Distributing Property to Deny Inheritors Their Shares
  • Sun, 04/22/2007
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It is a story that takes place over and over again in the Arab world. A man of property who has sons and daughters decides to give everything over to his sons. When he is asked why he would dare to do such a thing, he says in defiance: “I do not want any stranger to get his hands on my property.”

By “stranger”, he means his daughters’ husbands.

These fathers have two ways of denying their daughters their rights. The first is to transfer title of all their property to their sons’ names. Then, when they die, their son’s are already in statutory ownership of the property. The other way is for them to write a will bequeathing all or most their property to their sons. They can do this only in countries that will uphold such a will.

Either way, these fathers are doing something that is sinful and extremely unjust. This is a matter of scholarly consensus (ijmâ`). Anyone who bequeaths his wealth to some of his inheritors at the expense of others has disobeyed the command of Allah and the teachings of the Prophet (peace be upon him). He has not only oppressed his inheritors, he has oppressed his own soul.

The Prophet (peace be upon him) gave us a stern warning against such crooked dealings. The following is related from Abû Hurayrah in Sunan Abî Dâwûd, Sunan al-Tirmidhî, and Sunan Ibn Mâjah:
Allah’s Messenger said:“A man and woman might live their lives in obedience to Allah for sixty years. Then when death approaches them, they give unjust bequests, and as a consequence are consigned to the Fire.”

Then the Prophet (peace be upon him) recited the following from the Qur’ân: “…after (payment of) any bequest that may have been bequeathed or a debt, without injury; this is an ordinance from Allah. And Allah is all-knowing, forbearing. These are limits set by Allah: those who obey Allah and His Messenger will be admitted to Gardens with rivers flowing beneath, to abide therein (for ever). That will be the supreme achievement.” [Sûrah al-Nisâ (12-13)]
A father who puts his property in his sons’ names to the detriment of his daughters has sinned by acting in defiance of what Allah has bequeathed to his daughters.

Allah says:
Allah directs you as regards your children’s (inheritance): to the male, a portion equal to that of two females. If there are only daughters, two or more, their share is two-thirds of the estate; if there is only one daughter, her share is a half. For parents, a sixth share of the inheritance to each, if the deceased left children. If the deceased left no children, and the parents are the (only) heirs, the mother has a third. If the deceased left brothers (or sisters) the mother has a sixth. This is after the payment of bequests and debts. You know not whether your parents or your children are nearest to you in benefit. These are settled portions ordained by Allah; and Allah is all-knowing, all-wise. [Sûrah al-Nisâ’: 11]
If he bars his daughters from their rightful inheritance by making a bequest in his will to his sons at the expense of his daughters, he has sinned doubly. His first sin is that of acting in defiance of what Allah has bequeathed to his daughters. Added to this is the sin of making a bequest to those who are entitled to a share of inheritance.

The Prophet (peace be upon him) forbid using a bequest for this purpose this. He said: “Allah has given every person what he is entitled to. No bequest shall be made out to someone who is already an inheritor.” [Sunan al-Tirmidhî, Sunan Abî Dâwûd, and Sunan Ibn Mâjah]

Each inheritor must receive exactly the share that he or she is granted in the sacred texts, no more and no less. These fathers should fear Allah. They should resolve themselves to Allah’s decision and not seek to bar their daughters from what is rightfully theirs. They should think about “a Day in which neither wealth, nor sons will be of aught, except for those who come to Allah with a pure heart.”

It is forbidden for anyone to make a bequest in a will giving some inheritors more than their appointed share of the estate except with the express and willing permission of all the inheritors – including the daughters. This is a point of unanimous scholarly agreement.

If a man bequeaths an undue share of his wealth to his sons to the detriment of his daughters, then it is the duty of the sons after their father’s death to restore to the daughters their full shares. If those sons fail to do so, then they have an equal share in their father’s sin.