Sayyid Muhammad ibn Alawi al Maliki
From a radio interview, South Africa, 1997.
What this hadith means is that the Prohets of Allah did not leave behind wealth or possessions, but they left behind Knowledge. Just like the person who dies leave heirs, i.e. sons, daughters, wives, etc. As for the Prophets, their heirs are the Ahlil `Ilm - the people of Knowledge. And their shares are in accordance with their following of the teachings of the Prophets. As is the case with the heirs of a deceased person - those who stand in closer relation to such person inherit a greater share.
Similar is the case with the `Ulama : those who follows more stringently and loves the Prophet more dearly will earn a greater share of the inheritance. In other hadiths it is clarified that this inheritance does not refer to possessions but rather to Knowledge - the Quran, the Sunna and Akhlaaq. It includes everything that is part of the Shariah.
Abu Hurayrah (may Allah be pleased with him), known as the 'hafidh of the Sahabah', narrated that he once visited the market-place where he found people engaged in the usual trading. He then told them, "You are here trading while people are distributing the inheritance of the Prophet (peace be upon him ). " Where is this happening," they asked excitedly as they were eager to acquire a relic of the Prophet (peace be upon him) for themselves. "In the masjid," Abu Hurayrah (r.a.) replied. So all of them rushed to the masjid but found none of the Prophet's (s) possessions there. They asked the companion, " Why do you say the inheritance is being distributed when none is to be found ?"
" What did you find there?" Abu Hurayrah (r) asked." We found people in circles studying Quran and Hadith." " That is the inheritance," Abu Hurayrah (r) replied.