An-Nisa · Juz 6 · Qur'an Tafseer

Tafseer Surah an-Nisa Ayah 176

The Ruling of Kalalah

A little after the beginning of Surah an-Nisa, there appeared some injunctions relating to inheritance. Then, after a considerable gap, the text returned to the injunction of inheritance along with others. Now, at the end of the Surah, the text reverts to the subject once again. Perhaps the wisdom behind this scattering of the subject at three different places could be the consideration of prevailing injustice in matters of inheritance before the advent of Islam.

By taking it up in the beginning, then in the middle, and finally in the end, it was hoped that the addressees would be gradually alerted to the need of justice in this area and would thus be enabled to show their maximum concern.

Imam Ahmad recorded that Ma`dan bin Abi Talhah said that Umar bin Al-Khattab radhiAllahu anhu said, “There is nothing that I asked the Messenger of Allah, sallAllahu aalyhi wa sallam about its meaning more than the Kalalah, until he stabbed me with his finger in my chest and said,

يَكْفِيكَ آيَةُ الصَّيْفِ الَّتِي فِي آخِرِ سُورَةِ النِّسَاء

“The Ayah that is in the end of Surat An-Nisa’ should suffice for you.”

In this ayah, Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala says:

يَسْتَفْتُونَكَ قُلِ اللَّهُ يُفْتِيكُمْ فِى الْكَلَـلَةِ إِن امْرُؤٌ هَلَكَ لَيْسَ لَهُ وَلَدٌ وَلَهُ أُخْتٌ فَلَهَا نِصْفُ مَا تَرَكَ وَهُوَ يَرِثُهَآ إِن لَّمْ يَكُنْ لَّهَآ وَلَدٌ فَإِن كَانَتَا اثْنَتَيْنِ فَلَهُمَا الثُّلُثَانِ مِمَّا تَرَكَ وَإِن كَانُواْ إِخْوَةً رِّجَالاً وَنِسَآءً فَلِلذَّكَرِ مِثْلُ حَظِّ الاٍّنثَيَيْنِ يُبَيِّنُ اللَّهُ لَكُمْ أَن تَضِلُّواْ وَاللَّهُ بِكُلِّ شَىْءٍ عَلِيمٌ

“They ask you for a legal verdict. Say: ‘Allah directs (thus) about Al-Kalalah. If it is a man that dies leaving a sister, but no child, she shall have half the inheritance, and (in her case) he will be her heir if she has no children. If there are two sisters, they shall have two-thirds of the inheritance; if there are brothers and sisters, the male will have twice the share of the female. (Thus) does Allah make clear to you (His Law) lest you go astray. And Allah is the All-Knower of everything.”

The ayah was revealed in answer to the question posed by some Companions radhiAllahu anhum regarding the inheritance of a kalalah. Kalalah means a person who dies leaving neither children nor parents. The ayah has clarified that the property left by a kalalah shall be distributed in the following manner:

  1. If the kalalah has left one real sister, or one half sister from father’s side, then after settling the preferential rights [such as debts, wills, burial expenses] she will get one half of the property. The other half will be given to the heirs falling in the category of Asbat. If no heir from the category of Asbat is alive, then this half, too, will be given back to the sister of the deceased [meaning thereby that she will secure the whole property].
  2. If the sister dies, and leaves no children, and her brother is alive, then he will get the whole property left by her.
  3. If a kalalah, male or female, dies and leaves two or more sisters, either real sisters or half sisters from father’s side then they shall get two thirds of the property left by the kalalah. The remaining one third will be given to Asbat, if any, and in the absence of Asbat this one third will also be given to the sisters who will distribute their share among themselves equally.
  4. If a kalalah leaves behind a combination of brothers and sisters [either real or from father’s side only], then the whole property, after satisfying the preferential rights, shall be distributed between them on the principle that every brother will get twice the share of every sister.

It is recorded in the two saheehs ibn Abbas said that the Messenger of Allah sallAllahu aalyhi wa sallam said,

ألْحِقُوا الْفَرَائِضَ بِأَهْلِهَا، فَمَا أَبْقَتِ الْفَرائِضُ فَلِأَوْلَى رَجُلٍ ذَكَر

“Give the Farai’d to its people, and whatever is left is the share of the nearest male relative.” 

Allah has perfect knowledge in the consequences of everything and in the benefit that each matter carries for His servants. He also knows what each of the relatives deserves from the inheritance, according to the degree of relation he or she has with the deceased.

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