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Inheriting and Property Bequests from Non-Muslims

Answered by Mufti Muhammad ibn Adam al-Kawthari

Question: I have been reading about wills and I plan on writing one shortly. My question, if my parents are non-Muslim and they have bequested money and assets to me, if I pass away before my parents would it be permissible for their bequested money/assets assigned for me instead be given to my Muslim family (wife and children)? This is important to know because I plan on including this bequested money/assets in my will.

Answer: In the name of Allah, Most Compassionate, Most Merciful,

Before answering your specific question, it is important to keep in mind that Islamically a Muslim does not ‘inherit’ from a non-Muslim, and vice versa. This is agreed upon within the four Sunni Schools of Islamic law, due to clear textual proofs such as:

Sayyiduna Usama ibn Zayd (Allah be pleased with him) relates that the Messenger of Allah (Allah bless him & give him peace) said, “A believer does not inherit from an unbeliever, and an unbeliever does not inherit from a believer.” (Bukhari and Muslim)

However, it is permitted to accept a bequest (wasiyya) from a non-Muslim, or make a bequest for a non-Muslim, provided it is specified and does not exceed a third of one’s entire estate. As such, in general if your non-Muslim parents make a bequest of up to one third in your favor, it will be permitted to take it after their death.

As for your wish to include in your own Will what your non-Muslim parents bequeath for you, this is not permitted. A beneficiary of inheritance (irth) or bequest (wasiyya) becomes the owner of the inherited or bequeathed wealth only after the testator – or the one whose estate one is inheriting – passes away, and not before. As such, it is not permitted for you to include in your Will what your parents have bequeathed for you, given that you do not currently own these assets.

However, there are two alternatives:

Firstly, your parents can give you a gift during their lifetime. In this case, you are allowed to include the gifted items in your Will; and even if you do not, your family will automatically inherit their respective shares according to Islamic law.

Secondly, your parents can include your family along with you in their Will, meaning they stipulate that should you pass away before them, the bequeathed items should be granted to your wife and/or children.

And Allah knows best

Muhammad ibn Adam al-Kawthari
Darul Iftaa, Leicester, UK
www.daruliftaa.com

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