This article discusses the Muslim law of inheritance or Faraid, its application in Singapore, and the consequences of not complying with it.
In Singapore, Muslims are required to follow Muslim Law or the Syariah in personal matters such as marriages, divorces, and inheritance. The rules which apply to Muslims in these matters are very different from those which apply to non-Muslims.
On the subject of inheritance, 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. It is generally applied to the assets of a deceased Muslim except for assets that have been given away under the deceased’s Will (Wasiat) and certain other “excluded” assets.
Application Of Faraid To Muslims In Singapore
Under Singapore law, 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.
Under Muslim law, every Muslim is obliged to strictly submit to, comply with, and abide by the commandments of God (swt) without exception. The principal rules of Faraid are to be found in the highest and purest source of Muslim law, namely the Holy Quran. Over time, some of these rules have been clarified by and supplemented with the sayings and traditions of the Prophet (pbuh) and the majority opinion of Islamic scholars. The rules of Faraid ensure that the assets of a deceased Muslim are distributed among his/her beneficiaries (Waris) fairly and equitably. It is forbidden (haram) for any Muslim to disobey or disregard it.
Assets Of The Deceased That Are Subject To Faraid
Generally, all of the deceased’s assets of whatever description and form are subject to Faraid, including cash, jewelry, land, shares, stocks, bonds, motor vehicles, etc. However, some types of assets, for example, property held in a joint tenancy or assets which are subject to the deceased’s Will (Wasiat) may be excluded from distribution in accordance with the rules of Faraid.
Further, the rules of Faraid need not be followed when all of the deceased’s beneficiaries (Waris) agree to distribute the deceased’s assets in a particular manner, for example, in equal proportions among all of them.
Legal Consequences Of Contravening Faraid
Since the observance of and compliance with it is mandatory under Singapore law, legal action can be taken against the Administrator of a deceased Muslim’s estate or anyone who deals or intermeddles with or disposes of the deceased’s assets in contravention of the rules of Faraid. A civil suit may be brought to hold the Administrator or that person accountable. In some cases, the Administrator or the intermeddler may also face criminal prosecution.
Further, if a deceased Muslim had, during his/her lifetime, executed a testamentary document which has the effect of contravening the rules of Faraid or which was intended to avoid the application of the rules of Faraid to his/her assets upon his/her death, then that document may be held to be invalid by the Court: see the case of Mohamed Ismail Bin Ibrahim v Mohd Taha Bin Ibrahim  4 SLR 756;  SGHC 210.
Is There Any Other Situation In Which Faraid Does Not Apply?
It applies only to the assets of a deceased who was a Muslim at the time of his/her death and to the deceased’s beneficiaries (Waris) who were Muslims at the time of the deceased’s death. Therefore, Faraid does not apply to the assets of a deceased who had renounced Islam during his/her lifetime and who had died a non-Muslim. Likewise, a beneficiary of a deceased Muslim cannot inherit from the deceased under Faraid if the beneficiary has renounced Islam and was a non-Muslim at the time of the deceased’s death. There is no right of inheritance under Faraid as between a Muslim and a non-Muslim.
The article emphasises the importance of understanding Faraid, the Islamic law of inheritance, for Muslims when planning their estates. The glossary provides key terms related to Faraid and estate planning, such as testator, intestate, and probate. The FAQs address common questions, offering brief yet informative answers on the applicability of Faraid, the distribution of assets, and the role of legal heirs. By comprehending Faraid and engaging in proper estate planning, Muslims can ensure that their assets are distributed in accordance with Islamic law and minimise potential disputes among heirs, ensuring a smoother transition of wealth to the rightful beneficiaries.
Glossary and Key Terms
Faraid: The Islamic law of inheritance that governs the distribution of a deceased Muslim’s estate among the rightful heirs according to specific proportions.
Testator: The person who makes a will to designate how their estate should be distributed after their death.
Intestate: The condition of dying without a valid will, leading to the application of the Faraid rules for inheritance distribution.
Executor: The person appointed in a will to carry out the deceased’s wishes and manage the estate’s distribution.
Assets: The property, possessions, and financial resources that form part of a person’s estate.
Residuary Estate: The remaining assets after specific gifts and expenses have been distributed from the deceased’s estate.
Legal Heirs: Individuals entitled to inherit under the Faraid rules, including spouses, children, parents, and other relatives.
Estate Planning: The process of arranging and managing one’s assets and affairs to ensure their proper distribution and minimise potential conflicts after death.
Probate: The legal process of proving the validity of a will and obtaining the court’s authority to administer the deceased’s estate.
Shariah: The Islamic law derived from the Quran and Hadith, providing guidance on various aspects of life, including inheritance.
Frequently Asked Questions
Q: Is Faraid applicable only to Muslims?
A: Yes, Faraid is specific to Islamic law and is applicable only to the estates of deceased Muslims.
Q: What happens if someone dies without leaving a will (intestate)?
A: If a Muslim dies intestate, the distribution of their estate will be governed by the Faraid rules, ensuring that rightful heirs inherit according to specific proportions.
Q: Can a Muslim write a will to override the Faraid rules?
A: A Muslim can write a will to distribute up to one-third of their estate to non-heirs or make specific bequests, but two-thirds of the estate must be distributed according to Faraid.
Q: Who are the legal heirs under Faraid?
A: The legal heirs under Faraid include spouses, parents, children, siblings, and other relatives, depending on the deceased’s family structure.
Q: Is it essential to engage a lawyer for estate planning under Faraid?
A: While it is not compulsory, engaging a lawyer for estate planning can ensure that the distribution of assets is in compliance with Islamic law and minimizes potential disputes among heirs.