Fundamental Differences Hindu & Muslim Law of Inheritance


India’s personal law is diverse because of its many historical influences, unique guiding principles, and the vast majority of substantive law. Broadly there are four different religions in our country that is Hindu, Muslim, Parsi, Christian and they are governed by distinct laws. A variety of succession laws are lawfully functional and valid in India as a result of these factors. One of the most significant things a person can have is property, which is passed down to his or her descendants after the owner’s death. Inheritance and succession symbolise lineage in our Indian society. In simple terms, transferring a person’s assets, debts, titles, rights, and obligations to some other person after his/her death is referred to as property inheritance. In our country, any person who wants to inherit or succeed the property can do via two means, first option is via Will and second option is via laws of succession when an individual passes away without a Will. Post-independence, all Hindus are subject to the same secular laws of succession. The traditional law of succession and the outdated Hindu law are repealed and therefore no more in practice. With the introduction of the Hindu Succession Act, of 1956 and its amendment thereafter, the treatment of men as superior to women in terms of property allocation has been greatly reduced. The Jains, Buddhists, Sikhs, and Hindus are all covered by the Hindu Succession Act. Muslims in our country, in a similar manner are governed via Muslim Shariat Act, 1937. The holy book Quran serves as the primary foundation for the majority of Islamic inheritance law. The remainder property (be it moveable or immoveable) becomes eligible to be inherited after the deduction of funeral costs, costs associated with obtaining Probate/Letters of administration from the court, money spent on personal service rendered to the deceased within three months of his death, debts, and legacies[1].


Owing to different sources, customs and beliefs, both the religions have different rules and regulations for inheritance of property. Where on one hand the Hindus have a codified legislation like Hindu Marriage Act,1855 and Hindu Succession Act, 1956, Muslim personal law is majorly uncodified. This therefore, implies a sense of obligation upon the people to follow the codified legislation on contrary to the uncodified.


Moving further the next difference is on the “basis of adoption”[2]. Prior to the proposals and amendments, adoption was not permitted under Hindu Succession Act. Prior to this adoption was viewed as being illegal. To put in simple words, the adopted child had no claim onto the land once the father/owner passed away. He was not eligible to participate in the succession of that land/property as a result. Even if any transfer of property was made, it was not acknowledged by the society and eventually completely invalid. Post amendment, the adopted child was started to be recognised as a legitimate successor. Whether the child was adopted or be it the biological child of that family, both were given the same treatment after the appropriate amendment took effect. He possesses ownership of the property and is recognized as a qualified person for inheriting the property. If the decedent leaves behind the property without any legal inheritor, the adopted inheritor will fill his shoes and become the inheritor of the property so left and later on the property distribution will take in accordance with that. On the other hand, in Muslim law Adoption is not seen as legal. The adopted son’s ability to inherit the land has not been mentioned by any of the schools. Some schools accept adoption as legitimate, but they do not provide them ownership rights to the property.

Personal Law
[Image Sources: Shutterstock]


There are numerous “categories of persons” [3]who may be qualified for obtaining the ownership over the property, which is where the difference occurs in cases of property distribution. In Hindu Law there are 4 categories which are mentioned below:

  1. class I heirs
  2. class II heirs
  3. Agnates

According to this order, the property will subsequently be divided. Amendment of 2005 increased the number of heirs in class I category from twelve to sixteen. The importance is currently given to those in this class. Class I heirs in broad sense include “widow, son, daughter, mother of the intestate” and last is the intestate’s predeceased children’s heirs (this includes the son, daughter, and widow of the predeceased children too). These heirs all receive their inheritance at once, exclusive of other heirs. The property passes to the listed heirs stated in class II if none of the successors in this group are alive. Category of class II heirs majorly include “father, grand- parents, grand -children, brother, sister and other relatives from father and mother’s side like their mother, father, brother, sister.” The property would descend to agnates in cases where a Hindu male died without forming a will and left no class I or class II heirs. When two people are linked / related via blood or adoption only and only through males, they are said to be agnates of one another. Agnate relationships are limited to those formed by blood and do not include marriage. Additionally, widows of the intestate’s lineal descendants are not considered agnates. Cognates are those who share some male ancestry with the intestate, either through blood or adoption. As a result, the sons of the mother’s brother and the brother’s daughter are cognates and entitled to inherit. The basic succession requirements for male heirs are mentioned in Section 10 of the HSA, 1956 which also addresses the above-mentioned division of family members for the purpose of property inheritance. Class II heirs are next in line to receive the property if none of the Class I heirs claim it[4].

On the other hand, Muslim Law categorization is made into 3 parts which are mentioned below:

  1. Sharers
  2. Residuary
  3. Distant Kindred.

The classification of distant kindred is not recognized by either of the two main schools, but it is recognized under Sunni law because the majority of people adhere to this Sunni Muslim religion. The category of sharers also called Ashabul- Faraiz are total twelve in count- four of them males and eight are females. The very next group of people is known as Residuary or Asabah. The reason behind this being that they receive the leftovers after the sharers who are not excluded have received their share of the proceeds. Residuary class is further divided into 3 classes which are as follows:

  1. Residuary in their own right
  2. Residuary in another’s right
  3. Residuary together with another

The last and the final category of receivers is Distant kindred or Dhauil- arham. Those relatives of a deceased person who neither fall in the category of sharers nor in that of residuary. In the absence of both category 3 inherits the property. This category has no significance in Shafi and Maliki school. They do not consider them as heirs. This category is further classified into four parts:

  1. The descendants/successors of the deceased.
  2. The deceased’s ancestry
  3. His parents’ descendants
  4. His grandparents’ descendants (They are taken into account, notwithstanding their remoteness).


The difference between both the personal laws also arises on the basis of “classification of properties”[5]. Property can broadly be categorised into ancestral property and self-acquired property. Ancestral property is also called as co- parcenary property. Section 6 of the Hindu Succession Act, 2005 post amendment now includes the devolution of property among both male and female co heirs. Now just like males, females too have inherent right by birth. They enjoy the same rights and are bound by the obligations and liabilities over the property just like a son does. But when it comes to self- acquired property, it is not bound by any such law. If the ownership or title of the property is independent of a will, a person may claim inheritance rights. This is referred as “intestate succession”. If the deceased left behind a will, the property should pass according to the priorities and directions stated in the will.

On the flip side Muslim Law doesn’t take into consideration ancestral property.[6] They follow the concept of single or joint property. This law governs the inheritance rights of those properties. The property is passed on, on the basis of “per capita” and “per stripes” concept. Shia law acknowledges the concept of  per-strip distribution system. This technique of passing down property divides the assets among the heirs in accordance with the strip to which they belong. Branch and number of branch members, therefore determine the size of the property they will inherit.  Sunni law on the other hand follows the per capita approach. This method divides the heirs’ share of the estate left behind by the forefathers evenly. The number of heirs determines how much of the property each person receives.


A very notable difference is on the basis of “females inheriting the property[7]”. Prior to the amendment males were the only receivers. Post amendment, a widow received top consideration because she was more righteous than any other female member. She was lawfully entitled to receive her dead husband’s property. This amendment made in 2005 was considered to be a landmark decision as it led to others treating women with full dignity who are not less than their counterpart in any manner. Section 15 of HSA, 1956 provides for rules and regulations for succession of property for a female Hindu. According to Islamic law, a woman was granted the right to a portion of the property as soon as their own legislation was passed. But they are granted a smaller percentage of share in property than Muslim men do. Shia law prescribes that women be receiving half of the shares of what men get because they receive maintenance and mehr (dower) as well at the time of marriage whereas men are only granted ancestral property. Widows are also granted access to inherit the property. In the absence of any children, she is entitled to 1/4th of the property and in presence of a child or grandchildren the share is changed to 1/8th of the husband’s property. In this sense, after the change was made, Hindu law just like Muslim law has started to treat equally women in terms of property inheritance. The Amendment Act further states that married girls’ right to request a part of property is an unalienable right that is not subject to any restrictions[8].


One more point of difference arises on the basis of “child under womb”[9]. According to Hindu law, a child is regarded to be alive if it is in the mother’s womb and will receive a share of the coparcenary property. A child in a mother’s womb is only eligible to inherit property under Islamic law if the infant is born alive. If not born alive the share is cancelled and distributed further accordingly.


And the last point of difference is “succession by government”[10]. Under Muslim law if a person dies without a legal heir the government can inherit his property via the process of “escheat”. Under HSA, 1956 section 20, it states that the property shall be automatically taken into possession of and used by the government if there are no living legal heirs or heirs as common to the deceased.


Personal laws are the rules that differ from one religion to another. However, when we study them, we realize that all laws are practically identical to one another; the only difference is in the tradition and practice that have been observed for a long time. Every religion has personal laws that are somewhat dissimilar from the each other but are generally the same and are applied according to their own procedures. Due to the fact that it includes several religions, India’s property inheritance law is highly extensive. Over time, it has undergone a number of modifications. Hindus and Muslims, both have distinct legal heirs, and each religion also has distinct forms of succession. Hindu Succession Act has by and large made provisions to cover all aspects when it comes to inheritance of property. The amendment in 2005 has also covered the loophole where now a female too has the same rights as that of men. But if we look into the Islamic Laws even though they vested females with rights of inheritance and succession of property, at some point these rights are more biased when it comes to Muslim males than Muslim females. Therefore, a son would get twice the amount of share of what a daughter would get in their father’s property. This seems little primitive when compared with Hindu law which has become fair, just and unbiased towards females. A little pragmatic approach is therefore required so that both the personal laws are at par with each other.

Author: Anavi Jain and Sonakshi Pandey, in case of any queries please contact/write back to us via email to or at  Khurana & Khurana, Advocates and IP Attorney.

[1] Dr. Poonam Pradhan Saxena, Family Law II 551 (Lexis Nexis, 5th ed. 2022).

[2] Dr. Poonam Pradhan Saxena, Family Law II (Lexis Nexis, 5th ed. 2022).

[3] Dr. Poonam Pradhan Saxena, Family Law II 323 (Lexis Nexis, 5th ed. 2022)

[4] Kalyan kumar v. Pratibha Chakraborty, AIR 2010 (NOC) 646.

[5] Supra note 2.

[6] Sharma, Naina. “Comparison of Succession under Hindu and Muslim Law.” Journal of Legal Studies & Research 8, no. 6 (2022): 247-265.


[8] Nagammal vs. Desiyappan, AIR 2006 Mad 265.

[9] Supra note 2.

[10] Supra note 2, at 481.

Leave a Reply



  • May 2024
  • April 2024
  • March 2024
  • February 2024
  • January 2024
  • December 2023
  • November 2023
  • October 2023
  • September 2023
  • August 2023
  • July 2023
  • June 2023
  • May 2023
  • April 2023
  • March 2023
  • February 2023
  • January 2023
  • December 2022
  • November 2022
  • October 2022
  • September 2022
  • August 2022
  • July 2022
  • June 2022
  • May 2022
  • April 2022
  • March 2022
  • February 2022
  • January 2022
  • December 2021
  • November 2021
  • October 2021
  • September 2021
  • August 2021
  • July 2021
  • June 2021
  • May 2021
  • April 2021
  • March 2021
  • February 2021
  • January 2021
  • December 2020
  • November 2020
  • October 2020
  • September 2020
  • August 2020
  • July 2020
  • June 2020
  • May 2020
  • April 2020
  • March 2020
  • February 2020
  • January 2020
  • December 2019
  • November 2019
  • October 2019
  • September 2019
  • August 2019
  • July 2019
  • June 2019
  • May 2019
  • April 2019
  • March 2019
  • February 2019
  • January 2019
  • December 2018
  • November 2018
  • October 2018
  • September 2018
  • August 2018
  • July 2018
  • June 2018
  • May 2018
  • April 2018
  • March 2018
  • February 2018
  • January 2018
  • December 2017
  • November 2017
  • September 2017
  • August 2017
  • July 2017
  • June 2017
  • May 2017
  • April 2017
  • March 2017
  • February 2017
  • January 2017
  • December 2016
  • November 2016
  • October 2016
  • September 2016
  • August 2016
  • July 2016
  • June 2016
  • May 2016
  • April 2016
  • March 2016
  • February 2016
  • January 2016
  • December 2015
  • November 2015
  • October 2015
  • September 2015
  • August 2015
  • July 2015
  • June 2015
  • May 2015
  • April 2015
  • March 2015
  • February 2015
  • January 2015
  • December 2014
  • November 2014
  • October 2014
  • September 2014
  • August 2014
  • July 2014
  • June 2014
  • May 2014
  • April 2014
  • March 2014
  • February 2014
  • January 2014
  • December 2013
  • November 2013
  • October 2013
  • September 2013
  • August 2013
  • July 2013
  • June 2013
  • May 2013
  • April 2013
  • March 2013
  • February 2013
  • January 2013
  • December 2012
  • November 2012
  • September 2012
  • August 2012
  • July 2012
  • June 2012
  • May 2012
  • April 2012
  • March 2012
  • February 2012
  • January 2012
  • December 2011
  • November 2011
  • October 2011
  • September 2011
  • August 2011
  • July 2011
  • June 2011
  • May 2011
  • April 2011
  • March 2011
  • February 2011
  • January 2011
  • December 2010
  • September 2010
  • July 2010
  • June 2010
  • May 2010
  • April 2010