Compensation: A fair compensation or an unfair gift

Q107 :May I put to you the case of a family which includes two brothers and three sisters as well as their two parents. Normally, brothers contribute to the finances of the family and meet its commitments. When one brother has a better position and greater income than the other, he is able to contribute more. The father now wishes to give this brother a greater portion of the family property in lieu of his contributions. He would then divide the balance among his other children.

A107 : There seems to be an air of justice about this question. We have a father who is keen to return to his son the kind of treatment received from the dutiful one. The son has looked after his family, has been kind to his parents and helped in the marriages of his sisters, etc. Since he has done his bit, it is time to compensate him by transferring to him a part of the family property. The remainder will be divided in accordance with Allah's law of inheritance, but only after this son has received his "fair" compensation. Can anyone raise objection to this? Nevertheless, the whole matter is totally unfair. In this family, we have two brothers, one of them is in a better position than the other. Both make their contributions to the family finances, but the other with a better income pays more. The question here is whether these payments gave him any privileged position in the family. Every Muslim knows that sons who are able to work may be required to support their parents and sisters as well as their younger or older brothers, if they do not have any other source of income. This requirement is a duty which Allah has imposed. If there are more than one son in the family, each must contribute to the family finances and their contributions may vary according to their means. We cannot expect a person who earns 2,000 per month to pay the same amount as one who earns 15,000 per month. Nor is it expected that two brothers who have the same income should make the same contributions, if one has a family of his own to support while the other is still unmarried. What I am trying to explain is that two brothers may make widely different contributions to the finances of their family, but the one who pays more may not be able to claim any favor for his larger contribution. The circumstances of each may dictate the level of his contribution. If both are doing their duty, which Allah has imposed on them, then they must expect their reward from Allah. They must not look for some compensation from their father or anyone else, particularly when that compensation may constitute unfairness to a third party. If one of the sons is rich or has an income which is far in excess of what he needs, his contribution must be greater in amount than his brother's who is less fortunate or who has more commitments. Here we are looking at absolute fairness, not mere equality of sums paid and help given. If we look at this case more closely, we find that now that the three sisters have been married off, the father wants to assign some of his property to the brother who has made more contribution. I would have thought an assignment in favor of the less affluent son would be more logical [though not appropriate]. The father would then be doing something to improve the lot of his less fortunate son. The other has a better income and can look after his family well. Instead of this, we find the father trying to add to the wealth of the richer of his two sons. Maybe the father wants him to feel that he has a continuous duty to look after his brother and three sisters, even though everyone of them is married. But the father should have more foresight than this. By making his rich son even richer, he creates a feeling of unease among the rest of his children. That unease could give rise to jealousy and what could be even worse, as the rest of the family becomes envious of their more fortunate brother. The father should guard against creating such feelings. This is the reason why the Prophet has spoken in very strong terms against favoritism among one's own children. He has given us this general instruction which makes it clear that absolute justice should be maintained between children: "Fear Allah and be fair to all your children." That the Prophet starts his instruction by saying, "Fear Allah", suggests that unfairness among children is something that incurs Allah's anger. Nothing which is permissible leads to this outcome. It must be concluded, therefore, that it is forbidden. You speak of a gift as being compensation for what that son has done to the family. It may be so, but his contributions were not made as a loan which would be repaid later. If they were, then the father could pay that loan. Since the contributions were made in fulfillment of the son's duty, no compensation is required. Allah's reward is more than ample compensation. If I were to speak bluntly, I would say that I detect a desire on the part of the father to keep the wealth of the family from the reach of the husbands of his three daughters. This is a common desire among the people in rural areas, particularly when the wealth of the family includes agricultural land. The family would be keen to keep that land and not to allow their daughters to have portions of it, so that the land is not divided among different families. However, Allah does not approve of this. He has laid down a system of inheritance which we must follow. He has given every daughter her fair share. Perhaps I should remind you that a share of the son is equal to twice the share of the daughter. There are good reasons for this difference in shares. A son has much greater commitments to fulfill. One such duty is to look after his sisters.

Our Dialogue ( Source : Arab News - Jeddah )