top of page

Shariah law of inheritance (Inner Dimensions)

The foundation of Islamic estate planning (i.e., wasiya, trust, or waqf) is the Sunni succession law. Islamic law includes devotions, family relations, morals, inheritance, marriage, divorce, etc. There are four sources of Islamic law: the Holy Quran, Sunnah (or Hadith), Ijma (or Ejma), and Qiyas (or Kiyas). Holy Quran Surah An Nisa comprises the main verses related to inheritance. The Hadith literature forms the second source of Islamic law. The third is the Ejma, the consensus of companions, which is the third source of Islamic law. It means a consensus of the Mujtahidin or an agreement of the Muslim jurists of a particular age on a question of law. Under Ijma, the Ijtihad is the ability to interpret a sacred text by presuming new rulings to analyze and provide opinions for new situations. The Ijtihad makes Islamic law relevant to all times and eras. A person who analyzes details of Islamic practices from primary sources is called a Mujtahid who can do Ijtihad. A Mujtahid must be competent in Arabic and knowledgeable in the Holy Quran and Sunnah. He must also be trustworthy, righteous, pious, and reliable. And the fourth is the Qiyas, the analogical deductions, which is the last source of Islamic law when the other three sources are unavailable. Qiyas is a process of deduction by which the law of a text is applied to situations that though not covered by the language, are governed by the reason of the text.

You should note two important things regarding inheritance described under Holy Quran. First, Inheritance was introduced to alleviate the position of women by giving them Inheritance rights. The fourth chapter refers to "Surah An Nisa," which means "The Women." Second, there are fixed shares (i.e., one-half if Single, two-thirds if Multiple) for Daughters but not for Sons. Sons receive residue jointly with Daughters or receive residue as an independent when Daughters are absent. There is a Hikmah (i.e., wisdom) that Sons can never be deprived of share even though he is residuary.

The pre-Islamic customary law of succession differed vastly from Islamic law regarding inheritance. Under pre-Islamic inheritance law, Females and Cognates (i.e., Daughters, Sisters, etc.) were excluded from taking inheritance. Also, the Husband and Wife could not inherit from each other. Women were considered a part of the property, used to settle debt, and inherited similarly to property. Men were also limited to inheritance, as only a man could get the right to inheritance if he could defend the family's honor. Many people believe that the Sunni succession law is based on customary law, but the reality is different, which you can easily visualize through these highlights. Under Islamic law, the Husband or Wife, Children, and Parents are the primary heirs. None exclude them. Al-Nasab (i.e., Blood tie) and Al-Nikah (i.e., Marital tie) is properly established for inheritance under Islamic law.

We will review some of the Holy Quran, and Sunnah verses directly related to dowry (i.e., marriage gift to women), lifetime gifts (to family members or relatives), Inheritance, dispositions of wealth, debts, and testimony captured below. However, You will learn more details in the Islamic Inheritance course.


The first verse of the Holy Quran 96:1-5 states, "Read, O Prophet, in the Name of your Lord Who created—created humans from a clinging clot. Read! And your Lord is the Most Generous, Who taught by the pen—taught humanity what they knew not." The last verse of the Holy Quran 2:281 states, "Be mindful of the Day when you will all be returned to Allah, then every soul will be paid in full for what it has done, and none will be wronged."The first verse reflects Humans' encouragement to gain knowledge (which aligns with Hadith, where the prophet Muhammad Sallallahu Alayhi Wasallam said, "Inheritance is half of the knowledge"). The last verse of the Holy Quran warns about the reckoning of the Day of Judgment. So, both of these verses can indicate what a Human should pursue for the pleasure of Allah (Subhanahu Wa Ta aala).


Holy Quran 4:1 states, "O humanity! Be mindful of your Lord, Who created you from a single soul, and from it He created its mate,1 and through both He spread countless men and women. And be mindful of Allah—in Whose Name you appeal to one another—and ˹honour˺ family ties. Surely Allah is ever Watchful over you."


Holy Quran 4:4 states, "Give women you wed their due dowries graciously. But if they waive some of it willingly, then you may enjoy it freely with a clear conscience."


Holy Quran 4:7 states, "For men there is a share in what their parents and close relatives leave, and for women, there is a share in what their parents and close relatives leave—whether it is little or much. These are obligatory shares."


Holy Quran 4:11 states, "Allah commands you regarding your children: the share of the male will be twice that of the female. If you leave only two or more females, their share is two-thirds of the estate. But if there is only one female, her share will be one-half. Each parent is entitled to one-sixth if you leave offspring. But if you are childless and your parents are the only heirs, then your mother will receive one-third. But if you leave siblings, then your mother will receive one-sixth— after the fulfillment of bequests and debts. Be fair to your parents and children, as you do not fully know who is more beneficial to you. This is an obligation from Allah. Surely Allah is All-Knowing, All-Wise.". It is worthwhile to note that Holy Quran 4.11 verse was revealed because of the incident for inheritance took place regarding daughters as explained in Hadith; Sunan Abi Dawud 2891, Book 19, Hadith 7 states; "Narrated Jabir ibn Abdullah: We went out with the Messenger of Allah (Sallallahu Alayhi Wasallam) and came to a woman of the Ansar in al-Aswaf. The woman brought her two daughters, and said: Messenger of Allah, these are the daughters of Thabit ibn Qays who was killed as a martyr when he was with you at the battle of Uhud, their paternal uncle has taken all their property and inheritance, and he has not left anything for them. What do you think, Messenger of Allah? They cannot be married unless they have some property. The Messenger of Allah (Sallallahu Alayhi Wasallam) said: Allah will decide regarding the matter. Then the verse of Surat an-Nisa was revealed: "Allah (thus) directs you as regards your children's (inheritance)." Messenger of Allah (Sallallahu Alayhi Wasallam) said: Call to me the woman and her husband's brother. He then said to their paternal uncle: Give them two-thirds and their mother an eighth, and what remains is yours. Abu Dawud said: The narrator Bishr made a mistake. They were the daughters of Sa'd b. al-Rabi' for Thabit b. Qais was killed in the battle of Yamamah." Not just the father's inheritance and the mother's inheritance share is well stated but also grand parent's inheritance share is explained well.


Holy Quran 4:12 states, "You will inherit half of what your wives leave if they are childless. But if they have children, then your share is one-fourth of the estate—after the fulfillment of bequests and debts. And your wives will inherit one-fourth of what you leave if you are childless. But if you have children, then your wives will receive one-eighth of your estate—after the fulfillment of bequests and debts. And if a man or a woman leaves neither parents nor children but only a brother or a sister from their mother’s side, they will each inherit one-sixth, but if they are more than one, they all will share one-third of the estate—after the fulfillment of bequests and debts without harm to the heirs. This is a commandment from Allah. And Allah is All-Knowing, Most Forbearing." Wife share and husband's inheritance share; son inheritance share and daughter inheritance share according to Islamic succession law are well explained in detail.


Holy Quran 4:176 states, "They ask you for a ruling, O Prophet. Say, “Allah gives you a ruling regarding those who die without children or parents.” If a man dies childless and leaves behind a sister, she will inherit one-half of his estate, whereas her brother will inherit all of her estates if she dies childless. If this person leaves behind two sisters, they together will inherit two-thirds of the estate. But if the deceased leaves male and female siblings, a male’s share will be equal to that of two females. Allah makes this clear to you, so you do not go astray. And Allah has perfect knowledge of all things." Read the sibling inheritance share in detail.


Holy Quran 4:13 states, "These entitlements are the limits set by Allah. Whoever obeys Allah and His Messenger will be admitted into Gardens under which rivers flow, to stay there forever. That is the ultimate triumph!"


Holy Quran 4:14 states, "But whoever disobeys Allah and His Messenger and exceeds their limits will be cast into Hell, to stay there forever. And they will suffer a humiliating punishment."


Holy Quran 5:106-108 states, "O believers! When death approaches any of you, call upon two just Muslim men to witness as you make a bequest; otherwise, two non-Muslims if you are afflicted with death while on a journey. If you doubt their testimony, keep them after prayer and let them testify under oath saying, “By Allah! We would never sell our testimony for any price, even in favor of a close relative, nor withhold the testimony of Allah. Otherwise, we would surely be sinful.” If they are found guilty of false testimony, let the deceased’s two closest heirs affected by the bequest replace the witnesses and testify under oath saying, “By Allah! Our testimony is truer than theirs. We have not transgressed. Otherwise, we would surely be wrongdoers.” In this way it is more likely that witnesses will give true testimony or else fear that their oaths could be refuted by those of the heirs. Be mindful of Allah and obey. For Allah does not guide the rebellious people."


Holy Quran 2:180-182 states, "It is prescribed that when death approaches any of you—if they leave something of value—a will should be made in favour of parents and immediate family with fairness. This is an obligation on those who are mindful of Allah. But whoever changes the will after hearing it, the blame will only be on those who made the change. Indeed, Allah is All-Hearing, All-Knowing. Whoever suspects an error or an injustice in the will and brings about a fair settlement among the parties will not be sinful. Surely Allah is All-Forgiving, Most Merciful."


Jami at-Tirmidhi 2122, Book 30, Hadith 7 states, "Al-Harith narrated from 'Ali: 'The Prophet (Sallallahu Alayhi Wasallam) judged with the debt before the will, and you people recite the will before the debt.'"


Sunan Ibn Majah, Chapter 26, Hadith no: 2719 that states "The Messenger of Allah (Sallallahu alayhi wasallam) said, 'O Abu Hurairah. Learn about Inheritance and teach it, for it is half of knowledge, but it will be forgotten. This is the first thing that will be taken away from my nation.'"


Sahih Al Bukhari, Chapter 1, Book 13, Number 3987, states, "Prophet Muhammad (Sallallahu Alayhi Wasallam) said, 'It is a duty of the Muslim who has anything to bequeath not to let two nights pass without including in his Will.'"


Sahih al-Bukhari 5659, Book 75, Hadith 20 states, "Sa`d: I became seriously ill at Mecca, and the Prophet (Sallallahu Alayhi Wasallam) came to visit me. I said, "O Allah's Messenger (Sallallahu Alayhi Wasallam)! I shall leave behind me a good fortune, but my heir is my only daughter; shall I bequeath two third of my property to be spent in charity and leave one third (for my heir)?" He said, "No." I said, "Shall I bequeath half and leave half?" He said, "No." I said, "Shall I bequeath one third and leave two thirds?" He said, "One third is alright, though even one third is too much." Then he placed his hand on his forehead and passed it over my face and `Abdomen and said, "O Allah! Cure Sa`d and complete his emigration." I feel as if I have been feeling the coldness of his hand on my liver ever since."


Sunan Ibn Majah, Book 14, Hadith 2465 states, "Nu'man bin Bashir said that his father took him to the Prophet (Sallallahu Alayhi Wasallam) and said: “Bear witness that I have given Nu'man such and such from my wealth.” He said: “Have you given all your children something like that which you have given to Nu'man?” He said: “No.” He said: “Then let someone other than me bear witness to that.” And he said: “Would you not like all your children to honor you equally?” He said: “Of course.” He said: “Then do not do this.”


Sahih al-Bukhari 6736, Book 85, Hadith 13 states as narrated by Huzail bin Shirahbil "Abu Musa was asked regarding (the inheritance of) a daughter, a son's daughter, and a sister. He said, "The daughter will take one-half, and the sister will take one-half. If you go to Ibn Mas`ud, he will tell you the same." Ibn Mas`ud was asked and was told of Abu Musa's verdict. Ibn Mas`ud then said, 'If I give the same verdict, I would stray and would not be of the rightly-guided. The verdict I will give, in this case, will be the same as the Prophet (Sallallahu Alayhi Wa Sallam) did, i.e., one-half is for daughter, and one-sixth for the son's daughter, i.e., both shares make two-thirds of the total property, and the rest is for the sister.' Afterward, we came to Abu Musa and informed him of Ibn Mas`ud's verdict, whereupon he said, 'So, do not ask me for verdicts, as long as this learned man is among you.'"

Wassiyyah has made learning Muslim inheritance law easy through an online crash course. Also, we encourage you to read our book, which includes exclusive details about Islamic inheritance sharers, shares, residuary, and distant kindred relatives.



Your Ultimate Learning System

Start discovering free learning resources below
or JOIN COURSE as a Premium member to
enjoy many benefits in addition to the courses

bottom of page