Questions About Inheritance Laws

Question

I have a question regarding the inheritance law. I know and totally convinced of the point of view of Mr Javed Ahmed Ghamidi. However I am facing some confusion regarding this point of view.

In some cases parts of the assets remain after all the stipulated shares are distributed. Who will receive the balance for example 5/12 of the inheritance in some cases?

The following are other cases that after the distribution, there is a surplus of inheritance:

Scenario fund distributed surplus
Only a wife: = 1/4 3/4
Only a mother: = 1/3 2/3
Only a daughter = 1/2 1/2
Two daughters = 2/3 1/3
Only a Sister = 1/2 1/2
A mother and a sister = 1/3 + 1/2 = 5/6 1/6
A wife and a mother = 1/4 + 1/3 = 5/12 7/12
A sister and a wife
In all these cases and many other combinations there is a surplus. What will happen to this surplus? Who will inherit it?

To deal with this problem the law of "usbah" comes to effect. This law is to regulate the unclaimed shares, which have no corresponding people to receive them. Of course if the Qur'an was clear with no errors, there would have been no need for all these "sciences" and amendments.

The law of Usbah is based on the following Hadith. Sahih Bukhari 8. 80. 724

Narrated Ibn 'Abbas: The Prophet said, "Give the Fara'id (the shares of the inheritance that are prescribed in the Qur'an) to those who are entitled to receive it. Then whatever remains, should be given to the closest male relative of the deceased."

According to this law, a man who dies and is survived by only his daughter with no other close male relative except a second cousin, his daughter will receive half of his inheritance and the other half will go to the man's second cousin. This seems quite unfair to the daughter, but it would be especially unfair if the man had a needy aunt or a female first cousin that would receive nothing because they are of the wrong gender.

Now suppose that a man has no other heir except his wife and a distant male relative. The wife will receive 1/4 and the distant male relative gets the balance, i.e. three times the inheritance that his widowed wife gets. Is this justice?

What if the deceased has no male relative at all? What will happen to the rest of his inheritance? What happens in the reverse case when a wife has no relatives? The husband will receive half of her inheritance; who will get the other half?

Note that in the Qur'an there is no priority for the distribution of the inheritance. In nowhere it says "first give to these and from what is left, give to those". Even if we had to reinterpret these laws and prioritize them in the order that they are mentioned, it still does not work because in that case, each subsequent inheritor will have his or her share shrunk. Also in most cases the total inheritance will never be used up.


Answer

First of all it needs to be appreciated that the prophetic narrative you have referred to is not shariah itself. Rather it is an application by the prophet of a directive of shariah. The shariah directive was that the shares are based on the principle of benefit in kinship. Hence this application can change in changed circumstances.

Second, in most of the cases that you have described the person (if educated on Islam) would know that a vast portion of his inheritance will be left over. In this case, he can either make someone an heir himself or give the surplus money in charity or to deserving person. If he wants his legal heirs to receive a major portion of his would be left over inheritance, he can simply gift them this portion in his life. In some cases he can even make a will in their favour.

About the Author

Dr. Shehzad Saleem


Born in 1966 Shehzad Saleem has been under the tutelage of Javed Ahmad Ghamidi since 1988 and is currently a Research Fellow and one of the Vice Presidents of Al-Mawrid. He has a Bachelors in Electrical Engineering from UET Lahore, Pakistan and holds a PhD in the History of the Qur’an from the University of Wales, UK.

Special Area of Interest
  He recently (2014) completed a fifteen year research work on the History of the Qur’an, a part of which constituted his doctoral thesis (the thesis portion is available at: http://www.al-mawrid.org/index.php/books/view/collection-of-the-quran-a-critical-and-historical-study-of-al-farahis-view).  The work addresses some nagging questions related to the revelation, collection and transmission of the Qur’an. These questions include narratives found in our legacy on the alleged incompleteness of the Qur’an, scribal errors found in it,  its variant readings, chronology of its compilation, order of the surahs, and manuscript studies.

Books Authored
  1. Common Misconceptions about Islam
  2. Playing God: Misreading a Divine Practice
  3. Islam and Women: Misconceptions and Misperceptions
  4. Essays on Character Building, Lessons on Character Building
  5. Qur’an Workshops on Character Building (including a separate Teacher’s Guide)
  6. Lessons on Character Building
  7. Selections from the Qur’an
  8. Selections from the Bible
  9. Selections from the Hadith

He has also compiled a modular textbook on Qur’anic Studies, which was taught by him to graduate students (1999-2001). The textbook is available in course format at
  www.studying-islam.org. It comprises course topics as: Revelation of the Qur’an, Theme of the Qur’an, History of the Qur’an, Arrangement of the Qur’an, Language of the Qur’an, Interpreting the Qur’an.

Translations
  He has translated some works of Amin Ahsan Islahi (d. 1997) and Javed Ahmad Ghamidi into English. These include:

1. Volumes 6, 7,  8 and 9 of Tadabbur Qur’an 
  2. Mizan (Islam: A Comprehensive Introduction)
  3. Al-Islam (Islam: A Concise Introduction)
  4. Selected Essays of Javed Ahmad Ghamidi
  5. Volumes 1 and 5 of Al-Bayan 

QnAs
His answers to various questions received about Islam can also be accessed at the Renaissance website at: http://monthly-renaissance.com/issue/writers.aspx?option=queries&id=1

Websites
He is the Founding Editor of the monthly research journal, Renaissance which was initiated in 1991. In 1999, its website www.monthly-renaissance.com was launched.

He launched the Studying Islam www.studying-islam.org website in 2003, which offers online courses on Islam. Through technical help, he has developed an online software (Qur’an for All) at the Studying Islam website to teach the translation of the Qur’an to those who can read the Arabic text but cannot comprehend its meaning.

He also set up websites about the life and works of the Qur’anic scholars Hamid Uddin Farahi (www.hamid-uddin-farahi.org)  and Amin Ahsan Islahi (www.amin-ahsan-islahi.org)  in 2010 and 2013 respectively

He has also built a text based website on the exegesis Tadabbur i Qur’an (www.tadabbur-i-quran.org)  in 2013.

He also founded a website on the life and works of the biblical scholar Abdus Sattar Ghauri (www.abdus-sattar-ghauri.org)  in 2014

He uses his personal facebook page (https://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=562019607)  to write on personality development issues.

Lectures
  He is a guest speaker at various public forums. Some of the topics he regularly speaks on include:

1. Misconceptions about Women in Islam
  2. Pardah and Gender Interaction
  3. Non-Muslims and the Qur’an
  4. Question on the Qur’an by Serious
  5. Misconceptions about Islam
  6. Muhammad (sws): The Misunderstood Prophet of Islam
  7. Marriage and Married Life
  8. Fast and Fasting
  9. Basic Morality
  10. Islam and Islamic Welfare State
  11. Misconceptions about Divorce in Islam
  12. Misconceptions regarding Jihad of the Companions of the Prophet (sws)
  13 Imbalanced Religious Attitudes

He conducts activity-based Qur’anic Workshops for adults and sessions on Character Building and Personality Development for teenagers. Topics include:

1. Spending in the Way of God 
  2. Pride and Arrogance
  3. Remembering God  
  4. Civic Sense
  5. Kindness to Parents
  6. Gratitude
  7. Forgiveness
  8. Moral Courage
  9. Truthfulness 
  10. Showing Off
  11. Humility
  12. Sympathy
  13. Sinful Speech 
  14. Honesty
  15. Justice

Some of his talks and lectures on or about Islam can be viewed at:
  www.youtube.com/shehzadsaleem         www.dailymotion.com/drshehzadsaleem
  www.youtube.com/shehzadsaleemurdu, www.dailymotion.com/drshehzadsaleemurdu

A facebook page, Dr Shehzad Saleem’s Video Talks (https://www.facebook.com/Dr-Shehzad-Saleems-Video-Talks-309627932402929/?ref=br_rs)  also displays his talks

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