What is Sharīʿa?
Sharī‘a is the Muslim’s moral code or guide based on the principles of the Qur’an and the example of the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH). It is the Islamic epistemology or methodology to find God’s moral guide to ethical living. The outcome of the process is called fiqh—which literally means understanding.
Through the process and the outcome, Sharī‘a guides a Muslim to lead an ethical and moral life. This search for God’s moral guidance is a process of constant evolution. Not only is the diversity of the outcomes in this process celebrated, but it actually enjoys authoritativeness despite differences.
For millions of devout Muslims around the world and in the United States, Sharī‘a governs everything from the way we eat to how we treat animals and protect the environment. It guides on:
- Our obligation to share wealth with the less fortunate
- How to do business
- How to marry
- How to divorce
- How to distributed our estate after death
- And so much more.
Basically, the Sharī‘a guides us to be good Americans by being righteous humans, good neighbors, compassionate mothers, providing fathers, loyal spouses, protective parents, elderly caregivers, honest and fair participants in commercial transactions, and lifelong charitable donors.
Sharī‘a is not static. Flexible at its core, it is alive and thrives on a demanding, dynamic diversity to keep searching for the truth—God’s plan for ethical and moral existence here … and in the hereafter.
I am an American Muslim. Does the Sharī‘a require me to have a will?
Many Muslim scholars living in the United States suggest that American Muslims are obligated to have an Islamic will, because without one, the estate will be divided according to non-Islamic laws. If you leave a surviving spouse and you did not leave a will, your parents, for example, would not inherit, under many state intestacy laws. According to Sharī‘a, a will that leaves a bequest is either obligatory, recommended, disliked, or prohibited, depending on the circumstances. The obligatory bequest is one you must make. An example of this is when you owe someone a debt, but no one knows about this debt except you and the creditor. In this case, you must include the debt in your will. Another example is if you are wealthy and have poor relatives that are not eligible Sharī‘a heirs; you are obligated to leave them something. The recommended bequest is one you should strongly consider. For example, if your Islamic heirs and relatives are wealthy and not in need, leaving part of your estate for charity is recommended. The disliked bequest is not recommended. For example, if your estate is not large, your Islamic heirs and relatives are poor, and you leave part of your small estate to non-Islamic heirs, the scholars concluded such a bequest is disliked, because it will create hardship for your family. The prohibited bequest is not allowed under Sharī‘a. For example, it is prohibited to leave more than 1/3 of your estate to non-Islamic heirs or to give an Islamic heir more than his or her share as stated in the Qur’an. This is based on the famous Hadith of the Prophet that says “there shall be no bequest to an Islamic heir.” Unlike the Sunni opinion, the Ja‘fari (Shia) school permits a bequest to an Islamic heir as long as it does not exceed 1/3 of the estate. To summarize, if you want your estate to be distributed according to the Sharī‘a, you must have an Islamic will. Use our ISLAMIC WILL software to prepare your own customized Islamic estate plan that is legally valid for your state.Read More
What does the Qur’an say about wills? Does the Sunna mention wills?
Yes, the Qur’an and the Sunna both cover wills. In the Qur’an, Allah directed Muslims to make a will: “It has been ordained upon you, when death is near one of you, leaving wealth behind, to make a will in favor of parents and close relatives, impartially. This is incumbent upon the pious” (2:180). Allah also says: “When death draws near one of you... it is time to make a bequest” (5:106). God also explained that you must deduct any bequests and debts from your gross estate before distribution to Islamic heirs (Qur’an 4:11). The Sunna has many traditions about wills. The collections of Hadith, including Ṣaḥīḥ Muslim and Ṣaḥīḥ al-Bukhāri, report that the Prophet Muhammed (PBUH) said: “It is not permissible for any Muslim who has something to will to stay for two nights without having his Last Will and Testament written and kept ready with him.” Check our other frequently asked questions below for more information about specific Sharī‘a inheritance rules and answers to numerous real-life Sharī‘a inheritance questions. You can also use our software to check how your estate will be distributed to your heirs or customize your own Islamic estate plan that is legally valid for your state.Read More