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Respect of Religious Particularities when Dividing Inheritance

Answered according to Shafi'i Fiqh by Darul Iftaa Jordan
Is the wife who is from the People of the Book entitled to inherit her Muslim husband or Children and vice versa?

Answer:

Praise be to Allah the Lord of the Worlds.

The wife who is from the People of the Book enjoys full conjugal rights, which guarantee her a life of dignity, just like the Muslim wife. Allah the Almighty mentioned Muslim women along with the women from the People of the Book in one verse and followed that with joint rights of both. He the Exalted says, "(Lawful unto you in marriage) are (not only) chaste women who are believers, but chaste women among the People of the Book, revealed before your time,- when ye give them their due dowers, and desire chastity, not lewdness, nor secret intrigues if any one rejects faith, fruitless is his work, and in the Hereafter he will be in the ranks of those who have lost (all spiritual good)."{al-Mai`dah, 5}. In addition, Messenger of Allah (PBUH) said: "Take my advice with regard to women: Act kindly towards women."{Agreed upon}.

From the perspective of Islamic Law, inheritance has a religious particularity, so its rulings have been fully elaborated in Chapter `An-Nisa`. In addition,Sharia doesn`t look at inheritance from a purely financial view. Both Judaism and Christianity have their own rules for the division of inheritance. Accordingly, Sharia observed this particularity and banned people from different religions to inherit from one another. 

This confirms that Islam doesn`t permit infringing on the rights of people from other faiths.  This is attested to by the narration in which the Messenger of Allah (PBUH) said, "People of two different religions do not inherit from one another.”{Agreed upon}. "Two different religions" is clarified in the narration in which the Messenger of Allah (PBUH) said, "A Muslim may not inherit from an infidel nor an infidel from a Muslim."{Agreed upon}.

 

"Muslims are agreed that an infidel may not inherit a Muslim, but according to scholars from amongst the companions, the Tabi`in (Successors) and those who came after them, a Muslim may not inherit an infidel."

This has been confirmed in Article (281/B) of the Jordanian Personal Status Law/2010, which states, "People of two different religions don`t inherit from one another. Thus, a non-Muslim may not inherit a Muslim."

However, it is permissible for a Muslim to bequeath one third of his estate, at maximum, to his non-Muslim wife and he will receive the reward of charity if he did that to please Allah the Almighty.

In some cases, some scholars permitted people from different faiths to inherit each other. This is the view reported from Mo`ad  Bin Jabal, Sa`eid Bin Al-Mosaieab and Is-hac Rahawaih. It is also the opinion of the Hanafie scholars concerning the Islamic ruling on the apostate. "It is permissible for a Muslim to inherit the wealth, which an apostate has earned while a Muslim."{Radd Al-Mohtar, 6/767}. This view is reflected in Article (281) of the Jordanian Personal Status Law, which reads, "The Muslim may inherit the apostate."

Therefore, it is imperative to refer to scholars and Sharia judges to know the ruling of each case. And Allah the Almighty knows best.

This answer was collected from the official government Iftaa Department of Jordan.

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