According to Prophet Mohammad, the Muslim Law is a commandment of God and the
sovereign in the Muslim states and it is his (Muslims) duty to follow it
literally. Islam means peace by submission and obedience to the will and
commandments of God and those who accept Islam are called Muslim, meaning, those
who have accepted the message of peace by the submission of God.
The Muslim law of succession mainly constitutes four sources of Islamic law
Muslim law recognizes two types of heirs:
- The Holy Quran
- The Sunna (the practice of prophet)
- The Ijma (Consensus of the learned men of the community over the decision
over a particular subject matter)
- The Qiyas (deductions based on analogy on what is right and just in
accordance with good principles).
Sharers are the ones who are entitled to a certain share in the deceased's
property and Residuaries would take up the share in the property that is left
over after the sharers have taken their part. Inheritance means the transfer of
property to the living person from the deceased along with any other
Inheritance has a different meaning in Islam. There is no particular definition
of Inheritance in the Quran but many Scholars have defined it in their own ways.
According to Sir Abdur Rahim, inheritance is the transfer of the rights and
obligations of the deceased person to his/her heirs. The Mahomedan law governs
the succession to a convert to Mahomedanism's inheritance in the absence of a
custom to the contrary. A Hindu cannot inherit a Mahomedan's fortune, according
to Mahomedan law. Therefore, if a Hindu who already has a Hindu wife and
children converts to Mahomedanism and marries and has children with a Mahomedan
woman, his property will transfer to his Mahomedan wife and children upon his
death rather than to his Hindu wife or children.
There are two types of heirs under Muslim law � the Sharers and the Residuary.
The Sharers are the ones who are entitled to a certain share in the property of
the deceased and, secondly, the Residuary (as the word Residuary itself say) are
the ones who would take up the share in the property that is left over after the
Sharers have taken their part from the property. However, there is divergence in
the application of Quranic principles between the divided sects of Sunni and
Shia Muslims, creating slightly different rules of inheritance � the Sunni law
of inheritance and the Shia law of inheritance.
There are total or mainly 12 relations fall under the category of
Sharers in Muslim which are as follows:-
- Daughter of a son (or son's son or son's son, and so on),
- Paternal Grandfather,
- Grandmother on the male line,
- Full sister,
- Consanguine sister,
- Uterine sister,
- Uterine brother.
The share taken by each sharer will differ in some conditions. For example, a
wife of a deceased will takes 1/4th of the share in case where the couple is
without lineal descendants, and 1/8th share otherwise. A husband (in case of
succession to the wife's estate) takes a half share in case where the couple is
without lineal descendants, and a 1/4th share otherwise. A sole daughter takes a
Where the dead person has left behind more than one daughter, all
daughters jointly take 2/3rd . If the dead person had left behind sons and
daughters, then the daughters stop to be sharers and become residuary instead,
with the residue being so distributed as to make sure that each son gets double
of what each daughter gets.
The heirs are further divided into two categories under Shia inheritance law:
- Heirs by consanguinity i.e., blood relations
- Children and other lineal descendants how lowsoever.
- Heirs by marriage i.e. husband and wife
- Grandparents how high so ever (True as well as False)
- Brothers and sisters and their descendants how low so ever.
- Maternal, uncles and aunts of the deceased and of his parents and grandparents how high so ever and their descendants how low so ever.
The whole inheritance, or the residue, as the case may be, passes to Remainders
in the order specified when there aren't any Sharers or if there were Sharers
but there remains a residual after fulfilling their claims.
- i. Father.
- ii. True Grandfather
III Descendants of father:
- i. Full brother.
- ii. Full sister.
- iii. Consanguine brothers
- iv. Consanguine sister
- v. Full brother's son
- vi. Consanguine brother's son
- vii. Full brother's son's son
- viii. Consanguine brother's son's son
IV Descendants of true Grandfather:
- i. Full paternal uncle
- ii. Consanguine Paternal Uncle
- iii. Full paternal uncle's son
- iv. Consanguine Paternal uncle's son
- v. Full paternal uncle's son's son
- vi. Consanguine paternal uncle's son's son
- vii. Full paternal uncle's son's son
- viii. Consanguine paternal uncle's son's son
- ix. Consanguine paternal uncle's son's son
- x. Male descendants or more remote true grandfather.
Residuaries: who don't accept the prescribed portion but instead inherit the
"remainder" once the shareholders' claims are met.
It comprises all cognates of the deceased, except those who are included in the
sharers category. The heirs entitled to inherit as distant kindred include
descendants, ascendants and collaterals of the deceased. Collaterals include
descendants of parents, immediate grand parent and remoter grand parents how
high soever. Collaterals are limitless (ad infinitum), all the descendants of
all the ascendants without any limit as to degrees are included. Distant Kindred
are divided into four classes, namely,
Class I : Descendants of the propositus other than Sharers and Residuaries : In
this class, following relations are included : i. Daughter's children and their
descendants. ii. Children of son's daughter and their descendants.
Class II : Ascendants of the parents of propositus other than Sharers and
Residuaries : This class comprises of : i. False grandfather. ii. False
Class III : Descendants of the parents of propositus other than Sharers and
This class of distant kindreds consists of:
- Full brother's daughter and her descendants.
- Consanguine brother's daughter and her descendants.
- Uterine brother's children and their descendants.
- Daughters of full brother's sons and their descendants.
- Daughters of consanguine brother's son and their descendants.
- Sister's (full, consanguine or uterine) children and their descendants.
Class IV: Descendants of ascendants other than Residuaries : This class
includes descendants of immediate grand parents (true or false) and the
descendant of remoter ancestors (true or false). The immediate grandparents are:
Distribution of Property under Muslim Law:
Under the Muslim Law of Inheritance, the distribution of the property can be
done in two ways:
- Full paternal uncles' daughter and their descendants.
- Consanguine paternal uncle's daughters and their descendants.
- Uterine paternal uncles and their children and their descendants.
- Daughters of full paternal uncle's sons and their descendants.
- Daughters of consanguine paternal uncle's sons and their descendants.
- Paternal aunts (full, consanguine or uterine) and their children and descendants.
- Maternal uncles and aunts and their children and their descendants.
Devolution of Inheritance:
- Per Capita Distribution:
This method generally used in Sunni law. According to this method, the
property leftover by the ancestors will get equally divided among the heirs.
Therefore, the number of heirs of the dead person will determine the amount
of share for each heir in the property of the deceased. The heir does not
represent the branch from which he or she inherits.
- Per Strip Distribution:
This method is mostly used in Shia law. According to
this method, the property of the deceased is distributed among the heirs
according to the strip they belong to. Hence, the quantum of their inheritance
also depends upon the branch and the number of persons that belong to the
The whole inheritance of a deceased Mahomedan, or the portion of it not
distributed by Will, if he left a Will, passes to his heirs at the time of his
death. This transfer is not halted by the fact that the deceased had unpaid
obligations. In particular shares, the heirs succeed to the estate as
tenants-in-common. In contrast to Hindu Law, if a deceased Mahomedan died
intestate, his estate passed to his heirs at the time of his passing. The
Mahomedan Law does not respect birthright.
The heir apparent or presumptive's
right does not become legally recognised until the ancestor's death, and until
that time, he is not entitled to any stake in the assets he would inherit if the
ancestor had survived him. Mahomedan law does not recognise dual tenancies,
hence the heirs are solely tenants-in-common. As a result, an heir can seek
division of just one among the assets held in common rather than all the
The general principles associated with the Muslim Law of inheritance are as
Non-Testamentary and Testamentary succession under Muslim law
Nature of heritable property: Heritable property is defined as belongings that may be legally passed on to heirs. A Muslim's assets are utilised to pay for burial costs, debts, and wills after his death. The property that remains after paying these costs is referred to as inherited property. The Muslim Law does not distinguish between corporeal and incorporeal, or between moveable and immovable property, for the purposes of inheritance. Heritable property is any property that belonged to the deceased person at the time of his death.
Joint or Ancestral property: The notion of joint family or coparcenaries property is not recognised by Islamic inheritance law, in contrast to Hindu law. When a Muslim passes away, his or her assets pass to their heirs in a set share, with the heir taking sole ownership. Similar to this, the property possessed by such a legal heir will be distributed to his legal heirs upon his death, and this process continues. There is no provision for ancestral or joint-family property, unlike Hindu law. Additionally, there is no distinction between property that is self-acquired or inherited.
Birthright under the Muslim Inheritance Law: Only when a Muslim dies does inheritance become available. The fundamental tenet of Islamic law is that "nemo est haeres viventis," or that no one may succeed to the estate of a live individual. It implies that the legal right to inherit property will only materialise at the passing of a decedent and not with the birth of a child.
Doctrine of Representation: The Roman, English, and Hindu rules of inheritance all acknowledge this doctrine as a well-known philosophical premise. The son of a predeceased son represents his father for the purposes of inheritance in accordance with the concept of representation. This Doctrine is not recognised by Islamic inheritance law. Because in accordance with Islamic rule, the closer ones will be excluded from the farther ones.
Rights of Females: The Islamic law of inheritance accords equal rights to males and women. Nothing can prevent a female kid from inheriting a piece of property legally once an ancestor passes away. The quantum of a female heir's share is often determined to be half that of a male heir. This is necessary because, according to Islamic law, a woman must receive Mehr and maintenance from her husband at the marriage ceremony. Males are responsible for supporting their wives and children, whereas females merely get the inheritance of the ancestors' property. 
Rights of a Widow: A Muslim widow who is childless is entitled to receive one-fourth of her late husband's property under Shia law. The widow of a deceased spouse, however, is entitled to one-eighth of his property if she had children or grandchildren. The widow should not be entitled to any ownership over her deceased husband's property in circumstances when a Muslim man marries while experiencing some mental illness and without consummating the marriage. However, if her sick husband divorces her and later passes away from the sickness, the widow will be entitled to a portion of her husband's assets until she marries again.
Rights of Inheritance of a child in womb: A kid in a mother's womb at the time of a father's passing is only eligible to inherit property under Muslim law if the infant is born alive. If the infant is born dead, the portion that belonged to him will cease to exist and be taken as though it never been.
Right of Inheritance of the stepchildren: There is no right for the stepchildren to receive any inheritance from their stepparents. Similar to this, the stepchildren's property cannot be inherited by the stepparents. However, the stepchild has the legal right to inherit from either his natural mother or father. The stepbrothers (or stepsisters) might also inherit one another's possession.
Escheat: It alludes to the giving of the government the authority to seize estate assets or unclaimed property. When a Muslim passes away without leaving a will or any heirs, the government will get their possessions. The State is then regarded as the property's legal successor in the end.
"The Muslim Personal Law (Shariat)" Application Act, 1937 is used in
non-testamentary succession. On the other hand, when a person passes away
testate, that is, before making a will, the inheritance is controlled by the
appropriate Muslim Shariat Law that is applicable to both Shias and Sunni.
Indian Succession Act, 1925" is applicable in circumstances where the subject of
the ownership is an immovable property located in the states of West Bengal,
Chennai, or Bombay. Only for the reason of testamentary succession does this
Muslim law recognizes two types of heirs, Sharers, and Residuary. Sharers are
the ones who are entitled to a certain share in the deceased's property and
Residuaries would take up the share in the property that is left over after the
sharers have taken their part. After the death of a person, his property may be
devolved in two manners - by the way of his Will (testamentary) and by the laws
of succession when there is no Will (intestate).
After the requisites of
inheritance are made, that is, the burial expenses, debts, and bequests are
taken care of, the inheritance is then devolved. Under Muslim law, the property
is not jointly held by heirs. Similarly, the debt that they inherit from the
person deceased is also divided amongst all the heirs according to the
proportion of the estate that they inherit.
They are separately responsible for
paying that and no one heir is said to be paying on behalf of the other co-heir.
In devolution of inheritance , the whole inheritance of a deceased Mahomedan, or
the portion of it not distributed by Will, if he left a Will, passes to his
heirs at the time of his death.
This transfer is not halted by the fact that the
deceased had unpaid obligations. In particular shares, the heirs succeed to the
estate as tenants-in-common. In distant Kindred all cognates of the deceased,
except those who are included in the sharers category. The heirs entitled to
inherit as distant kindred include descendants, ascendants and collaterals of
- General Principles of Inheritance Under Muslim Law available at: https://lawcorner.in/general-principles-of-inheritance-under-muslim-law/
- https://www.lkouniv.ac.in/site/writereaddata/siteContent/202004241216240526rksingh_law_Muslim__of_In heritance_2.pdf