Gender and Land Rights Database


Inheritance legal mechanisms

- Inheritance in Egypt is regulated by the rules set forth in the Qu’ran and the Sunnah, the body of traditional socio-legal custom and practice to which the Muslim community adheres (4).

Art. 875 of Civil Code:
- States that: “The establishment of the heirs or their hereditary shares and of the devolution of the property of the estate on them is governed by Mohammedan Law and by the laws with regard to inheritance and estates”.

Personal Status Laws, Law no. 77/1943:
- Regulates inheritance according to set shares. The 1946 Egyptian Law of Bequest provides for “obligatory inheritance for descendants of predeceased sons - how low so ever - and daughters.” The share of such heirs may not exceed one third of the estate. Significantly, regardless of familial relationship, non-Muslims cannot inherit from Muslims. This restriction applies, for example, to Christian widows of Muslim men (4).

- In Islamic inheritance law, the distribution of estates after death is governed by the Qur’an, primarily verses 11, 12 and 176 of Surah Al-Nisaa (4).

- The formal Shar’ia inheritance rules have several distinctive features. First, there are predetermined percentage shares for pre-selected beneficiaries while at the same time allowing some flexibility through bequests and legitimate estate planning. Second, a Muslim’s ability to bequeath is restricted to only one-third of an individual's estate under certain rules with the remaining two-thirds devolving according to the compulsory inheritance rules. Third, the scheme of mandatory fixed shares is remarkably inclusive and provides access to property to a range of family members. Finally, the inheritance rights cannot be generally taken away. Rather than a set of abstract rules, Islamic inheritance rules are intended to facilitate distinctive Islamic conceptions of property, family, community, empowerment and justice.
- Female relatives and spouses are accorded shares, but half that of a male in a similar position and male relatives are more likely to inherit and to enjoy a greater share of the estate. This difference in treatment between men and women is usually explained by reference to the fact that it is also a feature of Islamic law that a wife is entitled to maintenance from her husband, in terms of shelter, clothing, food and medical care (20).

Sources: numbers in brackets (*) refer to sources displayed in the Bibliography