When a “Non-Muslim” is not
I had previously written about a case in the United Arab Emirates where a Muslim daughter was declared non-Muslim by judicial fiat. This saga highlighted an unfortunate fact about Islamic inheritance that family members can weaponize its rules to commit injustices.
I had once spoken to someone who initially identified herself as a “non-Muslim.” She had previously converted to Islam but fell out of practicing it regularly. She was part of a blended family. One faction of the family felt the other part is out of Islam and should not get anything from the family patriarch, this woman’s husband.
Here is the problem, though; this woman never left Islam. She was only practicing less than what her husband and other portions of the blended family expected of her. They declared her “non-Muslim” so often she internalized this allegation despite never having left Islam while continuing to insist she was still a believer. Yes I know, it’s a little complicated. But families often are.
Enjoin the good, forbid the evil?
It is a widespread occurrence for parents to want their children to pray more. It is common for spouses to want each other to be more religious. We all want our family members to do better; we encourage them to do the right thing and discourage them from doing wrong. This desire is fundamental to who we are. As we know from the Quran (3:114)
They believe in Allah and the Last Day, encourage good and forbid evil, and race with one another in doing good. They are ˹truly˺ among the righteous.
However, it is quite another thing to weaponize the fact that a person does not pray regularly to deny inheritance rights ordained in the Quran.
Parents will often be disappointed by their children. Spouses will disappoint each other. Being part of the blended family could mean a life of complex politics and hurt. However, none of this is ever a reason to declare, unjustly, that a person has left Islam and is therefore not entitled to inheritance. A person who has left Islam can tell you that, by word or deed, like declaring atheism or praying at a Christian church. It is not your place to start engaging in inductive reasoning to get more inheritance for yourself or to hold it over somebody to encourage more prayer. In my view, this is counterproductive and harmful.
Your Parting Shot
Unfortunately, I have seen several families who have had family members that have left Islam in my Islamic Estate Planning practice. Sometimes, people do come back. Always be careful when making consequential decisions that could result in injustice. Muhammad (sws) is reported in Ahmad and Ibn Majah to have said:
“A man may do good deeds for seventy years but if he acts unjustly when he leaves his last testament, the wickedness of his deed will be sealed upon him, and he will enter the Fire. If, (on the other hand), a man acts wickedly for seventy years but is just in his last will and testament, the goodness of his deed will be sealed upon him, and he will enter the Garden.”
Inheritance can be a tool for injustice and cruelty. You have the power to use this tool in this way if you want. That can be your parting shot when you leave this world. Then again, you can choose not to be unjust.
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