I often get the question: What is the difference between the Islamic System of Inheritance and the “American System” of inheritance. So here is a quick summary for you that will explain exactly that.
Ownership of your wealth
As I describe in my guide on Islamic Inheritance, fundamental to the US system of law is the concept of “free alienation of property.” this means that your wealth is your own. You can do with it as you please. Granted, that is not exactly a “system” as it is a free-for-all. You can do whatever you want. The Islamic System has more stringent rules.
Muslims really cannot do whatever they want. Because it is a faith tradition, there are limitations on your conduct. So for Muslims, there are dietary restrictions, how you can spend your money, how much you need to give charity and, of course, inheritance.
Unfortunately, among Muslims, there is sometimes a little bit of ethnocentrism, maybe it is an inferiority complex when it comes to the Islamic System of Inheritance. People sometimes believe that the system that exists presently within the United States is somehow superior to the system of inheritance in Islam. There is no possible way that this can be true. This is because Islam has a uniform system of succession while no such thing exists in the United States.
Some see it as a good thing that US States do not have a uniform system and you can do whatever it is that you want. Indeed, from our perspective, as a minority religion, it is helpful to have a system where you can do whatever you want. That way, we can follow our values. Even so, the lack of a system can be damaging for society because it allows for things like vanity, manipulation and a wide range of potential family conflicts.
Having a uniform system, like the Islamic System helps prevent conflicts.
There is a world of difference between having a right to inheritance and having no right to inheritance Islam; there is such a right. In American popular culture, there is one plot device that has been employed a few times before: a testator (somebody who is writing a last will or living trust) provides instructions that unless the movie’s (or novel’s) hero gets married by a certain age, he will get cut out. There are some real-world examples of this type of planning. Famously, Leona Helmsley would cut out relatives who failed to visit her mausoleum and sign her guestbook. He trustee monitored this guestbook.
Muslims don’t get to do things like that. Inheritance is not a dead person’s carrot she gets to posthumously dangle, or stick with which to beat the living. It is a right ordained in the Quran.
Download our free resource guide on Islamic Estate Planning.