Definitions of Islamic Heirs
Wife or husband. Only a legal marriage results in entitlement to inheritance. Generally, an Islamic marriage contracted abroad is valid in the United States as long as it complied with the law of the country where the marriage was contracted. Similarly, an Islamic marriage contracted in the United States is valid if it complied with state law. Most states require the couple to obtain a marriage license before going to their imam to perform their Islamic marriage. Civil marriages are also legal marriages.
Sons and daughters. Only children born within a legal marriage are eligible to inherit under Islamic law. Illegitimate children—children born out of wedlock—are not eligible to inherit under Islamic law. Illegitimate children take the name of their mother and inherit only from the maternal side. The requirement for legitimacy under Islamic law is very minimal: oral marriages are valid, as is polygamy. Islamic public policy favors legitimacy rather than illegitimacy. Adopted sons and stepsons are not eligible to inherit, but you are free to provide them a specific bequest in your will. Sunni Islamic law permits you to provide a bequest of up to 1/3 of your estate to a non-Islamic heir.
Grandsons. Only son’s sons are eligible to inherit. Daughter’s sons are not eligible. Because the daughter’s sons carry their father’s name, their paternal family is more responsible for them, and, more importantly, the objective of the extended family in a patriarchal or tribal system, is to preserve the wealth of the family by keeping it within the paternal family. This explains why the daughter’s sons don’t inherit from their mother’s paternal line.
The transformation of labor and the economic system, coupled with urbanization and immigration, has transformed society and family structures. While your daughter’s son is not an automatic heir, you are free to provide him with a bequest as permitted, up to 1/3 of your estate.
Granddaughters. Only son’s daughters are eligible to inherit. Daughter’s daughters are not eligible to inherit. Muslim societies are organized according to the paternal line.
Father. Similar to child legitimacy, the father of an illegitimate son is not eligible to inherit. The same is true for a stepfather. That said, you are free to leave your illegitimate father or stepfather a bequest in your will as long as it does not exceed 1/3 of your estate.
Mother. If your mother was not married to your father, you are entitled to inherit from her and she is entitled to inherit from you. A stepmother is not eligible to inherit, but you are free to leave her a specific bequest in your will as long as it does not exceed 1/3 of your estate.
Grandfathers. Only your father’s father is eligible to inherit. Your mother’s father is not eligible to inherit, but you are free to leave him a specific bequest in your will as long as it does not exceed 1/3 of your estate.
Paternal grandmother. Your father’s mother is eligible to inherit.
Maternal grandmother. Your mother’s mother is eligible to inherit.
Full brothers. A full brother shares the same father and the same mother with you.
Full sisters. A full sister shares the same father and the same mother with you.
Paternal brothers. A paternal brother shares the same father but has a different mother.
Paternal sisters. A paternal sister shares the same father but has a different mother.
Maternal brothers. A maternal brother shares the same mother but has a different father.
Maternal sisters. A maternal sister shares the same mother but has a different father.
Full nephews. A full nephew is your brother’s son. Only a full nephew is eligible to inherit. Your sister’s son is not eligible. The paternal line emphasis is to preserve the wealth and property of the paternal family.
Paternal nephews. A paternal nephew is your paternal brother’s son. Only a paternal nephew is eligible to inherit. Your paternal brother’s daughter is not eligible. This is done to preserve the paternal property, because it is likely that the daughter will marry outside of the paternal family.
Full nephew’s sons. A full nephew’s son is your full brother’s son’s son.
Paternal nephew’s sons. A paternal nephew’s son is your paternal half brother’s son.
Paternal full uncles. A full paternal uncle is your father’s full brother.
Paternal half uncles. A half paternal uncle is your father’s paternal brother. That is, your father and your uncle have the same father but different mothers.
Full cousins. A full cousin is your father’s full brother’s son.
Paternal cousins. A paternal cousin is your father’s paternal brother’s son.
Paternal cousin’s sons. A paternal cousin’s son is your father’s paternal brother’s son’s son.
Full cousin’s grandsons. A full cousin’s grandson is your father’s full brother’s son’s son.
The 1/3 of your estate flexibility. Some people use the 1/3 to leave money for charity, a family member who is not a taker, a family member who needs some assistance, a disabled relative, a friend, or a woman considered as a wife but not legally a wife.
I am an American Muslim. Does the Sharī‘a require me to have a will?
[embed]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZyzVXkddFsg[/embed] Many Muslim scholars living in the United States suggest that American Muslims are obligated to have an Islamic will, because without one, the estate will be divided according to non-Islamic laws. If you leave a surviving spouse and you did not leave a will, your parents, for example, would not inherit, under many state intestacy laws. According to Sharī‘a, a will that leaves a bequest is either obligatory, recommended, disliked, or prohibited, depending on the circumstances. The obligatory bequest is one you must make. An example of this is when you owe someone a debt, but no one knows about this debt except you and the creditor. In this case, you must include the debt in your will. Another example is if you are wealthy and have poor relatives that are not eligible Sharī‘a heirs; you are obligated to leave them something. The recommended bequest is one you should strongly consider. For example, if your Islamic heirs and relatives are wealthy and not in need, leaving part of your estate for charity is recommended. The disliked bequest is not recommended. For example, if your estate is not large, your Islamic heirs and relatives are poor, and you leave part of your small estate to non-Islamic heirs, the scholars concluded such a bequest is disliked, because it will create hardship for your family. The prohibited bequest is not allowed under Sharī‘a. For example, it is prohibited to leave more than 1/3 of your estate to non-Islamic heirs or to give an Islamic heir more than his or her share as stated in the Qur’an. This is based on the famous Hadith of the Prophet that says “there shall be no bequest to an Islamic heir.” Unlike the Sunni opinion, the Ja‘fari (Shia) school permits a bequest to an Islamic heir as long as it does not exceed 1/3 of the estate. To summarize, if you want your estate to be distributed according to the Sharī‘a, you must have an Islamic will. Use our ISLAMIC WILL software to prepare your own customized Islamic estate plan that is legally valid for your state.Read More
What does the Qur’an say about wills? Does the Sunna mention wills?
[embed]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZyzVXkddFsg[/embed] Yes, the Qur’an and the Sunna both cover wills. In the Qur’an, Allah directed Muslims to make a will: “It has been ordained upon you, when death is near one of you, leaving wealth behind, to make a will in favor of parents and close relatives, impartially. This is incumbent upon the pious” (2:180). Allah also says: “When death draws near one of you... it is time to make a bequest” (5:106). God also explained that you must deduct any bequests and debts from your gross estate before distribution to Islamic heirs (Qur’an 4:11). The Sunna has many traditions about wills. The collections of Hadith, including Ṣaḥīḥ Muslim and Ṣaḥīḥ al-Bukhāri, report that the Prophet Muhammed (PBUH) said: “It is not permissible for any Muslim who has something to will to stay for two nights without having his Last Will and Testament written and kept ready with him.” Check our other frequently asked questions below for more information about specific Sharī‘a inheritance rules and answers to numerous real-life Sharī‘a inheritance questions. You can also use our software to check how your estate will be distributed to your heirs or customize your own Islamic estate plan that is legally valid for your state.Read More