Another significant cause of conflict and disputes between our families is not following a specific ruling of Shariah. That ruling of Shariah is that, “live with each other like brothers, but carry out financial transactions like strangers”. It means that you should treat each other with love and affection, but when you have to carry out a business dealing, or when you have to buy and sell to each other, then conduct that transaction like you are strangers, the transaction should be completely transparent and there should be no vagueness or uncertainty in it. This is a great teaching of the Holy Prophet ﷺ.

The Holy Prophet ﷺ has said that Muslims should keep all their matters very clear and transparent. The ownership of all items or wealth owned by them should be very clear. Today our society is full of conflicts and discord because of not observing this rule of Shariah.

For example, the father started a business. Later on, his sons also started working in the same business. Now it is not determined that the son who is joining his father’s business; is he working as a business partner, is he just helping out the father out, or is he working as an employee on a fixed salary? All of them are working together in the business. When the father needs some money, he takes it out of the business. When the son needs some money, he does the same. Over the years, other sons also join the business one after the other. One of them may have worked for a long time in the business, another one for a short time.

There is no clarity in who owns the business, who owns what proportion of the business, or what salary a particular family member is supposed to draw from the business. If someone else advises them to make the ownership clear, then the reply is that there is no need of accounting between father and children, or between brothers, and that it would be a matter of mistrust if parents and children, or brothers, do such accounting with each other.

After another ten or twelve years, when sons get married and have children, or the father who started the business passes away, then conflicts start between brothers. Now, all the love goes away and the brothers start accusing each other that one has taken more money and they have received less money. When the conflict has escalated so much that they stop talking to each other, can’t even see each other’s faces, then they go to a Mufti to ask what to do. What can a Mufti do after so many years when there has never been any clarity about whether the father and the sons were working in partnership, or whether the sons were working as employees of their father?

All these conflicts arise when people do not follow this edict of the Shariah that financial transactions should be absolutely transparent. Whether the business is being conducted jointly by father and sons, brothers, or husband and wife, everyone’s ownership should be completely transparent. Everyone should know who owns what proportion of the business. Remember! Life being spent without clear financial dealings is a life of sin, because, without
clear establishment of ownership, a person doesn’t know whether what he is spending truly belongs to him, or belongs to someone else.

It is Shariah’s edict that after the death of a person, his inheritance should be distributed immediately according to the shares determined by Shariah for each inheritor. I remember that when my father (Hazrat Mufti Muhammad Shafi RE) passed away, my Sheikh Hazrat Dr Abdul Hai (may Allah bless him) came for condolence. The burial hadn’t taken place as yet. Hazrat Dr Sahib was unwell and was feeling quite weak. He was also hugely affected by the trauma of our father’s passing away. There was a khamirah (خمیرہ, tonic) that our father used to have. We took that khamirah to Hazrat Dr sahib so that he could have some of it to help with his weakness.

But, after taking the bottle of Khamirah in his hand, Hazrat Doctor sahib said, “It is not permissible for me to consume this Khamirah now, because it has now become part of inheritance, and unless all inheritors give permission, it is not permissible for me to eat it.” We said that “Hazrat. All the inheritors are present here, and we are all happily giving you permission to have it. Please have it.” It was only then that Hazrat Dr sahib used that Khamirah. Anyway, Allah Ta’ala has given the commandment that after a person’s demise, his inheritance should be distributed among the inheritors as soon as possible so that conflicts don’t arise.

As a result of ignorance in our society these days, if after someone’s death you tell someone to distribute inheritance early, then they say in reply, “what are you saying? At this time even their shroud hasn’t become dirty, and you have started talking about distributing their inheritance!” People think that distributing inheritance is a worldly matter, and leave it for later. However, in situations where the inheritance is not distributed for years and inheritors just kept utilizing it as they pleased, then later on the same people who felt there was no urgency in distributing inheritance, now start accusing each other about taking a greater portion from it unjustly.

That is why Shariah has directed that inheritance should be distributed as soon as possible so that ownership of assets remains clearly demarcated, and everyone should know who owns what. In our society today, it is not uncommon for both husband and wife not to know who is the owner of different household items, property or jewelry. It is not clear who owns the house. As a result of this conflicts arise later on.

It reminded me of a practice of my father (may Allah Ta’ala bless him). He was sick and bed bound for a period of time before he passed away from this world. He had become restricted to his room. My room was right next to his room. At the time of a meal his food was brought in a tray. As soon as he had finished his meal, he would ask for the utensils to be taken back inside immediately. Similarly, if he asked for a book to be borrowed from the Madrassah, he would ask for it to be taken back as soon as he was finished with it. Sometimes, when we were slow in returning those utensils or the book, he would get upset and tell us to take it back quickly.

Sometimes we used to wonder why our father was always in such a hurry to get these items out of his room? What difference did it make if returning these items was delayed by a few minutes? Then one day he told us, “I have written in my will that the only items in this house that belong to me are the ones inside this room, and that everything else in this house belongs to my wife. If I die in this situation that there are other items not belonging to me in this room, then according to my will people will believe these are part of my inheritance and will treat them as such. That is why I wish that any item that does not belong to me, should not stay in this room for too long, and whatever item comes into this room, is taken out of it as soon as possible.”

Anyway, he was so careful about clarity of ownership, that it was absolutely clear what was owned by him, what was owned by the wife, by the children, by acquaintances, that no conflict ever arose.

Therefore, Shariah has commanded us that ownership of each individual about each individual possession or property should be absolutely clear and separate. When we tell our acquaintances that you should keep your accounts and ownership separate right from the beginning, they say in reply that this accounting between loved ones smacks of unfriendliness. But what happens in reality is that after a few years, the same people who were making vows of never-ending love and affection, draw swords at each other over money. So, the source of a lot of conflict and discord is not keeping ownership separate right from the beginning.

Or, for example, the family decides to build a house. The father puts in some funds, one son puts in some funds, the other son puts in some funds, and they take a loan for the rest. But right at the beginning they did not clarify whether the sons wanted to become joint owners of the house, whether they were giving the amount as a loan to their father, or whether they were just helping their father out. The house gets built but no one knows legally what proportion of it is owned by who. If one of them then dies, a huge conflict arises over who owns this house. One person claims he invested this much amount in the house, the other one says that he paid for the land. Then they go to a Mufti to sort out inheritance issues. This sometimes leads to injustice with one party.

That is why it is very important to understand that the rule of Shariah is that if a son is working in his father’s business, and it was not clarified whether he was working as father’s business partner, or his employee, then even if the son keeps working like that his entire life, it will still be assumed that he was just helping his father out and he has no share in the business. That is why it is very important to clarify whether he is joining the business as a partner or as an employee, right at the beginning.

In Shariah, it is not enough for someone to say later that they had put their wife’s name on the title deeds of the house. According to Shariah, the proper way of transferring ownership to someone, for example wife, is that after putting her name on the ownership documents, she should also be given possession of the house and told that from now on she is the owner of that house and can dispose of it as she pleases. Without giving possession, ownership is not really transferred.

Because a lot of people these days have no knowledge of these commandments of Shariah they do as they please, and later on in life it leads to conflicts between family members, discord in society, and litigation between people. If people took care to follow Shariah closely, a lot of this litigation would never have been needed in the first place.

These conflicts and disagreements arise amongst people who are not ill-intentioned, who do not want to usurp other people’s property knowingly. However, because of their ignorance, they acted in a manner which ended up in these conflicts. But the people who are criminal-minded and dishonest, and who knowingly want to grab other people’s property unjustly, they are a different story altogether.

In summary, this lack of transparency of ownership is a major curse afflicting our society these days. We should first understand it clearly ourselves, and then also convey it to our friends, family and acquaintances that first we should all establish clearly who owns what and how much, both in our personal possessions and wealth, as well as businesses, and then conduct our financial transactions in a pleasant manner. But the accounting should remain transparent and there should be no ambiguity in transactions. May Allah Ta’ala give us all motivation to act on these principles through his blessings. Aameen

وآخر دعوا ان الحمد ﷲ رب العالمين