Opinion Editorials, May 2004, To see today's opinion articles, click here: ww.aljazeerah.info
Overdue Share of Inheritance
Arab News, 5/17/04
Q. My mother died when I was one year old, and my share of her inheritance was kept by my father. Although he should have paid it to me when I came of age, he did not until he died. Now, his other heirs insist that I could only get my motherís inheritance in the same amount it was when she died, rupee for rupee, although the rupee is now worth one-fiftieth of its value at the time. My inheritance also included shares in companies that are now out of business. What happens to this?
My maternal grandfather, who inherited from my mother, died only last year, but I was told that I inherit nothing from him, not even my motherís share. Is this true? Please comment.
A. What is important to realize in questions of inheritance is that God has apportioned the share of every heir, in all fairness and justice to all. It is up to people to see to it that what God has legislated is implemented. When they do not, they do wrong to themselves and others. They incur Godís displeasure and they leave themselves liable to His punishment. The readerís father took his sonís inheritance and should have invested it for him. He should have paid it out to him when he came of age. But he did not. Now, the reader is entitled to it in full, with any profits made by the father, if he had invested it in any way.
The claims of his fatherís other heirs that he is entitled to the nominal amount as was at the time of his motherís death is insupportable. In our modern times, currencies cannot be treated in absolute terms, because their value changes. Such changes are at times very drastic. Take the case of Lebanon during the civil war, or Iraq during the last 13 years. Their currencies retained only their names, but their values were unrecognizable. Before the civil war one US dollar was worth 2.5 Lebanese liras, and at the end of it 1500 liras. If you had lent 1000 liras to a friend before the civil war of 1975 and he paid it back after the war ended in 1990 in the same amount, he would have borrowed from you 400 dollars and returned two-thirds of one dollar. Would he be deemed to have repaid you? Can he claim before God that he has settled his debt? Would he have accepted it if he was the lender and someone repaid him in this way?
Yet such cases are very difficult to sort out. People should never put themselves in such situations. Why should anyone keep his sonís inheritance for 33 years? There may be a case to do so if the father was very poor and needed the money to survive with his son, but I take it that this is not so in this case.
The father was well off, as the mother was. Hence, he could have either invested the money in some scheme, or in his own business. If the latter, the son is entitled to the profits made in this period. If it was invested in a scheme, the son is entitled to all the proceeds. Had the father bought his son an apartment or a shop and offered it for rent, the son would have had the rent all those years and the price of the property would have risen by more than the rate of inflation or the change in the value of the currency.
However, if the father did not invest it, but used it for his own needs, it remains a debt he owed to his son. The least the son should be paid now is the value of his inheritance as it was at the time. So, if he inherited 1000 rupees and they were worth $500 at that time, he should be paid now at least $500, even though this may be worth 30,000 rupees today. In this way, he would get back the principal amount of his loan which his father took. To give him anything less is to defraud him of his right.
As for the shares, I suppose he should claim any dividends or profits his father collected on his behalf during the period the companies were functioning. The principal amount, or the value of the shares, he should count as a dead loss because the companies concerned have gone out of business.
According to the major schools of Islamic thought, a grandchild does not inherit from his grandfather if the latter has children of his own. If a father survives any of his own children, the children of that deceased son or daughter do not inherit from their grandfather, if he leaves behind other sons. The grandfather should bequeath to those grandchildren a portion of his estate. However, a number of Muslim countries, such as Syria and Egypt, apply the principle of the compulsory will in this case, which considers that in such cases where the grandfather does not make such bequests, a compulsory will is deemed to exist. This gives the grandchildren concerned the lesser of the two amounts: either their parentsí share had he or she survived, or one-third of the grandfatherís property. I heard once that this is applicable in Pakistan. It may be so, but I may be wrong.
Highlighting Quríanic Verses
Q. A friend noticed that I highlight certain verses in my copy of the Qurían, for easy reference. He told me not to do so unless I am certain of the material used in making highlighters. Please advise.
K. Qutub Uddin
A. Your friend is keen that one should make sure of how to handle the Qurían. However, highlighters only apply some transparent color made from fluorescent material. There is nothing impure or harmful about it. So it can be used to mark certain verses, if one needs to use this method.
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