Gender and Land Rights Database


Inheritance legal mechanisms

Inheritance provisions may vary depending on whether the deceased was a Christian, a Hindu, or a Muslim (14).

- Inheritance for Muslims is governed by Islamic Shariah as codified in the 1961 Muslim Family Laws Ordinance, and the 1962 West Pakistan Muslim Personal Law Shariat Application Act. These laws consolidated and amended the various Muslim laws.
The definitions of heirs, and their shares, are decided according to their sects and sub-sects, such as Cutchi Memon, Khoja, Sunni or Shia (14).

The Muslim Family Law Ordinance, 1961:
- Provides for the distribution of shares according to the personal law of each religious group in the country (14).

- In general, Muslim law of inheritance is based on the following principles:
i. All shares are distributed to legal heirs by intestate succession.

ii. The shares of the inheritance depend on the closeness of the relationship of the legal heirs to the deceased.  Blood relations have the closest ties. These shares are distributed depending on how many children, sisters, brothers and other relatives the deceased person had, and they may change from case to case.

iii. Female children are entitled to half the inheritance of male children; wives inherit one-eighth of their husband’s estate.

iv. Heirs acquire an absolute interest in specific shares of the estate of their ancestor, even before distribution. Vested inheritance may occur. For example, if an heir dies before distribution, but was alive at the ancestor’s death, the share of his/her vested inheritance passes on to his/her heirs (15).

- Under the Sunni law there are 12 shares in a deceased person’s property, four for males and eight for females.

- The Shia law recognizes nine shares and does not include grandfathers, grandmothers or sons and daughter/s.

- Female shares are similar under both the Sunni and the Sharia laws:
i. the wife or wives gets 1/4 of the share if there is no child or child of a son, otherwise she gets1/8 of the property;
ii. the mother gets 1/3 if there is no child or child of a son, otherwise 1/6;
iii. a daughter gets half the share of the son;
iv. in the absence of a son, the daughter gets 1/2 of the inheritance and if there are more than one daughter they collectively get 2/3 of the share (14).

- The 1962 West Pakistan Muslim Personal Law Shariat Application Act entitled Muslim women to inherit all property, including agricultural property, with shares prescribed according to the Shariat. It also extended the Shariat to all of West Pakistan, except tribal areas in the North West Frontier Province (14).

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