Some Terminology and the Procedure for Solving an Inheritance Problem

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In this post, insha’Allah, you will be given a general understanding and overview of certain standards and procedures to follow when dealing with an inheritance problem. Detailed explanations on how to solve an inheritance problem will be presented in later posts, insha’Allah.

Before moving on, its essential that we understand and differentiate between certain terms that will be used from here on.

Category: A category of heirs are all the heirs who will inherit together (i.e. share in a certain part of the inheritance), regardless of their number.

Take a look at the following example:

A man dies leaving behind

  • 3 Wives
  • Paternal grandmother
  • Maternal grandmother
  • Father
  • 3 Sons
  • 4 Daughters

In the above example, the 3 wives are one category, since they share in 1/8 equally. In this particular example, the paternal grandmother is excluded due to the father, so the maternal grandmother is a category by herself. However, assuming the father was not present, both grandmothers together would be one category, since they share 1/6 equally. The 3 sons and 4 daughters are also all in a single category because they share residue together in a 2:1 ratio, hence they have to be grouped together. The father is a category by himself.

Similarly, any other relatives who inherit together based on the 2:1 distribution rule will also be grouped together in a category (ex: grandson/granddaughter, brother/sister etc.).

Multiple’s of the same type of heirs (i.e. multiple brothers, multiple sisters, multiple daughters, multiple sons, multiple uncles, etc.) will all be in their own respective categories since they all inherit together and equally. This is why, in the above example, the 3 wives are one category.

Heads: Heads are simply the total number of heirs in a category if the 2:1 rule does NOT apply to that category. Hence, the total number of heads in a category consisting of 4 wives is 4. In a category with 3 akhyaafi brothers and 3 akhyaafi sisters, the number of heads is 6. In a category with 2 granddaughters, the number of heads is 2.

However, if a category consists of heirs to which the 2:1 rule does apply, then the male counts as 2 heads while the female counts as 1 head. This is because in such cases, the male inherits twice as much as the female. So for example, a category of 3 sons and 2 daughters has 8 heads (3 x 2 = 6; 6 + 2 = 8). Similarly, 1 haqeeqi brother and 3 haqeeqi sisters are equal to 5 heads; 4 grandsons and 1 granddaughter are equal to 9 heads. This same principle for calculating number of heads will apply to any category in which the 2:1 distribution rule exists.

Shares: This one we have already dealt with plenty of times. A share is the specific fraction allotted to a zaawil furoodh relative. See the post Shares of Zaawil Furoodh to see the shares of each zaawil furoodh heir.

Base Number: This is the number of portions the entire estate is divided into before each heir gets his/her respective inheritance. The idea is to divide up the entire estate into a convenient number of portions, and then dole out specific number of portions to each heir until the entire estate is distributed. You can think of the base number as the collection or pool of the total number of portions. From this pool, each heir is given his/her deserved number of portions until the pool is exhausted. Insha’Allah, the exact details of how the base number is calculated will be explained in the next post.

Portions: This is the number of parts out of the base number which each heir is allotted. Portions are different from shares, so careful not to confuse them. Remember, a share is the specific fraction, while the portions are simply the number of parts out of the pool (base number) given to an heir. By the end of solving an inheritance problem, every individual heir (whether zaawil furoodh or otherwise) will have a specific number of portions allotted to them. Portions are calculated using the shares and base number. Detailed explanation to be given in a future post, insha’Allah.

The general procedure for solving an inheritance problem is the following:

  1. Make a list of all relatives (usually this will already be provided).
  2. Automatically exclude all non-heirs (if any).
  3. Apply the rules of exclusion (hujub hirmaan) to see who is excluded and who actually inherits.
  4. Solve using the chart below.

Of course, now we will explain what this chart is all about. See below: Example chartThis chart is the best and easiest way of organizing and solving an inheritance problem. In the first row, we will write in all of the heirs (in no particular order). Each box will represent a separate category. So a haqeeqi brother and sister, for example, will share the same box, since they are the same category. In the second row, we will write in the corresponding shares of each of the zaawil furoodh categories. For an `asbah, we will simply write the word “residue” to indicate that they will be receiving the residue. The third row is where the base number will be written. Finally, the fourth row is where we will write in the actual portions given to each individual heir.

Lets demonstrate with an example.

A man dies leaving behind:

  • 3 Wives
  • 1 Daughter
  • Mother
  • 3 Akhyaafi sisters
  • 1 Akhyaafi brother
  • 1 Haqeeqi sister

Step 1 is already completed for us; we have a list of all relatives. Now we look for any non-heirs, and automatically exclude them. Since there aren’t any in this case, we can move on to the next step. Now we apply the rules of exclusion, and find that the akhyaafi siblings are excluded by the daughter (by now, its assumed that you are well familiar with the rules of both total and partial exclusion). So our list of eligible heirs now looks like this:

  • 3 Wives
  • 1 Daughter
  • Mother
  • 1 Haqeeqi sister

The completed chart for this problem will look like this:

Notice how the 3 wives share the same box. This is because they are in the same category. Also notice how the number of portions for each individual wife was written; each wife gets 1 portion. This is important to understand: you have only solved an inheritance problem once you know how many portions each individual heir receives. In this case, the entire category gets 3 portions, but each of the 3 heirs in that category receive 1 portion. The haqeeqi sister becomes an `asbah (due to the daughter) and hence loses her specific share. This is why her share is written as ‘residue’.

Of course, this was just a demonstration of the steps and how the chart works. You still don’t know how we actually arrived at the solution (the crux of which is the base number). But as stated before, all that will be explained in later posts, insha’Allah. This was just a simple introduction to the format and protocol used when solving an inheritance problem. We will be using this same format to solve all future inheritance problems, so know it well.

Now that we’ve gotten our answer, we need articulate it. Its not enough to just show the chart, we need to be able to explain how the estate will be divided and distributed. The standard way of articulating the answer to an inheritance problem is the following:

  1. State the number of portions the entire estate will be divided into (i.e. the base number).
  2. Assign each individual heir their respective number of portions.
  3. Mention which heirs are deprived, if any. [optional]

So for the above example, the answer will be written as follows:

The estate will be divided into 24 equal portions:

Each Wife gets 1 portion.
The Daughter gets 12 portions.
The Mother gets 4 portions.
The Haqeeqi sister gets 5 portions.

The akhyaafi siblings are excluded.

Here, 24 is the base number, while 1, 12, 4 and 5 are the portions assigned to their respective heirs.

It is not necessary to mention which relatives (if any) were deprived or excluded, as this will already by stated when executing steps 2 and 3 of the procedure, when non-heirs and excluded relatives are taken out of the list of heirs. However, you may mention the deprived relatives again in the final answer if you wish.

Notice how the portions for each individual wife were mentioned. Rather than saying “The wives get 3 portions”, it was said, “Each wife gets 1 portion” so as to remove any room for ambiguity. Similarly, if there are multiple heirs in any category of heirs, the portions of each individual heir should be mentioned rather than the total number of portions given to the entire category.

Also, notice how the shares play no part in the answer. Shares are merely the basis for the final answer. The only thing that matters is the number of portions given to each heir in relevance to the base number, because that is the actual answer.

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