Inheritance and spouse becoming homeless

Answered according to Hanafi Fiqh by IslamicPortal.co.uk

This is a question based on a true-life event. Husband passes away and leaves a house worth £1 million and a small amount of other assets. He leaves a wife aged 60, two sons and two daughters. One son wanted his share of inheritance. This resulted in the sale of the house because no one was able to give him his share without selling the house. The inheritance was then divided according to Islamic rules. The result is that the wife is now homeless and unable to buy a new home or even a flat in the area she has lived all her life, close to her family. Does the Sharīʿah have any scope in these circumstances for a wife or husband to state in their will that the family home must remain for the remaining spouse to freely reside in and not be sold until their demise?

بسم الله الرحمن الرحیم

Answer

Once a deceased has passed away, the inheritors are entitled to demand their share of inheritance which the Sharīʿah has fixed for them. Accordingly, there is no scope within the Sharīʿah to postpone the distribution of inheritance unless all the inheritors consent to this. Therefore, if all the inheritors decide to allow the mother to stay in the property, this is permissible.

In so far as your concern regarding the housing for the mother, it is a sad state of affairs that children have forsaken their obligation in this regard. It is an obligation on the closest family members, in this case the sons, to ensure that they secure accommodation for their mother. The purpose of inheritance is not necessarily to provide accommodation for the inheritors. Therefore, whilst the son is entitled to his share, it is also his and his sibling’s responsibility to ensure the mother has suitable accommodation. If they cannot afford a separate accommodation, they must accommodate for her in their own homes. The question of becoming homeless should not even arise or cross the mind.

Note: If the husband decides to gift the house or a part of the house during his lifetime to his spouse, this is permissible and this will not be subject to inheritance. However, this must be genuine and must be gifted during his life, not after his demise. Accordingly, if she passes away before him, the laws of inheritance will apply and the husband will get a share of it along with other inheritors such as her parents and children.

Note 2: It is permissible for a person to make his assets or part of his assets for example his house waqf (perpetual endowment) and stipulate that the house can be used by his wife and/or his children until they pass away and thereafter be used for charitable purposes perpetually. However, in this scenario, the house will not be subject to inheritance and will not be owned by the inheritors at any point. The ultimate owner of the house will be the Islamic government or the Muslim charity to whom the asset has been endowed and the ultimate beneficiaries must be the poor.

It should be noted that there is no limit to what a person can make waqf during his lifetime, however, once something has been endowed, this is irreversible. On the other hand, if the instruction of waqf is to take effect after death, then the laws of waṣiyyah (bequest) will apply; the waqf will be restricted to one third of his assets, unless the inheritors consent, and the waṣiyyah is reversible and a person can change his mind at any point before his demise.

قال الحصكفي في الدر المختار (٤/٣٣٨): (وعندهما هو حبسها على) حكم (ملك الله تعالى وصرف منفعتها على من أحب) ولو غنيا فيلزم، فلا يجوز له إبطاله ولا يورث عنه، وعليه الفتوى، ابن الكمال وابن الشحنة، انتهى. وقال ابن الهمام في فتح القدير (٦/٢٠٧): والحق ترجح قول عامة العلماء بلزومه، لأن الأحاديث والآثار متظافرة على ذلك قولا كما صح من قوله عليه الصلاة والسلام: لا يباع ولا يورث، إلى آخره، وتكرر هذا في أحاديث كثيرة واستمر عمل الأمة من الصحابة والتابعين ومن بعدهم على ذلك، انتهى. ووافقه ابن عابدين (٤/٣٣٩). وقال ابن مازة في المحيط البرهاني (٦/١٢٧) ولخصه عمر بن نجيم في النهر الفائق (٣/٣١٠): لو وقف على الأغنياء لم يجز لأنه ليس بقربة بخلاف ما لو جعل آخره للفقراء فإنه يكون قربة في الجملة، انتهى۔

وقال السمرقندي في تحفة الفقهاء (٣/٣٧٦): أما إذا وقف في حال حياته وأوصى بذلك بعد وفاته فإنه يجوز بلا خلاف لكن ينظر إن خرج من الثلث يجوز في الكل، وإن لم يخرج من الثلث يجوز الوقف فيه بقدر الثلث ويبقى الباقي إلى أن يظهر له مال آخر أو يجيزه الورثة، فإن لم يظهر له مال ولم يجز الورثة تقسم الغلة بينهم أثلاثا الثلث للوقف والثلثان بين الورثة على قدر أنصبائهم، وإن أجازه الورثة يصير جائزا ويتأبد الوقف بحيث لا يبطل بعد ذلك، انتهى. وقال الحصكفي في الدر المختار (٤/٣٤٤): إذا مت فقد وقفت داري على كذا فالصحيح أنه كوصية تلزم من الثلث بالموت لا قبله. قلت: ولو لوارثه، انتهى. قال ابن عابدين: أي يلزم من الثلث ولو كان وقفا على وارثه، انتهى. وقال المرغيناني في الهداية: أما في تعليقه بالموت فالصحيح أنه لا يزول ملكه إلا أنه تصدق بمنافعه مؤبدا فيصير بمنزلة الوصية بالمنافع مؤبدا فيلزم. قال ابن الهمام في فتح القدير (٦/٢٠٨) وابن نجيم في البحر الرائق (٥/٢٠٨): له أن يرجع قبل موته كسائر الوصايا، وإنما يلزم بعد موته، انتهى۔

Allah knows best

Yusuf Shabbir

17 Rajab 1439 / 3 April 2018

Approved by: Mufti Shabbir Ahmed and Mufti Muhammad Tahir

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