The Prophet Muhammad (ﷺ) said: “It is the duty of a Muslim who has anything to bequest not to let two nights pass without writing a will about it.” (Bukhari)
It is decreed that when death approaches, those of you who leave behind property shall bequeath equitably to parents and kinsmen. This is an obligation on the God-fearing. (Quran:2:180)
What Does It Mean To Be Sharia Compliant?
A Muslim’s assets must be distributed based upon certain rules laid out in the Qur’an and the Hadith. Although there are U.S. laws regarding how your wealth is distributed, these laws come into effect only when a person dies without having executed a valid Will.
This means that Muslim-Americans are free to craft a Will in the United States that accommodates the mandates of Sharia law. If a Muslim dies without having executed a valid Will, the state will not take into consideration that they are Muslim and distribute their assets in accordance with Islamic law.
Islamic Rules of Inheritance vs. State Laws of Intestacy
If you do not leave a will, your assets will be distributed in accordance with your state’s intestacy laws (laws on distribution of assets when a person dies without a valid will). These laws dictate how and to whom your money and belongings will go to. They are significantly different then the rules of inheritance set out in the Qur’an and Hadith.
Missouri Intestacy Laws
When a person dies, their estate (home, bank accounts, business, jewelry, vehicles, etc.) will go through a court process called probate. If you die without a will in the state of Missouri, your assets will be distributed as follows:
|If you die with:||Here’s what happens:|
|Children but no spouse||Children inherit everything|
|Spouse but no descendants||Spouse inherits everything|
|Spouse and descendants from you and that spouse||Spouse inherits first $20,000 of your intestate property, plus ½ of the balance. Descendants inherit everything else.|
|Spouse and descendants from you and someone other than that spouse||Spouse inherits ½ of your intestate property, descendants inherit everything else.|
|Parents and siblings but no spouse or descendants||Parents and siblings inherit your intestate property in equal shares.|
|Parents, but no spouse, descendants, or siblings.||Parents inherit everything.|
|Siblings, but no spouse, descendants, or parents.||Siblings inherit everything.|
Islamic Rules of Inheritance
What Does Sharia Say About Inheritance?
As mentioned above, Islamic rules of inheritance are derived from the Qur’an and the Hadith. There are Several verses within Surat An-Nisa’ that address Islamic inheritance. Verse seven of Surat An-Nisa’ states: “From what is left by parents and those nearest related there is a share for men and a share for women, whether the property be small or large, a determinate share. In verses eleven and twelve of Surat An-Nisa’, the Qur’an presents the laws of inheritance shares in greater detail.
Islamic Will Distribution
According to these verses, the spouse, children, and one’s parents inherit a certain fraction of a Muslim’s estate. A male child’s share varies from a female child’s share. The share entitled to the spouse varies depending on whether you leave behind children. Additionally, unlike Missouri’s laws of intestacy, your surviving parents are entitled a share of your estate regardless of whether you have a spouse and children not. According to Missouri rules of intestacy, a parent can only inherit from their child if their child does not have a spouse or any living children.
Surviving Spouse’s share
Both the Qur’an and Hadith demonstrate clearly and ardently the importance of having a Will that conforms to the rules set forth. There can, however, be a conflict with U.S. laws when it comes to your surviving spouse’s share. According to Islamic rules of inheritance, a wife is entitled to 1/8 of her husband’s estate if he leaves behind children and ¼ If her husband does not leave behind children.
In Missouri, a spouse has a right to an elective share. The Elective share is a statutory mechanism to prevent one spouse from depriving the other spouse of property that the two acquired during the marriage.
Most marital assets, such as the home and bank accounts, are owned by both spouses’ jointly. Therefore, each spouse is entitled to half of the marital estate. There are many planning mechanisms that allow Muslims to follow the Islamic rules of inheritance while complying with their state’s laws.
Death is inevitable and planning for death has been made an obligation for all Muslims.
Complying with Islamic inheritance law is a major concern for practicing Muslims—especially for the practicing Muslim living in a country where Islamic law is not automatically enforced. A Muslim Estate planning attorney with an understanding of Islamic laws can help you with your estate planning needs and will ensure that you are fulfilling your obligation to yourself, to your family, and to Allah (SWT).
At Mid-America Law Practice, LLC we are two Muslim attorneys who provide our clients with quality estate plans that meet their needs and craft each one to fit their unique family and situation.
We proudly serve Missouri and Illinois clients. Contact us today for a free consultation.