The Final Sermon: Inheritance and Lineage

The words of our beloved Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) are full of rich lessons. Among them is his address during the farewell Hajj. This is the fifteenth in a series of articles on The Prophet’s Last Sermon, Lessons for Humanity.

“O people: Allah has apportioned to every deserving heir his share of the estate. No deserving heir may accept a special bequest. And no special bequest may exceed a third of the estate.”

The Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) laid out principles related to inheritance and estates. Inheritance in the Sacred Law has been pre-apportioned. If somebody dies, their wealth belongs to their pre-apportioned inheritors. There is wisdom in it. This is more equitable.

It spreads wealth out within the family. It prevents disputes within the family. Both male and female inheritors get money, even though in traditional societies, women were not responsible for providing for anybody. Women get their apportioned share, men get their apportioned share, and it takes care of all scenarios.  

It avoids family breaking up as often happens upon death. 

One can give up to one-third of one’s wealth as a bequest, as a will to someone else. But, there can be no bequest to an inheritor. Anybody who is getting one of the pre-apportioned shares of the inheritance, cannot be given extra.

It is very important to know about and to study the laws of inheritance, but also the wisdom underlying the laws of inheritance as well. It is half of knowledge and one of the first knowledges that will go from the community (Umma). Few people ever ask about inheritance. 

The Sanctity of Family

“A child’s lineage is that of the [husband who owns the] bed, and adulterers shall be stoned. Whoever claims to be the son of someone besides his father or a bondsman who claims to belong to other than his masters shall bear the curse of Allah and the angels and all men: no deflecting of it or ransom for it shall be accepted from him.”

Marriage is sacred. It is key to the preservation of a good society because virtue is cultivated in and through family. 

Good relations in the community and society are cultivated through family. Unlawful sexual intercourse (zina), which is any intercourse outside of marriage, whether before marriage or during marriage, is destructive to family and society. That is why the punishments for it are very strong. It is meant to be a very strong deterrent against it.

A child’s lineage is ascribed to the marital bed. So a child is ascribed to the father in the context of marriage to serve as a deterrent against unlawful sexual intercourse. The child born out of wedlock is not given the lineage of their father.

Lineage and Inheritance

Of course, they must be taken care of, provided for, and treated equitably. They are not disgraced in society nor looked down upon. But, it is a very strong deterrent. 

That child, biologically the mother’s and not the father’s, will not inherit from the father. Yet, the father is highly encouraged to include them in their bequest. 

This is obviously disadvantageous to the child. It is meant to be a social deterrent. Notice the grave implications of unlawful sexual intercourse. You cannot refer to them as the son of so and so. If Ghayn was born from Ain, out of wedlock, he could not be referred to in society as Ghayn ibn Ain.

Of course, it is disadvantageous to the individual, but if you look at the context, this is meant to serve as a social deterrent that do not engage in things that are not just harmful to you as an individual, but that are destructive of society. 

Unlawful sexual intercourse destroys societies. They also acquire the displeasure of Allah. When unlawful sexual intercourse and open nudity becomes widespread, then natural disasters become widespread. We know that earthquakes will spread. Other things spread.

A Mercy to All Worlds

Allah tells us about the beloved Messenger (Allah bless him and give him peace)

وَمَآ أَرْسَلْنَـٰكَ إِلَّا رَحْمَةًۭ لِّلْعَـٰلَمِينَ

“Nor did We send you but as a mercy to all worlds of beings. ”[Quran, 21:107; tr. Keller, Quran Beheld]

Everything the Messenger (Allah bless him and give him peace) has come with, if soundly understood, is mercy in its fullest possible expression. If you do not see mercy, wisdom, and justice in any teaching of Islam, then you are either misunderstanding it or it is being conveyed to you in an unsound manner.

Remind yourself that, “My Lord is the All-Merciful, the Particularly Merciful. He is the Wise, the Just. He is the Generous and everything in His religion is merciful, wise and just.” 

If understood in its purpose, wisdom, and consequences, both worldly and next-worldly, the least of it is that if that ruling, soundly understood, soundly implemented, is followed, there is eternal reward for it in the hereafter.

Wisdom and Justice

Our beloved Messenger (Allah bless him and give him peace) reportedly said, “The only cure for confusion is to ask.”

Likewise, if you hear something from the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) that troubles you, know that the thing you find troubling relates either to what is conveyed to you or what you are understanding. It is not what the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) said. 

There is nothing the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) said that is anything but the utmost possibility of mercy, wisdom and justice, all things considered. He is the Messenger of Mercy (Allah bless him and give him peace). He is the Messenger of Good (Allah bless him and give him peace).

Suspend your judgment. If you are troubled about something, do not let that trouble remain. That is like having a wooden frame and you see some woodworms in it. If you ignore them, they will spread and the frame will get eaten up and your wall could collapse. 

Likewise, if you have confusion and doubts, that is a breeding ground for the misgivings of Satan. Rather, renew your commitment that “I accept what is true with Allah.” Remind yourself of Allah’s mercy, wisdom, and justice. 

Remind yourself that the Messenger (Allah bless him and give him peace) is nothing but merciful, wise and just. That is what this religion is. Religion is sincere concern for good, all things considered.