Mankind, a clear proof has now come to you from your Lord, and We have sent down to you a glorious light. Those who believe in Allah and hold fast to Him, will He surely admit to His mercy and grace, and will guide them to Himself along a straight path.
They will ask you for a verdict, Say “Allah Himself gives you His ruling concerning (inheritance from) a person who leaves no heir in the direct line. If a man dies childless and has a sister, she shall inherit one-half of what he has left, while he shall inherit from her if she dies childless. But if there are two sisters, they shall both together have two thirds of whatever he may leave; and if there are brothers and sisters, then the male shall have the equal of two females’ share. Allah makes all this clear to you, lest you go astray; and Allah is fully aware of all things.
(Women, “An-Nissaa’ “: 4;174-176)
This passage is the final one in this surah which is the second longest in the Qur’an. It begins with a general call to all mankind similar to the one that followed the confrontation with the Jews earlier in the surah. It tells people that this final message brings its own proof from Allah and that it is a glorious light which removes all doubts. Those who accept its guidance will receive Allah’s mercy and His grace. They will find themselves guided by this light along a straight path.
Again, the Qur’an brings its own proof to mankind from their Lord: Mankind a clear proof has now come to you from your Lord. The divine touch is apparent in the Qur’an which distinguishes it from what human beings say or write in both construction and message. This is so clear that it is sometimes acknowledged, quite remarkably, by people who do not understand Arabic at all.
We were once traveling by sea across the Atlantic toward our destination, New York. We, six passengers from different Arab countries and most of the crew who came from Nuba in the remote south of Egypt, organised Friday prayer. It was left to me to deliver the speech which contained several verses from the Qur’an. All passengers on board gathered around us to watch.
After we finished prayer, many passengers came to express to us their admiration of our worship. One of them was a Yugoslav lady who was fleeing the tyranny of Communism hoping to settle in the United States. There were tears in her eyes and her voice was trembling as she said in broken English: “I cannot hide my great admiration of your remarkable prayer. However, this is not what I want to say. I do not understand a single word of your language but I feel that it has an exceptional rhythm which I have not come across in any other language. There were certain paragraphs in the speech which were even more remarkable and had a greater effect on me.” It was clear that she was referring to the Qur’anic verses which I had included in the speech, because Qur’anic verses have their special rhythm.
I do not say that this applies to everyone who does not speak Arabic, but it is certainly very significant.
As for those who know this language and understand its style and can appreciate its finer expressions and methods of construction theirs was a special case when they were presented with the Qur’an by Muhammad, Allah’s messenger (Pbuh). We know the famous story of Al Akhnas ibn Shareeq, Abu Suffian and Abu Jahl, three of the greatest opponents to Islam when they sought to listen to the Qur’an secretly under the cover of darkness. They came only to listen to the Qur’an, when Quraish had decided not to listen to anything the Prophet said. Nevertheless, these leaders of Quraish came out individually, none of them knowing anything about what the other two were doing, and none of them had realised that he had companions doing the same thing as he. They sat there, outside the place where the Prophet and his few followers were reading the Qur’an to listen to it. At dawn, they went back, hoping to arrive home before anyone could see them. But they met on the road and each one of them blamed the others. They pledged to one another that they will never do it again. However, all three did the same thing for three days, before they made a solemn pledge never to repeat their doings. This is only one story of many similar ones. People who appreciate fine style can understand the unique nature of the Qur’an and its captivating effect on people and the clear proof it provides of the truthfulness of its message.
We cannot speak in detail here on the subject matter of the Qur’an, the concept of life it presents, its approach to human life and the system it lays down. In each of these, we have a clear proof of its origin and that it has never been the word of man. It carries the mark of its Author, Allah, the Glorious.
The Qur’an also provides light: And We have sent down to you a glorious light. It’s a light which lays bare the very nature of things, and defines the parting of ways of the truth and falsehood within man himself and in human life altogether. When it is Properly appreciated his light gives man the ability to see himself clearly and to see everything round him clear without anything to cover its nature or presents it in a false light or position. Everything then becomes clear and simple so that man wonders how he could not see it so clearly and simply before he was able to benefit by the light of the Qur’an.
When man allows his soul to be guided by the Qur’an and receives from it its values and standards, he feels that he has acquired a new element which allows him to see all matters in perfect ease and clarity. Many things which used to give him some worry now fall in place, appear to be part of a general system which is simple natural and clear.
I can dwell at great length on this expression: And We have sent down to you a glorious light. But whatever I say, I will never be able to describe with my words its message and I cannot impart its significance to anyone who has not experienced it. Such concepts can only be appreciated by personal experience.
Those who believe in Allah and hold fast to Him, will He surely admit to His mercy and grace and will guide them to Himself along a straight path.
Holding fast to Allah is an essential quality of faith, when it is properly understood and held. When man appreciates the true nature of Allah and the fact that all creation are His servants, he realises that his own choice is to hold fast to Allah alone who has all power over all things. He admits to His mercy and grace those who hold fast to Him. These are shown them in this life as they benefit by the reassurance of faith and spare themselves all the worry which is experienced by those who have no faith. Moreover, it provides the basis upon which the life of the community and its system is established: clean, free, honest and dignified. Everyone knows his proper place, he is a servant of Allah and a person of great honour in relation to everyone else. This is something unique to the system of faith as provided by Islam, the system which frees people from service to creatures to make them submit to Allah alone. It ensures their absolute equality as it gives all authority to legislate to Allah alone.
The believers, then, enjoy Allah’s mercy and grace in this life as well as in the life to come. He will guide them to Himself along a straight path. The phrase to Himself adds an exceptional measure of vividness to this expression, as it portrays the believers being guided by Allah along the path which is straight and which leads them to Him step by step. Anyone who consciously believe in Allah and confidently holds fast to Him will appreciate this expression as he feels himself being guided at every moment in his life and before every step. He realises that he is drawing closer to Allah along a straight path. But this cannot be properly appreciated except by people who experience it.
The surah is concluded with a verse which relates to the family system and the social security which is provided within the family. This brings the conclusion of the surah in line with its beginning, when many of the rules of the social system were explained. Again, the surah exposes many of these as it tackles one subject after another. Here in conclusion, we have rules which govern the inheritance of a person who is described as kalalah. This term has been defined by Abu Bakr (ra) and all scholars as a person who has no parents and no children. In other words, he leaves no heir in the direct line of inheritance.
Some of the rules which relate to the estate of such a person were given very early in the surah defining the way his estate is distributed when he has no heirs on his father’s side but is inherited by heirs on his mother’s side. In this verse, the rest of the rules governing this form of inheritance are provided. If the deceased who has no heir in the direct line has a sister, whether by both of his parents or by his father, she inherits half of what her brother leaves behind. In the case of her death, leaving behind no children and no parents, her brother takes all her property after the other heirs who have apportioned shares have taken their shares. If it happens that the deceased person has two sisters by both his parents or by his father only, they share together two thirds of his property. If he has more brothers and sisters then the general rule which gives a male twice the share of the female applies in the distribution of his estate. Brothers and sisters by both parents exclude brothers and sisters on the father’s side only when both types happen to survive the deceased person.
This verse providing legislation of inheritance is concluded with a comment which refers all matters to Allah alone and relates the regulation of duties and rights, financial or otherwise, to Allah’s law: Allah makes all this clear to you lest you go astray; and Allah is fully aware of all things.
“All things” refers to everything, whether it relates to inheritance or to any other subject, whether within family relations or community relations. Allah provides legislation and laws and people have the choice either to follow them in all matters or to follow error. The choice is simple: what mankind is offered is either clear guidance or going astray. Allah tells the truth, and He says: What lies beyond the truth except error?