Islam is not just about the worship of our Lord; rather, it is a comprehensive way of life which requires the believer to follow the guidance of Allah (swt) on how to dwell in this world. Thus, Allah (swt) has provided for us directions regarding death and dying. Death is inevitable, and every person, regardless their race and religion, will face it. One of the most significant matters, when talking about death, is that a person is expected to leave behind an Islamically sound will, constructed according to the notions provided by Allah (swt).
The action upon Wasiyah (will) is undertaken after the death of the testator. It is emphasized within the Quran that people must leave behind a justified will. A Hadeeth instructs us regarding the importance of the will: “A man may do good deeds for seventy years, but if he acts unjustly, when he leaves his last testament, the wickedness of his deed will be sealed upon him, and he will enter the Fire. If (on the other hand) a man acts wickedly for seventy years but is just in his last will and testament, the goodness of his deed will be sealed upon him, and he will enter the Garden.” (Ahmad and Ibn Majah)
Islam has provided a detailed account on how a person is supposed to create fair dichotomy of his or her wealth among the inheritors and also for the benefit of the society. Our religion conserves two thirds of the wealth for the purpose of inheritance, and this portion is to be disposed of in accordance with the Islamic inheritance laws, as these two thirds do not fall under the laws of the Islamic will. Thus, a person can write his or her will only regarding the remaining one third and specify how it should be distributed – it may be willed to charity or given to any person or cause, which does not go against our religion. Next in order is the guardianship of children one leaves behind, which should also be detailed within the will.
The Islamic obligation of will is appreciated by many foreign philosophers and social workers, such as the following statement from a leading British professor named Almaric Rumsey teaching at Kings College in London, England: “The Muslim law of inheritance comprises beyond question the most refined and elaborate set of rules for the devolution of property that is known to the western world.”
Since the significance of the will is repeatedly emphasized within the religion, those who leave behind a will according to the teachings of the Messenger (sa) and the Quranic injunctions would have an elevated status in the Hereafter. While those who fail to do so would be punished severely, as mentioned earlier.
The absence of the will gives rise to numerous issues for the people left behind, after the death of the testator. Some of them are as follows:
- Unjust distribution of estate and other wealth. The testator should specify in his or her will the wish for the inheritors to follow the Islamic inheritance laws regarding the two thirds of what he or she leaves behind, especially so, if living in non-Muslim countries. Failure to do so may lead to the inheritors making wrong decisions about the distribution, based on personal interests to acquire large parts. Likewise, if inheritance is not distributed according to Islamic laws, it would fall under the jurisdiction to the state they live in, which may not fulfill the Islamic guidelines.
- Disputes within the family. Disputes among families regarding the division of inheritance are a significant factor that leads to breakup of family ties. Economic recession, coupled with the wish for luxurious lifestyles, make people view the inheritance as a major economic source. It is a nail that has been grinding families, culminating in such issues as divorces, homicides, and communication bans. The arguments over inheritance frequently shape into vigorous affairs which are extremely challenging to handle. It is, therefore, emphasized that any person who reaches the adulthood and possess a sane mind must prepare a will, because death can overtake us at any time.
- Problems regarding childcare. A significant aspect of writing the will is the custody of childcare. If a person or a couple has young children, they need to give directions regarding their guardianship in case of their death. Absence of a will can result in misunderstandings among the relatives, as to who would be responsible for the upbringing of children. Moreover, if a child is adopted by a non-Muslim family, the fate of the child would be very unfortunate, as he or she may be raised with a different religion.
In conclusion, the will is of great significance in Islam, which we can see by the repeated emphasis for all the adults to keep their wills prepared. The will of a person should always observe justice, and must not contain any clause that contradicts the Quran or the Sunnah. The absence of a will would raise problems for the family of the deceased, which may culminate in lengthy conflicts. We should understand that our wealth is exclusively a means of surviving in this world; thus, when we write our will, we should do it with this lens on.