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Lesson Will and Inheritance

Islamic law allows a Muslim to make a bequest that will be executed after his death, and in the legislation, there is a wise distribution of the deceased’s inheritance. In this lesson, you will learn about some rulings about wills and inheritance.

  • Learn what is meant by the will
  • Learn the types of commandments and their rulings
  • Learn what is meant by inheritance

Meaning of a Will

Will: to ask the person given the responsibility of carrying out what the deceased bequeathed after his or her death. An example of this is a person bequeathing some of his money to build a mosque.

A Will

It is not proper for a Muslim who has got something to bequeath to spend even two nights without having his will written down with him regarding it. 'Abdullah b. 'Umar (May Allah be pleased with them) said: "Ever since I heard Allah's Messenger ﷺ say this I have not spent a night without having my will (written) along with me. (Al-Bukhari, 2738, Muslim, 1627)

Allah has stated in His book, that the will should be implemented and any debts should be repaid before the shares of the inheritors are divided. He said about the heirs: (...after any bequest, he [may have] made or debt.) [An-Nisaa;11]

States of the Will

The will has a number of states:

The Compulsory Will

If a Muslim has debts or financial rights and there is no evidence or documents showing that, a will must be made to document those rights. This is because fulfilling a debt is an obligation, and whatever obligation cannot be fulfilled without it (in this case a will) itself becomes an obligation.

The Recommended Will

It is a Muslim’s donation after his death of part of his money to some charitable causes, such as giving charity to poor relatives, and the like. This requires a number of issues:

A. The bequest should not be for one of the heirs, Allah has already divided their share for them, and the Prophet ﷺ said: «There is no bequest for an inheritor.» (Abu Dawud, 3565, At-Tirmidhi, 2120, Ibn Majah, 2713)

B. The will should be for less than a third of the money, and it is permissible for it to be a third of the money, and more than that is forbidden. When one of the companions wanted to bequeath more than a third of his will, the Prophet ﷺ forbade him and said: «A third, and a third is plenty.» (Al-Bukhari, 2744, Muslim, 1628)

C. That the one leaving a will be rich and what is left of the money is enough for the heirs, and the Prophet ﷺ said to the companion Sa’d ibn Abi Waqqas, (may Allah be pleased with him) when he wanted to make a will: «It is better for you to leave your heirs rich than to leave them poor, begging people.» (Al-Bukhari 1295, Muslim 1628)

3. The Disliked Will

If the person leaving a will has a small amount of money and his heirs are in need, because he has constrained his heirs, that is why the Messenger of Allah ﷺ said to Saad (may Allah be pleased with him): «If you leave your heirs rich, it is better than leaving them poor, begging people.» (Al-Bukhari 1295, Muslim 1628)

4. A Forbidden Will:

It is a will that requests something that is prohibited by Islamic law. Such as bequeathing money to one of the heirs, such as his eldest son or wife, from among the rest of the heirs, requesting that a dome be built over his grave.

Legally Acceptable Scope of the Will

It is permissible to bequeath a third (of the will to be given in charity), and more than that is not permissible. In fact, it is better to decrease it. When Saad bin Abi Waqqas (may Allah be pleased with him) said: "O Messenger of Allah, I leave all of my money (to be given away in charity)? He said: «No.» I said: "A half?" He said: «No.» I said: "A third?" He said: «A third, and a third is a lot. To leave your heirs rich is better than to leave them poor, begging people with their hands.» (Al-Bukhari, 2742)

Making a bequest with all the money is permissible instead of a third for someone with no heirs.

The Ruling of Implementing a Will

Implementing the will of the deceased is obligatory. The person responsible is sinning for not carrying it out if the conditions for its validity have been met because Allah says: (Then whoever alters the bequest after he has heard it - the sin is only upon those who have altered it. Indeed, Allah is Hearing and Knowing.) [Baqarah:181]

The Inheritance

If a person dies, he no longer owns the money he earned during his life. Therefore, Islam has legislated for us to divide the inheritance and give everyone who has a right over it his right after paying the deceased's debts and executing his will.

The Quran and the Sunnah of the Messenger of Allah ﷺ explained to us the method of dividing inheritances so that there is no disagreement between the heirs, for the one deciding the inheritance is the wisest of all the judges, (Allah) glory be to Him, so it is not permissible for anyone to change or replace them under the pretext that this is contrary to the customs of the country and the people, and this is why Allah says after the verse of inheritance: (These are the limits of Allah, and whoever obeys Allah and His Messenger, He will admit him to gardens beneath which rivers flow, wherein they will abide, and that is a great victory.) [An-Nisa:13]

After their relative's death, the deceased's children and relatives should refer to scholars and the judiciary to know how to divide the inheritance legally in detail to avoid financial disputes and quarrels.

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