Can I Gift My Wealth to My Children during My Lifetime?

Answered by Shaykh Irshaad Sedick

Question 

We are currently having a dispute with my brothers regarding my father’s wealth. Alhamdulillah, my father has few properties. A few years ago, he mentioned that he wanted us to invest in his land and build some apartments. He has six flats there, which is his primary income source. He would gift us the land, but while the construction is taking place, we would compensate him for his loss of income.

He wanted to gift us equally the land and the family home. He currently resides in the family home. My brothers are disputing this gift as it doesn’t qualify as a gift, and it disadvantages their share of the inheritance, so it is invalid. Some are saying he can gift us only a 1/3. What can he do? What is allowed?

Answer

In the Name of Allah, the Most Merciful and Compassionate. May Allah alleviate our difficulties and guide us to that which is pleasing to Him.

Gifting one’s wealth to heirs or non-heirs during one’s lifetime is permissible and is not limited to a third (as opposed to stipulating bequests in one’s will). However, one must ensure that Sacred Law’s gift-giving rules (Hiba) are duly observed.

There may be valid reasons for wanting to gift one’s wealth to one’s children instead of following Sacred Law’s post-mortem procedures. Still, dissatisfaction with those procedures or Sacred Law’s stipulated shares should not be considered a valid reason. Allah (Most High) is infinitely Wise and Just, and His Sacred Law is far superior to our notions of what is fair, therefore “evading” the dictates of Sacred Law to pursue our flawed human notions of what is most beneficial to our heirs is disingenuous, and Allah knows best.

Allah (Most High) says: “Allah commands you regarding your children: the share of the male will be twice that of the female. If you leave only two ˹or more˺ females, their share is two-thirds of the estate. […] ˹Be fair to˺ your parents and children, as you do not ˹fully˺ know who is more beneficial to you. ˹This is˺ an obligation from Allah. Indeed Allah is All-Knowing, All-Wise.” [Quran, 4:11]

Gift-Giving (Hiba)

Gift-giving is recommended (sunna). It is superior to give gifts to one’s relatives than to non-relatives. When giving gifts to one’s children, giving each child equal to what the others are given is recommended. [Misri, ‘Umdat al-Salik]

Conditions of Gift-Giving

Gift-giving is only valid under the following conditions:

  • that the giver (X) has full rights to manage his property;
  • that the gift be something permissible to sell;
  • that (X) give it with spoken words that effect it;
  • and that the receiver (Y) accepts it with a spoken reply.

(Y) does not own the gift until he takes possession of it, before which (X) may take it back. It is not valid for (Y) to take possession of the gift without (X’s) permission. [ibid.]

Taking Possession

Taking possession means:

  • for transportable things such as wheat or barley, that the items are transported by the buyer or his representative when he moves the merchandise to a place not belonging to the seller, such as the street or the receiver’s house;
  • for things dealt with by hands, such as a garment or book, that they are taken in hand (by the receiver);
  • For other things, such as a house or land, they are given over, i.e., the seller gives the buyer control over them, such as by handing the key to him or moving others’ belongings off the property. [Keller, Reliance of the Traveler]

A house is only considered “gifted” once condition three above has been fulfilled. If all the conditions of gift-giving have not been fulfilled, then the property remains within the ownership of the would-be gift-giver and will form part of his estate when he passes away, and Allah knows best.

I pray this is of benefit and that Allah guides us all.

[Shaykh] Irshaad Sedick
Checked and Approved by Shaykh Faraz Rabbani

Shaykh Irshaad Sedick was raised in South Africa in a traditional Muslim family. He graduated from Dar al-Ulum al-Arabiyyah al-Islamiyyah in Strand, Western Cape, under the guidance of the late world-renowned scholar, Shaykh Taha Karaan. 

Shaykh Irshaad received Ijaza from many luminaries of the Islamic world, including Shaykh Taha Karaan, Mawlana Yusuf Karaan, and Mawlana Abdul Hafeez Makki, among others.

He is the author of the text “The Musnad of Ahmad ibn Hanbal: A Hujjah or not?” He has served as the Director of the Discover Islam Centre and Al Jeem Foundation. For the last five years till present, he has served as the Khatib of Masjid Ar-Rashideen, Mowbray, Cape Town.

Shaykh Irshaad has thirteen years of teaching experience at some of the leading Islamic institutes in Cape Town). He is currently building an Islamic online learning and media platform called ‘Isnad Academy’ and pursuing his Master’s degree in the study of Islam at the University of Johannesburg. He has a keen interest in healthy living and fitness.