Inheritance and Succession under Muslim Laws | Muslim Succession Laws India
Updated: Nov 28
In India, The Muslim law of succession is regulated according to the Muslim Personal Law (Shariat) Application Act, 1937. It is a legal framework that governs the inheritance and distribution of property among Muslims. It is rooted in four primary sources of Islamic law, which include the Holy Quran, the Sunna (the practice of the Prophet), the Ijma (consensus of learned community members), and the Qiya (analogical deduction based on divine principles). This article explores the key principles and nuances of Muslim law of succession, shedding light on the categories of heirs, inheritance methods, rights of females, and various legal considerations.
Categories of Heirs:
In Muslim law, there are two main categories of heirs: Sharers and Residuaries. Sharers, numbering twelve in total, have the right to a specific share of the deceased's property. These Sharers encompass individuals such as spouses, children, parents, and various siblings. The share each Sharer receives can vary based on specific circumstances and relationships, ensuring a fair distribution of assets.
Non-Testamentary and Testamentary Succession:
Muslim law distinguishes between non-testamentary and testamentary succession. Non-testamentary succession is governed by the Muslim Personal Law (Shariat) Application Act, 1937, while testamentary succession is based on the relevant Muslim Shariat Law applicable to Shias and Sunnis. There are exceptions to this rule when dealing with immovable property in specific regions like West Bengal, Chennai, and Bombay, where the Indian Succession Act, 1925 comes into play.
Birthright and Distribution of Property:
Under Muslim law, the right to inherit property arises after the death of the ancestor. In other words, children born into a Muslim family do not automatically gain inheritance rights at birth. Inheritance rights are contingent on surviving the ancestor. The distribution of property can be done through per capita or per stripe methods, with Sunnis favoring the former and Shias the latter.
Rights of Females:
Muslim law does not discriminate between the inheritance rights of men and women. Both male and female heirs have the legal right to inherit property. However, it is commonly observed that the share of a female heir is typically half that of male heirs. This discrepancy is rooted in the concept that males have the responsibility of maintaining their wives and children, while females receive mehr and maintenance from their husbands upon marriage.
Widow’s right to succession: Under Muslim law, no widow is excluded from the succession. A childless Muslim widow is entitled to one-fourth of the property of the deceased husband, after meeting his funeral and legal expenses and debts. However, a widow who has children or grandchildren is entitled to one-eighth of the deceased husband's property. If a Muslim man marries during an illness and subsequently dies of that medical condition without brief recovery or consummating the marriage, his widow has no right of inheritance. But if her ailing husband divorces her and afterwards, he dies from that illness, the widow's right to a share of inheritance continues until she remarries.
Marriage under the Special Marriage Act, 1954: Where a Muslim contracts his marriage under the Special Marriage Act, 1954, he ceases to be a Muslim for purposes of inheritance. Accordingly, after the death of such a Muslim his (or her) properties do not devolve under Muslim law of inheritance. The inheritance of the properties of such Muslims is governed by the provisions of the Indian Succession Act, 1925 and Muslim law of inheritance is not applicable.
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