Q. In South Africa, can a Muslim inherit or accept a bequest from a non-Muslim?
A. In principle, if a non-Muslim passes away and is survived by Muslims heirs, it will not be permissible for the deceased’s (non-Muslim) Muslims heirs to inherit from his/her estate. This ruling is applicable to an Islamic State.
In a secular state, like South Africa, the above ruling does not apply. Hence, if a non-Muslim passes away and is survived by Muslims heirs, it will be permissible for the deceased’s Muslims heirs to inherit from his/her estate.
In the case of a non-Muslim bequeathing from his/her estate to his/her Muslim heirs or any Muslim, it will be permissible for Muslim heirs or Muslims to accept a non-Muslims bequest without any limitation to the value of one third of the estate. A Muslim can accept a bequest from a non-Muslim over and above the one-third value of the estate.
Note: The above ruling is primarily based on the premise that Islamic Laws are not binding on non-Muslims in a non-Muslim/secular state. (Shaami 6/655/Imadaadul Ahkaam 4/627-628)
In terms of non-Muslims inheriting from Muslims or Muslims making bequests in favor of non-Muslims, it is binding upon Muslims to adhere to the Islamic Laws and Principles of Shariah. Therefore, a Muslim cannot make a non-Muslim an heir and neither can a Muslim bequeath more than one third of his/her estate to a non-Muslim. In such an instance, it is necessary (Waajib) upon Muslims living in non-Muslim/secular states to sign an Islamic Will ensuring the distribution of theirs estates according to the Islamic Laws of Succession and Inheritance.
Allah Ta’ala Knows Best
Mufti Ismaeel Bassa
This answer was collected from TheMufti.com, which is a fatwa portal managed by Mufti Ismaeel Bassa from South Africa.