According to the Qur’an and the Ahadith, it is compulsory for the Muslim to distribute his inheritance in accordance with the Shari`ah. It is therefore his duty to make the necessary arrangements so that, after his death, his property may be distributed in accordance with the will of Allah and His Prophet (Swalallahou `Alaihi Wasallam). The share that each heir will get, whether it is a woman, a man, a mother or a sister, is compulsory (farz) in this same way as salaah, sawm and zakah are compulsory. The apportionment is mainly done in accordance with Quranic injunctions. Prophet Muhammad (saw) has stated:
عن الأعرج قال قال رسول الله صلى الله عليه وسلم يا أبا هريرة تعلموا الفرائض وعلموه فإنه نصف العلم وإنه ينسى وهو أول ما ينزع من أمتي المستدرك على الصحيحين
“Learn the law of inheritance and teach it since it represents one-half of education. And soon it will be forgotten, and it will be the first education to be taken away from my ummah.” (Al Mustadrak)
On the death of a person, his property is first used for his burial: the ritual bath, the shroud(kafan), transport and the burial. All this should be spent moderately without any wastage. If anyone of the family wish to sponsor the burial, then it is also permissible with the permission of the wali(father, son or if none, then paternal uncle ,nephew). It is regrettable that, nowadays, Muslims spend on meals at burial time, on the third day, on the tenth day and on the fortieth day. Such practices are not in accord with the sunnah and are not allowed. They cause the burial to become a heavy expenditure for the family, who are already affected by the loss of a near relative. According to Ahadiths, on the day of a death, it is important upon the near relatives and the neighbours to bring food for the distressed family. One must avoid increasing the burden of that family; rather, one should help them in their misfortune.
After the burial expenses, if the deceased has left some debts, then his estate(wealth left behind) will be used for the settlement of the debts. If the amount of the debts exceeds that of his property, then all his money should be used to settle his debts. In such an eventuality, the heirs will not inherit anything.
A case where there is wasiyah for a deeni purpose or a non heir, then a maximum of one-third of the estate will be allocated there. Else know that the beloved prophet SAW prescribed us to keep our children rich rather than donating considerably to others. The beloved prophet SAW said:
عن عامر بن سعد عن أبيه قال جاءنا رسول الله صلى الله عليه وسلم يعودني من وجع اشتد بي زمن حجة الوداع فقلت بلغ بي ما ترى وأنا ذو مال ولا يرثني إلا ابنة لي أفأتصدق بثلثي مالي قال لا قلت بالشطر قال لا قلت الثلث قال الثلث كثير أن تدع ورثتك أغنياء خير من أن تذرهم عالة يتكففون الناس ولن تنفق نفقة تبتغي بها وجه الله إلا أجرت عليها حتى ما تجعل في في امرأتك صحيح البخاري “
“One-third … is already too much.” (Bukhari)
The wasiyyat is a wish of the deceased expressed in writing or orally where he bequeaths to a person or organization of his choice, a share of his property. The wasiyyat cannot exceed one-third of his property. After the burial expenses and debt settlement, if property is still available for distribution, then one-third thereof will be given for the wasiyyat, which is only valid if it was made when he was in good health and invalid if it was made during the illness that caused his death. Even if he has decided to bequest all of his property to a masjid, then only one-third thereof will be given to the masjid, if he has heirs(inheritors).
After expenses incurred on burial, debts and any wasiyyat, the remainder of the property of the deceased will be shared out among the heirs. There are two types of heirs:
1. The Faraaiz, that is, those whose shares are already defined by shariah. They may include: Father, mother, sister when no brother, wife, daughter when no brother, half brothers and sisters, etc.
2. And also the Asabah, that is, those who have a right to the left over of the whole estate, after the Faraaiz. They start with (a)Son, grandson,….
(b)then Father, grand-father,… then
(c) Brother, nephew, son of nephew and finally
(d) Uncle (father’s brother), cousin (uncle’s son), son of cousin…
Distribution takes place by giving first to the Faraaiz their share, then to the Asabah. If there is no Faraaiz, the whole property will be shared out among the Asabah. If there is no Asabah, their share will revert to the Faraaiz in accordance with the share they have already obtained.
In case there is neither Faraaiz, nor Asabah, then the Zawil Arhaam will inherit the property. Zawil Arhaam are near relatives who are neither Faraaiz nor Asabah, for example, mamoo (maternal uncle). In case there is neither Faraaiz, nor Asabah, nor Zawil Arhaam, then the Mawlal Mawaalaat who will inherit. Example: – A Muslim convert (with no heir) has made an agreement with a Muslim with the following condition: “Take the responsibility of my debts, of damages I have to pay, and of fines I have paid during my lifetime, and, on my death, I shall bequeath all my property to you.” In view of the fact that the convert has no close Muslim relative, it is the Mawlal Mawaalat who will inherit his property. In case there is no Faraaiz, no Asabah, no Zawil Arhaam and no Mawlal Mawalaat, then if the deceased says that a certain child is his child, even if there is no proof to that effect, that child will inherit his property. If, however, there is not even the case of that child and if the deceased has made a wasiyyat bequeathing his whole property to a masjid, then that wasiyyat will be valid for the whole property. It should be noted that no wasiyyat in favour of any heir is valid.
(Inheritance issues should be asked to a mufti actively known on the issue.)
In case, there is no such wasiyyat and no heir of any kind, then the whole property will be given to the Bait-ul-Maal or an Islamic institution that can use the property for the benefit of Muslims.