6 Things You Should Know About Writing a Will

In Islamic teachings, what should be kept in mind when writing a will? Is having a will obligatory? What must it contain? Sheikh Al-Hilli answers these questions and more.

A good book to read on this subject: https://www.al-islam.org/making-islamic-will-sayyid-muhammad-rizvi

Paragraph to include in will: «اللّهمَّ فاطر السموات والاَرض عالم الغيب والشهادة الرّحمن الرّحيم اللّهمَّ اِنّي أعهد اليك في دار الدّنيا أني أشهد ألاّ اِله اِلاّ أنت وحدك لا شريك لك وان محمداً عبدك ورسولك وان الجنّة حقّ والنار حقّ وأن البعث حقّ والحساب حقّ والقدر والميزان حقّ وان الدين كما وصفت والاِسلام كما شرعت وأن القول كما حدثت وأن القراَن كما وصفت وانّك انت الله الحقُّ المبين جزى الله محمداً خير الجزاء وحيّا محمداً واَل محمداً بالسلام. اللّهم يا عدّتي عند كربتي وصاحبي عند شدّتي ويا وليّ نعمتي. اِلهي واِله اَبائي لا تَكِلْني الى نفسي طرفة عينٍ أبداً فانّك اِن تَكِلْني الى نفسي أقرب من الشر وابعد من الخير، فاَنس في القبر وحشتي واجعل لي عهداً يوم ألقاك منشوراً» 

Bismillah Al-Rahman Al-Rahim. Wa as-salamu alaykum, wa Rahmat Ullahi Ta'ala, wa barakatu. Having a will before death is an important step recognized in many societies today.

In Islam, the emphasis is found in the Holy Qur'an as well as the hadith of the Holy Prophet and his holy Progeny, peace and blessings be upon them all. For example, in chapter two, verse number hundred and eighty, Allah Subhana wa Ta'ala states: "Kutiba alaykum idha hadara ahadakumu al-mawtu in taraka khayran al-wasiyyatu lil-walidayni wa al-aqrabeena bi al-ma'roofi haqqan 'ala al-muttaqeen".(2:180)[Bequest is prescribed for you when death approaches one of you, if he leaves behind wealth for parents and near relatives, according to usage, a duty (incumbent) upon those who guard (against evil)]

Now in the United Kingdom, research shown that over 54% of adults don't have a will and 5.4 million people have no idea how to do one. As we don't know when will die, it's important to take this matter seriously. This message is for both the youth and the elders. Here are important considerations for us on the Wasiya the will as Muslims.

Number one. Is having a will obligatory, Wajib? Many of our scholars have concluded that at the first level, having a will is recommended, Mustahab. Narrations point to the importance of not going to sleep except if the will is under our pillow, i.e. done and ready. However, on certain situations, a will does become obligatory.

This includes people who have debts, have belongings of others, prayers or obligatory deeds that they have not fulfilled, or religious dues that have not been given. For such individuals, they must have a will and they shouldn't delay writing one, as none of us are guaranteed to live any specific time.

[Number] two. Many western countries have their own inheritance laws associated with, for example, tax and other issues which may not be compatible with Islamic law. Now, this is the case here in the United Kingdom and in countries such as Canada, for example. So I highly recommend the will is written in coordination, with assistance and help, with a professional solicitor, or an attorney, who has knowledge of Islamic law and can work around some aspects to do with the law of the land.

For example, you might need to have an advisory letter to the inheritors requesting them to do certain things, as you won't be able to have two legally accepted wills in some countries. In this letter, you can perhaps detail some of your requests regarding, for example, a third of your assets or estates, and how they should be spent. And this would be adjusted, according to your official will and organized legally. Avoid getting these self-made wills you buy in the shops or online. It's worth investing in getting a professional to do it properly.

Number three. It is recommended to start the will with the testimony of beliefs, as well as refuse applications for forgiveness and well being in the afterlife. There is this particular paragraph that is recommended by our 'Ulama extracted from the Hadith of the Holy Prophet Muhammad Sallal-lahu alayhi wa alihi wa sallam. This paragraph is found below the video. You can have this in your will now after this paragraph you can have in the will, whatever you wish, provided it's allowed in Islam.

Number four. There are five things that are obligatory and must be included in a will.

(A) any outstanding acts of worship such as prayers, fasting, Hajj, etc. must be included. Sometimes people discover later in life that their salat, for example, is invalid, and that they need to repeat the last twenty or thirty years for instance. They cannot ask anyone to do it on their behalf when they are alive, but they need to document it, and alter it as they perform the qadha' so that it is fulfilled after they die. Regarding Hajj, if someone had the means to do the Wajib pilgrimage and there was nothing stopping them from doing it, for example, health issues, and yet they did not perform the Hajj, it's obligatory on them, and therefore they should include it in the will as well.

(B) things that belong to others. Now, according to our scholars, if someone is close to death, they must immediately return to the owners anything they've been holding on that belongs to others, i.e. whatever is Amana. Generally, though, these items should be included in the will. Look around, you try to remember and ensure that nothing that is not yours is forgotten. Now, without this, the executor of the will or the family will remain pretty much clueless.

(C) Debts. Any outstanding debts owed to the people should also be carefully documented. These are rights of people, Huquq an-Nas, and should not be taken lightly. Again, if someone is approaching death, they should attempt to resolve this before they die, if possible.

(D) religious Huquq, rights. This includes zakat and khums. If these haven't been paid, they need to be mentioned in the Wasiya, in the will, as well.

Finally, (E) any money or assets or loans given to others that need to be returned should be specified, since the inheritors will need to know so that they won't be affected adversely.

Number five. The person who is responsible to execute the will is referred to as the Wasi. Now they should be Baaligh (Adult), sain, Muslim, and generally trustworthy. They can either be male or female. Some people may, for example, choose to have their spouse as their executer of their will.

Number Six. Islam states that we only have a say in one third (1/3) of how our entire estate is distributed after death. As far as the two third (2/3) is concerned, the deceased person loses the right to dispose according to their wish, and two third (2/3) must be divided according to the shares specified by Shari'ah. So for this one third, you can specify a certain charity or organization or a number of charities or organizations or leave it to a particular family member or friend, or not say anything at all about it, which will mean the entire estate will be distributed to the inheritors.

I would recommend that a part of the third is left for some form of Sadaqa Jariya, ongoing charity like, Islamic Education, or looking after the orphans, for example. In the will, you don't need to go into the details of the two third party calculations as this will be done by the executor.

I encourage you to start the process of writing your will, if you haven't already done so, as soon as possible. You can read some interesting and important relevant material on this subject on the link below the video.