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Monday, March 30, 2009

Can a Muslim inherit from his or her Non Muslim relative?

In the name of Allah, Most Merciful, Most Compassionate.

Assalamualaikum dear brothers & sisters.

I just received an email from one of my readers who happens to be a Non Muslim @ a Kaffir.

I have removed his name and email address as a matter of respect towards him but I believe that such a question and the answers that I have given him merits our mutual attention and deliberations. Insya Allah.

I am reproducing his email contents here in Italic.

He asks the following :

"As how my name is spelled, you know that i am most likely a non-Muslim. I am not a person with Islamophobia and I respect every cultures and religions practiced. I am curious to learn about Islam as well as other religion. This e-mail is particularly about converting to Muslim. I hope that you could attend to my inquiries.
  1. If a person converts to a Muslim before he passes away, does his non-Muslim family members get to inherit his left possessions.
  2. Assuming that the person who passes away is the father and the son is not a Muslim, what will happen to the inheritance?
  3. And can a non-Muslim step into a Muslim cemetery to pay his/her deceased non-Muslim respect?
I understand this might be sensitive but as I stress upon my aforementioned statement, I respect Islam and Muslims.

Good luck in educating the world and the world is unique, isn't it.


xxxx xxxx xxxx.

Okay. Those were his questions to me and here is what I replied to him :

Dear xxxx xxxx,

May Peace be upon you!

Thank you for asking about this matter which many Non Muslims raise every now and then when a member of their family or they themselves embraces Islam and mistakenly conclude that by becoming a Muslim, they are cut off from their blood relatives?

Your questions to me are :
  1. If a person converts to a Muslim before he passes away, does his non-Muslim family members get to inherit his left possessions.
  2. Assuming that the person who passes away is the father and the son is not a Muslim, what will happen to the inheritance?
  3. And can a non-Muslim step into a Muslim cemetery to pay his/her deceased non-Muslim respect?
My answers are :
  1. According to the Prophet of Allah, Muhammad Sallalahu Alaihi Wassallam, " A Muslim does not inherit from those who are Kaffirs and so must Kaffirs not inherit from a Muslim." Related by Jamma'ah.
In the deliberations by Islamic scholars after the passing of the Final Prophet of Allah, the subject of inheritance is agreed to abide by what the Messenger has decreed without any questions.

There is however a difference in the matter of Wills and Bequest from both Muslim and Non Muslims.

A Muslim or a Non Muslim may accept a bequeath from either party, anything that is not forbidden by Islamic Laws of a value that is not more than 1/3rd of the total value of a party's total property.

In the Holy Qur'an Allah the Almighty states in the Surah Mumtahanaa Chapter 60 Verse 8 :

8. La yanhakumu Allahu AAani allatheena lam yuqatilookum fee alddeeni walam yukhrijookum min diyarikum an tabarroohum watuqsitoo ilayhim inna Allaha yuhibbu almuqsiteena

8. Allah forbids you not, with regard to those who fight you not for (your) Faith nor drive you out of your homes, from dealing kindly and justly with them: for Allah loveth those who are just.

The following is taken from a series of Questions & Answers from the Islamic Society of North America pertaining to the subject matter that you have raised, so I am sharing them here with you.

# What does "irth" mean?

"Irth" is an Arabic word that means legacy. It always has the connotation of a treasured possession. As the prophet, peace be upon him, was explaining pilgrimage rituals to Muslims on the farewell pilgrimage, he said "You are on an 'irth' from your father Ibrahim."

# I assume that funeral expenses and such are paid off the top before dividing the estate. Is this correct?

Yes. Whenever "estate" is mentioned here it means the net estate after deduction of legal fees, funeral and burial expenses and payment of all debts.

# Who can inherit?

Categories of eligible heirs are specified by the Quran, the Sunna and the scholars.

They are the categories you see on the IRTH program's main page. Any heir that does not belong to any of these categories is not an eligible heir, e.g., aunts.

Each and all of these heirs must be Muslim and must not have been convicted of murder of the testator.

# What about adopted children?

They do not inherit, but they can be given a bequest. The sum of all bequests cannot exceed 1/3 (one third) of the estate.

# What about children of deceased relatives?

They have the same eligibility as if their parents were alive. Simply enter them in the program if their category is listed regardless of whether their parents are alive.

# Can non-Muslim relatives inherit from a Muslim, e.g., a non-Muslim wife?

No. But they can be given a bequest. The sum of all bequests cannot exceed 1/3 (one third) of the estate.
# What about relatives not listed?

They do not inherit, e.g., con sanguine aunts (sisters of father), but again they can be given a bequest. The sum of all bequests cannot exceed 1/3 (one third) of the estate.

# Can a muslim inherit from a non-muslim?

I am not aware of any ruling that forbids it if the law of the land grants it. You should, however, check with your imam.

# What is Islamic Treasury?

It's a translation of the Arabic phrase "Bayt-ul Mal". If this is not officially established in your country, then consider charitable muslim organizations.
# What is a bequest?

A bequest is a gift to a non-heir. The sum of all bequests cannot exceed 1/3 (one third) of the estate.

# How much can I bequest?

The sum of all bequests cannot exceed 1/3 (one third) of the estate.

# Why can't I bequest more than one third?

The portion of one third is the maximum allowed by the Prophet, peace be upon him, when Saad Ibn Abi Waqqaas consulted him about giving two thirds of his money to charity.

Saad had a daughter. The Prophet rejected the two thirds suggestion. Saad then suggested one half. The Prophet rejected that too.

Finally, Saad suggested one third. The Prophet reluctantly approved. He said, "A third then and a third is still too much."

# Can I bequest to an heir?

No. Bequests are for non-heirs only.

# Can I use a bequest to compensate for missed prayers, fasting, Zakah or pilgrimage?

A man came to the Prophet, peace be upon him, and told him that his mother had died and she had missed fasting days. He asked the Prophet if he could fast for her?

The Prophet answered, "If she owed a debt, would you pay it for her?"

The man answered "of course!" The Prophet said "Debt to God has more priority."

While scholars differ on whether missed religious duties can be compensated in kind, I find the above hadith a compelling evidence that they can and should be.

Missed Zakah must be deducted from the estate before the estate is distributed. Missed fasting can always be compensated with money or food.

That's what fidya-tus-siyam is, so it can also be deducted from the estate. I have no opinion on whether missed pilgrimage can be compensated with money and I find no evidence that missed prayers can be compensated with money either.

But both prayers and pilgrimage if missed can, in my humble opinion, be compensated in kind by a relative or a friend.

So, a testator may state in his or her will that he or she missed pilgrimage or prayers and hope that one or more of the relatives will be generous enough to make them up for him or her.

# I ran the IRTH program and some of my heirs, e.g., my uncles, did not get any shares. I would like to give them something. Can I bequest to them?

Bequests are not for heirs. You should, however, check with your imam.

# I don't know my juristic school. Which one should I choose?

You can choose the default, which does not favor any juristic school.

# How are these shares computed?

The rules of dividing up an estate are mentioned in the Quran, the Sunna and by the scholars. The IRTH program implements these rules as they were so well documented in Sayyed Sabeq's book, Fiqh-us-Sunna "Jurisprudence of the Sunna".
# How do I know the computed shares are correct according to Islamic law?

The IRTH program has been reviewed and tested by knowlegeable scholars and lawyers since 1989.

It has been verified against all cases listed in ISNA's booklet "Last Will And Testament". You are encouraged to test it and report any errors or bugs to the author. You can also double check the computed shares with your imam, if you wish. You can follow the logic behind the computation by selecting the preference "Show details" before you click the Calculate button.

# I live in a non-muslim country, how do I make sure my estate is divided up according to Islamic law?

You should consult an attorney who specializes in wills, probate and estate planning. He or she can prepare a will for you where you specify how you want your estate divided and will have it legally binding.

You can reference the IRTH program, if you wish, as a way to ensure the correct division of your estate by including its Internet address,

# Is a will necessary?

A will conveys your wishes, in a legally binding way, of how you want your estate divided.

Without a will, you leave the decision of how to divide your estate to the probate court of your state!

Prior to the revelation of inheritance verses, the prophet, peace be upon him, said that it was unlawful for a Muslim to let three nights go by without making a will. Obviously this underscores the importance of wills.

If you live in a country that does not recognize Islamic inheritance law, then I would say that the prophet's hadith applies to you.

# Why are there differences between scholars about estate division?

The Quran and the Sunna do not spell out every conceivable heir situation, rather they provide guidance on the key rules to use. The scholars did their best in figuring out how to divide up an estate in heir situations that lend themselves to differing interpretations of the rules. These situations are rare and there is remarkable consensus of the scholars on the majority of heir situations.

An example of differing opinions is the remainder re division rule when the sum of shares falls short of the estate. Uthman includes spouses in the re division because they are named heirs, all other scholars do not include spouses in the re division because they are not blood-related to the testator. Two different and sensible viewpoints. You may choose either one.

End of quote.

To answer your question # 2, the Non Muslim son is not entitled to inherit from his late Muslim father but IF the Muslim father had made out a will that benefits the Non Muslim son or daughter, he or she will be entitled to receive whatever that the father had willed for them that amounts to not more than 1/3rd of the total value of the late Muslim father's estate.

My suggestion to you or any person who is caught in this situation is to please consult with your legal representatives as soon as possible and solve all the legal repercussions that will arise later on when the convert or revert to Islam is no longer around?

Best to go get such legal papers done with as soon as possible and make sure that the person who has reverted to Islam fulfills his or her legal responsibilities towards his or her dependents appropriately for the benefit for all.

My answer to your question # 3, a Non Muslim relative is allowed to go pay his or her respects to their departed Muslim relative in a Muslim cemetery or graveyard but need to observe the certain guidelines.
  • No burning of any incense or slaughter of any animal is to be done in the area.
  • No loud wailing or crying uncontrollably is allowed to be done within the cemetery.
  • No Unislamic religious practices are to be carried out at the grave of the departed relative.
  • A Kaffir is allowed to stand or sit in remembrance and offer maybe a silent prayer within their hearts to the dead Muslim relative.
  • It is however a vain deed for as Muslims, we do not recognize any other deity or object of worship apart from Almighty Allah so such a prayer is null and void for us, from our point of faith.
  • We can't stop any Kaffir from wishing us well, can we?
  • The reality is that in Islam, we submit ourselves to only the One True Almighty God, so no matter what Non Muslims may perform or do in the name of whatever it is that they believe in or believe to be their god for the supposed prayer for the departed Muslim soul, it all comes to waste for such offerings of prayers to a deity or object of worship dedicated to other than Allah, True God Almighty is rendered void and not of any benefit to us.
  • Clear solid logic, wouldn't you agree?
Well, I do hope that I have helped you out there as to the answers that you sought above.

Verily it is Allah the Almighty Who is All Knowing.

May peace be upon us all.


Best regards,

Zainol Abideen
Protem President of the Muslim Bloggers Alliance
Program Consultant,
Shanghai Jiao Tong University- Global Hanyu Culture Center.


MoneyMatters@Nizam said...

salam tuan,

Wah, LOUD and CLEAR tuan. Saya tgk, tuan ini seorang yg berilmu dan mampu memberi pandangan dan panduan yg memberi manfaat pada Muslim dan juga Kaafir.

Semoga Allah memberi tuan kesihatan yang baik dan kekuatan untuk berdakwah.

MAHAGURU58 said...

Wa'alaikumsalam tuan Nizam,

Sesungguhnya kita disarankan menyampaikan risalah Ad Deenul Islam kepada semua disamping kita sendiri mempelajari ilmu agama kita dan mengamalkannya sedaya mungkin.

Sebagai seorang penyeru kepada Islam, saya sendiri senantiasa mengemaskini ilmu pelajaran diri saya sendiri melalui ustaz ustaz yang saya percaya dan mentelaah segala kitab kitab agama dan ilmu ilmu lain yang terdapat didalam koleksi saya serta merujuk kepada perpustakaan zahir serta yang terdapat di internet.

Bilamana saya musykil tentang sesuatu perkara didalam agama kita, saya akan merujuk perkara tersebut kepada penasihat penasihat saya.

Diantara mereka yang selalu saya bertanya dan belajar dari mereka adalah Professor Datuk Dr Harun Din Al Haj, Ustaz Mohamad Kori bin Jusoh (JAKIM), dan lain lain tokoh agama dan ulamak muktabar yang berpegang teguh terhadap ajaran Islam kita.

Jazakallah kerana sudi mendo'akan saya.

Dah tua begini, hukum alami akan menyebabkan kita beransur ansur kurang sihat dan Insya Allah, bila sampai saat dan waktunya, akan saya kembali menghadap Allah Azza Wa Jalla, Tuhan Maha Pencipta yang saya selaku hambaNya yang lemah mohon pengampunanNya terhadap diri hamba yang daif ini.

Semoga usaha saya ini menjadi kaffarah terhadap salah silap saya semasa hidup didunia yang fana ini.

Seandainya tuan mendengar kabar bahawa hamba sudah tiada lagi, sudilah kiranya mendoakan keampunan Allah bagi saya, Insya Allah.

Wabillahi taufik wal hidayah.

Wassalamualaikum Warahmatulillahi Ta'ala Wabarakatuh.