We are never really prepared for our death, are we? And a lot of times, in a very melodramatic way, we stop each other from discussing this most reliable of facts and this biggest reality, thinking that somehow talking about it may cause us to die sooner than we are supposed to.
As for writing a “Will”, we hardly ever take it seriously because one or more of the following reasons
- It’s a scary thought
- We think a will is only regarding money and assets, and if we don’t have much of that then why should we really write down a will?
- Even if we are religiously inclined, we don’t know that this is one of those “should do” things
- Our families become melodramatic if we don’t and go “aisee baat moun se mat nikalain (don’t utter such words)”
- We think it is something just oldies should do
- It is not a priority, simply
But there are solid reasons why writing down a Will is a great idea
- It makes it easier for the family in that time of turmoil when they have lost a loved one and are confused. A will makes sure they know exactly what to do
- It makes death a reality….one that we actually prepare for. Because harsh as the reality may seem, death may knock on a door anytime
- It gives you time to reflect and think about things still undone, and things can be done you wanted them to once you are gone
- Most importantly, this hadith: “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)
If you are a Muslim who is convinced that this is something you want to and should do, here are a few guidelines and tips:
1. You can make a bequest of upto 1/3rd of your total assets and property. So 1/3rd, or around 33% of our assets are what you can leave a will regarding. Not more.
2. You cannot bequeath something to someone who is a legal heir according to Islamic rulings of inheritance. Which means that for example you can leave a will for something to be given to your niece or nephew, or to domestic help, or to a friend, or to a charity or trust, but not to your sons and daughters and spouse because they are your heirs.
3. There must be at least two witnesses to your will. Written wills are always a better idea to avoid confusion later. So leave copies with two or more people. People you trust. (For reference see Surah Al-Maidah, verse 106 of the Quran)
4. Mention the debts you may owe to people or organizations/financial institutions/lenders if any. Your will of upto 1/3rd should include your liabilities, religious or otherwise, and what you willed to people or a trust will be distributed AFTER your liabilities are cleared. Your religious liabilities will include, for eg, the wife’s meher (dower) in case he has not given it yet. Or if Zakaat is due on the deceased, it should be paid off first.
5. Your will should include how would you want your funeral and burial rites should be performed. Things like if you have preferences regarding who should bathe you, where should you be buried, should you body be flown back if you die abroad, how should your grave be made etc. Also include details like do you want your soyem etc. to be held or not.
6. Leave advice or important good bye letters or messages for your family, specially children. That may be a good chance, when their hearts are soft, that they may pay heed to your suggestions like remaining steadfast in good deeds and staying united as a family once parents, who are the nucleus, are gone. Leaving suggestions for siblings or spouse are a good idea too.
7. If you have any responsibilities and would like someone to take care them once you are gone, appoint a second in command.
8. Important questions are these: Would you want to be on life support (like ventilator) or not? Do you want to pledge your organs for donation or not? Would you like to be resuscitated or not?
It is important for the family to remember that if a will was made for an unethical or immoral or sinful act, then that should not be acted upon.
Death is a reality. Let’s face it and make sure we know what we want is done after we pass away, and our loved ones know it too.
1. Saheeh Al-Bukhari, Kitaab ul Janaaiz
2. “Mera Jeena Mera Marna” (Al-Huda Publications)