In Islam, the laws on estate sharing and inheritance of a deceased person are carefully outlined in the Sharia (Islamic law).
A number of conditions must be met before the sharing of the deceased’s estate. These conditions include;
- The debts of the deceased person must have been paid.
- The funeral expenses are already settled.
- Ensuring that any penalties or missed fasts are paid. [i]
Categories of Heirs in Islam
There are three categories of heirs in Islam. They include;
- Primary Heirs: They include both parents, son, and daughter, and the spouse of the deceased. They cannot be excluded from inheriting, unlike some heirs mentioned below that can be excluded in certain circumstances.
- Quranic Heirs or Sharers: There are twelve Quranic heirs or sharers in Islam. Nine of whom were mentioned in the Qur’an (mother, father, husband, widow, daughter, uterine brother, full sister, uterine sister, consanguine sister), and the remaining three as a result of qiyas (analogy) (paternal grandfather, maternal grandmother, and agnatic granddaughter). These heirs when entitled to inherit, are given their fixed shares and the remaining estate is inherited by the residuary.
The shares entitled to Quranic Heirs are also fixed. There are six of such fixed shares. They are 1/2, 1/4,1/8, 1/3, 2/3 and 1/6. The shares and those entitled to those shares are examined below; [ii]
- Those entitled to 1/2 of the estate of the deceased include;
- If the deceased has only a daughter and no son; the daughter gets half of the estate.
- If the deceased has only one sister (either full or half-sister on the father’s side), and no brother is sharing with her.
- A husband gets half of the wife’s estate if the deceased wife has no offspring to inherit her.
- Also, according to Sunni schools of thought, if the deceased has only a son who is deceased but has a daughter, the daughter takes half the estate of her grandfather.
- Those entitled to 1/4 of the estate of the deceased include;
- The husband of the deceased, where the deceased has a descendant.
- The wife of the deceased, where the deceased has no descendant.
- Those entitled to 1/8 of the estate of the deceased include;
- The wife of the deceased, where the deceased has a descendant.
- Those entitled to 2/3 of the estate of the deceased include;
- The combined share of two or more daughters of the deceased; where the deceased has no male children.
- The combined share of two or more sisters (full or consanguine); where the deceased has no brothers.
- Those entitled to 1/3 of the estate of the deceased include;
- The mother of the deceased if the deceased has no male child or brothers.
- The combined share of two or more uterine brothers of the deceased.
- Those entitled to 1/6 of the estate of the deceased include;
- The parents of the deceased if the deceased has a descendent. Both parents are entitled to 1/6 of the Estate.
- The mother of the deceased; if the deceased has brothers.
- a single uterine brother or sister of the deceased.
- The deceased paternal grandfather, in the absence of the father.
- The grandmother of the deceased; whether paternal or maternal grandmother or the mother of the deceased’s paternal grandfather. Note that the mother of the deceased’s maternal grandfather cannot inherit.
Also, note the following;[iii]
- If the deceased has a daughter and a son’s daughter i.e. the daughter of the deceased’s son, the former will take half of the estate, and the latter is entitled to one-sixth of the estate.
- However, if the deceased has two or more daughters and a son’s daughter, the latter will be prevented from inheriting unless she has a male counterpart of her class, such as when she has a brother or, lower in order such as her brother’s son, i.e. the great-grandson of the deceased.
- Two parallel grandmothers i.e. the deceased’s maternal grandmother and paternal grandmother will equally divide the share of one-sixth of the estate.
It is important to note that some of the shares above co-exist with others;[iv]
- A half can co-exist with another half e.g. Husband and Sister of the deceased each receiving half of the estate.
- A half can co-exist with one-eighth. For instance, wife and daughter of the deceased; the former getting an eighth and the latter a half.
- A half can co-exist with one-third. For instance, a husband and mother of the deceased, where her share is not reduced by a brother, he receives a half and she, a third.
- A half and one-sixth. For instance, e.g. husband and the mother of the deceased; if the deceased has brothers, the former receiving a half and the latter one-sixth).
- A half can co-exist with one-fourth fourth. For instance, husband and daughter, of the deceased; she receives a half and he, one-fourth.
- One-fourth can coexist with two-thirds. For instance, husband and two daughters, he receiving a fourth and they two-thirds
- One-fourth can coexist with one-third. For instance, wife and two or more uterine brothers or sisters, she receiving one-fourth and they one-third.
- One-fourth can coexist with one-sixth. For instance, wife and a single uterine brother or sister, the former receiving one-fourth and the latter one-sixth.
- One-eighth can coexist with two-thirds. For instance, wife and two daughters, she receives one-eighth and two-thirds.
- One-eighth can coexist with one-sixth. For instance, the wife and either parent are in the presence of a child.
- Two-thirds can coexist with one-third. For instance, two or more consanguine sisters along with uterine brothers.
- Two-thirds can coexist with one-sixth. For instance, two daughters and either parent.
- One-sixth can coexist with itself. For instance, the parents of the deceased where the deceased has a child.
However, some shares cannot co-exist together. And they are; [v]
- one-fourth and one-eighth
- one-eighth and one-third
- one-third and one-sixth.
- Residuaries of the Estate
There are three categories of people that are entitled to the residue of the estate of a deceased person. i.e. After the Quranic heirs had gotten what they are entitled to and there is still a remnant from the Estate, it would be shared among the residuary. Note that under Islamic law, some of the Quranic heirs, namely the father, paternal grandfather, daughter, agnatic granddaughter, full sister, consanguine sister, and mother, can also inherit as residuary under certain circumstances.[vi]
- Where there are no Quranic heirs and residuaries, then the Estate goes to the Extended family.
- Where there are no Quranic heirs, residuary and Extended family, then the Estate goes to the bayt al-mal (The public treasury).[vii]
Where the Estate Remains
Under certain circumstances, after the allocation of the estate amongst the Quranic Heirs and there is a residue left over but there are no residuary. This residue called al-radd is returned to those Quranic heirs who are entitled to it, in proportion to their original shares.[viii]
Where the Shares Exceed the Estate
Where the shares exceed the estate i.e. the estate is not enough to accommodate the shares of the Quranic heirs; then the shares of the heirs will be diminished proportionately. This usually occurs when the husband or wife is present and the Estate is not enough to accommodate the shares.[ix]
In conclusion, as stated in the Sharia, these rules on inheritance must be strictly followed by Muslims and it applies equally to all Muslims. The rules on inheritance are however very complex, with differing opinions by Islamic schools of thought on certain aspects of the subject. It would be better to seek professional advice before making your Will in accordance with Islamic Law.
[i] Islamic Relief UK ‘How to Calculate Inheritance in Islam’< https://www.islamic-relief.org.uk/giving/islamic-giving/islamic-inheritance/how-to-calculate-inheritance-in-islam/> accessed May 19, 2023
[ii] Al-Islam.Org ‘Inheritance’ < https://www.al-islam.org/five-schools-islamic-law-muhammad-jawad-mughniyya/9-inheritance> accessed May 21, 2023.
[vii] Encyclopedia of Islamic Jurisprudence. Vol. 3. Kuwait Ministry of Awqaf and Islamic Affairs.
[ix] Al-Islam.Org (n1)
Email us: [email protected]