This article discusses the Muslim law of inheritance or Faraid which generally applies to the assets of a deceased Muslim. The exceptions to the general applicability of Faraid are also discussed.
Section 112 of the Administration of Muslim Law Act (Cap. 3) (AMLA) provides that the assets of a deceased Muslim who was domiciled in Singapore at the time of his/her death shall be distributed in accordance with the principles of Muslim law and (where applicable) Malay custom.
The Muslim law which determines the manner and order of distribution of the assets of a deceased Muslim is known as Faraid. The principles of Faraid are to be found in the Holy Quran, the traditions and sayings of the Prophet (pbuh) and the majority opinion of Islamic scholars. Faraid is generally applied to the assets of a deceased Muslim which have not been given away under the deceased’s Will (Wasiat) and which do not come within the description of any of the “excluded assets” listed below.
The Muslim Will
Section 111 of AMLA permits a Muslim to make a Will to dispose of his/her assets upon his/her death. However, the Will must comply with the conditions of and is subject to the restrictions imposed by, the school of Muslim law professed by him/her. Muslim Wills are discussed in greater detail in a separate article.
Excluded Assets: Assets of a deceased Muslim which are excluded from distribution in accordance with Faraid
Generally, there are 5 types of assets of a deceased Muslim which are excluded from distribution in accordance with Faraid:
(a) Property held in a joint tenancy
Property held by a deceased Muslim in a joint tenancy with another person or with other persons will pass to the surviving joint tenant or tenants. The ‘share’ of the deceased in that property is not to be distributed to his/her heirs (Waris) under Faraid. This is the position taken by the civil law courts in Singapore as well as by the Majlis Ugama Islam Singapura in its recent (2019) ruling (Fatwa): https://www.muis.gov.sg/officeofthemufti/Fatwa/English-Joint-Tenancy.
(b) Nominated Central Provident Fund (CPF) monies
If a deceased Muslim has nominated a nominee or several nominees to receive his/her CPF monies upon his/her death, such nominee or nominees shall receive the nominated amount or amounts. The nominated amount or amounts of the deceased’s CPF monies are not to be distributed to his/her heirs (Waris) under Faraid.
(c) Nominated life insurance policy benefits/payouts
If a deceased Muslim has nominated a nominee or several nominees to receive his/her insurance policy benefits/payouts upon his/her death, such nominee or nominees shall be entitled to receive the policy benefits/payouts. The nominated policy benefits/payouts of the deceased’s insurance policy are not to be distributed to his/her heirs (Waris) under Faraid. MUIS has decreed in a fatwa that revocable insurance policy nominations are permitted under Muslim law: https://www.muis.gov.sg/officeofthemufti/Fatwa/English-Revocable-Insurance-Nomination.
(d) Harta sepencarian or assets jointly acquired by a deceased Muslim and his/her spouse
Under Section 112(3) of AMLA, the Court may make an order for the division of assets which are harta sepencarian (assets which have been jointly acquired by a deceased Muslim and his/her spouse) in such proportions as the court deems fit. The division of harta sepencarian has its origins in Malay custom. In practice, applications for such an order are rare. Harta sepencarian which is the subject of an Order of Court made under Section 112(3) of AMLA is not to be distributed to the deceased’s heirs (Waris) under Faraid.
(e) Assets given away under a Will
Assets that have been given away under a deceased Muslim’s Will are not to be distributed to the deceased’s heirs (Waris) under Faraid.
Who are the heirs (Waris) of a deceased Muslim under Faraid?
(a) Male heirs comprise the deceased’s:
- Grandfather (father’s father)
- Uncle (father’s brother)
- Son’s Son
- Consanguine Nephew
- Uncle (father’s consanguine brother)
- Male Cousin
- Consanguine Brother
- Consanguine Male Cousin
- Uterine Brother
- Nephew (Brother’s son)
(b) Female heirs comprise the deceased’s:
- Mother’s Mother
- Father’s Mother
- Consanguine Sister
- Son’s Daughter
- Uterine Sister
‘Consanguine siblings’ are siblings with the same father but different mothers.
‘Uterine siblings’ are siblings with the same mother but different fathers.
How to calculate the shares of the heirs of a deceased Muslim under Faraid
The rules of distribution under Faraid are complex. You are advised to use the online inheritance calculator at https://www.syariahcourt.gov.sg/Syariah/front-end/TrialCal_ Redirect.aspx.