UAE: When do wills become mandatory in Islam?

Here's a guide to writing wills based on Sharia law, as explained by the Grand Mufti who recently led a forum in Dubai

by

SM Ayaz Zakir

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Photo: KT file
Photo: KT file

Published: Thu 14 Dec 2023, 1:47 PM

Last updated: Wed 20 Dec 2023, 4:30 PM

In Islam, writing a will is highly recommended — but if there are trusts or property of others involved, then it becomes an obligation, according to the Grand Mufti in Dubai.

The emirate's Islamic Affairs and Charitable Activities Department (Iacad) recently held a forum explaining why and how wills should be written and how they can impact communities.

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Dr Mohammed Eyada Alkobaisi, Grand Mufti at Iacad, said writing a will becomes mandatory when there are trusts and properties of others involved but without any proofs. In such cases, it becomes obligatory to write a will mentioning these liabilities, to protect the rights of others.

Its importance has been emphasised in the words of Prophet Muhammad (Peace be upon him): "It is the duty of a Muslim who has something that is to be given as a bequest [or devise] not to spend two nights without writing a will about it."

How to write a will

Islamic law doesn't specify a formula for writing wills — what is important is to include all necessary details to clarify issues that have to straightened out, said Alkobaisi.

Here are some points:

  1. Start the will with what most Muslims begin with: Bismillah, praising Allah Almighty and sending peace and blessings upon His Messenger, peace and blessings be upon him This is followed by mentioning the two testimonies that there is no god but Allah and that Muhammad is His Messenger, followed by what the person wants to write in the will.
  2. Mention the content of the will and what the person wants to write in it.
  3. Usually, the will includes moral and social advice to family, friends, and Muslims at large.
  4. It is highly recommended to have witnesses attending or signing the will. This cements its validity and prevents the possibility of denial.

What the Sharia law says

“The will can only be made with part of the money, to a maximum of one-third of the entire inheritance. Furthermore, the beneficiary of the will can only be someone who is not an heir,” said Dr Alkobaisi.

The Grand Mufti further mentioned that if a person made a will with more than a third, only one-third will be considered during the execution of the will after death, except if the heirs agree to execute more than one-third.

“If a person made a will to an heir, then it will not be executed after death, except if the heirs agree to execute it,” said Dr Alkobaisi.

It includes donations, too

A person can write the will during his lifetime, voluntarily and in full capacity, to donate a share of his money or property to another person or to an entity, to be executed after his death.

“He can also write a will that a portion of his money be spent on whatever good cause that he specifies,” said Dr Alkobaisi.

“The person who makes the will can decide the beneficiaries, their shares, and how the will is distributed."

Resolving property disputes

“If there is a dispute regarding the will, or someone denies it or renounces it, then that will must be proven through legal proof as prescribed by Sharia law. If the will is proven, only then it will be executed,” said Dr Alkobaisi.

The forum held by Iacad aims to study the latest developments related to wills under Sharia commandments and how these can be addressed. It also sought to revive the practice of writing wills.

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