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Inheritance between Muslim and Non-Muslim

بِسۡمِ اللهِ الرَّحۡمٰنِ الرَّحِيۡمِ

This page give details of inheritance between Muslims and non-Muslims. It is important to differentiate between inheritance and bequests, the rules governing bequests is different from inheritance laws.


Inheritance Rights of Muslims from Non-Muslims

All four main Sunni schools of jurisprudence (fiqh/ madhāhib) concur that a Muslim does not inherit from a non-Muslim, based on the following ḥadīth:

Narrated Usāma bin Zayd (): The Prophet () said, “A Muslim cannot be the heir of a disbeliever, nor can a disbeliever be the heir of a Muslim.” (Ṣaḥīḥ al-Bukhārī, Ṣaḥīḥ Muslim, al-Muwaṭṭaʾ, Tirmidhī, Abū Dāwūd, and Ibn Mājah)

ʿUmar bin Shuaib narrated: “The Prophet of Allāh () said, ‘Persons of different religions cannot inherit from each other.’” (Tirmidhī, Ibn Mājah, and Abū Dāwūd)

Additionally, based on a decision of the Prophet Muhammad (), Ḥaḍrat ʿAlī () and his brother Jafar (), who were Muslims, were excluded from inheriting from their father Abū Ṭālib, a non-Muslim, whose property was inherited by ʿAqīl and Ṭālib, who were non-Muslims at the time.

According to all four madhāhib, an individual who converts (or reverts) to Islām cannot inherit from their non-Muslim relatives, nor can they inherit from the Muslim revert.

However, Mu’ādh ibn Jabal (), Sa‘īd ibn al-Musayyib (), and a few others opined that a Muslim can inherit from a non-Muslim based on the ḥadīth of the Prophet (), “Islām increases and never decreases,” reported by al-Bayhaqī, no. 12153. (The Fiqh Council of North America has adopted this viewpoint.)


Inheritance Rights of Non-Muslims from Muslims

All four main Sunni schools of jurisprudence (fiqh/ madhāhib) unanimously agree that a non-Muslim does not inherit from a Muslim. Besides the ḥadīth cited earlier, the following verse from the Qurʾān is also cited as evidence:

“Allāh will not give the disbelievers any way (of success) against the believers.” (Qurʾān 4:141)

According to Ḥanbalī fiqh, if a non-Muslim converts to Islam after the death of a Muslim relative but before the actual distribution of the estate, they are entitled to inherit.

However, a Christian or Jewish wife cannot inherit from her Muslim husband. Nonetheless, she can be given a bequest by means of an Islāmic Will (waṣiyya).

The rules governing inheritance between a Muslim and an apostate are rather complicated and you should consult an expert in this field of knowledge.


Bequest between Muslim and Non-Muslims

Generally speaking, a bequest made by a non-Muslim in favour of a Muslim is valid, and vice versa. A Muslim testamentary power is limited to one-third of the net estate after payment of debts and funeral expenses. The extent of the bequest of a non-Muslim is up to the value of the whole estate, in the U.K., as non-Muslims are not bound by the rules of Sharīʿa. The question is whether a Muslim revert is entitled to benefit under the law on intestacy of England & Wales from his non-Muslim patients. The fiqhi discussion on this point is rather complex and revolves around the mode of transmission of property in Islām and English law as well as whether acceptance of a bequest by the legatee is necessary to attain ownership. In the Hanafī fiqh, the failure of the legatee to reject a bequest is considered as acceptance. There is flexibility within Sharīʿa to allow Muslim reverts to benefit from intestate succession from his non-Muslim parents/ relatives, but not vice versa.



A. Hussain



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