Property Division Under Muslim Law

Law
03-Mar-2023
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In Indian society, each religion is ruled by its legislation. Property rights are governed by these personal laws. The two main components of passing wealth and property from one generation to the next are inheritance and succession. Today we are going to examine and comprehend the ideas and practices of inheritance in succession and governance under Islamic law.

The act of gathering data on a decedent's assets and debts, as well as allocating any leftover assets, is referred to as estate administration. The Indian Succession Act, of 1925 establishes consistent rules for estate administration. Nonetheless, Muslim Law will continue to be applicable and serve as the fundamental legislation establishing residents' rights and obligations.

The four sources of the Islamic law that make up the Muslim rule of succession are:

  • The Holy Quran
  • The Sunnah- the practice of the Islamic Prophet Muhammad
  • The Ijma, which symbolizes the consensus of the neighborhood's knowledgeable men on how to address a specific situation
  • The Qiya is the derivation of what is just and right about the righteous rules established by God.

Administration of the Estate of a deceased Muslim – General rules

The following are the general Islamic inheritance regulations, regardless of the school:

  • All movable and immovable property is included in the deceased person's inheritance, and there is no separation between the two.
  • The idea of joint family property or self-acquired property does not exist.
  • The question of property inheritance doesn't come up until someone passes away. A Muslim household does not provide a kid the right to property at birth.
  • Once a Muslim passes away, it's crucial to finish the four tasks below in the precise order:
  1. Paying for the deceased's bills, funeral, and burial expenses;
  2. Determine the deceased’s value or will;
  3. Distributing the estate's remaining assets to the deceased's heirs in line with Sharia law.

A person must leave behind money and other assets for his family, according to Islamic law. Under such circumstances, he may only designate a third of his property to non-blood relatives. This indicates that at least two-thirds of his estate can still go to his family. He cannot demonstrate undue favoritism to any one heir, and any bequest or will that favors some of his heirs without the knowledge and consent of other rightful heirs is unlawful under Islamic law.

Vesting of Estate in Executor and Administrator

A person to whom the execution of a decedent's last will is confided by the testator's appointment is referred to as an executor under Section 2(c) of the Act. In other words, he is chosen by the testator's will.

An administrator is a "person appointed by competent authority to administer the estate of a deceased person when there is no executor," according to Section 2(a) of the Act. As a result, the High Court's probate division appoints him.

After the testator's death, he has been the executor of the estate. The judge of the probate division holds the property until the administrator is appointed, at which point ownership of the estate vests in him. Additionally, Sections 316 to 331 of Chapter VII of the Act outline the responsibilities of an executor or administrator.

The executor or administrator has the same legal authority to pursue claims for the course of conduct that continues after death and has the same ability to recoup debts as if the decedent were still alive. Except for the cause of action against defamation, he is entitled to pursue or defend any action that exists in support of or against his death. All funeral-related tasks, inventory and account chores, debt repayment from the estate, and other responsibilities fall under the purview of the executor.

Devolution of Inheritance

In the event of a person's death, their property may be dispersed either in line with their testamentary Will or, without a Will, under the laws of succession (intestate). Once the requirements for an inheritance, such as the burial expenses, obligations, and bequests, have been satisfied, the inheritance is then devolved. The legal successors of the deceased who, assuming they are not prohibited from inheriting, are allowed to do so by the Shari'ah are referred to as the heirs in Muslim law. The heirs inherit the estate as tenants-in-common in certain portions. Joint tenancy is prohibited by Islamic law, and the heirs are only considered tenants-in-common.

Also, the heirs are roughly split into the two important categories of Sharers and Residuary.

  • Along with the husband, wife, parents, father, and daughter, the sharers also include the uterine brother, uterine sister, full sister, and consanguine sister. There are four of these sharers, and they alternate between inheriting as sharers and residuary. These are the father, daughter, full sister, and consanguine sister.
  • If the estate is still in existence after being divided among the Residuary, they are the ones who inherit in the absence of the immediate Sharer.

There is a third group called Distant Kindred, who are related by blood but are neither Sharers nor Residuary. But, step-parents and step-children do not share in the inheritance of the property. The deceased's estate passes to the government upon the demise of all Natural Heirs. If there is no heir, all property ultimately belongs to the state.

Dimensions of heirs' debt obligations

The Muslim law of inheritance is fundamentally based on the Qur'anic tenet that "there is no inheritance until after the payment of the debt."

The property is not jointly held by heirs by Islamic law. The debt that they inherit from the decedent is similarly shared among all the heirs in proportion to the share of the estate that they receive. No one heir is considered to be paying on behalf of the other co-heir; they are each individually liable for that. The heirs receive both the estate and the debt. The court might even order them to pay the sum to uphold the creditor's rights.

Alienation

An heir may not be able to alienate the property if, by Muslim law and legal precedents, he has not paid the debts he inherited from the deceased. He must use his part of the estate to make the payment. Even if the heir is successful in selling the property to a third party, the creditor to whom he owes the debt shall hold better ground upon such estate than the person who may have, in good faith, purchased it.

Distribution of Estate

According to Islamic law, there are two ways to distribute an estate: per-capita and per-strip distribution.

In Hanafi law, the per capita distribution is primarily used. The estate is distributed equally among the heirs using this approach. So, each person's portion is determined by the number of heirs. It might be thought of as a less complicated and more effective approach to dividing the property.

The latter, per-strip distribution, is applied by Shia law. According to the class or group to which each heir belongs, the estate will be distributed among them in this situation. As a result, the branch and the number of members in that branch define the inheritance. If the first branch has no legitimate successors, the property transfers to the other branch; if there is no second branch, the property passes to the third branch.

Hanafi (Sunni) Law of Inheritance

Hanafi inheritance law solely concentrates on male family members who may have been related to the deceased individual and who have male ancestors. Each heir has sole possession of the assets and a certain share of the estate.

According to Sunni law, there are three categories of inheritance heirs:

  • Beneficiaries of Quota Heirs: They take a predetermined portion of the state and are typically first in line. Includes sons, parents, grandparents, partners, brothers, and sisters, among other relatives.
  • Residuaries - Get property after Quota-heirs have been given their shares. They may be in the second line of the lineage and consist of both male and female family members.
  • If a person doesn't have any immediate family, the state receives their property.

The law also establishes shares for the portion of the estate that the successor is entitled to:  

  • If the couple has no lineal descendants, the wife is entitled to one-fourth of the share; if they have, she is entitled to one-eighth.
  • If there are no lineal descendants, the husband receives half the share; if there are, he receives one-fourth.
  • The only daughter is entitled to one-half of the estate. If there are multiple daughters, they each receive a shared two-thirds of the estate.
  • If both a daughter and a son exist, the daughter loses her part and switches to a residual share. In this case, a boy is entitled to twice as much as a daughter.

Shia law of Inheritance

According to the Shia Law, heirs can either be descended from a spouse or a blood relative (consanguinity) (affinity). The heirs by affinity are referred to as heirs by Sabab, whilst the heirs by affinity are likewise referred to as heirs by Nasab.

A second classification is made into three groups based on blood ties. In this case, the first must prevent the second from inheriting, and the second must prevent the third.

Classification I

  • Parents
  • Children and other lineal descendants

Classification II

  • Grandparents
  • Brothers and sisters and their descendants

Classification III

  • Paternal, and
  • Maternal, uncles and aunts,
  • and their children

The only distinction between male and female heirs in these three classes is that a male heir will receive a portion that is twice as large as a female heir's. The Sunni law of inheritance, which excludes daughters from an inheritance, can be compared to this.

Shia Law does not provide precedence to those who are related to a decedent on either the paternal or maternal side about the third class of legal heirs. No matter their gender or origin of relationship with the deceased, as long as they are in the same degree of relationship, they will share in the inheritance.

The partner is never barred from the succession; instead, according to the table above, they both inherit along with the closest blood relative. In the existence of a lineal descendant, a spouse is entitled to one-fourth of the property, and in the absence of one, to half. Contrarily, a woman is entitled to one-eighth of the property when a descendant is present and one-fourth when they are not.

If the deceased left any items of property in addition to the ones mentioned above, the eldest son who is of sound mind is entitled to the father's clothing, his Koran, ring, and sword.

Conclusion

In contrast to the Muslim succession act in India, which is composed of multiple individual laws, the Hindu succession act is a single piece of legislation. They apply to people differently depending on the sect to which they belong. This article has touched on a few of the many distinctions between Shia and Sunni inheritance rules. The fact that everyone in the community is required to follow the fundamental principles of Islamic law is also significant. Even though they are not defined, the rules are the result of centuries of standards and customs upheld by the Islamic community worldwide. The mechanisms for the devolution of inheritance are various for the testate and intestate successions. In complex cases involving Muslim succession, it is advisable to consult with Muslim Law Lawyers at rest the case.