and political ways in place of the old ones of the pre-islamic period. The second thing that occupied his attention and efforts was the bitter struggle that was going on with the polytheist Arabs, the Jewish clans and the hypocrites who were opposing tooth and nail his mission of reform. Above all, he had to propagate Islam in the face of the bitter opposition of these powers of evil with a view to capturing more and more minds and hearts.

Accordingly detailed instructions have been given for the consolidation and strengthening of the islamic Community in continuation of those given in Surah 2: Al-Baqarah (The Cow). Principles for the smooth running of family life have been laid down and ways of settling family disputes have been taught. Rules have been prescribed for marriage and rights of wife and husband have been apportioned fairly and equitably. The status of women in the society has been determined and the declaration of the rights of orphans has been made. Laws and regulations have been laid down for the division of inheritance and instructions have been given to reform economic affairs. The foundation of the penal code has been laid down, drinking has been prohibited and instructions have been given for cleanliness and purity. The Muslims have been taught the kind of relations good men should have with their God and fellow men. Instructions have been given for the maintenance of discipline in the Muslim Community.

The moral and religious condition of The People of the Book (Jews and Christians) has been reviewed to teach lessons to the Muslims and to forewarn them to refrain from following in their footsteps. The conduct of the hypocrites has been criticized and the distinctive features of hypocrisy and true faith have been clearly marked off to enable the Muslims to distinguish between the two. In order to cope with the aftermath of the Battle of Uhud, Inspiring discourses were sent down to urge the Muslims to face the enemy bravely, for defeat in the Battle had so emboldened the polytheist Arab clans and the neighbouring Jews and the hypocrites at home, that they were threatening the Muslims on all sides. At this critical juncture God filled the Muslims with courage and gave them such instructions as were needed during that period of war clouds. In order to counteract the fearful rumours that were being spread by the hypocrites and the Muslims of weak faith they were asked to make a thorough enquiry into them and to inform the responsible people about them. Then they were experiencing some difficulties in offering their prayer during the expeditions to some places where no water was available for performing their ablutions etc. In such cases they were allowed to cleanse themselves with pure earth and to shorten the prayer or to offer the “Prayer of Fear” when they were faced with danger. Instructions were also given for the solution of the puzzling problem of those Muslims who were scattered among the unbelieving Arab clans and were often involved in war. They were asked to migrate to Madinah the abode of Islam.

This Surah also deals with the case of Banu nadir who were showing a hostile and menacing attitude in spite of the peace treaties they had made with the Muslims. They were openly siding with the enemies of Islam and hatching plots against the Prophet and the Muslim Community even at Madinah itself. They were taken to task for their inimical behaviour and given a final warning to change their attitude and were at last exiled from Madinah on account of their misconduct.

The problem of the hypocrites, who had become very troublesome at that time, was involving the Believers in difficulties. Therefore, they were divided into different categories to enable the Muslims to deal with them appropriately. Clear instructions were also given regarding the attitude they should adopt towards the non-belligerent clans. The most important thing needed at that time was to prepare the Muslims for the bitter struggle with the opponents of Islam. For this purpose greatest importance was attached to their character building, for it was obvious that the small Muslim Community could only come out successful, nay, survive, if the Muslims possessed high moral character. They were, therefore, enjoined to adopt the highest moral qualities and were severely criticized whenever any moral weakness was detected in them.

Though this Surah mainly deals with the moral and social reforms, yet due attention has been paid to propagation of Islam. On the one hand, the superiority of the islamic morality and culture has been established over that of the Jews, Christians and polytheists; on the other hand, their wrong religious conceptions, their wrong morality and their evil acts have been criticized to prepare the ground for inviting them to the way of the Truth. 

9. Relevant Hadith

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10. Wiki Forum

Comments in this section are statements made by general users – these are not necessarily explanations of the Ayah – rather a place to share personal thoughts and stories…

11. Tafsir Zone

 

12. External Links

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