Property inheritance issues are governed by Sharia law. Unlike Western culture, where a person may freely give their property as they choose, Islamic law governs who can receive your wealth, and in what proportions. By establishing these rules, we avoid falling prey to subjectivity and favoritism.
Islamic law for property distribution can be challenging to understand and require scholarly knowledge of the Quran and Sunnah to follow correctly. Persons knowledgeable about Islamic inheritance in the United States and applying them in tandem with the secular laws can be even more challenging.
We at Islamic Wills are here to help you understand what the Quran says about wealth and property distribution and help you create your estate plan in a way that complies with Islamic law.
Wealth in the Quran
When it comes to abiding by Islamic law for property distribution, you must first understand how the Quran depicts wealth. The Quran states that wealth does not belong to anyone. Instead, it belongs to Allah, as He has dominion over everything on Earth. This statement is emphasized in various parts of the Quran.
If you are a Muslim, you have an obligation to ensure the proper distribution of wealth upon your death. Doing so constitutes an act of worship to Allah. As mere trustees of wealth, it ensures that we follow Allah’s commandment for how he wants this wealth to be passed to those remaining in this world.
Fara’id (Fixed Shares)
Who Are the Primary & Contingent Beneficiaries of Your Fara’id?
Upon your death, your parents, spouse, and children will be the primary beneficiaries of your Fara’id. In most cases, these individuals will be the only recipients of your property.
However, in some cases, some of your assets may need to go to contingent (secondary) beneficiaries. Contingent beneficiaries include:
Specific relationships matter and every family’s circumstances will differ slightly. For example, a paternal grandfather can only inherit if the father is deceased. A brother will only inherit if specific individuals are deceased.
How Much of My Property Does Each Person Receive Under the Fara’id?
Under the Fara’id, inheritance divides into “fixed” and “variable” categories.
The fixed shares are for your spouse and parents. Here is what fraction of an inheritance every person in the “fixed” category should receive:
- A surviving husband receives one-half of the assets involved.
- A surviving husband receives one-fourth of the assets if he has children.
- A surviving wife receives one-fourth of the assets involved.
- A surviving wife receives one-eighth of the assets if she has children.
- The deceased person’s mother and father will receive one-sixth of a share each.
- If the deceased person has children, the remaining shares will go to the children in a 2:1 ration for sons and daughters.
The eldest child does not get an increased share by virtue of being the oldest. However, sons will receive two shares for every one share that a daughter gets. This apportioning is like the husband and wife ratio. When distributing assets to the deceased person’s parents, each of their amounts remains equal despite the gender difference. This is consistent with the Islamic notion of the male as the person responsible for the entire family unit. Accordingly, the male’s share is given on the basis that he will spend it upon the family, as needed. A daughter’s inheritance has no such conditions.
This inheritance scheme differs from inheritance schemes common in the United States. Distribution varies by state but all of the states’ inheritance schemes conflict with Islam. Accordingly, without an Islamic will, the shares will be distributed in a way that conflicts with Sharia law.
The Wasiyyah is a portion of your will that you can distribute how you see fit. Your Wasiyyah can make up one-third of everything you own. With this one-third amount, you can give away how much of it you want to whomever you want, with some limitations. Most notably, you cannot use part of the wasiyyah to supplement a fixed heir. In other words, the shares cannot be given to a spouse or daughter.
If individuals choose to construct a Wasiyyah, they often have intentions of giving to charity, another relative or an adopted child (who does not receive a fixed share from the adopted parents). This practice is a common way to leave behind a legacy. Some popular institutions you can choose to support with part or all your Wasiyyah include Islamic schools and mosques. Others select to gift some of their wealth to organizations outside of their home country that help orphans or provide clean drinking water to needy areas.
Some Muslims choose not to have a Wasiyyah at all. Instead, they opt to keep all their money in their family. This is acceptable and may even be encouraged depending on your family’s condition. The Prophet, peace be upon him, has said in a famous hadith that it is better to leave your family wealthy and not dependent upon others, than to even give away all of your wealth to charity.
How you set up your Wasiyyah is a personal choice. Our team at Islamic Wills USA can help you distribute your property how you want while abiding by Sharia law.
Property Distribution: A Sample Case Study
Sharia laws for property distribution may be confusing to grasp at first. Here is an example to help you better understand how it works.
Let us suppose that Dalil and Jameela married. They had three children together, two sons and one daughter. Jameela also has two sisters and a brother. Jameela passes away, survived by her two parents, Hamza and Hana. She chose not to have a wasiyyah. According to the Sharia law on property distribution:
- Dalil (the husband) will receive ¼ of her property.
- Hamza and Hana (the parents) will receive ⅙ each.
- The two sons will receive ⅙ each.
- The daughter will receive 1/12.
- Jameela’s sisters and brother receive nothing.
These ratios can change slightly depending on the number of people involved. However, that does not necessarily mean you will need to go into contingent beneficiaries.
For example, let us say that everything is the same in the above scenario except that Jameela’s father is not alive. Dalil will still get ¼ of Jameela’s property, and Hana will still receive ⅙. However, the children’s shares will increase. The two sons will get 7/30 each, and the daughter will get 7/60. The sisters and brother will still not receive anything.
Rules on Beneficiaries and Disinheritance
Family drama, rifts, and other issues may make you want to disinherit one of your beneficiaries. As a Muslim, however, you cannot do this.
Allah has allocated a specific formula for inheritance in the Quran. Even if you want to give all your property to a charitable cause, you are permitted to do so only with the consent of all of the heirs after your passing. The Fara’id (Mirath) portion of your wealth otherwise needs to go to its rightful heirs.
Plan Your Property Distribution around Any Current Debts
Before you distribute any part of your inheritance, including both the Wasiyyah and the Fara’id, you need to pay off any current debts. The Quran encourages Muslims to write down and keep track of their debts (e.g. document any debts taken with witnesses) so that the debts can be accounted for if someone passes away. Oftentimes, death comes when it is least expected.
Debt can be a complicated subject, especially in the United States where debt is a core component of the financial system (mortgages, car loans, credit cards, lines of credit, etc.). However, with the right planning, you can ensure you manage these debts while also following the Islamic inheritance laws.
How Do Lifetime Gifts Play into Property Distribution?
For the most part, Islam does not restrict followers from giving lifetime gifts. You can give a gift to anyone you want, even a non-Muslim or someone who is otherwise ineligible under the Islamic inheritance laws. You can also structure the gifts you give out as part of your estate plan. However, you cannot give gifts with the intent of interfering with anyone’s inheritance rights or doing injustice against others.
Contact Us Today to Plan Your Islamic Property Distribution
Secular laws dictate property distribution where you do not designate an estate plan that sets forth your intention to the contrary. Contact Islamic Wills USA today to ensure your property distribution abides by Sharia law.