Understanding Sharia Law and Its Impact on Wills in Dubai

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Understanding Sharia Law and Its Impact on Wills in Dubai

In the UAE understanding the legal landscape is important for both residents and expatriates. At the heart of this legal framework lies Sharia law, a system that is a major influence on inheritance and will-writing processes. This blog aims to explain Sharia law in the UAE, particularly its application in Dubai, and its impact on wills and inheritance for both Muslims and non-Muslims


Sharia Law: The Foundation of Islamic Law

Sharia law, the moral and legal framework of Islam, forms the base of many Islamic countries’ legal systems, including the UAE. Derived primarily from the Quran and the Hadith (sayings and practices of Prophet Muhammad), Sharia law consists of a wide range of aspects of daily life, including inheritance and family matters.

In short, Sharia law seeks to guide Muslims to lead a life following Islamic principles. Its interpretation and application can vary across different Islamic societies, reflecting the diversity within the Muslim world.


Sharia Law Inheritance: Navigating the Complexities

Under Sharia law, inheritance follows a complex system known as “Fara’id”. This system prescribes fixed shares for certain relatives, ensuring a fair distribution of wealth among family members. The Quran explicitly outlines these shares, leaving little room for individual discretion in asset distribution. Under Sharia law, inheritance follows a complex system. Key principles of Sharia law inheritance include fixed shares for immediate family members, prioritization of male heirs in certain circumstances, and consideration of extended family members in the absence of immediate heirs. Although these ideas are the foundation of Sharia inheritance law, it’s vital to remember that their actual implementation can be complex and call for professional interpretation.

Sharia Law in UAE: A Blend of Tradition and Modernity

The UAE legal system is a combination of Sharia law and civil law. While Sharia law forms the foundation, particularly in matters of personal status and inheritance, civil law governs many aspects of commercial and criminal matters. In Dubai, Sharia courts handle family and inheritance cases for Muslims while civil courts primarily deal with other legal matters. This dual system allows for a flexible approach, balancing traditional Islamic principles with the needs of a modern society.

Crafting a Will in Dubai

Writing a will in Dubai requires careful consideration of both Sharia law and local regulations. For Muslims, wills must generally adhere to Sharia inheritance principles. However, non-Muslim expatriates have more flexibility in how they distribute their assets.

Key points to consider when writing a will in Dubai include clear identification of assets and beneficiaries, compliance with UAE legal requirements, and registration with appropriate authorities, such as the DIFC Wills Service Centre. Professional legal advice is crucial to ensure your will is valid and enforceable under UAE law.

Sharia Law in UAE for Expats: Implications and Options

For non-Muslim expatriates in the UAE, understanding the implications of Sharia law on inheritance is necessary. By default, Sharia law may apply to an expatriate’s estate if they die without a registered will in the UAE.

However, non-Muslims have options to avoid the application of Sharia law to their estates by registering a will with the DIFC Wills Service Centre, creating a will in their home country that covers their UAE assets, and seeking legal advice to structure their assets in a Sharia-compliant manner. These options allow expatriates to ensure their assets are distributed according to their wishes while respecting local laws.


Debunking myths about Sharia Law

Despite its significant role in Islamic countries, Sharia law is often misunderstood, particularly in Western societies. Common misconceptions include the idea that Sharia law is inflexible or that it always disadvantages women in inheritance matters. But in reality, Sharia law is a complex and nuanced system that has evolved over centuries. In the context of the UAE, it coexists with modern legal principles, creating a unique legal landscape that balances tradition with contemporary needs. Here are a few of those myths, debunked:

  • Many assume that non-Muslims in the UAE are subject to Sharia law. This is not entirely true as non-muslims can create a will that may go against the Sharia principles. 
  • While some assume that the Sharia law is rigid and inflexible, reinterpretation of this Islamic law is done to address contemporary issues. Many Islamic countries have modernized their law while retaining the Sharia principles.
  • Another common myth is that the Sharia Law is disadvantageous to women when it comes to matters of inheritance. When this might be true that male heirs receive a larger share of the inheritance, the Islamic inheritance system takes multiple familial relationships into account for asset distribution.


Understanding Sharia law and its application in Dubai is essential for anyone living or investing in the emirate. While Sharia law forms the foundation of inheritance laws, Dubai’s legal system offers flexibility, particularly for non-Muslim expatriates. Whether you’re a long-term resident or a recent arrival, taking the time to understand Sharia law and its implications for wills and inheritance can help you make informed decisions about your estate planning.


Frequently Asked Questions


1. Does Sharia law apply to all residents in Dubai?

   Sharia law primarily applies to Muslims, but it can affect non-Muslims in certain circumstances, particularly in matters of inheritance if they haven’t made other alternate arrangements like a will.

2. Can non-Muslims create a will that doesn’t follow Sharia law in Dubai?

  Yes, non-Muslims can register a will with the DIFC Wills Service Centre that distributes their assets according to their wishes, outside of Sharia law.

3. Is it necessary to have a will in Dubai?

While not legally required, having a registered will in Dubai is highly recommended, especially for expatriates, to ensure your assets are distributed according to your wishes.

4. Can Sharia law inheritance rules be modified?

For Muslims, Sharia inheritance rules are generally fixed. However, there may be some flexibility in how they are applied in specific circumstances.

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