Reasons for Preparing an Islamic Will
In the Quran, the Islamic will (Wasiyah) is discussed soon after addressing the law of Qisas. It shows the wisdom of the non-chronological order of the Quran. Can you infer why the will was discussed right after Qisas?
What happens when someone passes away? In the midst of mourning and distress, the issues of inheritance come up. As sordid as the thought is, it is something that many families witness. The burial might yet be awaited, but arguments over wealth and property have already started.
In Surah Al-Baqarah verse 180 Allah (swt) says: “It is prescribed for you, when death approaches any of you, if he leaves wealth, that he make a bequest to parents and next of kin, according to reasonable manners. (This is) a duty upon Al-Muttaqun.”
Allah (swt) abhors Fasad (mischief). He wants us to live in mutual agreement, where no one’s rights are usurped and matters are dealt fairly. Therefore, in the verse, Allah (swt) says: “It is prescribed for you.” He stresses the prescription by calling it a ‘duty’ upon the Muslims.
While this verse was later abrogated and replaced with the verses of inheritance, the duty to leave a will for non-heirs still remains. Two-thirds of our inheritance will be distributed as per the terms stated in Surah An-Nisa; we have absolutely no control over who gets what. But for the remaining one-third, we have a choice. This is a favour of Allah (swt) that we must acknowledge.
Before we proceed to the reasons, know that a will can be monetary as well as non-monetary. It can be written or verbal. In simpler terms, the Islamic will is a set of instructions that the one being instructed is to carry out.
Settlement of Debts
If all loans and debts are written down in one document, the heirs will not have to go through multiple financial details to ensure that you are free of debts. If any debts are to be settled, they will hasten to clear them up. The Prophet (sa) said a person will not enter Paradise, until debt has been paid off. (An-Nasai)
If you do not leave an amount for your settlements, then money will be withdrawn from the inheritors’ shares, which might cause friction. Moreover, if all the details are written down, the heirs will not have to wrangle between their sorrow and creditors. Nobody can cheat them.
Returning the Property to its Rightful Owner
If something has been deposited with you for safekeeping that no one else knows about, write it down, so that the property can be returned to its rightful owner. Likewise, if you have missed obligatory fasts or any Zakat is outstanding, leave a note about it, so that your family can pay them off.
Planning Your Continuous Charity
One of the three things that continue to benefit the deceased is a continuous charity that he leaves behind. We should all think about the projects we can start or invest in. Later, we can instruct in our will to continue them to benefit us after our death.
For example, you have a Quran school; you can leave instructions in your will regarding its administration, such as who will look after it and how it will be run. The continuous charity project does not necessarily have to be something big. It could be anything of benefit.
You can also give the entire one-third or a portion of the amount to a project of continuous charity, such as a Masjid, building of wells, sponsoring orphans, facilitating prison programmes for poor captives, and so on. If you do not write down where the money should be spent, the beneficiaries will have a free choice to use it as it pleases them.
Some rituals followed at funerals are not based on the Quran or Sunnah. You can leave instructions that no innovations are followed. If a woman observed veil in her life, it will not please her to be exposed to the non-Mahrams at the time of her death. Shifting the body from one place to another or delaying the burial is not recommended in the Shariah.
Bathing instructions can be given. When Abu Bakr (rtam) recognized that he was nearing his time, he instructed his wife Asma (rtam) to bathe him. Choose a person who fears Allah (swt) and will consciously prepare you for your meeting with the Creator. This should be a trustworthy person, who does not reveal what he or she sees in private.
Not informing our families about what is allowed and not allowed can lead us to disobeying Allah (swt) in our last moments, while we had been meticulous about not displeasing Him in our lives.
Increasing Your Good Deeds
You have a wardrobe full of clothes, shelves stocked with books, or items that will be of no use to your family – you can write down to which charity or library the items should be donated.
Having studied the Quran, a scholar decided to write its exegesis; however, death overtook him. The scholar’s project was not abandoned. His son took the responsibility and resumed working on the exegesis, until he too died. The work was then taken on by the grandson, and Allah (swt) allowed him to complete what his grandfather had started. Subhan’Allah!
Time to Think, Plan, and Revise
Planning beforehand gives you time to think and outline all the necessary details, as well as to pick the right person for this responsibility. It also allows you to make revisions, should the conditions change later.
Conditions of an Islamic Will
While Allah (swt) allowed leaving a bequest for the non-heirs, He also ensured that the rights of the heirs are not trampled. The Islamic will has certain conditions that must be kept in mind. These are as follows:
- It should not exceed the one-third limit. It is preferable for it to be less, as one’s heirs are more deserving of one’s kindness and generosity.
Sad bin Abi Waqqas (rtam) said: “O Allah’s Messenger! I have some money and only a daughter inherits from me; should I will all my remaining property (to others)?” The Prophet (sa) replied: “No.” Sad (rtam) asked: “Then may I will half of it?” The Prophet (sa) said: “No.” Sad (rtam) asked: “One-third?” The Prophet (sa) said: “Yes, one-third; yet even one-third is too much. It is better for you to leave your inheritors wealthy than to leave them poor and begging from others.” (Bukhari)
- The beneficiary should not be an heir. Wasiyah (Islamic will) is different from Mirath (inheritance). Inheritance will be distributed as per the shares stipulated in the Shariah. The Prophet (sa) said: “Allah (swt) has given each heir his fixed share. So there is no will for an heir.” (Malik) The beneficiaries, however, can be one’s grandchildren, nieces, or nephews.
- The terms of the will should not harm one’s heirs. In anger, some parents deprive their children of their due rights. For example, a father says to his son: “I will not leave you any legacy. You are cut-off.” Note that such instructions do not apply in Islam. One cannot deprive their heirs of something that has been ordained in Shariah. If anyone leaves such instructions, they remain invalid and will not be acted upon.
Allah (swt) says: “There is a share for men and a share for women, from what is left by parents, and those nearest related, whether, the property be small or large – a legal share.” (An-Nisa 4:7)
Depriving one’s heir of their rightful share is a major sin that can result in punishment in the hereafter. Therefore, we should be really conscious about the words that we utter and the foreign concepts that we have adopted through movies and dramas. Allah (swt) says: “And whosoever disobeys Allah and His Messenger (Muhammad (sa)), and transgresses His limits, He will cast him into the Fire, to abide therein; and he shall have a disgraceful torment.” (An-Nisa 4:4)
- It should not be for any non-Islamic and immoral purpose. For example, it is not allowed to leave a property for building a bar or a night club. A will can only be for a good cause that benefits the deceased, after a person is gone. This is why it is called a favour from Allah (swt). If someone leaves a will that his property be distributed for some corrupt cause, then such a will has no worth and stands cancelled. The heirs out of their goodness, however, can give that amount or share to a good cause.
The Islamic will is not an irrevocable set of instructions. Should there be a need, the conditions can be changed because in Al-Baqarah verse 182, Allah (swt) says: “But he who fears from a testator some unjust act or wrongdoing, and thereupon he makes peace between the parties concerned, there shall be no sin on him.” If later it is felt that injustice has been done, then alterations can be made with mutual agreement.