According to the Shariah, who is responsible for the maintenance of a widow?
The Shariah has an elaborate and just structure for the maintenance of women.
If those on whom the Shariah imposes the responsibility fear Allah Ta’ala and
discharge their obligation, the widow will have no need for suffering and complaining. A woman is never left destitute by the Shariah.
The responsibility of maintaining a woman whether a widow or an unmarried destitute woman or a divorcee, etc., devolves on her relatives in the sequence of Inheritance.
This responsibility devolves first on her Asbaat relatives. The Asbaat are her male relatives on her father’s side. The order of priority is as follows:
(1) Adult sons
(2) Grandsons, i.e. son’s sons
(5) Paternal uncles – father’s brothers
(7) Brother’s sons (nephews)
(1) Grandsons, i.e. daughter’s sons
(2) Maternal grandfather
(3) Nephews, i.e. sister’s sons.
(4) Maternal uncles, i.e. mother’s brothers.
As long as there are members of the Asbaat, the responsibility will not be on the Zawil Arhaam. The members of the Asbaat cited above are by order of priority. The responsibility of maintaining a woman devolves on them in the order mentioned above. In the absence of a prior Asbah, the responsibility devolves on the next in line.
What is the responsibility of the stepsons towards their stepmother as far as maintenance is concerned?
According to the Shariah, the Waajib responsibility devolves on the Asbaat as outlined above. Only if all the Asbaat shirk their Waajib obligation and refuse to maintain the woman will the responsibility devolve on the stepsons as a last resort. However, if they contribute towards her maintenance, it will be an act of merit and immense thawaab. But the understanding that it is the Waajib obligation in the first instance of the stepsons, is erroneous.