We are honored to bring you this guest post from Dr. M Yaqub Mirza, President & CEO, Sterling Management Group, Inc. and author of “Five Pillars of Prosperity: Essentials of Faith-Based Wealth Building” which is available on Amazon. This article is an excerpt from his book released here in two parts. You can read Part I here.
Giving While Living: Part II
There appears to be much confusion within the Muslim community when it comes to distribution of wealth among one’s children. To begin with, while living, we must treat all of our children equally in every respect (i.e., upbringing, clothing, education, cars, marriage, and travel), and without discrimination between male and female. A child, whether male or female, has a right to sustenance, education, proper care, and being treated equally while the parents are alive. (An exception is if one child is handicapped and has special needs –therefore, this child may be given more than the others.) This principle is supported by Hadith. The Prophet asked a man who had given a gift to his son: “‘Have you other children besides this one?’ He said, ‘Yes.’ The Prophet asked, ‘Have you awarded a gift like this to all of them?’ The man said, ‘No.’ The Prophet said, ‘I am not going to bear witness to this act of injustice.’”
The Prophet taught us that it is obligatory for a father to treat all his children equally, especially in the matter of giving gifts. This Hadith is also advanced by scholars (‘ulama’) in support of the contention that if a person wants to distribute property amongst his children during his lifetime, he should not make any discrimination among his male and female children and should give an equal share to all of them. “Each one of you is a caretaker (ra’iy), and is responsible for those under his care. Wasting the sustenance of his dependents is sufficient sin for man.”
While you are living, you can freely give equally amongst your children, irrespective of their gender. It is only upon one’s death that the Shari‘ah schedule of distribution applies.
While living, we may want to give to charity, or gift to deserving non-inheritors, and distribute the rest equally to our children, leaving little to nothing for the inheritance. However, one should keep in mind the hadith of the Prophet: “Leaving your heirs free from want, is better than they should be begging to other people.”
Also, if a person wants to give more than one-third of the inheritance to non-inheritors or to a charity (or charities) of his or her choice, he or she can do so after getting consent from the inheritors. A child with special needs can also be taken care of this way. Additionally, an inheritor can gift or forego his or her share in favor of someone else.
The concept of “Giving While Living” is not a uniquely Muslim or Islamic concept. In Andrew Carnegie’s famous 1889 essay, “Wealth,” Carnegie argued that the wealthy have a duty to give back and help their communities during in their lifetime, and not merely in death. He strongly referred to those who mainly give away wealth after death: “men who leave vast sums in this way may fairly be thought men who would not have left it at all, had they been able to take it with them”
It is imperative on the wealthy to support their communities and to focus on giving back while living. We also know that the Prophet (SAW) taught us that giving charity will not in any way decrease our wealth. Consider Capitain Levy, a pious man from Philadelphia, who was once asked how he could give so much to the Lord’s work and still possess great wealth. The Captain replied, “Oh, as I shovel it out, He shovels it in, and the Lord has a bigger shovel.” Thus, we have no excuse not to give while we are living, as the benefits are many and the negatives are non-existent.
In giving while living, we can see the benefits of our efforts immediately. We can also be instrumental in ensuring that our wealth is put to good use. Moreover, we know that no matter how much we give, Allah SWT will not decrease our wealth. And though we are limited to giving only up to 1/3 of our wealth in death, we have no such limitations during our lifetime. Time to start giving!
 Hadith: 353 Riyad-us-Saliheen