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Quran Chapter 4 [part 1] - The Women - Instructions, Inheritance

A Medinan sura gives a number of instructions, urging justice to children and orphans, and mentioning inheritance and marriage laws. The sura also talks of the tensions between the Muslim community in Medina and some of the People of the Book (verses 44, 61), moving into a general discussion of war: it warns the Muslims to be cautious and to defend the weak and helpless (verses 71–6).

In the name of God, the Lord of Mercy, the Giver of Mercy

1 People, be mindful of your Lord, who created you from a single soul, and from it [a] created its mate, and from the pair of them spread countless men and women far and wide; be mindful of God, in whose name you make requests of one another. Beware of severing the ties of kinship: [b] God is always watching over you. 2 Give orphans their property, do not replace [their] good things with bad, and do not consume their property with your own–a great sin. 3 If you fear that you will not deal fairly with orphan girls, [c] you may marry whichever [other] [d] women seem good to you, two, three, or four. If you fear that you cannot be equitable [to them], then marry only one, or your slave(s): [e] that is more likely to make you avoid bias. 4 Give women their bridal gift upon marriage, though if they are happy to give up some of it for you, you may enjoy it with a clear conscience.

5 Do not entrust your property to the feeble-minded. God has made it a means of support for you: make provision for them from it, clothe them, and address them kindly. 6 Test orphans until they reach marriageable age; then, if you find they have sound judgement, hand over their property to them. Do not consume it hastily before they come of age: if the guardian is well off he should abstain from the orphan’s property, and if he is poor he should use only what is fair. When you give them their property, call witnesses in; but God takes full account of everything you do. [f]

7 Men shall have a share in what their parents and closest relatives leave, and women shall have a share in what their parents and closest relatives leave, whether the legacy be small or large: this is ordained by God. 8 If other relatives, orphans, or needy people are present at the distribution, give them something too, and speak kindly to them. 9 Let those who would fear for the future of their own helpless children, if they were to die, show the same concern [for orphans]; let them be mindful of God and speak out for justice. 10 Those who consume the property of orphans unjustly are actually swallowing fire into their own bellies: they will burn in the blazing Flame.


11 Concerning your children, God commands you that a son should have the equivalent share of two daughters. If there are only daughters, two or more should share two-thirds of the inheritance, if one, she should have half. Parents inherit a sixth each if the deceased leaves children; if he leaves no children and his parents are his sole heirs, his mother has a third, unless he has brothers, in which case she has a sixth. [In all cases, the distribution comes] after payment of any bequests or debts. You cannot know which of your parents or your children is more beneficial to you: this is a law from God, and He is all knowing, all wise. 12 You inherit half of what your wives leave, if they have no children; if they have children, you inherit a quarter. [In all cases, the distribution comes] after payment of any bequests or debts. If you have no children, your wives’ share is a quarter; if you have children, your wives get an eighth. [In all cases, the distribution comes] after payment of any bequests or debts. If a man or a woman dies leaving no children or parents, [g] but a single brother or sister, he or she should take one-sixth of the inheritance; if there are more siblings, they share one-third between them. [In all cases, the distribution comes] after payment of any bequests or debts, with no harm done to anyone: this is a commandment from God: God is all knowing and benign to all. 13 These are the bounds set by God: God will admit those who obey Him and His Messenger to Gardens graced with flowing streams, and there they will stay– that is the supreme triumph! 14 But those who disobey God and His Messenger and overstep His limits will be consigned by God to the Fire, and there they will stay– a humiliating torment awaits them!


a. ‘From the same essence’. Razi convincingly reached this conclusion based on comparison with many instances when min anfusikum is used in the Quran.

b. Literally ‘the womb-relationships’, i.e. all those to whom you are related. This expression occurs again in 47: 22.

c. In pre-Islamic Arabia, some guardians of orphan girls used to marry them in order to take their property (see 4: 127).

d. This is a widely accepted interpretation.

e. ‘Literally ‘what your right hands possess’.

f. kaffa bi here is used idiomatically.

g. This is the most generally accepted meaning of the Arabic word kalala. There are many others.

The Qur'an (Oxford World's Classics)

The Qur'an / a new translation by M. A. S. Abdel Haleem, copyright © 2004 Oxford World's Classics (Oxford University Press). Used by permission. All rights reserved.

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