Story No. 250 – Imam Ali ibn Abi Taleb’s (as) Mathematical Brilliance: Dividing Inheritance

Imam Ali ibn Abi Taleb (as) was endowed with a quick, sharp, incisive, mathematical mind. Here are a few interesting stories in which Imam Ali ibn Abi Taleb’s (as) mathematical brilliance revealed itself.

What is a wife’s share?

Imam Ali ibn Abi Taleb (as) was once interrupted while he was delivering a sermon from the pulpit by someone who asked him how to distribute the inheritance of someone who had died leaving a wife, his parents and two daughters. Imam Ali ibn Abi Taleb (as) instantly answered:

“The wife’s share becomes one ninth.”


This answer is in fact the result of a long analysis with a number of steps. Ordinarily, we have to decide on the original share of each of these heirs, in the following way:

The wife takes one eighth, in view of the presence of an inheriting child. [Noble Qur’an, 4:12]

The deceased’s father and mother take one sixth each. [Noble Qur’an, 4:11]

The two daughters take two thirds of the inheritance. [Noble Qur’an, 4:11]

So the total will be:
1/8 + 1/6 + 1/6 + 2/3 = 3/24 + 4/24 + 4/24 + 16/24 = 27/24

This means the share becomes less than 1/8 in view of the increase of the total of the shares which are so fixed and prescribed. So the one eighth, the original share due to the wife out of twenty-four total shares, has become three shares out of a total of twenty-seven, which is one ninth.

Imam Ali ibn Abi Taleb’s (as) mind went through this complex mathematical process in a second!