Islamic Articles

Islamic Law of Inheritance

Islamic Law of Inheritance: Principles of Fair Distribution


In Islamic jurisprudence, the law of inheritance holds significant importance, as it governs the distribution of a deceased person’s estate among their heirs. This aspect of Islamic law is based on divine guidance and is derived primarily from the Quran, the holy book of Islam, along with the Hadiths, which are the sayings and actions of the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him). The Islamic law of inheritance, known as “Faraid,” upholds principles of justice, fairness, and family solidarity. This article aims to explore the key concepts and principles of Islamic inheritance law and its application in Muslim societies.

Foundations of Islamic Inheritance Law

The Islamic law of inheritance is built upon several fundamental principles. Firstly, it is firmly grounded in divine revelation, making it an essential aspect of faith and religious practice for Muslims. The Quran contains specific verses that outline the inheritance distribution, such as Surah An-Nisa (Chapter 4), which is often referred to as “The Chapter of Women.”

Secondly, Islamic inheritance law emphasizes the importance of family ties and solidarity. It seeks to ensure that the deceased’s wealth is distributed fairly among close relatives, fostering a sense of unity and mutual support within the family unit.

Thirdly, the law of inheritance in Islam ensures that economic justice is upheld by preventing the concentration of wealth in the hands of a few individuals. By establishing fixed shares for different heirs, it promotes equitable distribution and discourages the accumulation of wealth by a single beneficiary.

Application of Islamic Inheritance Law

The application of the Islamic law of inheritance involves a specific process governed by predefined rules. Here is a step-by-step explanation of how inheritance is distributed under Islamic law:

  • Settlement of Debts and Funeral Expenses: Before distributing the inheritance, any outstanding debts and funeral expenses of the deceased are settled from the estate.
  • Determining Heirs: Islamic law classifies heirs into two main categories: primary heirs (Asabah) and residual heirs (Dhawil Fara’id). Primary heirs are the closest relatives of the deceased, such as children, parents, and spouses, while residual heirs include more distant relatives like siblings, grandparents, and others.
  • Calculation of Shares: Each category of heirs is entitled to a specific share of the estate. The shares are fixed and are based on clear guidelines laid out in the Quran and Hadith. For example, a son is entitled to double the share of a daughter, while a wife receives a fixed portion, depending on the presence of other heirs.
  • Exclusion of Non-Muslim Heirs: Islamic inheritance law does not extend to non-Muslim heirs. However, Muslim individuals can inherit from their non-Muslim relatives.
  • Waiving of Rights: Heirs have the option to waive their inheritance rights in favor of other heirs, provided this is done willingly and without any form of coercion.
  • Executors and Distribution: An executor or administrator is appointed to oversee the distribution of the estate according to the Islamic law of inheritance. The executor’s role is to ensure that the shares are allocated correctly and that the distribution process adheres to the principles of Islamic law.

Contemporary Challenges and Reforms

While the Islamic law of inheritance is firmly rooted in Islamic teachings, its application in modern societies has presented some challenges. These challenges include issues related to multiple marriages, complexities arising from cross-border inheritances, and the treatment of assets not explicitly addressed in classical Islamic sources, such as digital assets or intellectual property.

In response to these challenges, some Muslim-majority countries have implemented legal reforms to address modern realities while remaining faithful to the underlying principles of Islamic inheritance law. These reforms aim to provide more flexibility in areas that are not explicitly defined in classical texts while maintaining the core principles of justice and equity.


The Islamic law of inheritance, known as Faraid, is an essential aspect of Islamic jurisprudence that governs the distribution of a deceased person’s estate among their heirs. Built on the principles of divine revelation, family solidarity, and economic justice, this system ensures the fair allocation of wealth among close relatives. Through its systematic approach and fixed shares, Islamic inheritance law aims to prevent the concentration of wealth and promote unity within the family unit.

As with any legal system, the application of Islamic inheritance law in modern societies faces certain challenges. However, ongoing legal reforms in some Muslim-majority countries demonstrate an earnest effort to address contemporary issues while staying true to the fundamental principles of Islamic inheritance. Overall, the Islamic law of inheritance remains a significant aspect of Muslim societies, fostering familial bonds and financial equity as prescribed by Islamic teachings.

What is Islamic Law of Inheritance?

Islamic Law of Inheritance, known as “Faraid” in Arabic, is a system of distribution of assets and property after a person’s death, according to Islamic principles. It outlines how a deceased person’s estate is distributed among their heirs, ensuring fairness and justice.

Who are the heirs in Islamic Inheritance?

Heirs in Islamic Inheritance are primarily categorized into fixed shares known as “Faraid heirs.” These include parents, spouse(s), children, and certain relatives. The Quran specifies their shares, which vary depending on the relationship with the deceased.

What is the importance of Islamic Inheritance?

Islamic Inheritance is essential as it ensures fair distribution of wealth, maintains family ties, and prevents disputes among relatives. It upholds social justice by safeguarding the rights of each heir and discouraging accumulation of wealth in the hands of a few.

How is the estate distributed in Islamic Inheritance?

The estate is divided into fixed shares based on specific rules outlined in the Quran and Hadith. Each category of heirs receives a predetermined percentage of the estate, ensuring equitable distribution.

Are non-Muslims eligible to inherit under Islamic Law?

In general, non-Muslims are not considered heirs under Islamic Inheritance laws. However, some Islamic countries may have specific provisions for non-Muslims based on local laws and customs.

What happens if a person dies without leaving a will in Islamic Law?

If a person dies without leaving a will (intestate), their estate will be distributed according to the Islamic Law of Inheritance. The fixed shares for each category of heirs will be followed to distribute the assets.

Can a person make a will in Islamic Law of Inheritance?

While Islamic Law encourages a person to make a will (Wasiyyah) for up to one-third of their estate, it cannot be used to distribute the shares of the fixed heirs. The will is limited to non-heirs or to make specific bequests.

How is the share of a deceased person’s spouse determined?

The share of a surviving spouse depends on whether there are children or parents. In the presence of children, the spouse typically receives a specific share, and in their absence, the spouse’s share may vary depending on the presence of parents and other heirs.

What happens to the debts of the deceased in Islamic Inheritance?

The debts of the deceased are settled from their estate before distribution to the heirs. If the debts exceed the assets, the estate may be distributed proportionately among the heirs or used to repay the debts.

Can Islamic Inheritance be modified in certain cases?

In some situations, such as extreme hardship or when there are no direct heirs, Islamic jurists may use principles like “Istibdal” (substitution) or “Awl” (preference) to modify the distribution. However, such modifications are subject to scholarly interpretation and consensus.

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