Widow’s Share in Inheritance When Marriage Is Not Consummated

Muslim scholars unanimously agree that if the husband has died after validly concluding the marriage contract and before the consummation of marriage, the wife gets her full dowry in addition to her share of inheritance from him. The husband, likewise, inherits from the wife if she dies before the consummation of marriage.
Dr. Husam al-Din Ibn Musa `Afana, professor of Principles of Islamic Jurisprudence at Al-Quds University, Palestine, states: “Muslim scholars unanimously agreed that if either of the two spouses has died, even if before the consummation of the marriage, the full dowry is due as long as it has been specified in the marriage contract. Ibn Rushd said in this regard in his book Bidayat Al-Mujtahid, “The Muslim scholars have unanimously agreed that full dowry becomes due by the consummation of marriage or by death.” Yet, some other Muslim scholars said, “The dowry becomes due by concluding the marriage contract, for the marriage contract is not invalidated by death, but it is just terminated as it is a lifelong contract that expires by death. Thus, such a contract is retroactive and all what is stated therein is due. Since the due dowry stated in the said marriage contract becomes a debt that the husband is liable for, and death does not abrogate the liability for debts, nothing of the dowry is abrogated by the husband’s death” (Al-Mufassal fi Ahkam Al-Mar’ah, Vol. 7, p. 90).
The latter opinion can be illustrated in the (authentic) hadith narrated by `Alqamah: “`Abdullah (ibn Mas`ud) was once asked about the ruling on the case of a woman whose husband had died before the consummation of marriage and without specifying a dowry for her. Ibn Mas`ud gave a judgment saying, ‘I view that she is to get a dowry equal to that given to her likes, and that she is to get her share of the inheritance, and that she has also to observe the lapse of her `iddah (waiting period before remarrying).’ Upon that, Ma`qil ibn Sanan Al-Ashja`i stated that Allah’s Messenger had given the same judgment concerning the case of Barwa` bint Washiq.”
As for a wife’s share of inheritance from her deceased husband, she undoubtedly gets it in full, no matter whether the husband has died before or after the consummation of the marriage. The Islamic Shari`ah has stated that marriage is one of the reasons for inheritance, as Almighty Allah says: “And unto you belongeth a half of that which your wives leave, if they have no child; but if they have a child then unto you the fourth of that which they leave, after any legacy they may have bequeathed, or debt (they may have contracted, hath been paid). And unto them belongeth the fourth of that which ye leave if ye have no child, but if ye have a child then the eighth of that which ye leave, after any legacy ye may have bequeathed, or debt ( ye may have contracted, hath been paid)” (An-Nisa’: 12).
There is no doubt that the phrase “your wives” in the aforesaid verse includes both cases—before and after the consummation of marriage—for a wife becomes a wife once the valid marriage contract is concluded. So, if the marriage contract is valid, the woman becomes a wife and she has the right to inherit from her deceased husband. The afore-mentioned verse is an evident proof of the permissibility of inheritance due to valid marriage, whether the marriage is consummated or not. Besides, as mentioned above, the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) gave a judgment that Barwa` bint Washiq was to get her full share of inheritance from her husband who had died before the consummation of their marriage.”