Distribution of wealth during one's lifetime

Question:

DEAR MUFTI SAHEB:  ASSALAAMU ALAIKUM WRWB,

I HAVE BEEN APPROACHED BY FEW COMMUNITY MEMBERS TO GET FATWA FOR WEALTH DISTRIBUTION ISSUES AS FOLLOWS:
 
1.  A man's wife has died, and the house is only asset he has.  He is in his 70's, and is living with his one of the sons.  Now, he sold the house, and want to distribute the money among his 3 sons and one daughter, and keep approx. 33% of cash for his future needs.  Question:  How much each 3 sons, and one daughter gets (Equal amount or daughter gets half share, and sons get one share or it is up to father to decide who gets and how much?
 
2.  A senior couple, age 80's & 70's has a house which is not being used, and right now both are living with one son.  He wants to sell the house, and make distribution to his wife, two sons, and two daughters and one sister who was never married.  He has a fix Social Security income which meets his pocket expenses.  Q:  How much share each get?  If sister is not part of virasat, how much can he give to his sister for help?  If he transfers the property to his survivals in his life, how much each gets.
 
3.  A wealthy senior person, with wife, sons, and daughters, wishes to distribute some of his wealth to all his dependents before his dies, and leave the rest to be distributed according to Sheriah after his death.  Q:  Is he bound to give equal amount to all or can it be left according to the need of individual dependents?  Will this distribution be considered as virasat distribution or gifts to them?
 
Please issue fatwa on each individual cases, number by number, so I can relay them separately.  Jazakum Allah Khair.  Wassalaam. 

بسم الله الرحمن الرحيم

الجواب حامدا ومصليا ومسلما

Answer:

Wa ‘alaykum as salām wa raḥmatullāhi wa barakātuhu,
 
In principle, any wealth distributed during one's lifetime is considered a gift in Shari’ah.  Conversely, any wealth distributed after one's death is classified as inheritance. Thus, the rules of inheritance would not apply in any of the aforementioned scenarios.
 
One should note, however, that the Prophet (may Allah Ta'ala bless him and give him peace) always strongly emphasized that gifts should be equally distributed amongst one’s children, as doing otherwise can become a means of disunity and discord amongst them. However, it would be permissible to give preference to one child over another provided it is done for a legitimate reason (e.g. one child is more in need than the other) and doing so would not become a means of disunity and discord.
 
Bearing the above detail in mind, the answer to your queries may be found below:
  1. The wealth should be equally distributed amongst the children. However, the father may distribute the wealth in an unequal manner as well, provided it is done with the consent of all the children.
  2. The wealth should be equally distributed amongst them. The sister may also receive a share of the distribution as well. However, it is permissible to distribute the wealth in an unequal manner provided it is done with the consent of the children and wives.
  3. The wealth should be distributed equally so that arguments may be avoided. However, it is permissible that the wealth be distributed in accordance to the individual need of each dependent provided it is done with each of their consent.
And Allah Ta'ala knows best.

والله اعلم

Allah subhanahu wa ta'ala knows best.

Omar Baig

Approved by Mufti Husain Ahmad Madani