Is it Allowed to Bequeath Unlawful Wealth?
In the name of Allaah, peace and prayer of Allaah be upon His messenger,
When one works in an illegal field, there are 3 possibilities for the wealth that he leaves behind after he died;
 Wealth that is clearly lawful
 Wealth that is clearly unlawful
 Wealth that is mixed between the lawful and unlawful elements in it
 Wealth that is unclear whether it was obtained through lawful or unlawful means
The principle in this matter is as follows,
المال الحرام لا يطيب بالميراث
“Unlawful wealth can’t be purified by bequeathing it,”
This principle was written by Ibn Rusdy in his book, “al-Muqadimat al-Mumahidat (2/159)
Details regarding Its Status in Law according to the Scholars
Firstly, wealth that is clearly lawful
It is when the inheritor is certain that there is a part of the wealth of the deceased that is obtained through lawful means. For example, from his or her parents’ inheritance, or from other people’s gift, or from any lawful work. It is allowed for the inheritor to possess this wealth, according to the rightful division of inheritance.
Secondly, wealth that is clearly unlawful
It is when the inheritor knows for certain that there is a part of the wealth of the deceased that is deemed unlawful. For example, the inheritor is certain that the land and its property on a specific location was bought using money from usurious transactions.
It is not allowed for the inheritor to inherit such wealth. His or her obligation is to return it to its original owner, if the owner is known. Or, he can donate the wealth on behalf of its owner.
In the book “ al-Mi’yar al-Mu’arrab” it is said that,
وقد سئل يحيى بن إبراهيم المالكي عن المال الحرام : هل يحله الميراث أم لا ؟ فأجاب: “لا يحل المال الحرام في قول مالك”
“Yahya Ibn Ibrahim Al-Maliki was asked about unlawful wealth, will it turn lawful if it is bequeathed or not?
He answered, “Inheritance does not turn unlawful wealth to lawful, according to Imam Malik.” (See: al-Mi’yar al-Mu’arrab, 6/47)
Ibn Rusyd said,
أما الميراث فلا يطيب المال الحرام للوارث، هذا هو الصحيح الذي يوجبه النظر
Inheritance doesn’t turn unlawful wealth into lawful for the inheritor. This is the correct opinion, as the result of ijtihad.” (See: Muqadimat al-Mumahidat, 2/159)
Thirdly, wealth that is mixed between the lawful and unlawful
It is when the inheritor knows that in the wealth that is left by the deceased, there are both unlawful and lawful wealth. There are 3 choices that are advised by the scholars:
 If the lawful and unlawful parts are known, then the unlawful one should be taken out from the rest.
 If the lawful and unlawful parts are unknown, then the unlawful should be taken out based on prediction
 However, it is advised to take out all of them, as a precaution; it is better more advisable.
Sheikh al-Islam was asked about a man who died and his income was from the usurious means. What should his children, who knows about the condition of his father’s wealth, do?
وأما القدر الذي يعلم الولد أنه ربا فيخرجه: إما أن يرده إلى أصحابه إن أمكن، وإلا تصدق به، والباقي لا يحرم عليه، لكن القدر المشتبه يستحب تركه
“The part that he knows that it is from usury must be taken out, whether by returning it to its rightful owner, or by donating it. Whereas the rest is not unlawful for the inheritor. However, if the lawful and unlawful parts are unclear, it is advised for him to leave it.” (See: al-Fatawa al-Kubro, 1/478)
Fourth, wealth that is unclear whether it was obtained through lawful or unlawful means. If there is a part of the wealth that the inheritor doesn’t have any knowledge whether it comes from lawful or unlawful source, such wealth is lawful to be taken by the inheritor.
من ورث مالاً ولم يعلم من أين كسبه مورثه أمن حلال أم من حرام؟ ولم تكن علامة فهو حلال بإجماع العلماء، فإن علم أن فيه حراماً وشك في قدره أخرج قدر الحرام بالاجتهاد
Whoever obtains inheritance while he doesn’t know from what source the deceased obtained it, whether from lawful or unlawful sources, and there is no indication at all (that points out the status of that inheritance, -tr), then the status of such wealth is lawful according to the agreement among scholars. But if it is known that there is an unlawful part in it, but the inheritor is unclear about its amount, then he should take out some of that wealth based on estimation.” (See:al-Majmu’, 9/351).
Allaah knows best.
Written by Ustadz Ammi Nur Baits