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What are the Basics of Islamic Inheritance?

By Bethney Foster
Updated May 16, 2024
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The basics of Islamic inheritance are covered by four responsibilities outlined in Islamic law. In Islamic inheritance laws, the funeral expenses and debts of the deceased must be paid first. After these responsibilities are met, the will of the deceased must be executed. Islamic inheritance law gives the deceased the right to distribute up to one-third of the property in the will. Following the execution of the will, the property of the deceased must be distributed among the heirs.

The distribution of the deceased’s property must be done according to Sharia. Sharia is sacred Islamic law. Its basis is in the Koran, the religious text of Muslims, or in the Sunnah, the examples left to Islamic people by the Prophet Mohammed. While Sharia law provides for daughters to receive less of an inheritance than sons, at the time of the Koran’s writing women could not inherit property from a relative at all. Owing to this, some scholars argue that by giving females inheritance rights, the Koran elevated the status of women.

According to the Koran, a son receives a share of an inheritance that equals that of two daughters’ shares. According to many scholars, however, this provision was written because the brother had a legal obligation to provide for his sisters, and the share of his inheritance that was greater than that of his sisters would be used in their support. Some scholars also believe that a will left by the deceased takes precedence over the laws regarding disbursement of property among heirs because executing the will is carried out before the division of property among heirs. These scholars would argue that these rules of disbursement would come into play only if the deceased failed to leave a will and the deceased could therefore use this provision to equal the amounts of inheritance provided to sons and daughters.

Islamic inheritance laws define types of people who can inherit. The quota heirs are children, parents, and spouses, along with other close relatives such as siblings and grandparents. Islamic inheritance laws are also based on the numbers of people in the family. This means the division percentage changes depending on the number of children, siblings, and grandchildren.

Some examples of how the laws might be applied include the division of property among siblings depending on whether the deceased was married and had children. If a man dies and has no children, his sister will receive half of his property. If a woman dies and has no children, however, her brother receives all of her property.

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