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Obstacles to inheritance: What does Shariah forbid?

Economics 13 Jan 2021
Know-how
obstacles to inheritance
Pattanaphong Khuankaew - Dreamstime.com

Just as there are some reasons for two people to inherit each other’s property, there are also some obstacles to inheritance. These might cause the inheritance to be annulled. These obstacles are briefly discussed below:

First obstacle to inheritance: the difference between religions

If the deceased follow one religion and the heir follows another religion, they will not inherit from each other. It is because of the difference in religion between the two persons. This difference between religions can be of different kinds:

1) The deceased is a Muslim and the heir is a disbeliever: In this case, the disbeliever will not inherit any property from his deceased Muslim relative. Due to the following hadith, there is no difference of opinion among scholars in general. The hadith says, “No Muslim will inherit from any disbeliever and no disbeliever will inherit from any Muslim.” (Bukhari)

2) The deceased is a disbeliever and the heir is a Muslim: In this case, the Muslim should not inherit from the property of his disbeliever relative. Most of the scholars say this based on the above hadith.

3) Suppose the deceased is a disbeliever, belonging to a particular religion and the heir is also a disbeliever but belongs to another religion. In this case, according to Islamic law, they will not inherit each other’s property because of another hadith. The hadith says, “People of two different religions will not inherit from each other.” (Abu Dawood and Tirmidhi)

There are, indeed, some differences as to the classification of religion in Islamic law. According to some Islamic scholars, whole disbelief is regarded as one religion. And according to other scholars, there are three religions (apart from Islam): Judaism is a religion, Christianity is a religion and all other religions are regarded as one religion.

Second obstacle to inheritance: Murder

Murder is an abominable act that ends the life of another. Therefore, according to Islamic law, the killer will never inherit from the deceased. Even if a son kills his father, he will not inherit his father’s property.

It is a well-known fact that there are different types of murder: for example, murder without cause, intentional murder, murder by mistake, and killing for justifiable reasons (such as killing in the case of legal retaliation). Due to the following hadith, most of the scholars agree that murder is one of the obstacles to inheritance. The hadith says, “There is no share in the inherited property for the killer, even if the killer is a close relative of the deceased.” (Abu Dawood)

Third obstacle to inheritance: Slavery

It is a state of being enslaved by others. A slave never inherits the property of a free man, since the slave has no property of his own.

Fourth Obstacle: Illegitimacy

The illegitimate child receives no share of his father’s property. However, according to some scholars, the illegitimate child can be inherited from his mother’s property.