Estate with No Muslim Heirs

Ustadh Farid Dingle advises on how to apportion one’s estate and designate one’s heirs when one is the only Muslim in the family.

 

Question:

Assalam alaykum wa rahmat Allah wa barakatuh.

I am the only Muslim in my family, as I am a convert. My immediate family have passed away including my brother. My brother had a daughter, but she said that she does not believe in God. I have learnt that it is important to leave a will and was wondering who I can leave my estate to if I die?

Many thanks.

 

Answer:

Wa alaykum assalam wa rahmat Allah wa barakatuh.

You should just leave your estate to a good and reliable Muslim charity that benefits Muslims. That is what is supposed to happen in Muslim countries: when someone dies without any heirs, the money goes to the Muslim common fund for the general benefit of society. If that doesn’t exist, as is the case in question, then as long as it goes to the benefit of some Muslims somewhere then it is acceptable.

You may also put in your will that it goes to any friend or family member, even if they are not Muslim, such as your niece. However it can only one third of your total heritage. If you have this recorded legally, you should make sure it says that.

I pray Allah grant all of your family and friends faith in Him and His Messenger. Amin.

Farid

 

Checked and approved by Shaykh Faraz Rabbani.
 


 

Complying With Fiqh Rules Regarding Inheritance

Ustadh Salman Younas breaks down the rules of inheritance in a complicated case, advising caution and consulting local scholars.

Question:

Assalam alaykum wa rahmat Allah wa barakatuh.

I am a single female, never married. My mother has passed, may Allah have Mercy on her. It seems straightforward that 2/3 of my assets would go to my father, and 1/3 can go to any person, charity, etc. assuming they will not be beneficiaries from my father (i.e. my siblings). Please confirm if my understanding is correct.

I’m having trouble determining “contingent” beneficiaries according to Islamic law in the event my father passes before me. I have 3 brothers. One who claims that he does not believe in God. One brother is married to a Lutheran, and their two children are Muslim. I also have 2 sisters, one who is married to a Catholic, and the husband and their 3 children are Catholic. My father remarried, and has a grown step daughter (she is in her 30s). My father is 80, and my siblings and I are in our 50s.

It seems, based on what I’ve read, that my brother who does not believe is not entitled to receive inheritance from a believer. Please confirm.

If that’s the case, do I divide this into 6 parts, with 2 going to each believing brother and 1 part going to each sister? Or is the sister married to the Catholic not entitled also?

In addition, I have several aunties, uncles, cousins from my mother’s side, and half aunts, uncles and cousins from my father’s side. In order to comply with fiqh, do I need to leave anything for any of them?

Jazakum Allah khayran.

Answer:

Wa alaykum assalam wa rahmat Allah wa barakatuh.

1. If you are survived by your father and siblings, your father will inherit everything. You may, however, bequeath 1/3rd of the inheritance to anyone of your choosing. (Note: The general rule is that a bequest cannot be made to a person who is an inheritor unless permitted by the other inheritors, but this is not applicable in the case here).

2. If your father passes away and you only have surviving siblings, your three brothers will each receive 1/4th, your two full sisters 1/8th each, and your consanguine sister will not receive anything.

However, the inheritance of a Muslim can only be inherited by a Muslim. Thus, if one of your brothers is not a Muslim, he will not be entitled to a share in the inheritance as a designated inheritor, which will mean two brothers will each receive 1/3rd and your two sisters 1/6th each, or, putting it differently, 2/3rds will be divided between your brothers and 1/3rd between your sisters. The judgment about his Islam, though, is a serious matter and should not be made without clear decisive evidence and the counsel of recognized scholars.

3. As for uncles, aunts, and cousins, they will not receive anything in the presence of your full brothers or sisters.

I would advise you that despite this answer, you should consult a reliable, local scholar on the specifics of your situation, family details, and the rights each are owed.

Salman

Checked and approved by Shaykh Faraz Rabbani.


How Should Inheritors Deal With a Charitable Donation From the Deceased?

Answered by Ustadh Tabraze Azam

Question: Assalam alaykum

My friend is a single mother and has five daughters. The only asset she has is her home. She understands that one third must be given to charity but as she only has a house which is the roof over her daughters’ heads, she wants to know how should she divide this asset in her will. Will her daughters need to sell the house to pay the one third to charity on her death?

Answer: Wa alaikum assalam wa rahmatullah,

It is not obligatory to make a charitable donation (sadaqa) with one third of the estate. Rather, the person making the will (wasiyya) can choose to do something with this amount of their wealth alone, and not the rest.

When asked about leaving a charitable donation of a third of one’s wealth, the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) stated, “One third is a huge amount.” [Bukhari] The scholars therefore state that if you are going to give something away, give less than a third. And if there isn’t much in the estate to begin with, or the inheritors are generally poorer, leaving more, or even the entire estate, for them is superior.

Thereafter, the lady in question should specify in her will that her estate is to be distributed according to the rules of inheritance as per Islamic Law. Moreover, she should strive to have this legalised in her country of residence so that it is recognised by the state.

Note that children aren’t the only inheritors of one’s estate; and the specifics of who will inherit will be determined after death. It is normally useful to involve a scholar when the distribution is about to take place to ensure that all inheritors receive their full portion of the estate.

[Ibn ‘Abidin, Radd al-Muhtar ‘ala al-Durr al-Mukhtar (5.417); Usmani, Takmilat Fath al-Mulhim (2.64)]

Please also see: Inheritance Laws: Can I Stipulate Other Than the Determined Amounts Mentioned in the Qur’an? and: Dividing an Estate for Inheritance

And Allah Most High knows best.

wassalam,
[Ustadh] Tabraze Azam

Checked and Approved by Shaykh Faraz Rabbani

Ustadh Tabraze Azam holds a BSc in Computer Science from the University of Leicester, where he also served as the President of the Islamic Society. He memorised the entire Qur’an in his hometown of Ipswich at the tender age of sixteen, and has since studied the Islamic Sciences in traditional settings in the UK, Jordan and Turkey. He is currently pursuing advanced studies in Jordan, where he is presently based with his family.

Is Inheritance Divided According to Area or Value of Land?

Answered by Ustadh Tabraze Azam

Question: Assalam alaykum

My maternal grandmother passed away last year leaving behind 2 children; a boy (my uncle) and a girl (my mother). Her husband (my grandfather) died long ago. She left behind a plot of land. My mother claims that the total price of the entire plot must be divided into thirds and she is entitled to one-third of that value, and her brother is entitled to two-thirds of that value – instead of simply dividing land in terms of area. Is her claim valid?

Answer: Wa alaikum assalam wa rahmatullah,

Yes, your mother’s claim is correct, namely, that she has a right to one third of the value of the entire plot.

Allah Most High says, “These entitlements are the limits set by Allah.” [4:13]

After death, every part of the estate is owned by the heirs according to their respective share. Thereafter, one party cannot simply divide the estate as they wish, especially when it is to the detriment of the other inheritors. Rather, there needs to be clear agreement between everybody.

Given that this is a sensitive issue, I’d suggest that you consider involving a respectable third party and a scholar to ensure that everybody gets their full share.

Please also see: Dividing an estate for inheritence and: Inheritance Laws: Can I Stipulate Other Than the Determined Amounts Mentioned in the Qur’an?

And Allah Most High alone knows best.

wassalam,

[Ustadh] Tabraze Azam

Checked and Approved by Shaykh Faraz Rabbani

Ustadh Tabraze Azam holds a BSc in Computer Science from the University of Leicester, where he also served as the President of the Islamic Society. He memorised the entire Qur’an in his hometown of Ipswich at the tender age of sixteen, and has since studied the Islamic Sciences in traditional settings in the UK, Jordan and Turkey. He is currently pursuing advanced studies in Jordan, where he is presently based with his family.

Is It Allowed for My Mother to Give Preference to Me Over My Brothers in Her Will?

Answered by Ustadh Salman Younas

Question: My beloved mother has always maintained that she wants to give her jewelry and property to me and not my brothers (I’m an only sister of 2 brothers). Can she do that?

Answer: assalamu alaykum

If other members who are entitled to the inheritance agree to this, it would be permitted for you to take possession of such wealth. [al-Mawsili, al-Ikhtiyar]

Salman

Checked & Approved by Shaykh Faraz Rabbani

Photo: Fabio

I Have a Non-Muslim Family. How Should I Go About Writing My Will?

Answered by Shaykh Umer Mian

Question: Assalam’aleykum

I am a divorced single women. I have 3 daughters and a brother who is not Muslim. I also have a male cousin who is not a Muslim either.

I own my own home with a small mortgage on it and I have a small amount invested. According to a calculator my daughters receive 2/3 of my estate and my brother should receive 1/3 of it.

I would like to leave my money to my daughters after deductions to charity. Can I use my brothers 1/3 for charity instead?

Answer: Wa alaikum as-salam wa rahmatullahi wa barakatuhu

Short answer:

It would not be valid to make a bequest to your own daughters. Rather, daughters are divinely-ordained inheritors and will receive their inheritance shares accordingly. In addition, your non-Muslim relatives will not receive inheritance from you.

Detailed answer:

In order to answer the question, a brief summary of Islamic inheritance law is needed. In Islamic inheritance law, when a Muslim dies his or her estate (i.e. all wealth and property left behind after death) is applied to the following four categories, in order:

1. Funeral expenses
2. Unpaid debts the deceased left behind
3. The bequest, up to one-third
4. Divinely-ordained inheritors

The bequest (“wasiyyah” in Arabic) is the right of a Muslim to will that their wealth be given to any particular entity (e.g. friends, charitable causes, etc.) other than the divinely-ordained inheritors. The latter are specified in the Qur’an and Sunnah and include most relatives such as parents, grandparents, children, grandchildren, siblings, aunts, uncles, etc. The bequest cannot be made for any of these people because their shares of the inheritance have been clearly specified in the Qur’an and Sunnah, and allowing a bequest to them is tantamount to changing the Divine decree regarding their shares. Also in Islamic inheritance law, the bequest is allowed only up to one-third of one’s estate. If a Muslim made a bequest for more than one-third of their estate, it would be executed only up to one-third and the remainder would be distributed amongst the divinely-ordained inheritors. Finally, note that the bequest is optional and it is mustahabb (preferred) to keep it minimal or leave it off entirely. This is considered a type of ihsaan (goodness) to one’s divinely-ordained inheritors (i.e. close relatives) because it maximises their inheritance.

Next, you should be aware that there is no inheritance between Muslims and non-Muslims. This is based on the explicit words of the following hadeeth:

عَنْ أُسَامَةَ بْنِ زَيْدٍ رَضِيَ اللَّهُ عَنْهُمَا أَنَّ النَّبِيَّ صَلَّى اللَّهُ عَلَيْهِ وَسَلَّمَ قَالَ لَا يَرِثُ الْمُسْلِمُ الْكَافِرَ وَلَا الْكَافِرُ الْمُسْلِمَ (متفق عليه)

The Messenger of Allah (may Allah be well pleased with him) said “A Muslim does not inherit from a non-Muslim, nor does a non-Muslim inherit from a Muslim” (recorded by Al-Bukhari and Muslim).

Finally, since one’s inheritance cannot distributed until after one dies, determining how to distribute the inheritance among the divinely-ordained inheritors depends on which inheritors survive the deceased (i.e. who’s alive when they die).

In light of all of this, we can conclude the following about your situation:

1. Your non-Muslim relatives will not receive inheritance from you. For purposes of determining Islamic inheritance, you can ignore them.

2. It would not be valid to make a bequest to your own daughters. Rather, daughters are divinely-ordained inheritors and will receive their inheritance shares accordingly.

3. The exact amount your daughters would receive as divinely-ordained inheritance shares depends on who else survives you. You should sit with a qualified scholar of Islamic inheritance law to work out the different possibilities.

Finally, you should know that the prohibition of bequeathing to your divinely-ordained inheritors, as discussed above, does not prohibit you from gifting those people while you’re alive. Hence, during your lifetime you could gift all or a portion of your wealth to your daughters (or any other close relatives). This is permissible, and the wealth would immediately transfer to the giftee. However, the exception to this is when a person reaches terminal illness (i.e. they are “on their deathbed”). At that point, all gifts are treated as bequests and subject to the prohibition mentioned above (i.e. no bequests to divinely-ordained inheritors).

Wassalam,
Umer

Photo: Ken Mayer