The Holy Quran says:
“Allah instructs you concerning your children: for the male what is equal to the share of two females. However, if there are (only) daughters, two or more, for them is 2-3rd of one’s estate. And if there is only one, for her is half. And for one’s parents each of them is a sixth of his estate if he left children. However, if he did not have any children and his parents (only) inherit from him, then for his mother is one-third. If he had brothers (or sisters) then for his mother is a sixth, after any bequest he (may have) made or debt. Your parents or your children-you know not which one is nearest to you in benefit. (These shares are) an obligation imposed by Allah. Indeed Allah is Knowing and Wise. (TMQ-4:11)
The following principles can be established from the above mentioned verse:
First and foremost, all the debts, expenditure (including the funeral and burial expenses), unpaid zakaah, kaffarah/ compensation for omitted acts of worship and mehar/ bridal money are paid out of the deceased’s estate.
These expenditures are followed by the execution of the will or wasiyah. The testator (one who makes a will) is allowed to make a will in favor of non-heirs. The remaining estate can be divided amongst one’s closest relatives according to the shares fixed by the Quran. The will has to be fulfilled first from the deceased person’s wealth and then the legal heirs can get their share from the wealth.
The Islamic rules regarding the will are that it cannot exceed one-third share of the total wealth and it cannot be given to a person who is already an heir. It also cannot be granted to a fund or activity that is not Shariah-compliant. The following hadith discourages the Muslims to bequest more than one-third of one’s entire wealth for charity: Narrated S’ad ibn-Abi-Waqqaas (ra), “I was stricken by an ailment and was on the verge of death. Prophet Mohammad (saw) came to pay me a visit. I asked, “O Allah’s Messenger! I have lots of property and only a single heir, i.e. my only daughter. So shall I give two-third of my property in charity? Prophet Mohammad (saw) said, ‘No’. Then I asked, “Half of it?” He said, ‘No’. I asked, ‘One-third of it’? He replied, ‘you may do so although one-third is also too much for it is better to leave your offspring wealthy than to leave them poor, asking others for help’. (Sahih-al-Bukhari)
An important principle which is highlighted in this verse is that the share of the son (of the deceased) will be double the share of the daughters. This inequality in the shares between males and females is on account of the fact that Islam bestows on men the responsibility of providing sustenance, protection and security to their womenfolk and definitely they will be able to take on their responsibility in a better way if they are in a sound financial position.
In case a deceased person had only one daughter then she will inherit half of the wealth and if there are two or more daughters then their share will be two-thirds of the wealth.
The Quranic verses provide a basic outline about the inheritance law whereas the minute details have been explained in the ahadith. Professor Almaric Rumsay who has penned a lot of legal books, wrote in one of them that the Muslim law of inheritance comprises, unquestionably, the most elaborate and refined system of rules for the transference of property that is known to the civilized world. Incidentally, the unique Islamic law of inheritance has also served as an impetus in the development of algebra by the medieval Muslims mathematicians.
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