Land Expropriation

Q. In the apartheid times the government forcefully took away many properties from our parents and grandparents and gave them meagre sums of money as a form of compensation. The government is now compensating people who were affected by giving applicants claiming that their parents/grandparents properties had been expropriated, in lieu of the injustice done. My question is that would that now form part of the estate of the deceased to be distributed amongst the heirs or will they be the sole right and ownership of the applicant. 

A. A government does not hold the right to forcefully seize the wealth and property from its citizens/rightful owners. If a government forces its citizens to sell their wealth and property to them for a meagre value, under duress, the citizens hold the right to take it back. Such a transaction is considered incomplete unless the citizens later agree to it. (Fathul Qadeer 8/167 – Maktabah Rasheediyyah/ Raddul Muhtar 4/180/1 – H.M. Sa’eed Company/ Jawaahirul Fiqh 2/315-338 – Maktabah Darul Uloom Karachi)

As such, if a person passed away whilst holding the right to take back his wealth and property from the government and the government is compensating for what they forcefully seized from him now, the compensation will form part of his estate and will be distributed amongst his surviving heirs. 

The sole right of the compensation does not necessarily belong to the claimants. The sole right of compensation belongs to the heirs of the deceased.

Note: Generally, in such cases, there are many people who held right to their wealth and property and passed away. The guidance of the Ulama should be sort as to who are the rightful claimants of the compensation. If one does not qualify as an heir, it will not be permissible for one to claim right to the compensation as it would constitute usurping the wealth and property of others, which is Haraam.

Allah Ta’ala Knows Best

Mufti Ismaeel Bassa