There are twelve heirs for whom specified shares have been settled and fixed by the Shariah known as faraid. These heirs are called ashabul-furud meaning ‘the possessors of obligatory shares in inheritance as determined in the Quran’.
If there is no heir from this category or there remains some property after shares have been given to ashabul-furud, this remainder or residue is given to asbah (agnatic heir or residuary). There are times when one person alone inherits in both capacities. There are other situations when the children of the deceased and his father too become asbah and so do the offspring of the father, that is, the brother.
There are several kinds of asbat or agnates, details of which appear in the books of Faraid.
To illustrate, here is an example, Zayd died leaving behind four heirs – wife, daughter, mother and uncle. Zayd’s property will be divided into a total of twenty four shares. Half of these, that is, twelve shares will go the daughter, three shares to the wife against her 1/8, four shares to the mother against her 1/6 and the residue of five shares will go to the uncle in the capacity of his being asbah, the nearest male agnate.
If there are no asbat the residue of the property following the distribution of shares to ashabul-furud, is also given to them. In the terminology of ilm-ul-faraid, this is known as the principle of Radd or Return since the residue returns to them in proportion to their shares. However, the husband or the wife is not entitled to this ‘return’ and they are not given any more than their specified shares.
If there is no one from ashabul-furud and no one from asbat either, the inheritance goes to Dhawil-Arham (maternal kinsmen). There is a large list of Dhawil-Arham which includes maternal grandsons and granddaughters, offspring of sisters, paternal aunts, maternal uncles and aunts. Since the subject has lot more details which cannot be taken up in the present context, it is hoped that comments already offered will be sufficient.
(Taken from Maaruf-ul-Qur’an by Mufti Muhammad Shafi Usmani)