Is it permitted for me to sell my ‘right of inheritance’ to a friend? What I mean is that my brother does not have any children and therefore I am entitled to inherit part of his estate when he passes away. However, I am old and terminally ill, so is it allowed if my friend pays me a sum of money now, and in return he takes the inheritance instead of me when my brother passes away?
Islamically, it is forbidden and invalid to sell, or even gift, one’s right of inheriting an estate to another person.
Sayyiduna Abdullah ibn Umar (Allah be pleased with him) relates that the Messenger of Allah (Allah bless him & give him peace) forbade selling and giving away the right to inherit [the estate of] a slave (al-wala’) (Sahih al-Bukhari 2535 and Sahih Muslim 1506)
The term ‘al-Wala’ used in this hadith refers to the right of inheriting the estate of a slave. When a slave who was granted emancipation died, the one who set him free was entitled to inherit his estate when no other eligible heirs were present. The Arabs would trade this right or give it away to others, hence the Messenger of Allah (Allah bless him & give him peace) forbade it emphatically.
The renowned hadith scholars such as Imam Nawawi, Imam Ayni and others explain that the ‘right to inherit’ is from those rights that have been explicitly granted by Shari’ah. It is similar to the right of lineage, i.e. a person has a right to attribute himself to his father. Such rights are not transferable from one person to another by way of sale, gift or any other method. There is, more or less, a consensus on this position. (See: Nawawi, Al-Minhaj sharh Sahih Muslim p: 1155; Ayni, Umdat al-Qari sharh Sahih al-Bukhari 9/335; and Usmani, Takmila Fath al-Mulhim sharh Sahih Muslim 4/192)
As such, the right to inherit (haq al-irth), whether the estate of a slave that one freed – as mentioned in the aforementioned hadith – or the estate of a family member, is a permanent right granted by Shari’ah. Thus, it is not permitted to sell, transfer or give away this right to another person, such that he is entitled to inherit the estate instead of the original heir. (Buhuth fi Qadaya fiqhiyya Mu’asara p: 84)
Moreover, in the case of selling one’s inheritance right there is an element of chancing or uncertainty (gharar) which in of itself is prohibited. The buyer pays the price to the seller in return for the right to inherit, but there is no guarantee that he will inherit anything, since it is possible that he dies before the person whose estate he is scheduled to inherit. Even if he lives longer and does inherit, there is no certainty of how much he will inherit, whilst the price he pays to acquire this right is certain. Islam rejects all contracts where one party pays the price in certainty, but the return is uncertain. (Taqrir Tirmidhi 1/119)
In summary, it is not permitted for you to sell or give away your right of inheriting the estate of your brother. However, after he passes away, it will be permitted, because it no longer remains a right as such, rather you own a proportionate share in his estate, which you can sell or give away to whomsoever you like.
And Allah knows best
[Mufti] Muhammad ibn Adam
Leicester , UK