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Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Islamic Inheritance: Hiba — Capacity for Making a Gift (part 1)

As in all religions, Islam too attaches great value to the performance of charity and to the act of giving. In the Holy Quran, it is laid down that the act of spending out of love for God, your kin, for orphans, for the poor, for the wayfarers, for those who ask, and to be steadfast in prayer and to practice regular charity, are all held to be acts of righteousness.

Gift is a generic term that includes all transfers of property without consideration. In India, Gift is considered equivalent to Hiba but technically, Gift has a much wider scope than Hiba. The word Hiba literally means, the donation of a thing from which the donee may derive a benefit. It must be immediate and complete. The most essential element of Hiba is the declaration, “I have given”.

As per Hedaya, Hiba is defined technically as, “unconditional transfer of property, made immediately and without any exchange or consideration, by one person to another and accepted by or on behalf of the latter”.

Under Muslim Law, where one Muslim signifies his willingness to make to another an immediate and unconditional transfer without consideration of the ownership of an existing and definite piece of property, and if the other accepts that transfer of ownership and if possession of the property is transferred thereupon, then a valid gift (or “Hiba” as it is called) takes place in respect of such property.

Since Muslim law views the law of Gift as a part of law of contract, there must be an offer (izab), an acceptance (qabul), and transfer (qabza). The transfer of certain existing moveable or immoveable property made voluntarily and without consideration, by one person, called the donor, to another, called the donee, and accepted by or on behalf of the donee must be made during the lifetime of the donor and while he is still capable of giving. If the donee dies before acceptance, the gift is void

The donor (the person who gives). Any person who is sui juris can make a gift of his property. Like any other contract, the requisite conditions are [the age of] majority, understanding, freedom and ownership of the subject matter of the disposition. A person must be major, able to understand the nature of the act, be subject to no undue influence, coercion or duress and must be the owner of the property to be gifted. A declaration by the donor therefore must be clear and unambiguous intention of the donor to make a gift. Further Conditions for donor would be that he must be free of any fraudulent or coercive advice as well as undue influence & of course he must have ownership over the property to be transferred by way of gift.

A gift by a married woman is valid and is subjected to same legal rules and consequences. A gift by a pardanashin woman is also valid but in case of a dispute the burden of proof that the transaction was not conducted by coercion or undue influence is on the donee. A person in insolvent circumstances is also valid provided that it is bona fide and not merely intended to defraud the creditors.

Rajiv Shah
Head - Life and Pensions
Earnest Insurance Brokers

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