Rules of Exclusion of Heir to Entitled a Property under Muslim Law

Under Hanafi law, an heir who causes the death either intentionally or negligently, is a disqualified heir or cannot inherit properties of the deceased. Thus, even if the death is caused due to negligent or accidental act of an heir, the heir is debarred from inheritance.

Shia Law:

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Under the Ithna Asharia law, an heir is excluded from inheritance only where the death is caused intentionally. If the death is caused accidentally or negligently, the Ithna Asharia heir is not debarred from inheritance.

(b) Illegitimacy:

Under Sunni law, an illegitimate person is not entitled to inherit the properties of his (or her) father. But an illegitimate person is competent to inherit the properties of mother. It is to be noted that under Sunni law, an illegitimate child is entitled to inherit not only the mother’s properties but, through her also the properties of mother’s other relations. In Bafatun v. Bilaiti Khanum, a Sunni female died leaving her husband and an illegitimate son of her sister as her sole surviving heirs.

The husband took 1/2 of her assets and the remaining 1/2 was inherited by her sister’s illegitimate son who was the only distant relative of the deceased. It was held by the court that under Sunni law, an illegitimate son was competent to inherit his mother and through his mother could inherit also the properties of his mother’s sister. However, an illegitimate child is not entitled to inherit mothers those relations who became relatives by any subsequent remarriage of the said mother.

(c) Difference of Religion:

Under the Islamic texts, a non-Muslim is excluded from inheriting the properties of a Muslim. But under the Muslim law as administered in India, difference of religion is not any disqualification for inheritance.

A legal heir of the deceased Muslim cannot be debarred from inheritance on the ground that such heir was not a Muslim at the time of death of the deceased. Under the Caste Disabilities Removal Act, 1850, renunciation of religion by any heir does not affect his (or her) rights of inheritance under the personal law to which that heir belonged before conversion.

Accordingly, a converted heir will continue to be governed by the Muslim law of inheritance. Following illustration will clarify this rule. A Muslim has a son and a daughter. The son renounces Islam and converts to Christianity.

At the time of father’s death i.e. when the inheritance opens, the daughter continues to be a Muslim but the son is a Christian. The non-Muslim son is not excluded from inheritance and is competent to inherit the properties of his father together with his Muslim sister.

However, it may be noted that religion of the porosities i.e. deceased, is an important factor because the properties devolve under the personal law to which the propositus belonged just before his death. For example, if a Hindu becomes a Muslim through conversion and then dies as a Muslim, his properties would be inherited by heirs under Muslim law; the heirs under Hindu law cannot claim inheritance.

In K.P. Chandrashekhar v. Govt. of Mysore a Hindu woman converted to Islam died as a Muslim. She had no heir under Muslim law. Her Hindu brother claimed inheritance. It was held by the court that her Hindu brother could not inherit because he was not an heir under Muslim law.

(d) Exclusion of Daughters under Custom or Statute:

At certain places daughters are sometimes excluded from inheritance under any local custom or under some specific enactment. For example, among the Gujars and Backkerwals of Kashmir, there is a custom that daughters cannot inherit in the presence of any male descendant of the grandfather. Similarly, under the Watan Act, 1886, enforced in Bombay, a daughter is excluded from inheritance in the presence of a paternal uncle.