Home / Islamic Law / Denying Inheritance to Unworthy Offspring
Image

Denying Inheritance to Unworthy Offspring

I am often deluged with various questions from people seeking legal pronouncements, and from amongst them, I was asked concerning the permissibility of denying one’s offspring inheritance due to their disobedience and disregard for their parents at times of dire need and attention. Would it then be permissible to redistribute their share to those offspring who actually took care of the parents?

Disobedience to one’s parents is a common problem found within our community although Islam is unique in that it strongly emphasises the rights of parents (over and above that of offspring), and grants them a noble position. Allah says in the Qur’an,
‘And your Lord has decreed that you worship none but Him. And that you be dutiful to your parents. If one of them or both of them attain old age in your life, say not to them a word of disrespect, nor shout at them but address them in terms of honour.’[1]
It is a major sin for a person to either harm or cause grief to one or both parents, however, excluding one’s inheritor from his/her share in any assets left by the deceased is a grave sin, indeed, it is considered one of the kabā’ir (major sins). Furthermore, to refuse an inheritor his/her God given right is seen as a dismissal of the ruling of Allah and His divine will. We find such a notion expressly stated in the Qur’an where Allah the Most High, after discussing the shares allotted to inheritors, says,
“And whosoever disobeys Allah and His Messenger and transgresses His limits, He will cast him into the Fire, to abide therein; and he shall have a disgraceful torment.”[2]
The Prophet (peace be upon him) said,
‘Allah has given each person who has rights his rights, and there is no bequest for an heir.’[3]
All jurists have unanimously agreed that it is absolutely prohibited to deny an heir from his/her share. Once a person dies, he/she has no right over worldly wealth and assets; in fact, none have a right over the wealth of the deceased except Allah who distributes it in accordance with His will as stated in the Qur’an. The renowned exegete Ibn Kathῑr stated, ‘This is because he changed what Allah has ordained and disputed with His judgment. Indeed, this is the behaviour of those who disagree with what Allah has decided and divided, and this is why Allah punishes them with humiliation in the eternal and painful torment.’ Abu Hurairah relates that the Messenger of Allah (peace be upon him) said,
‘A man might perform the actions of righteous people for seventy years, but when it is time to compile his will, he commits injustice. So his final work will be his worst, and thus he enters the Fire. A man might perform the deeds of evil people for seventy years, yet he is fair in his will. So his final work will be his best, and he thus enters Paradise.’[4]

Abū Hurairah then said, “Read (if you will): ‘And whosoever disobeys Allah and His Messenger (Muhammad SAW), and transgresses His limits, He will cast him into the Fire, to abide therein; and he shall have a disgraceful torment.’”

The very famous traditionalist (muhaddith) Abū Dawūd al-Sajistani narrates in his compilation that Abū Hurairah relates, in the chapter on ‘Injustice in the will’, that the Messenger of Allah said,
‘A man or a woman might perform actions in obedience to Allah for sixty years. Yet, when they are near death, they leave an unfair will and thus acquire the Fire.’
Abū Hurairah then recited the verse, 
‘…after payment of legacies he (or she) may have bequeathed or debts, so that no loss is caused.’[5]
In the proceeding moments after the death of an individual, his/her assets are already assigned to their legal heirs according to the Will of Allah. Therefore, writing a will whereby a legal heir is unable to acquire that which Allah has bestowed upon him/her is equal to theft, the shar’ii (legal) term being ghasb. In western non-Muslim countries the writing of the will is merely a measure taken in order to ensure that the distribution of assets is in accordance with Islamic law; apart from this minor point, such a will has neither value nor meaning in the shari’ah.

Some people claim that several family members are undeserving of inheritance and so they formally deny them of their share. However, it is not for any human being to decide as to who is most deserving of a share of the assets, for indeed, Allah is the best of judges.

In terms of disobedience to one’s parents, the punishment for such disobedience lies with Allah and none but He can decide the appropriate chastisement, but this does not include the denial of inheritance. Abū Umāmah narrated that the Prophet (peace be upon him) said,
‘Allah has appointed for everyone who has a right what is due to him and no bequest must be made to an heir.’[6]
Being entitled to inheritance does not come about through servitude to the departed; rather, it is a right that is secured through the existence of a specific relationship with the deceased. A wisdom to affording a legal heir deemed contemptible may be that it might cause a sense of regret in the offender and alter his conduct and outlook. The inheritor might start to supplicate or give charity on behalf of the deceased who will inevitably be in dire need of even a single hasanah (good deed).

Depriving a legal heir from his/her share is to increase the share of others with the share of the one who was deprived. This is undoubtedly consuming the wealth of others without justified cause. Allah staunchly forbids this, saying,
‘And eat up not one another’s property unjustly (in any illegal way e.g. stealing, robbing, deceiving, etc), nor give bribery to the rulers (judges before presenting your cases) that you may knowingly eat up a part of the property of others sinfully.’[7]
The one who receives the wealth of another should refuse it, and if he has already received it he should endeavour to return it to its rightful owner. It is totally prohibited for a person to make use of wealth that does not belong to him/her.

In conclusion, there is much divine wisdom underlying the prohibition of denying someone his/her legal share, but the foremost point is that it is impermissible to alter what Allah has ordained. Allah the Almighty says,
‘It is not for a believer, man or woman, when Allah and His Messenger have decreed a matter that they should have any opinion in their decision. And whoever disobeys Allah and His Messenger has indeed strayed into a plain error.’[8]

 


Notes:


[1] Qur’ān 17:23
[2] Qur’ān 4:14
[3] Reported by Abū Dawūd, Tirmidhῑ and al-Nasā’ῑ
[4] Musnad Ahmad
[5] Qur’ān 4:12
[6] Reported by al-Tirmidhῑ. Similar ahādith are narrated by ‘Amr ibn Khārijah and reported by Ahmad et al.
[7] Qur’ān 2:188
[8] Qur’ān 33:36

 

DISCLAIMER: All material found on Islam21c.com is for free and is for information purposes only. All material may be freely copied & shared on condition that it is clearly attributed to Islam21c.com [hyperlinked] as the original source. The views expressed on this site or on any linked sites do not necessarily represent those of Islam21c.com


About Shaikh (Dr) Haitham Al-Haddad

Dr. Haitham al-Haddad is a jurist and serves as a judge for the Islamic Sharia Council (UK & Eire). He has studied the Islamic sciences for over 20 years under the tutelage of renowned scholars such as the late Grand Mufti of Saudi Arabia as well as the retired Head of the Kingdom's Higher Judiciary Council. He specialises in many of the Islamic sciences and submitted his doctoral thesis on Islamic jurisprudence concerning Muslim minorities. Shaikh Haitham is highly respected having specialised knowledge in the field of fiqh, usul al-fiqh, maqasid al-shari'ah, ulum al-Qur’an, tafsir, aqidah, and fiqh al-hadith. He provides complex theories which address the role of Islamic jurisprudence within a western environment whilst also critically re-analysing the approach of Islamic jurists in forming legal rulings (ifta’) within a western socio-political context. He has many well known students most of whom are active in dawah and teaching in the West. The shaikh is an Islamic jurist (faqih) and as such is qualified to deliver verdicts as a judge under Islamic law, a role he undertakes at the Islamic Sharia Council as Islamic judge and treasurer. Dr Haitham al-Haddad also sits on various the boards of advisors for Islamic organisations, mainly in the United Kingdom but also around the world.

12 comments

  1. Still awaiting advice please.
    Anyone got any advice/imformation/direction on the issue I posted (question) about timescales and inheritance. I have asked this question on many forums and never ever had a reply, I contacted the Shariah council of Great Britain and they never even got back to me.

    Been searching for this answer for a long time, and dont seem to be getting anywhere, maybe there isnt an answer ( timescales ).

  2. Inheritance timescales.
    I have been on many a website and posted this comment, and can not seem to obtain an answer, so I am trying this one to ask this important question about inheritance.

    My father passed away 12 months ago, leaving 2 sons and 1 daughter, one son and daughter are very well off and did little for the parents at their time of need. The one son who did lots and is not very well off was shunned by the parents for not doing enough.

    Father passed away, and my mother has not distributed the will as yet (12 months has gone by), she is travelling around the world visiting relatives and spending the inheritance.

    2 things, 1 is that the debts and money issues of my father need to be paid, and 2. The inheritance (as per Sharia law) needs to be dealt with.

    My question (which I have been asking for the past 12 months and nobody seems to know the answer) is:- what is the timescale for sorting out the inheritance (as per Sharia Law), surely someone cant just ‘sit on the issue’, spend all the money and then prior to their death say ‘Ive got £5 left, as I have spent everything, so share it out amongst yourselves’.

    My father had a house, and back home he had lots and lots of land, but when asked/questioned about this, it has been denied, when EVERYONE knows what he had?

    What are my options and what does the Sharia say ( mostly timescales)

    Jazzakallah.

  3. “Inheritance”: Reply to Jalalkhan!
    First of all I thank the author for such an informative article. However, when I continued reading and came across what our brother in Islam, Jalalkhan, wrote about his deceased uncle, it hurt me. The Uncle is dead and therefore, cannot defend himself. Yet, there is plenty in Jalalkhan’s story that shids light on the other side of the story. Apparently, his Uncle was so hurt for some reason that he did not want to continue his relationship. I have been helping my siblings and have not received any feellings of being thankful. On the contrary, may Allah guide us all, they would be the happiest to see me and my family in hardship. I have seen it and have even pointed it out to them. It is human nature, sometimes that one cannot change. I accept them as they are and am not denying the relationship, but if I knew what they were, I wouldn’t have helped them. As for the inheritance, praise be to Allah, the Exalted, Who has blessed us with lovely and obedient kids of our own; so I don’t have to worry that the unthankful will inherit whatever we have been blessed with. There is always another side to a story. It is not good to talk about the deceased in such a manner.

  4. @Zara

    Zara, you’re brothers and sisters dont have the right to inherit (irth) but they do have the right to be left up to one third of their deceased relative’s estate (wasiyyah) – as long as there is no other bar to this (such as their killing the deceased etc).

    But, needless to say, inheritance is a complicated topic – take responsible Islamic legal advice before any real life scenario plays out. May Allah bless your siblings with Islam

  5. mr
    It is sad scenario which a sister presents. “Allah has appointed for everyone who has a right what is due to him and no bequest must be made to an heir”. ( thirmidhi), as informed in the article.

    May I suggest that you persistently thank Allah ” … and swiftly shall reward those that ( serve us with ) gratitude ” ( 3: 145 )

  6. Do non muslim children also have a right to inherit?
    Asalamu alaykum, My brothers and sisters are not Muslims. Does anyone know if they still have a right to inherit?

  7. Inheritance
    My entire family was denied inheritance when my uncle passed away but he did tell me that I will cut you all of my wealth for a mistake that my father did to him and therefore,when he did pass away only his adoptive son was given the inheritance and he then gave a certain amount of money not in accordance with the Islamic division ratios but just to shut them up and we were left out as my uncle did not have any children of his own and we were the rightful inheritors together with his two brothers and sister form the same mother and the rest of his half brothers and half sisters did not get anything from his inheritance which until this day makes me bitter towards what he did tell me when he was alive.He used to treat his other adoptive kids with so much love more than he did to us who were his own blood which still makes me feel some kind of animosity towards him even though I had loved him so much when he was alive and when he was bankrupt it was my father’s money and children(i.e.us) labor that brought him back to his feet yet in the end he denied us our inheritance.During the holy month of Ramadhan he would tell his adoptive kids go the to the tailor and get your trousers measured and get your selves shirts and socks and underwear and and even tell them as many as they needed whilst I was there watching and listening to him say that but not to me and I was a kid too and my father was not working and a Parkinson patient and depended on me supporting him.It is still hurting me to see that he denied us our inheritance not that I really need his wealth for Allah has blessed me with children and means to support my family with ease.I still pray for him and give out sadaqat for him at times despite his cutting us off his wealth.The people he loved most are now enjoying what was rightfully ours and do not give a hoot about him.This has been very troubling to me to see that my own blood could do this to us.

  8. Sister in Islam

    Jazakallah Khair for your thoughts and to sister amina – when I received this article this morning, it felt quite poignant; Masha Allah, I have 3 children of my own now and if I’ve learnt anything as a parent its that with rights come responsibilities.

  9. just another bro

    Allah will never abandon us
    Allah will never abandon us so long as we don’t abandon Him. And if we abandon Him through our sins, then Allah loves for us to return to Him no matter how grave the sin and He will never repell our seeking Him and never deprive us of forgiveness if we are sincere.

  10. Sorry to hear that
    I am sorry to hear that sister.
    At least there is the surety & promise of
    recompense and justice in your next life. :)
    And that one is for eternity.

    Was-Salaam

  11. I Love Allah
    “Being entitled to inheritance does not come about through servitude to the departed; rather, it is a right that is secured through the existence of a specific relationship with the deceased. A wisdom to affording a legal heir deemed contemptible may be that it might cause a sense of regret in the offender and alter his conduct and outlook. The inheritor might start to supplicate or give charity on behalf of the deceased who will inevitably be in dire need of even a single hasanah (good deed).”

    Both the parent and the child need one another but most times we are short sighted and in patient in dealing with one another but Allah knows it all. that even when we sin he does not immediately destroy us He gives us lots of opportunity to come back. this is indeed a Mercy obtainable only from Allah

  12. Sister in Islam

    Inheritance
    I would like to thank the noble person who has responded to a much debated topic. I was abondond by my ‘Muslim’ parents from a very young age; they divorced remarried and my father has a step son and 3 more children from his second marriage. He has made it clear that he will not leave anything for either myself or my brother when he has passed on. As for my mother, she has will leave her worldy assests for her brother and his family…

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

*

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>