Question and Answer:
Q. My father has decided to give our inheritance to us in his lifetime so that there is no dispute after his demise. He has given my brothers double the amount that he has given me due me being his daughter. Is this fair in the shari’ah
(Query published as received)
A. The assets that your father is distributing in his lifetime cannot be regarded as inheritance. Inheritance only comes into effect after a person passes away. The distribution of assets in his lifetime will be regarded as gifts.
With regards to giving gifts in one’s lifetime, it is emphasized in the Hadith that the parent exercises equality between all children, be they male or female. The laws of gifting are different from the laws of inheritance. In inheritance, the Qur’an has stipulated the shares of the male and female in a certain proportion based on divine wisdom. With regards to gifting in one’s lifetime, the Shari’ah emphasizes equality regardless of gender. Once, Sayyiduna Nu’man bin Bashir was gifted an asset by his father (Bashir – Radiyallahu Anhu) and they went to Rasulullah (Sallallahu Alaihi Wasallam) to be the witness to the gift. Rasulullah (Sallallahu Alaihi Wasallam) asked Sayyiduna Bashir (Radiyallahu Anhu): “Do you have any other children?” He replied: “Yes”. Rasulullah (Sallallahu Alaihi Wasallam) then asked him: “Have you also given them the same?” When he replied in the negative, Rasulullah (Sallallahu Alaihi Wasallam) became upset and said: “Do not make me a witness to this! I will not be a witness to oppression!” (Sahih Muslim, Hadith #: 1623).
From the above, it is noted that Rasulullah (Sallallahu Alaihi Wasallam) termed inequality in gifting assets to children as oppression. Based on this, the Fuqahaa (Jurists) and Muhaddithoon (scholars of Hadith) have ruled that it is important for parents to be equal when gifting gifts to their children. It is therefore strongly advisable for your father to be equal in distributing the assets amongst his children including you. Giving you a smaller portion merely on account of you being his daughter is not correct and he should rectify this.
I suggest that you bring this to the notice of your father in a kind and polite manner. Perhaps he is under the impression that when distributing wealth in one’s lifetime amongst children, it should be according to the laws of inheritance where the son gets double the share of the daughter whereas this is not the case in distributing assets in one’s lifetime.
Yes, there are certain situations where a father can give preference to one child over the other. In such situations, it is advisable to consult the Ulama for guidance.
And Allah Knows Best
Mufti Suhail Tarmahomed
Mufti Ebrahim Desai
Jamiatul Ulama (KZN)
Council of Muslim Theologians
223 Alpine Road, Overport, Durban
Tel : +27 (0) 31 2077099
Fax : +27(0) 31 2074163
Website : www.jamiat.org.za