Sunday, November 19, 2017 - 30 Safar 1439
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Is it permissible for a father to give a large portion of his property to only one of his children?

Is it permissible for a father to give a large portion of his property to only one of his children?

Answer

In this question, we have a father who is keen to reciprocate his son’s kindness. Among other things, the son looked after his family, was kind to his parents and contributed to his sisters’ marriages. His father reasoned that since his son has done his part, it is time to compensate him by transferring to him part of the family property. The remainder will be divided in accordance with God’s law of inheritance, but only after this son has received his "fair" compensation. Can anyone raise any objection to this?

The truth is that the whole matter is totally unfair. In this family, we have two brothers with one in a better position than the other. Both contribute to the family finances but according to their means. The question here is whether these payments give a son a privileged position in the family. Every Muslim knows that sons who are able to work may be required to support their parents and sisters as well as their younger or older brothers who do not have any other source of income. This requirement is a duty which God the Almighty has enjoined upon them. If there is more than one son in the family, each one of them must contribute to the family finances and their contributions may vary according to their means. We cannot expect a person who earns 2,000 per month to pay the same amount as one who earns 15,000 per month. Nor is it expected that two brothers who have the same income should make the same contributions if one has a family of his own while the other is unmarried.

What I am trying to explain is that two brothers may make widely different contributions to the finances of their family. In spite of this, the one who pays more may not be able to claim any favor in return for his larger contribution. The circumstances of each may dictate the amount of their contribution. If both are doing their duty, they must expect their reward from God the Almighty and not from someone else. They must not expect some sort of compensation from their father or anyone else, particularly when that compensation may be unfair to a third party. If one of the sons is rich or has an income which exceeds his needs, his contribution must be greater than his brother's who is less fortunate or who has more commitments. Here we are looking at absolute fairness.

If we look at this case more closely, we will find that now that the three sisters are married, the father wants to assign some of his property to son who contributed the most. I would have thought an assignment in favor of the less affluent son would be more logical [though not appropriate]. The father would then be doing something to improve the lot of his less fortunate son. His other son has a better income and can look after his family well. Instead, we find that the father is trying to add to the wealth of the richer of his two sons. Maybe the father wants him to feel that he has a continuous duty to look after his brother and three sisters, even though each one of them is married. But the father should have greater foresight than this. By making his rich son even richer, he creates a rift in the family that could give rise to jealousy and envy. This is the reason why the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) spoke in very strong terms against showing favoritism to one child at the expense of another. He gave us a general rule which makes it clear that absolute justice should be maintained between children. He said: "Fear God and be fair to all your children." That the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) started his instructions with the words, ‘Fear God’, suggests that unfairness among children is something that incurs God’s anger. Nothing which is permissible leads to this outcome. It must be concluded, therefore, that it is forbidden.

You speak of the father’s gift to his son as a compensation for his contributions. It may be so, but the son’s contributions were not a loan that was expected to be paid back. If they were, the father could pay them back. But since the contributions were made in fulfillment of a son's duty, no compensation is required. God’s reward is more than ample compensation.

If I were to speak bluntly, I would say that I detect a desire on the part of the father to keep the wealth of the family from the reach of the husbands of his three daughters. This is a common in rural areas, particularly when the family’s wealth includes agricultural land and it is important to keep it in the family. However, God the Almighty does not approve of this. He has laid down a system of inheritance which we must follow. He has prescribed fair shares for daughters.

Perhaps I should remind you that a son’s share is twice the share of a daughter. There are good reasons for this. A son has greater more duties than a daughter and one such duty is to look after his sisters.
 

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