Why make an Islamic Will?
To fulfill an important religious duty
|If you die without leaving a Will you are deemed
to have died ‘intestate’ and so your wealth will be distributed
in accordance with the English rules on intestacy – which do
not apply the same criteria as those laid down by the Shari’a.
It gives you peace of mind
|Ensuring that your wishes are followed avoiding
unnecessary family disputes after you have passed away.
|If you have children under the age of 18, and you
and your spouse should die, then the courts may take the decision
as to who looks after them. By appointing legal guardians in your
Will you can ensure that this doesn’t happen.
It makes financial sense
|It’s a quick and simple process to make a
Will and it’s relatively inexpensive too!
|Making a tax efficient Will can save on the amount
of Inheritance Tax your family may have to pay after you die.
|In the event of dying intestate, your family will
have to apply to the courts to administer your estate – a far
more lengthy and costly process than if you had written a Will.
It gives you the opportunity to help those less fortunate
|By leaving a gift in your Will to a charitable
cause – it helps not only the beneficiaries, but can help you
too – for sadaqa jariya (ongoing charity) is an action that
continues to be rewarded after death.
How to make an Islamic Will
1. Value your assets
Before making a Will it is a good idea to make a list of everything that
This is known as your ‘estate‘ and includes your home and its
contents, your car and your savings – less your debts, such as unpaid
dowry (mahr) and Zakah.
If the value of your assets is already or likely to be more than £263,000,
you will need to consider Inheritance Tax avoidance strategies. Where potentially
large estates are involved and therefore inheritance tax liability could
be considerable, steps should be taken to avoid it. There are various ways
of doing this, including: making inter vivos gifts, preferably seven years
before death and making a bequest of up to a third of the estate to a charity
(gifts to charities registered in the UK do not attract inheritance tax).
2. Do you need a solicitor?
It is possible to make your own Will, but because it is a legal document,
you are strongly recommended to seek professional advice, especially if you
wish to make several specific bequests or if your financial and property
affairs are complicated.
Remember: for your Will to be valid, the basic requirements of UK domestic
law must be satisfied:
|You must be at least 18 years old;
|You must be of sound mind;
|Your Will must be in writing;
|You must identify yourself as the author of the Will;
|You should state that it is your last Will – and
that any previous Wills and Codicils are revoked;
|The Will must be dated and signed by you in the presence
of and attested by two witnesses who are neither a spouse nor a beneficiary
under the Will.
3. Decide on your funeral and burial arrangements
You should specify in your Will that you would like your funeral and burial
rites to be carried out in accordance with the practices of Islam. These
|It’s a quick and simple process to make a Will
and it’s relatively inexpensive too!not having your dead body subjected
to a routine post mortem examination because the Prophet Muhammad, may
Allah bless him and grant him peace, said, "Breaking a dead man’s
bone is like breaking it when he is alive." (Sunan of Imam Abu Dawud)
|having your body released for burial immediately after
|having a Muslim burial;
|advising where and how your body is to be buried;
|if you do not wish for any of your organs to be used
for medical research or organ replacement operations, then say so.
You may wish to be buried abroad. You should remember that as well as being
costly, the dead body is usually eviscerated, emptied of blood and filled
with alcohol before being flown abroad. This may persuade you to stipulate
burial in a Muslim cemetery in the UK instead.
4. Decide what to leave to whom
After the payment of any taxes, debts, and funeral and administration expenses,
a maximum of one third of your estate can be left to whomever you wish – this
may include friends and family not entitled to inherit under Shari’a,
as well as charities.
If, when it comes to the division of the estate, it transpires that the bequests
are more than a third, then either the executors have to reduce the bequests
proportionately, or those entitled to fixed shares may (but do not have to)
agree to accept a diminution
in their shares.
You will need to specify that the remainder of the estate (which will amount
to a minimum of two thirds) is to be distributed
in fixed shares amongst your legal heirs
in accordance with whichever madhhab
Specific items or sums of money can be specified as part of any particular
relative’s share. If, when it comes to the division of
the estate, it transpires that the value of any specified item(s) is more
than the value of the share to which the relative is entitled then either
the executors have to reduce or even ignore what has been specified, or the
other relatives entitled to fixed shares may (but do not have to) agree to
accept a diminution in their shares.
It is quite common for a testator to simply state that he or she wants all
the estate to
be divided amongst the surviving relatives
in accordance with the Shari‘a without specifying any particular item
for any particular relative.
As regards calculating the shares, the basic principles are these:
(i) The closest relatives (husband, wife, son daughter, father, mother) will
always inherit a share and will always have precedence over and exclude more
(ii) In the absence of the closest relatives, the more distant relatives (such
as grandparents and grandchildren, for example) will then be entitled to inherit
This pecking order means that you may
wish to make bequests out of your one third to distant relatives who may not
otherwise inherit from you because they will be excluded by the closest relatives
from automatically receiving shares.
It is prudent to have what is called a residuary clause dealing with what should
happen to the estate if there are no surviving relatives – in which case
the estate can be left to one or more charities (and if more than one, then in
Under Shari‘a, your estate would go to the bayt al-mal to be spent on social
but until your community has a bayt al-mal,
a charity concerned with social welfare is the next best option.You may also
wish to have a clause in
which you pass on a last message to your loved ones.
5. Choose your executor(s) wisely
You will need to choose up to four people
to carry out the wishes expressed in your Will. Executors can also be beneficiaries
in your Will. If you are choosing friends or relatives, make sure they are
willing to accept what can be a lengthy and time consuming responsibility.
If you are choosing lawyers, remember that they will probably expect
to be paid for their services from your estate. The more complicated your
affairs, the more prudent it is to choose a specialist lawyer.
If you intend to die like the Prophet, may Allah bless him and grant him
peace, possessing nothing, then there will be no need for a lawyer!
If your executors do not know how to calculate the Qur’anic shares,
they can either find an ‘alim who has this knowledge to assist them,
or they can use the software at http://www.islamicsoftware.org/irth.html which does the calculation for you. This software is also useful if you would
like to know, "Who would inherit what, if I were
to die tomorrow?"
There is no combination of relatives for which it is not possible to calculate
their Qur’anic shares – so a properly drafted Islamic Will should
never fail for uncertainty.
6. Choose a guardian for children
If it is possible that you may have children under the age of 18 when you
die, you should appoint a guardian to look after them in the unlikely event
of both you and your spouse dying while they are still minors. This point
is particularly significant for those who have non-Muslim relatives and
want their children to be brought up as Muslims.
There should also be a clause dealing with how any minors’ shares should
be held on trust and invested and expended for the children’s maintenance,
education or benefit. Most Muslims will want to stipulate that any investment
made should not involve usury, since this was expressly forbidden by all
the Prophets, including Moses, Jesus and Muhammad, blessings and peace
be on them.
7. Choose your witnesses
Ideally, choose two trustworthy Muslim men to witness the signing of your
Will. If this is not possible, then two non-Muslim men may be taken as
witnesses. Women may also act as witnesses. Under Shari‘a, two women
may act as witnesses instead of one man. For the purposes of English law
one woman may
act as a witness instead of one man.
Remember: anyone who will benefit from your Will cannot be taken as a
witness. If this does happen, he or she will not be permitted to inherit
8. Keep your Will safe
Once you have made your Will and it has been signed and witnessed, store
it in a safe place or with your solicitor or a trustworthy relative or friend.
Make sure that your executor(s) are informed where the original Will is being
kept and keep a photocopy for your own records.
9. Keep your Will up-to-date
Review your Will on a regular basis,
since changing circumstances – especially your marital situation
(marriage, divorce or
re-marriage) may affect its validity.
If there are significant changes of circumstance, it may become necessary
to make a new Will, but for minor changes you may just require a Codicil – which
makes an addition or alteration to your existing Will.
So if you’ve already made a Will, but would like, for example, to include
a bequest to charity, the process is fairly straightforward – and can
be drawn up by a solicitor.
Remember: Do not try to alter your Will by crossing out or adding words.
If you do this, your Will may be rendered invalid in the eyes of the law,
so if you then die without having made a new Will, it will be as if you
had never made a Will at all.
Islamic Relief and The Association of Muslim Lawyers UK
For further information and resources
A new website developed by Islamic Relief providing information on all aspects
of making an islamic Will.
Association of Muslim Lawyers, UK website that gives details of training
seminars for practitioners wishing to provide an Islamic Wills service.
The Islamic Will
A practical guide to being prepared for death and writing your Will
according to the Shari'a of Islam and English Law).
Publisher Dar Al-Taqwa Ltd
Leaving a legacy
A brief guide to making an Islamic Will.
Publisher Islamic Relief
Disclaimer: Whilst every effort has been made
to ensure the accuracy of this guide – it is not meant to be a comprehensive
source of information on Islamic Will making. Accordingly, the authors
cannot be held liable for
any loss or consequential damage caused by the omission of information or
any mistake contained in this guide.