As far as Wills go, it is important for everyone to have one. It’s the best way to make sure your family know exactly what your wishes are regarding your estate (all that you own and owe). You may be thinking, “I could just tell them what I want. I trust them to do as I ask.” Yes, they may have every intention to do as you have asked; the issue then becomes the process to get that done. Without a Will there will be costly hoops to jump through that end up taking from the very estate itself. The end result may be that the same people benefit from your estate; however, the amount left to divide, and the work required for it to become available could change based on whether or not you have a Will. So, it is clear that everyone should have a Will, but what most Muslims don’t know is why it is especially important for them to have one.
“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).
What we can understand from this statement is that every Muslim who has anything to Will is required to have a Last Will and Testament ready. The requirements for this Will are outlined with a great deal of specificity in the Mawarith schedule of the Qur’an (Surah an-Nisa). In a broad sense, having an Islamic Will ensures that your estate is divided in a way that a minimum of 2/3 of the estate is compliant with the specifications of the Mawarith schedule of the Qur’an, and the remaining 1/3 as per your wishes.
A requirement of all estates, with or without a Will, is that all debts are paid off prior to the allocated distribution. Islamic Wills also include the paying of any outstanding charity (zakat) that might still be owed. You would also include in your Will your wishes to be buried in accordance with Islamic principles. Regarding burial, it is always best to make your wishes known to your loved ones as, due to the necessity of a quick burial, you would likely already be buried before the Will is looked at.
If you have a Will, but not an Islamic Will, then your estate will be divided in accordance with that Will; which will likely not meet the intricate requirement of the Mawarith schedule in the Qur’an. If you do not have a Will at all then your estate will be divided based on the laws of intestacy in your state. Again, meaning that the division of your estate is carried out in a way that is not compliant with the Qur’an. An Islamic Will, if drafted correctly, can be valid in all states across Australia. This means that the Will would be both compliant with Islamic law and Australian law.
This can be a difficult topic when dealing with your own Will and can be even more so when talking to loved ones who may also be avoiding this sometimes-uncomfortable topic. We found that the most helpful approach is to think about how much this will make an already challenging time a little easier to go through for your family.