How to Ensure Distribution of Inheritance

Anwar Alam highlights the importance of Islamic laws of Inheritance, laying emphasis on distribution of Inheritance and suggesting how to ensure it in the Muslim society.

The Qur’ān guides us in every sphere of life. It also wants man not to hoard wealth unaccounted (Islam prohibits concentration of wealth and enjoins distribution of wealth). Islam commands its followers to spend money, in their lifetime, on family members, relatives and the needy. It also prescribes rules and regulations to distribute wealth among close relatives after the death of a person.

Here come Islamic Laws of Inheritance, which is a very important subject for Muslims to learn. Its importance can be gauged with that Allah the Exalted, in Surah An-Nisa (Surah No. 4 of the Qur’ān), Ayaat 11, 12 and 176, has explicitly declared the Distribution of Inheritance as farz (mandatory). The Qur’ān has fixed the shares of heirs. And Prophet Muhammad ﷺ and the Rightly Guided Caliphs have detailed these Laws of Inheritance.

In Ayat 13 of Surah An-Nisa, the Qur’ān has given good tidings of a place in the Paradise for those who distribute the wealth and properties left behind a deceased person. And in Ayat 14 of the same Surah, the Book of Allah warns that those who disobey Allah and His Messenger ﷺ will go to the Hell.

The Distribution of Inheritance is the concern of every Muslim; for, everyone has to die. And the wealth and properties he earned (whether little or abundant) with the Grace of Allah must be distributed as per the Islamic Shari’ah; notwithstanding the heirs who have to inherit the wealth and properties left behind by the deceased are rich or poor, male or female, old or young.

But a cursory glance at the Muslim society reveals that this important injunction of the Qur’ān is not being acted upon. Nor are the Muslims being exhorted from the pulpits of mosques or from the stages of mammoth conferences to Distribute Inheritance as per the Shari’ah rulings.

The condition of Madrasa graduates is no better; for, they do study Ilm al-Faraa’id or Siraji (Laws of Inheritance) during their stay in Madrasas but owing to their not being fully conversant in Mathematics, especially Fractional Mathematics, they are not capable of convincing the common Muslim masses about the importance of Islamic Laws of Inheritance and of helping them Distribute Inheritance on case-by-case basis. This is why Muslims consider this branch of knowledge to be very difficult and come to the conclusion that only Ulama can learn it. And the Ulama generally think that this is the task of Muftis. While it is the duty of every Muslim to learn and teach it. The Messenger of Allah ﷺ said: “Learn about the inheritance and teach it, for it is half of knowledge, but it will be forgotten. This is the first thing that will be taken away from my nation.” (Ibn Majah: 2719)

In Surah An-Nisa, Ayat 10, the Qur’ān says: “Behold, those who wrongfully devour the properties of orphans only fill their bellies with fire. Soon they will burn in the Blazing Flame.” It means that a person who does not Distribute Inheritance in order to devour the entire property of the deceased person, thus denying the orphans their rights, comes under the purview of this Qur’ānic ayah.

We should take stock of our respective families to know whether or not we are devouring the wealth or property of any orphan, and whether or not the gorgeous dresses and clothes we are donning or the marriage and other parties we are arranging involve the usurpation of rights of orphans or other rightful heirs.

If, as a result of this exercise, we realise that somehow or other we are involved in this crime of usurping the rights of orphans or other rightful heirs by not giving them their due shares of inheritance, then think what is the use of offering prayers, keeping obligatory or voluntary fasts, giving out Zakat, going to Haj pilgrimage, involving in the remembrance of Allah and invoking to Him to fulfil our needs?

Hazrat Anas relates that the Messenger of Allah ﷺ said, “If anyone deprives an heir of his inheritance, God will deprive him of his inheritance in Paradise on the Day of Resurrection.” (Mishkat: 3078)

So far as distribution of inheritance is concerned, the condition prevailing in our society is rather appalling, and it is a matter of grave concern. Therefore, it is the pressing need of the hour that we all come together and take up the cudgels to create awareness among the large segments of Muslim masses to ensure that every Muslim becomes knowledgeable enough to distribute inheritance soon after the death of a person in the family. If we are able to do so, Allah willing, families will enjoy prosperity and start flourishing, people will start behaving good-mannerly, some people will reach the Nisab point to give out Zakat, some other people will be able to give better medical care to someone needy in the family, yet some other people will be able to provide better education for their children and marry them off in a better way.

The question is how to create awareness about distribution of inheritance. There may be many ways to do so. Some of these are here:

  1. Every mosque should arrange a series of Friday sermons on distribution of inheritance, and ensure that this series is completed.
  2. When an announcement regarding the death of a person is made from the pulpit of a mosque, it should be mentioned in that very announcement that the deceased has left four responsibilities for his or her heirs to fulfil: (i) arrangement of burial, (ii) payment of loans (if any), (iii) fulfilment of will (if made), and (iv) distribution of inheritance.
  3. Muslim schools should arrange Quiz Competitions on this subject with awards and certificates.
  4. RWAs should arrange monthly awareness programmes to discuss Islamic Laws and Rulings of Inheritance, and invite Ulama of every school of thought to guide the audience.
  5. At Nikah (marriage) ceremonies, the guardian of the bride should announce that he is not giving any dowry but would give her share of Inheritance, so that the curse of dowry is rooted out and Distribution of Inheritance is ensured in the Muslim society.
  6. The ayaat of Surah An-Nisa dealing with Inheritance should be included in the course of Islamic Theology (Islamiyat) for Classes 5 to 8. These ayaat should also be introduced to the course of Islamic Studies in different universities.

At last, we should note that as the Deen of Islam is easy, Distribution of Inheritance is also easy; for this is part of the Deen. The need is to appoint good teachers of Mathematics in Madrasas so that students studying there may learn how to distribute Inheritance in an effective way. And Madrasas should also prepare a certificate course on Inheritance for general people to learn the Laws and Ways of Distribution of Inheritance and may serve as resource persons in their respective localities.

May Allah help us all to learn, teach, understand and act upon the Laws of Inheritance.

[The writer, an Electronics and Communication Engineer, is Director of Networking Core Programme, has deep knowledge of Laws of Inheritance and is taking online and offline classes on the subject. He is author of many books on Inheritance including Mathematics of Inheritance, Rules of Return (Radd), etc. Email: [email protected]]

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