Opinion Editorials, January 2004, www.aljazeerah.info
Inheritance by Two Wives
Arab News, 1/13/04
Q. My father died recently, leaving behind our mother, a stepmother, three sons and one daughter. All children are from the same mother, as our stepmother did not beget any children by my father. My father left money in bank accounts, saving schemes and other property, but they are all deposited in his name jointly with the name of our stepmother. Could you please explain how his property should be divided.
M. Ahmad, Jeddah
A. Since all the money was earned by your father only, then it is all his money. The fact that it is held in joint accounts does not alter the fact. The division of your father’s estate is very simple. Assuming that he had no other heirs, which would be the case if both his parents are dead, then his property is divided as follows: one-eighth goes to his wives, shared equally between them. This means that your mother and your stepmother inherit one-sixteenth each of all his property. This applies to all his accounts, cash, house, shop, furniture, etc. What should be explained here is that a wife inherits one-quarter of her husband’s property if he leaves no children behind. If he is survived by a child or more, then her share is one-eighth. If he has more than one wife surviving him, and married to him at the point of his death, then they share this portion equally. Since your father had two wives, each takes one-sixteenth. A man who leaves behind three wives and children, each wife’s share is one-third of one-eighth, and if they are four wives, then each takes one-quarter of one-eighth. This is not unfair, because a woman’s children are responsible for her and they must look after her. The Islamic rule assigns gain in relation to responsibility.
After giving one-eighth to the two widows, the remainder is divided into seven portions, with your sister taking one portion and the other six are given to the three sons, each taking two portions.
Now it is possible that a woman in your stepmother’s position may claim that your father had given her half his wealth as a gift. If she makes such a claim and it is not true, then she would be taking what does not belong to her. This is forbidden. A court of law may not be able to prove her wrong, but this is what the Prophet (peace be upon him) spoke against when he said that some people may have a strong argument to support their claims. “If I give you something that does not belong to you, then I am giving you a brand of fire, and it is up to you to take it or leave it.”
Translated Qur’an in Prayer?
Q. I have noticed that many of our people back home formulate some misconceptions about Islamic worship, and this is largely due to their inability to understand Arabic, although they are able to read the Arabic script. I feel that if they could read the Qur’an translated into their own language during prayer, when concentration is at its highest, then they would be better informed. Is this permissible?
J.M. Altaf, Riyadh
A. The Prophet describes Islamic prayer as consisting of only “God’s remembrance, glorification and reading the Qur’an.” The Qur’an is the book revealed to Prophet Muhammad, (peace be upon him), through the angel Gabriel in God’s own words. It has been preserved intact, and it will continue to be preserved because God has guaranteed that it will remain in its original form for the rest of time. It is the Qur’an which we must use in prayer.
It is true that the large majority of Muslims do not speak Arabic. Even among the Arab people, many are those whose level of education does not help them to understand the Qur’an properly. But this does not make a case for substituting God’s own word with a paraphrase of its meaning.
When you look at any translation, you realize that it is the rendering by the translator, in his or her own words, of the meaning of the original text. Now the translator may make mistakes in understanding the text, or the text itself may admit more than one meaning. This could result in a rather confused or erroneous rendering.
When it comes to a religious text, the translator could have some preconceived ideas which make him interpret certain texts in a certain way, but this could be mistaken. But even if we have a translation which is free of error, it remains the language of the translator, expressing his own understanding of God’s word. This is always inadequate as an expression of God’s meaning. How can we use it in prayer? Besides, if you look at English translations of the Qur’an, you find that there are scores of them, and they all differ.
Which one would you take? If English speaking Muslims were free to choose, each would be choosing the translation that he found in a bookshop. They will be using different texts in their prayer. Is this acceptable.
Yet I appreciate the problem you have expressed. The answer is not in allowing prayer in different languages and dialects. It is in raising the standard of education, particularly religious learning among Muslims throughout the world. This is a task that should be addressed by communities, governments, families and individuals.
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