Sunday, April 13, 2008

Death of a non-Muslim in the UAE

The wife of a British friend died recently. She contracted pancreatic cancer and was told that travel back to Britain would be too dangerous in her condition. I know (a very little) about best medical practices, and everything I know tells me that she received the best possible medical care in the UAE, as good as she could have gotten in Britain or anywhere else. Everyone I know who has needed medical treatment in the UAE has gotten treatment that is in line with the best in the world. I am sure there are specialties that the UAE lacks, but for most people the health care here is excellent.

My friend's problem, unique to the UAE, started after his wife's death. The local newspapers have explained that Muslims will have their estates processed (the English word is probated, but I'm not sure if that applies here) according to Sharia law. Non-Muslims are advised to draw up a will in their home country. So my friend and his wife drew up wills in Britain, and these will determine the probation of his wife's estate in Britain.

But his wife left a car and a checking account in the UAE, and a British will does not apply to the disposition of a person's assets in the UAE. The courts apparently divided up the money in the checking account and dispersed it in accordance with Sharia, but the car is not so easily divided, so they said he must not drive it or sell it until the court issues its final settlement, which will be to divide it up in accordance with Sharia.

My friend plans to leave the UAE and return to Britain in June, does not wish to abandon a car worth about £1,000, and does not wish to spend more than £1,000 in legal fees on a £1,000 car.

I mentioned this to a Muslim friend, who said that Sharia cannot be applied to non-Muslims. However, judges can adjudicate however they like, and judges who think Sharia is the fairest way to divide a car can order the car divided according to Sharia.

And there doesn't seem to be anything my British friend can do about it.


Blogger grapeshisha said...

A sad story. As a non-Muslim, Sharia shouldnt apply, but it applies as the law of the land. And hence I suspect the ruling.

5:15 pm  

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