Rules of Islamic Inheritance
The Qur’an mentions in great detail the fixed-shares of those who inherit the estate from the deceased. Failure to distribute the estate according to these guidelines set in the Qur’an constitutes a great sin and punishment from Allah Most High.
After mentioning these laws of estate-distribution/inheritance, Allah Most High says in the Qur’an:
“These are the limits set by Allah, and whoever obeys Allah and His Messanger, He will admit them into gardens beneath which rivers flow, remaining therein forever. And that is great success. And whoever disobeys Allah and His Messenger [in distributing inheritance] and crosses the limits set by Him, He shall admit them into the fire, remaining therein forever. Amd for them there is a humiliating punishment.” (Surah al-Nisa, V 12-13).
As such, it is extremely important for a Muslim to leave a Will that is in accordance with Islamic guidelines, especially in a country where not leaving such a Will results in the estate being distributed in a non-Islamic manner. If someone dies without leaving an Islamic Wills, as your father did in this case, then it becomes necessary upon all the heirs/inheritors (wuratha) of the deceased to ensure that the estate is distributed according to Islamic guidelines; otherwise it will amount to a grave sin in the sight of Allah Almighty. There are severe warnings of punishment mentioned in the sacred Islamic texts for not distibuting the estate according to Islamic law.
Sayyiduna Anas ibn Malik (may Allah be pleased with him) relates that the Messanger of Allah (Allah bless him and give him peace) said: “Whoever deprives an heir of his/her inheritance-share [as fixed by Qur’anic guidelines], Allah will deprive him/her of Paradise on the day judgement.” (Sunan Ibn Majah, no 2703).
For a practising Muslim, this is an extemely serious matter which must not be taken lighly. Indeed, if one is not a proper/practising Muslim, he/she will go ahead and have the estate distibuted in a non-Islamic manner.
In regard to a specific situation, the Islamic law of inheritance is as follows. All the wealth left behind by the deceased at the time of his death, which includes everything he owned, such as cash, gold, silver, properties, all chattels, all contents; hence every big and small item that belonged to him at the time of his death will be totalled and termed as the estate.
From this, after taking out burial expenses, if there are any debts owed to fellow human beings, they must be paid off. The remaining amount will be distributed amongst the various heirs. The wife of the deceased will be entitled to one eighth of the total and the remaining seven parts will be distributed between the sons and daughters share in accordance with the Qur’anic verse:
“As regards your children’s (inheritance) to the male a portion of that of two females.” (Surah al-Nisa, V:11)
Breakdown of inheritance is:
1) Husband Gets 1/2 (Deceased does not have any offspring) or gets 1/4 if Deceased has offspring.
2) Wife Gets 1/4 if Deceased does not have any offspring or gets 1/8 if Deceased has offspring.
3) Daughter (Divided equally among all daughters). Gets 1/2 if Deceased has only 1 daughter, and Deceased does not have any sons. Or gets 2/3 if Deceased has multiple daughters, and Deceased does not have any sons.
4) Son and Daughter share in the ratio of 2:1.
5) Father gets 1/6 if Deceased has offspring.
6) Mother gets 1/3 if Deceased does not have any offspring, and Deceased does not have multiple siblings (full, paternal, maternal). Alternatively, mother gets 1/6 if Deceased has offspring, or Deceased has multiple siblings (full, paternal, maternal).