INHERITANCE: What The Quran Says About ‘Next Of Kin’

Noibi

Noibi

Because of the interest the topic ‘Who is your next of kin?’ generated, The Guardian decided to sound out Muslim clerics’ opinions from the Quranic point of view regarding the issue. This is because even though the two holy Books have many things in common, there are still some areas where they differ greatly. In Islam, what qualifies someone as the next of kin? Who does the holy Book recommend for that privilege? CHRIS IREKAMBA and PAUL ADUNWOKE write.

Quite A Number Of People Are Recognised When Choosing Next Of Kin’
(Professor Dawud O. S. Noibi is the Executive Secretary/CEO Muslim Ummah of South West Nigeria (MUSWEN)

THE concept of ‘next of kin’ does not arise in Islam because there are quite a number of people that are recognised as close relations. And they are regarded as qualified to inherit the estate, when a person dies. These are your parents, if they are still alive, your wife, your husband or your children. If these people are alive when the person dies, they are the ones to inherit the person’s estate, according to fixed shares stated by God in the Qur’an. This makes it clear that the concept of next of kin as one person does not really occur in the Quran. Allah says in the Qur’an that it is only God that knows who is closer to you, whether your parents or children.

However, if it happens that a Muslim gives one person’s name as the next of kin, then it should be from these people that I have just mentioned, if they are alive and in a position to play the role expected of the next of kin. Generally speaking, if a person has mentioned the name of the next of kin, it depends on which of the three categories of people I have just described and are still living would be in the best position to perform the function.

For example, if one’s parents are still alive, as well as the children and the wife and as a Muslim you are required to fill a form, it would depend on whether any of your children would be in a better position to perform the functions of a next of kin in that particular circumstance or whether your wife or either of your parents would be better suited for the purpose. So, it depends on the circumstances, availability and ability of that relation of yours who would perform that function. There should be no problem arising from these because everybody is supposed to understand what Allah has stated in the Qur’an. And being next of kin does not necessarily give the particular person concerned any special privilege over and above the other members of the family because whether he or she is stated as next of kin or not, the right of each and every other person is already fixed in the estate of the person that has departed.

For example, if it is the eldest son that is resident in Nigeria, when others are abroad, and then it is the person’s decision that the son living in Nigeria should be the next of kin, that does not give the son the right over and above his siblings regarding the share of the estate. Everybody’s share in the estate is fixed. But whether or not a man has children counts, as the share of the wife is increased in the case of no children. Irrespective of who is mentioned in the document, each of them remains entitled to the share allotted to them in the Qur’an and in the teachings of Prophet Mohammed (SAW).

If a Muslim marries more that one wife, each and everyone of the wives is entitled to her own share, which will be done equally. Indeed, the last wife will have the same share as the first wife. This also applies to the second and third wives. By the way, the husband is also entitled to a fixed share in his wife’s estate, in the case that she passes on before him. This is also fixed and stated in the Qur’an.

In the Qur’an, there are three categories of people that are related to you and they would have fixed share in the estate after you pass on. These are the parents, children and wife. But it depends on the particular circumstance and the function that you desire; whether it is your son, wife, father or mother that can perform such. But whoever is mentioned as the next of kin, does not deprive the other family members their own right in the estate left behind.

‘Among Your Wives, You Can Choose Any One As Next Of Kin’
(Alhaji (Prince) Fasasi Gbagba, President, Jamaat-ul Islamiyya of Nigeria and Overseas)

NEXT of kin, as we all know, is somebody who is very close to you and can be trusted to perform the same way whether you are around or not. The Qur’an urges the individual to choose this person from among his or her family, children, brothers or sisters of the same blood. One other requirement is that the person must be of the same religion as you. You cannot be a Muslim and then choose a pagan to be your next of kin. The Qur’an forbids it.

Now the person must be trustworthy, honest, as well as somebody who loves everybody around him, including the family and others. He must be very familiar with everybody, obedient and ready to cooperate any time. The Qur’an also goes further to say that it is forbidden for you to pick somebody who is not your relation. For instance, if as an old man, you have some money in the bank and then death occurs, somebody should be able to say he left so and so amount of money and ‘this is how he said we should share it.’ It should not be that somebody would collect all the money from the bank and then pocket everything without telling others. He should also be prepared to take care of all the things he had been mandated to do. Not that he would forget and neglect them. And in choosing your next of kin, you should not be afraid of anybody.

Once you made up your mind you don’t get distracted. And there are characteristics to look out for, which the Qur’an recommends. The person can be your son, daughter, or wife. Next of kin can also be your elder or younger brother or your brother’s sister, but s/he must be of the same religion as you. You can choose anybody to be your next of kin, and not just from your immediate family. It can be from your extended family, if the characteristics you are looking for can be found in any of them. If your own children meet the requirements, then you can choose from there, but if you not, you can look for such elsewhere within the extended family members. For instance, if your child is irresponsible or troublesome, apparently you can’t make such a person your next of kin. After your death, he would just kill everybody because of the property.

If you have two or four wives, you cannot love all your children equally. There must be one that you will single out because he is always doing the father’s will. It’s such a person that you would naturally choose. Forget about whether he comes from the first, second, third or fourth wife. What matters here is character, somebody who is faithful, obedient and trustworthy. You can also choose any of the wives provided she has satisfied all the conditions, as enumerated above.
To me, there shouldn’t be any problem on this issue simply because as you lay your bed so shall you sleep on it. And don’t forget that everybody is an architect of his or her fortune. So, if you don’t get the character you are looking for in your immediate family, you can look a little further, provided they are still of the same family, and religion as you. Even among your two, three or four wives, you can also pick any one, provided she will not disappoint you. There are some wives that are very close to their husbands and there are also some that you can hardly know their minds and intentions.

‘What If You Choose Your Wife As Next Of Kin And She Leaves You?’
(Uztaz Taofeek Eniafe, Chief Missioner, Dairatul Razakiyat Association of Nigeria/Imam, Anu Oluwapo Mosque, Orile Oshodi, Lagos)
FROM the Quranic perspective, I would say God is my next of kin. The Prophet (SAW) said in one of his quotations that a human being would always be with whomever he/she loves most. And if I were to say the person I love most, I would say God because He will always be there for you today, tomorrow, and the next. Your wife can misbehave and leave you. Human beings will always be human beings any time, any day. And children too can misbehave, but the Lord will always be there.

In the Nigerian tradition, if a man dies today, the family members, because of the man’s inheritance, will rise up against the wife and deprive her of her entitlements. And the moment they sideline the wife, the children are automatically affected. That is why people are using their wife or children’s names, as the next person that should inherit the property in case of anything and not the extended family.

The problem, as experienced today, happens because of tradition. What I’m saying happens in both Igbo and Yoruba lands and these days, the lawyers are not always faithful, as sometimes the family members connive with the late husband’s lawyer to deprive the legitimate people of what rightfully belongs to them.

In all my bank transactions, I usually write my children’s names in all the accounts I have. I use the different names of my children, as the next of kin, in case something happens. Children too can betray one another, and if you make the first born your next of kin, he can betray the siblings. That is human being for you; they are not born to be perfect. Whatever the children have also belongs to their mother. Even when the man is alive, children often times take more care of their mother than their father.

For instance, in the case of working children, when they collect their salary, they usually give 10 per cent of that salary to their father, while their mother receives 20 to 30 per cent. Women are the ones that enjoy most of the fruits of the labour. So, if children are comfortable, you can be sure that their mother too won’t suffer. They will help their mother out. But if you give everything to the wife and peradventure the man dies early and the woman marries another man, that is another problem. And the moment the new man realises that the woman has so much inheritance, that can also constitutes another problem. Hence, it is better to make your children the next of kin. I would advise that if you have three buildings and you happen to have three children, it is better you share the property equally among the three children.

Again, if I should buy shares in one, two or three companies, I would write different names of my children as the next of kin instead of using just one child all through as the next of kin. It’s wrong. The implication is such that if the man dies early, the woman has the right of getting married to another person, and if you will everything to her, the children will suffer.

Investigate this: Ask majority of children selling sachet water or hawking today the reason why and you will be surprised by the chilling stories you will hear. They would have a lot to tell you. It is either their stepfather is the one responsible or their father is nowhere to be found. Supposing these children have something to fall back on, there won’t be any problem. If I marry three wives and each of them gave birth to five children, and I cannot afford to build up to 15 houses or have 15 bank accounts but if I’m able to have three bank accounts, I would name one after three children from the three wives. If I were able to build three houses, I would give one to a child from the three wives. The only problem that may arise is if the one I used as next of kin misbehaves. But if each of the children belonging to each of the wives decides to cheat their siblings, that is up to them.

Instead of giving property to each of the wife, I would prefer to share them among the children of these wives. If the children are well taken care of, they will look after their mothers eventually.

Something happened sometime ago here in Oshodi. A man who had two wives died. The first wife confiscated everything that the late husband left behind, without giving the children a kobo, not that she married another man. According to her, she laboured with the late husband and therefore, the second wife was left with nothing. She refused to give a dime to the second wife. She didn’t even remember her own children. And since there was no legal backing, some get away with it.

‘Male Child Is Preferred In Islam To The
Female Child’
(Alhaji Sikirulai Olokuta, Chief Imam of Oluwakemi Ajumoni Central Mosque, Mafoluku, Oshodi, Lagos)

ACCORDING to the Holy Qur’an, your son is your next of kin. If you have more than one male child, your choice should be based on the one you trust. It is not a must that you should choose the first son but one who has good character and knowledge.

Male child is more recognised in Islam than the female child because the female child might get married to another man and she might change her religion. But the male child should be the one to continue the family lineage.

But if the person does not have a male child, he can take female a child as the next of kin. If the person does not have a child, he can take the brother as next of kin. In a situation, where the person does not have children or brother, he can choose the mother of father.

It is not good for one to love one of his children more than others; you are supposed to love them equally. But if one receives a message from Allah indicating that a particular son should be chosen as the next of kin or to succeed a throne, then you can go ahead and choose him; but you should call other children and explain to them.

Assuming the person is dead, then the property belongs to all the children, and even the female children also have their own share including the wife.

Islamic rules and regulations say the first son should be the next of kin, but in a situation where the first son has different religion or he is not of good character, any other son can be chosen as next of kin based on knowledge of both Arabic and Western education.
For instance, my father was an Islamic leader. I am the one that succeeded his throne but I am not the first son. Just because I came to Lagos, and had Western education during Lateef Jakande’s administration after working for years, I travelled to Saudi Arabia for Arabic studies. I had several studies in Arabic and because of the knowledge; my elder brother stepped down for me and said that I should succeed my father.
I would advise that people love their children equally, even the female ones. The Holy Qur’an says that we should love our children equally. And even when the father is no more, all the children should have shares in the property.

‘Next Of Kin’ Is Alien To Islam’
(Ojulari Surajudeen Ademola, Missioner and Member of governing board of the Nasrul-Lahi-IL Fathi Society of Nigeria, NASFAT, Oshodi, Lagos)

THE concept of ‘next of kin’ is alien to Islam, if we go by the definition of the dictionary, which states, “next of kin is the nearest blood relationship to a descendant, who inherits the descendant’s property,” as provided by state law, if there is no will.”

Islam has prescribed a divine methodology of distributing the estate of a deceased, as can be found in Chapter four of the Holy Qur’an and the Will written by a man before his death, is not recognised.

Islam is proactive in this regard to forestall problems that may arise in having a next of kin, as described above. However, if the purpose of having a next of kin is to have someone who could be contacted in case of an emergency, then this is in line with Islamic teachings and this gives responsibility to the appointed kin. Problems that could emerge from this are limited.

What qualifies one to be chosen, as ‘next of kin’ is his availability, accessibility and readiness to accept responsibility.

Imam Bello

Imam Bello

‘Any Relative Can Be Chosen As Next Of Kin’
(Imam Abdul Rahman Bello, Lagos)
A MUSLIM’S next of kin are his living blood relatives and they include the man’s parents (father/mother); offspring; brothers/sisters; paternal uncles/aunts; maternal uncles/aunts and other relatives.

In nominating a next of kin for official matters, any relative in the order of categories listed above can be chosen.

It should be noted, however, that Islam is very clear on which of the relatives of the deceased are entitled to inherit and the quantum of the inheritance.

Muslims are enjoined to keep ties with relatives and warned of consequences of severing relationship with them in Qur’an 47:12.

The following Hadith also corroborates this: The Prophet said: “Allah created all creation, and when He finished, ar-rahim (the womb) got up and pleaded to Allah, where upon Allah said to it, what is the matter? “It said: “At this place, I seek your refuge from those who severe me (cut off ties of kinship). “Allah said, “Yes, will you not be satisfied, if I bestowed My favours on him, who keeps your ties and withhold My favours from him who severs your ties. Upon this, it said, “Yes, o my Lord!” Allah said, “Then that is for you” (Sahih Bukhari).

The above Hadith lays out the very foundation of kinship, emphasising its importance, as well as the ramifications of severing kinship ties. That you make a relative your (official) next of kin should not raise any problem regarding his inheritance as who shares what from the estate of a deceased Muslim is clearly stated in the Qur’an and only one third of his estate can be willed.

The Prophet said: “Give the Faraid (the shares of the inheritance that are prescribed in the Qur’an) to those who are entitled to receive it. Then whatever remains should be given to the closest male relative of the deceased”(Sahih Bukhari).

Muslim must follow all the commandments of Allah. The Qur’an says: “It is not for a believer, man or woman, when Allah and His Messenger have decreed a matter that they should have any opinion in their decision. And whoever disobeys Allah and His Messenger, has indeed strayed into a plain error”(Qur’an 33:36).

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