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.

I have two sons and two daughters. One of my daughters is taking care of us. I want to leave her a larger share than my other children to compensate her for helping us in our time of need. Can I do this without violating Sharī‘a?

Strictly speaking, you are not permitted to leave her more than her predetermined share.

However, there are a few options to compensate your daughter for the help she has given you. Because she provided—or continues to provide—you and your spouse with assistance, you may have a moral and religious debt to compensate or reward her for all her efforts.

You can do this in two ways: (1) You are free to gift her money and/or property during your lifetime. This is valid and sound under the Sharī‘a; or (2) You can pay this debt to your daughter as a moral/religious debt. This moral/religious debt is paid from the gross estate as a debt before distribution of the net estate to the Islamic heirs.

In other words, if you choose to pay your daughter a moral/religious debt, she will receive the payment of the debt, plus her Islamic fixed share. We do not believe this violates the Sharī‘a. Allah knows best.

Use our ISLAMIC WILL software to prepare your own customized Islamic estate plan that is legally valid for your state. This will permit you to compensate your child by acknowledging a moral/religious debt in your will.

 

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