Inheritance in Islam By Fazli Sameer


This publication was initiated, based on many questions and answers that were discussed on real life Islamic Inheritance situations online.

Based on the massive interest and responses received it was decided to publish all of the Q&A together with a brief understanding of the logic and methodology of Inheritance according to Islamic Law that is used to compute the shares of the heirs of a deceased.

Having carried out in-depth research into the various permutations, combinations, and variables that may exist among the living heirs of a deceased I was also able to create a software app, using Clipper, to do the calculations. This has now been ported to run on MS Windows.


When a believer dies it becomes incumbent on the family members to ensure that the wealth and property left behind are distributed according to Shariah Law prescribed in the Qur’an and Authentic Sunnah. After meeting the initial expenses incurred in giving the deceased an Islamic burial, and, after paying all of his debts and the “mahar” (dowry) that may still be due, to his wife, up to one-third of the remaining may be expended according to the deceased dying wishes or legal will that is left behind, for those who are NOT entitled by Shariah only.

The remainder must be distributed to all the legal heirs as defined by Qur’an and Authentic Sunnah as detailed hereunder.

Zakat payments, if any that are due by the deceased must be paid even before the settlements of the debts and even before the burial expenses are utilized from the property of the deceased.

Al-QURAN – CHAPTER 4 – Al-Nissa – Verses 11, 12 & 176

4:11 Allah commands you as regards your children (inheritance),

         To the MALE, a portion equal to that of TWO FEMALES;

         If (there are) only DAUGHTERS, two or more, their share is TWO-THIRDS of the inheritance;

         If only one, her share is HALF.

         For PARENTS, a SIXTH share of inheritance to EACH if the deceased left CHILDREN;

         If NO CHILDREN, and the PARENTS are the (ONLY) heirs, the MOTHER has a THIRD;

         If the deceased left BROTHERS or (SISTERS), the MOTHER has a SIXTH.

         (The distribution in all cases is) after the payment of legacies he may have bequeathed or debts. You know not which of them, whether your parents or your children are nearest to you in benefit. (these fixed shares) are ordained by Allah. And Allah is Ever All-Knower, All-Wise.

4:12  In that which your WIVES leave, your share is a HALF if they have NO CHILD;

         But if they leave a CHILD you get a FOURTH of that which they leave after payment of legacies that they may have bequeathed or debts.

         In that which YOU leave, their (YOUR WIVES) share is a FOURTH if you have NO CHILD;

         But if you leave a CHILD they get an EIGHTH of that which you leave after payment of legacies that you may have bequeathed or debts.

         If the MAN or WOMAN whose inheritance is in question has left NEITHER ASCENDANTSNOR DESCENDANTS (Al-Khalala), but has left a BROTHER or a SISTER, EACH ONE of the two gets a SIXTH; but if MORE THAN TWO, they share in a THIRD; after payment of legacies he (or she) may have bequeathed or debts, so that no loss is caused (to anyone).

         THIS IS A COMMANDMENT FROM ALLAH; And Allah is Ever All-Knowing, Most-Forbearing.

4:176   They ask you for a legal verdict, Say, “Allah directs (thus) about Al-Khalala (those who leave neither ascendants nor descendants as heirs).

         If it is a MAN that dies, leaving A SISTER but NO CHILD, SHE shall have HALF the inheritance.

         If (such a deceased was) a woman, who left NO CHILD, her BROTHER takes her INHERITANCE.

         If there are TWO SISTERS, they shall have TWO-THIRDS of the inheritance;

         If there are BROTHERS and SISTERS, the male will have TWICE the share of the female.

         (Thus) does Allah make clear to you (His Law) lest you go astray. And Allah is the All-Knower of everything.

Note: 4:12 refers to UTERINE (same mother, diff father) siblings while 4:176 refers to FULL (same father and mother) or CONSANGUINE (same father diff mother)  siblings

Ten groups amongst Male Heirs are entitled to inheritance as follows:

  son;son’s sonfather;father’s father;brother;* – half-brother*      – step-brother*    brother’s son; half-brother’s son; father’s brother;                father’s half-brother; son of father’s brother;      son of father’s half-brother; husbandThe freed male slave.

*(children of one father and one mother are referred to as brothers/sisters)

*(children of a father through different mothers as half – brothers/ half – sisters)

*(children of a mother and through different fathers as step –brother / step – sister)

Seven groups amongst Female Heirs are entitled to inheritance as follows:

  daughter son’s daughter; mother; grandmother;    sister; wife freed slave – girl  

If none of the seventeen groups of people mentioned above is alive his wealth will be distributed among his Arham, i.e., non- inheriting relations.

Eleven groups of Heirs come under the class of Arham(blood relatives of the deceased who are neither primary heirs nor residuary heirs):

  children of daughter; children of sister; brother’s daughter; daughter of father’s younger or elder brother; father’s step brother; maternal uncle;  mother’s sister; father’s sister; mother’s father; mother’s father’s mother; children of mother’s sister.


There are six fractions of shares mentioned in the Quran: viz;2/3, 1/2, 1/4, 1/8, 1/3, 1/6.

The 2/3 share is

  1. for two or more daughters;
  2. for two or more son’s daughters;
  3. for two or more sisters;
  4. for two or more half- sister;

The 1/3 share is

  1. for two or more of mother’s children;
  2. for the mother in the absence of child, or son’s child or two or more brothers or sisters;
  3. some times for the grandfather when there are brothers and sisters,

The 1/2 share is

  1. For one of the four sets of females mentioned above when she is alone.
  2. for the husband when his wife leaves no issue.

The 1/4 share is

  1. for the husband when the wife leaves children;
  2. for the wife when the husband leaves no children

 The 1/8 share is

  1. for the wife when her husband leaves children

The 1/6 share is

  1. for the father when the deceased leaves children;
  2. for the grandfather;
  3. for the mother when the deceased leaves children or two or more brothers and sisters;
  4. for the grandmother when the deceased leaves children or two or more brothers and sisters;
  5. for the son’s daughter when the deceased has one daughter;
  6. for one or more half – sisters when there is a sister
  7. for two or mother’s children;

When a father and spouse are alive, after assigning the respective shares due to them, One Third of the Remainder will be assigned to the mother.

The portion assigned to the wife has to be shared equally by two or three of four wives.

Disentitlement of inheritance

Those who are closet in relationship to the deceased will disentitle others who are distantly related.

  1. The son disentitles the son’s children
  2. The father disentitles the grandfather;
  3. The mother disentitles her mother;
  4. A father and mother disentitle the father’s mother
  5. The father and/or the son disentitled the brother
  6. These three (father, son, brother) disentitle the half brother
  7. The father, grandfather, and children disentitle the step – brother.
  8. The father, the grandfather, the son, the son’s son, the brother, the half- brother, disentitle the brother’s son.
  9. The above seven persons disentitle the son of the half- brother
  10. The above eight persons disentitle the brother of the father.
  11. The above nine persons disentitle the half- brother of the father
  12. The above ten persons disentitle the son of a half-brother of the father.

An ‘Asaba*, i.e. an agnate, gets into possession of that portion of a deceased’s wealth that is left over after the appropriate shares have been paid. He gets possession of the entire wealth when there are no others entitled to the deceased’s wealth.

An ‘Asaba is a son, son’s son, father, father’s father, brother, half-brother, their sons, a brother of the father or his sons.

Next to an Asaba as inheritor are the male freed slave and the male issue of his Asaba.

If there are males as well as females among those that cannot disentitle each other, the males will get two shares each while the females get one share each. *Asaba – male relation on the paternal side.

There are four means of availing inheritance 

  1. Inheritance by lineage
  2. inheritance by marriage ties
  3. inheritance by a slave obtaining freedom
  4. Inheritance by a public body or establishment like the Baitul Mal or Treasury.

There are four means by which inheritance may be lost

  1. The inheritor having any connection (even indirectly) with the cause of the death of the person whose heir he is
  2. his becoming a Kafir
  3. his becoming a slave
  4. Uncertainty as to who died earlier.

A son’s son is like son, but he will not get the ratio of 2:1 with the daughter (of the deceased).

A mother’s mother and a father’s mother are like a mother, but they will have no claim to one third of the wealth. The share of these two will always be one sixth.

A father’s father is like a father, but he will not disentitle the brothers. He will get his share together with the brothers.

A son’s daughter is like a daughter, but she will be disentitled by the son.

A half- brother is like a bother but he will not get the ratio of 2:1 with a sister.


The primary (or immediate) heirs classified as Level I are:-

1.         The SPOUSE (Husband or a maximum of four Wives)

2.         The CHILDREN (Sons and Daughters)

3.         The PARENTS (Father & Mother)

4.         The GRANDCHILDREN (Sons’s SON or Son’s DAUGHTER only)

            (applicable only when the SON is already deceased only and has offspring)


The secondary heirs classified as Level II are:-

1.         The GRANDPARENTS (Paternal and Maternal)

2.         The BROTHERS and/or SISTERS (In the absence of Father and Son ONLY)

3.         The UNCLES and/or AUNTS (In the absence of Grandparents ONLY)

4.         The NEPHEWS and/or NIECES (In the absence of Brothers and Sisters ONLY)

Note: It is not practical to go beyond Grandparents as the chances of Great-grandparents surviving before you is not very high. However, the logic is that in the absence of a particular heir, the next level becomes eligible for inheritance. Eg; IF the Grandparents are dead THEN the Great Grandparents are entitled (if living only) and so on. It is better, for practicality and convenience to limit the inheritance level up to The Grandparents and the Grandchildren. If we attempt to go beyond these levels there will be no limit to the program logic validation.

Under Islamic Law, the primary beneficiaries of a deceased person are his/her IMMEDIATE (Level I) Heirs. ie; Spouse(s), Children, Parents and Grandchildren (if children are deceased only). The Grandchildren that are entitled are only the Son’s Son or the Son’s Daughter. Daughter’s children are not entitled even if the Daughter is deceased.

In the absence of some or all of these heirs the secondary beneficiaries (Level II) become Heirs under various conditions. In the absence of a particular Heir (eg; Uncle) if and when he/she is entitled the children of that Heir become eligible.

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Discover more from Sri lanka Muslims Web Portal

Subscribe now to keep reading and get access to the full archive.

Continue reading