Male heirs

Male heirs of a deceased are fifteen (15):

1. Son.
This refers to a legitimate male child. A man can only have a legitimate child after contracting a legally (Shari’ah) acceptable marriage with a woman outside his prohibited degree; while a woman can have a legitimate child with or without a formal marriage contract. This will be discussed in details under Inheritance of Children.

2. Grandson or his descendant.
Everyone has two categories of relatives: agnates and cognates. Agnates are relatives whose connection is traceable through the father or male line such as paternal grandparents, paternal uncle, paternal aunt, etc., while cognates are relatives whose connection is traceable through the mother or the female line like maternal grandparents, maternal uncle, maternal aunt and so on. Now, only agnates are eligible to inherit the estate of a deceased; meaning that all cognates are NOT bona-fide heirs except uterine brothers/sisters and maternal grandmother to whom the Qur’an assigns a share (more on this later).

Therefore, the grandson referred to here as a male heir is the one through a son. The grandson through a daughter is a non-heir. For example, ‘A’ (who may either be a male or female) has a son ‘B’, who also begets a son ‘C’. When ‘A’ dies, his/her son ‘B’ inherits from him/her as the case in (1) above. ‘C’ is excluded. We shall discuss ‘exclusion’ in the next chapter. However, if ‘B’ is absent at the time ‘A’ dies; meaning that ‘B’ died before ‘A’, then ‘C’ the grandson will represent or stand in place of ‘B’ and inherit from ‘A’. I call this phenomenon “jumping.”

Assuming ‘C’ has a son ‘D’ who also has a son ‘E’, ‘E’ will inherit from ‘A’ if and only if ‘B’, ‘C’ and ‘D’ are absent. That is what is meant by “his descendants,” i.e. the descendants of grandson ‘C’. Put in another way, a grandson will inherit from his grandfather if his father is absent. Likewise, a great-grandson will inherit from his great-grandfather if his father and grandfather are absent. Now, very important. This rule applies to ONLY sons. That is, ‘A’ (may be of any gender) but ‘B’, ‘C’, ‘D’, ‘E’ … must all be males.

If ‘C’ were to be a female and she marries ‘X’ who has a father ‘Y’ and grandfather ‘Z’, and the marriage is blessed with a son ‘D’; when ‘A’ dies, ‘C’ will inherit from him/her if ‘B’ is absent. But ‘D’ CANNOT inherit from ‘A’ even if ‘B’ and ‘C’ are absent because ‘A’ and ‘B’ are his cognates. ‘D’ is only entitled to inherit from his parents ‘X’ and ‘C’, paternal grandfather ‘Y’ (in the absence of ‘X’) and paternal great-grandfather ‘Z’ (in the absence of both ‘X’ and ‘Y’).

In summary, the grandson entitled to inheritance is son’s son, not daughter’s son. Also the descendants of son’s son (‘D’ and ‘E’ as in the first example above) will “jump” and inherit from ‘A’ provided ‘B’ and ‘C’ are absent. This trend will continue down the line as far as a female does not appear. If a female emerges, she will also “jump” but her children (male and female) will not, because to them the line is cognate.

3. Father.
This is straight forward. A father shall inherit from his son or daughter.

4. Paternal grandfather or his ascendant.
By now it’s clear that maternal grandfather is a non-heir. So, a paternal grandfather will inherit from his grandson or granddaughter in the absence of his son. Using the illustration above, given that ‘A’, ‘B’, ‘C’ and ‘D’ are all males and ‘E’ is either male or female; when ‘E’ passes on, ‘D’ (his or her father) will inherit from him or her as the case in (3) above. In the absence of ‘D’, ‘C’ (the paternal grandfather) will inherit from ‘E’. The same ruling applies to ascendants ‘B’ and ‘A’.

5. Full brother.
He has the same father and same mother with the deceased.

6. Consanguine brother.
He has the same father but different mother with the deceased.

7. Uterine brother.
He has the same mother but different father with the deceased.

8. Full brother’s son or his male descendant.
We said that in the absence of the son, the grandson replaces him. If the grandson is also absent, the great-grandson “jumps” and take the place of the son. If a female appears, she equally has the privilege of “jumping,” then the line terminates. The difference here is that the descendants all have to be males; such that when a full brother is absent, his son replaces him and the trend continues. Whenever a female emerges, she is not entitled to “jump,” and the line terminates. That is what is meant by “male descendants.”

9. Consanguine brother’s son or his male descendant.

10. Full paternal uncle.
Father’s elder or younger brother from the same father and mother.

11. Half paternal uncle.
Father’s elder or younger brother from the same father but different mother.

12. Full paternal uncle’s son or his male descendant.

13. Half paternal uncle’s son or his male descendant.

14. Husband.
A husband will inherit from his wife if she dies before him. Likewise, if a man divorces his wife with one or two pronouncements (i.e. revocable divorce) and she dies WHILE in her Iddah (i.e. waiting period), he will inherit from her because technically, she remains his wife. However, if the divorce is irrevocable (three pronouncements), he will NOT inherit from her whether the Iddah has expired or not.

15. Patron.
A man who sets a slave free will inherit from the slave if the later has no heir.

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Your Questions, Our Answers

We have received a number of emails from those who visited this website or downloaded and read INHERITANCE IN ISLAM. Almost all of them were questions on either aspects of inheritance not covered in the book or clarifications needed regarding specific cases. Hence, we thought it wise to reproduce the emails so that others may benefit as well. As always, we welcome suggestions, criticisms and of course, more questions!

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