The 11th verse of Surah An-Nisa of the Noble Qur’an can be divided into three parts:
1. Inheritance for children
2. Inheritance for parents
3. Conditions for inheritance
The division of inherited wealth, in case the parents are alive, takes place according to following rules:
1. If the parents of the deceased are alive, and the deceased left children behind him, then the share of the parents is 1/6th of the inherited wealth. For instance, if the deceased left a mother, three sons and 4 daughters, a sum of $90,000, then the share of the mother will be $15000. The rest $75000 will be divided into 10 shares, each of $7500. Each daughter would get $7500 and each son would get $15,000 as inheritance.
2. If the parents of the deceased are alive, and he had no children, then their share will be one third. For instance, if a person leaves a mother and $75,000, then his mother will get $25,000 as inheritance.
3. If the deceased had no children but had siblings, then the share of the mother will be 1/6. There is a scholarly dispute over inheritance in case the father is alive, as well. In the majority of schools, the mother inherits 1/6, and the rest goes to the father. The verse quoted above does not state whether the siblings are heirs or not. Only the presence of the siblings reduces the mother’s share from 1/3 to 1/6, regardless of the fact that they inherit or not. This view is held by the Maliki, Shaf’ii and the Hanbali schools of thought. In general cases, it is the Qa’di (judge) of the country who decides upon the case according to the conditions. As a general example, if a person dies leaving $90,000 while his mother and his brothers are alive, his mother will receive a 6th portion i.e. $15,000.
It must be remembered in this case that shares in inheritance can be sought only after the following have been accomplished:
1. Funeral rites of the deceased
2. Payment of debts
3. Payment of any legacies
These fixed shares have been ordained by Allah. Therefore, we cannot increase or decrease them in anyway. In some societies, parents are not given a share in the inheritance for different reasons. This is totally false and should be shunned.
In case a person’s parents are alive, then their grandparents do not inherit anything. They can, however, be given a share of the wealth which should not exceed 1/3 of the total wealth, according to Islamic law.
Taking a sample case, in case a person leaves $100,000 to a wife, a maternal grandmother, a mother, two sons and a sister, the share of the maternal grandmother and the sister is forfeit because of the presence of the mother and the sons. The mother gets 1/6th of the sum, 1/8th goes to the wife and the rest is divided among the sons.
Thus, we see practically that Islam gives equal rights of inheritance to all. In Western societies, where parents are excluded from inheritance, and are turned into old homes, this Islamic system of inheritance could be a source of a fresh breeze, and a revival of the real humanitarian values which we have replaced by artificial ones. May Allah guide us to live our lives in accordance with the teachings of Holy Quran and Sunnah. Amen!
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