The Islamic Wills
This article is a very brief overview of the traditional Sunni Islamic law pertaining to the Islamic will. The aim of this article is to arouse awareness amongst Muslims particularly those living in the West regarding this important aspect of Islamic law. It should be stressed that when writing a will one should consult an Islamic scholar/legal expert to ensure that the will complies with Islamic law as well as the law of the country of residence.
When a Muslim dies there are four duties which need to be performed. These are:
- payment of funeral expenses
- payment of his/her debts
- execution his/her will
- distribution of the remaining estate amongst the heirs according to Sharia
The Islamic will is called al-wasiyya. a will is a transaction which comes into operation after the testator’s death. The will is executed after payment of funeral expenses and any outstanding debts. The one who makes a will (wasiyya) is called a testator (al-musi). the one on whose behalf a will is made is generally referred to as a legatee (al-musa lahu). Technically speaking the term “testatee” is perhaps a more accurate translation of al-musa lahu.
The importance of the Islamic will
The importance of the Islamic will (wasiyya) is clear from the following two hadith:
“It is the duty of a Muslim who has anything to bequest not to let two nights pass without writing a will about it.” (Sahih al-Bukhari)
“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)
the will gives the testator an opportunity to help someone (e.g. a relative need such as an orphaned grandchild or a Christian widow) who is not entitled to inherit from him. The will can be used to clarify the nature of joint accounts, those living in commensality, appointment of guardian for one’s children and so on. In countries where the intestate succession law is different from Islamic law it becomes absolutely necessary to write a will.
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