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Islamic inheritance

What is inheritance in Islam? 

Inheritance in Islam is property/funds (assets) transferred from a deceased family member to their loved ones.

Wasiyyah is an Arabic term that describes the declaration a person makes whilst alive regarding their property, as well as the arrangements according to Islamic law to be carried out after their death. This is akin to a “will” in British law. Laws around inheritance in the Islamic tradition are derived from instructions in the Qur’an and through the Sunnah (teachings and ways of the Prophet Muhammad peace and blessings be upon him).

Islamic inheritance law (Faraid)

In Islam, a will must be made by the person whist they are alive for the purposes of arranging their property/assets after their death. This is done for the benefit of others or for charitable purposes.

Whilst you can compile a will on your own, it is recommended that you consult a solicitor for legal advice. In order to create an Islamic will that is legal in the UK, you must meet the conditions of UK Inheritance law.

In the Islamic tradition, inheritance law is derived from the Qur’an and the Sunnah (ways and teachings of the Prophet peace and blessings be upon him). Most of these laws appear in Surah Nisa:

“From what is left by parents and those nearest related, there is a share for men and a share for women whether small or large—a fixed share.”

Qur’an | 4:7

There are strict and uniform interpretations and guidelines around inheritance, so seeking professional help and advice when compiling an Islamic will is paramount.

How does UK inheritance law work with Islamic sharia law? 

In the Islamic tradition, the Shariah outlines how inheritance is to be distributed after a Muslim’s death.  These distribution laws are not something that can be amended according to individual preference. Under domestic law, one’s estate and assets are distributed according to the individual preference of the deceased as outlined in their will – this is the primary difference between an Islamic will and conventional will.

However, an Islamic will is binding as long as it is both Shariah and domestic-law compliant. If an Islamic will is found to be invalid, a Muslim’s inheritance will be distributed in accordance solely with the rules of intestacy (i.e., the laws that apply from the law of the land) – this of course differs from country to country.

When a Muslim dies, they must ensure that the following is taken care of through their will:

Making sure that the will is in accordance with the Shariah

The thorough execution of a Muslim’s will

Making sure that the debts of a Muslim are paid

Ensuring that any Kaffarah is paid (any missed fasts/penalty payments – this varies between Islamic schools of thought or Madhhabs)

Making sure that funeral costs are accounted for

The importance of inheritance planning in Islam

Inheritance planning is an integral part of Shari’ah, and is the duty of every Muslim who has anything to bequeath. Allah commands us in the Holy Qur’an to take care of our inheritance: 

Prescribed for you when death approaches [any] one of you if he leaves wealth [is that he should make] a bequest for the parents and near relatives according to what is acceptable – a duty upon the righteous.

Qur’an | 2: 180

The Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings be upon him) also mentioned the significance of tending to one’s will:

It is the duty of a Muslim who has anything to bequeath not to let two nights pass without writing a will about it.

Hadith | Bukhari

Inheritance planning is also important as it helps to avoid disputes and maintain peace after the death of a family member. If not dealt with correctly, inheritance can cause problems and quarrels among families.

 Family members may feel they have been treated unjustly and not given their rights, and may harbour resentment towards those they feel have ‘taken their share’. 

Inheritance planning ensures that one’s wealth and assets are fairly given to those who have rights to them. Find out more about the rules of calculating Islamic inheritance here

It also means that the wishes of the deceased person are fulfilled, for example, if they wish for a certain portion of their wealth to be given as Sadaqah

By correctly preparing for one’s death, one is ensuring the wellbeing of their family and of the Muslim community at large.

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We ensure our content is reviewed and verified by qualified scholars to provide you with the most accurate information. This webpage was last reviewed by Sheikh Salim Al-Azhari.

Page last reviewed: 31 August 2022

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