Q. In South Africa, can a Muslim inherit or accept a bequest from a non-Muslim?
A. In principle, if a non-Muslim passes away and is survived by Muslims heirs, it will not be permissible for the deceased’s (non-Muslim) Muslims heirs to inherit from his/her estate. This ruling is applicable to an Islamic State.
In a secular state, like South Africa, the above ruling does not apply. Hence, if a non-Muslim passes away and is survived by Muslims heirs, it will be permissible for the deceased’s Muslims heirs to inherit from his/her estate.
In the case of a non-Muslim bequeathing from his/her estate to his/her Muslim heirs or any Muslim, it will be permissible for Muslim heirs or Muslims to accept a non-Muslims bequest without any limitation to the value of one third of the estate. A Muslim can accept a bequest from a non-Muslim over and above the one-third value of the estate.
Note: The above ruling is primarily based on the premise that Islamic Laws are not binding on non-Muslims in a non-Muslim/secular state. (Shaami 6/655/Imadaadul Ahkaam 4/627-628)
In terms of non-Muslims inheriting from Muslims or Muslims making bequests in favor of non-Muslims, it is binding upon Muslims to adhere to the Islamic Laws and Principles of Shariah. Therefore, a Muslim cannot make a non-Muslim an heir and neither can a Muslim bequeath more than one third of his/her estate to a non-Muslim. In such an instance, it is necessary (Waajib) upon Muslims living in non-Muslim/secular states to sign an Islamic Will ensuring the distribution of theirs estates according to the Islamic Laws of Succession and Inheritance.
Allah Ta’ala Knows Best
Mufti Ismaeel Bassa