Fatwa: Can a Muslim leave his wealth to a non-Muslim as inheritance?

This is iA the most comprehensive resource for this question on the internet.

We present views from IslamQA, Seekersguidance and Islamweb, then our resident expert Mufti Billal Omarjee presents his views, and finally IFG present a commercial perspective on the matter.

View One: Islamqa

A Muslim is not permitted to inherit anything of the wealth of a non-Muslim relative, as the Prophet (Peace and Blessings of Allah be upon him) said: “The believer does not inherit from a kaafir (disbeliever) and the kaafir does not inherit from a believer.” (Reported by al-Bukhaari, al-Fath 4283). According to another report, he said: “The Muslim does not inherit from a kaafir and the kaafir does not inherit from a Muslim.” (al-Bukhaari, 6764). The Messenger of Allah (Peace and Blessings of Allah be upon him) also said: “People who belong to two different religions do not inherit from one another.” (Reported by Abu Dawud in al-Sunan, Kitab al-Faraa’id, and deemed hasan by al-Albaani in Saheeh al-Jaami‘, 7614) - because when the ties of religion are cut, the ties of inheritance are also cut, because the former is the basis of the latter.

However, if a non-believer makes a will leaving one-third or less of his wealth to his child (son or daughter), one is entitled to take it, because this is a will as opposed to inheritance according to a non-Islamic system. This difference is well-known in Islamic fiqh.

And Allah knows best.

Taken from: https://islamqa.info/en/answers/428/inheritance-from-non-muslims

View Two: Seekerguidance

Before answering your specific question, it is important to keep in mind that Islamically a Muslim does not ‘inherit’ from a non-Muslim, and vice versa. This is agreed upon within the four Sunni Schools of Islamic law, due to clear textual proofs such as:

Sayyiduna Usama ibn Zayd (Allah be pleased with him) relates that the Messenger of Allah (Allah bless him & give him peace) said, “A believer does not inherit from an unbeliever, and an unbeliever does not inherit from a believer.” (Bukhari and Muslim)

However, it is permitted to accept a bequest (wasiyya) from a non-Muslim, or make a bequest for a non-Muslim, provided it is specified and does not exceed a third of one’s entire estate. As such, in general if your non-Muslim parents make a bequest of up to one third in your favor, it will be permitted to take it after their death.

As for your wish to include in your own Will what your non-Muslim parents bequeath for you, this is not permitted. A beneficiary of inheritance (irth) or bequest (wasiyya) becomes the owner of the inherited or bequeathed wealth only after the testator – or the one whose estate one is inheriting – passes away, and not before. As such, it is not permitted for you to include in your Will what your parents have bequeathed for you, given that you do not currently own these assets.

However, there are two alternatives:

Firstly, your parents can give you a gift during their lifetime. In this case, you are allowed to include the gifted items in your Will; and even if you do not, your family will automatically inherit their respective shares according to Islamic law.

Secondly, your parents can include your family along with you in their Will, meaning they stipulate that should you pass away before them, the bequeathed items should be granted to your wife and/or children.

And Allah knows best

Muhammad ibn Adam al-Kawthari
Darul Iftaa, Leicester, UK

Taken from: https://seekersguidance.org/answers/general-counsel/inheriting-and-property-bequests-from-non-muslims/

View Three: Islamweb

The Sunnah proved that there is no mutual inheritance between Muslims and non-Muslims, so a Muslim does not inherit from a non-Muslim and a non-Muslim does not inherit from a Muslim. Usaamah Ibn Zayd narrated that the Prophet, sallallaahu ‘alayhi wa sallam, said: “ A Muslim does not inherit from a non-Muslim and a non-Muslim does not inherit from a Muslim. ” [Al-Bukhari and Muslim]

Moreover, the Prophet, sallallaahu ‘alayhi wa sallam, said: ‘’ People of two different religions do not inherit from each other. ” [Ahmad, Ibn Maajah and At-Tirmithi] What is meant here by " two different religions " is Islam and any religion other than it.

As regards whether or not there is a disagreement of opinion on this matter, then there is no disagreement on the issue that it is not permissible for a non-Muslim to inherit a Muslim. So, if a Muslim dies, it is not permissible for his non-Muslim relative to inherit from him. Ibn Qudaamah said in Al-Mughni: “The scholars agreed in a consensus that a non-Muslim does not inherit from a Muslim.”

As regards a Muslim inheriting from his non-Muslim relative, then this is not permissible according to the view of the majority of scholars, . These include the Imaams of the Four Schools of Jurisprudence and their followers, and this is also the apparent meaning of the Hadeeth.

However, another group of scholars are of the view that a Muslim inherits from his non-belligerent non-Muslim testator; this is the view of Mu’aath Ibn Jabal, Mu’aawiyah Ibn Abu Sufyaan, Muhammad Ibn Al-Hanafiyyah, Muhammad Ibn ‘Ali Ibn Al-Husayn, Sa’eed Ibn Al-Musayyab, and Masrooq Ibn Al-Ajda’ ; this is also the chosen opinion of Ibn Taymiyyah . So, these scholars said: “We inherit from the non-Muslims but they do not inherit from us, in the same manner that we marry women from their religions (the People of the Book, i.e. Christians and Jews) but they do not marry our women.” These scholars interpreted the saying of the Prophet, sallallaahu ‘alayhi wa sallam: ’ A Muslim does not inherit from a non-Muslim ’ to mean the belligerent non-Muslim and not the Thimmi (i.e. the non-Muslim who is living in a Muslim state), the hypocrite and the apostate.

They provided the evidence that the Prophet, sallallaahu ‘alayhi wa sallam, used to apply the apparent Islamic rulings upon the hypocrites in the same way they were applied to Muslims; so they inherited from the Muslims and they were inherited from by them. Indeed, ‘Abdullah Ibn Ubayy died, as well as others whom the Quran testified to being hypocrites, and the Prophet, sallallaahu ‘alayhi wa sallam, was forbidden to offer the funeral prayer for them, or to seek forgiveness for them, but his (Ibn Ubayy’s) Muslim heirs inherited from him. To conclude, there is a strong and old difference of opinion on this issue.

Hence, if a relative of a new Muslim dies, then this new Muslim does not inherit from his non-Muslim relative according to the view of the majority of scholars. However, according to the other view, he can inherit from his deceased non-Muslim relative if the latter was not belligerent, as we have already discussed.

On the other hand, if his relative wrote a will and bequeathed something to him before his death, then this is a valid will. This is because the Prophet, sallallaahu ‘alayhi wa sallam, forbade a Muslim inheriting from a non-Muslim and vice-versa but he did not forbid accepting the terms of a will.

Ibn Qudaamah said in his book entitled Al-Mughni: “The will of a Muslim for a Thimmi is valid, and the will of a Thimmi for a Muslim is also valid, but it cannot be valid except in the same manner like the validity of a will from a Muslim to another Muslim. In case he makes a will for his heir or for a person who is not entitled to inherit from him (i.e. a non-heir) with more than a third of the inheritance, then this depends on the approval of the other heirs, exactly like the case of the Muslim [i.e. in regard to another Muslim heir].” For more benefit, please refer to Fataawa 87165 and 96163 .

Allaah Knows best.

Taken from: https://www.islamweb.net/en/fatwa/189195/a-muslim-inheriting-from-a-non-belligerent-non-muslim

Mufti Billal Omarjee view:

The above fatwa is a clear indication that most of the scholars are in agreement that a non-Muslim cannot inherit from a Muslim and vice versa.

In contrast, The European Council for Fatwa and Research (ECFR) issued a decree stating that a Muslim can inherit from a Non-Muslim relative. But the non-Muslim relative cannot inherit from a Muslim. Such decree was influenced by the fact that people living in the West, were converting to Islam and did not know if they could inherit from their non-Muslims relatives or not.

Thus, if someone was to follow this opinion then there should not be any issues. Nevertheless, my humble opinion that there is no mutual inheritance between Muslims and non-Muslims.

First, the hadiths on this topic are self-explanatory. There is nothing to indicate that the words of the prophet (pbuh) was related to a specific context or restricted to a certain time.

Secondly the fatwa of the ECFR can be seen as discriminatory towards non-Muslims, when in fact, the inheritance laws are not designed to discriminate towards anyone.

We must understand one thing, the deceased’s ownership rights over any assets terminate upon death. It is not up to his wish that the wealth will be distributed but according to the will of Allah the Almighty. The way it is distributed is not necessarily designed to favour the blood relationship. For example, a wife will inherit from the wealth of the deceased in any given scenarios, but the brother and sister of the decease rarely inherit at all.

Allah has divided the wealth of a person according to His wisdom alone. Hence in general it is difficult for most of us to understand why some of the relatives are left out whilst others are not or why some receive more than the others. However, at no point there is an intent to prevent people from benefiting from the wealth of the decease. It is not the intent of Allah to prevent the loves one to not receive anything or to be discriminated against.

We must understand an important point: in Islam there is the concept of Wassiyah (bequest). A person can make a bequest of up to one third of his estate to whoever he wishes to (excluding the ones who would inherit from his directly through the law. Whether it is for his brother, sister, cousins etc, and whether they are Muslims or non-Muslims.

The wassiya represents the will of a person, and its distribution takes priority over the distribution of the inheritance. Hence a non-Muslim relative or friend beneficiary of a bequest would receive his/her share even before the deceased’s heir even if the latter is Muslim.

The wassiyah is an opportunity for someone to leave behind part of their wealth to their loved ones; friends or family, Muslims or non- Muslims or they even make a charitable bequest.

It is also worth noting that a Muslim can also transfer their wealth to their non-Muslim family members during their lifetimes. This can be done through gifts of unrestricted value. Likewise, Muslim can accept gifts conferred to them by non-Muslims.

And Allah knows best!

The IFG view:

For our online Islamic wills service, we pass every one of our wills by Mufti Billal to get his specific sign-off and so our fiqhi view on these matters aligns with his.

Mufti Billal has said, in a nutshell, that you can bequest (up to 1/3) of your estate to non-Muslims. Likewise, non-Muslim relatives can bequest up to 1/3 of their estate to you.

You should take full advantage of lifetime gifts both in giving them and receiving them though. These fall outside Islamic inheritance and are also very favourable from a tax perspective - as any gift becomes tax free. You could essentially have gifted away the majority of your estate even before you die if you’re clever.

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