What is the concept of will in Islam? Some say one should write a will and others say that there is no need of writing a will as the shares of heirs are stated in Quran? Please give a comprehensive answer.
The Qur’an has prescribed shares of inheritance for the close relatives of an individual. A Muslim, as a show of submission to the decision of God as well as of trust in His absolute wisdom, must not alter the shares prescribed by the Qur’an. Consequently, a Muslim must not make a will whereby the proportional shares of the inheritors specified by the Qur’an are altered.
Keeping the foregoing principle in tact, making a will is allowed by the clear stipulations of the Qur’an. While mentioning the respective shares for the relatives of the deceased, the following words (or quite similar to them) have been repeated three times:
مِن بَعْدِ وَصِيَّةٍ يُوصِي بِهَا أَوْ دَيْنٍ (النساء 4:11)
After [the execution of] any will that he may have made or [the payment of] any loan.
This clearly implies that the shares stipulated in the Qur’an are to be implemented after the will, if any, of the deceased has been executed and after the loan, if any, has been paid off.
The foregoing assertion implies that a person may will in favor of any individual, group of institution whose share has not been prescribed by the Shari`ah. For instance, a person may will that a portion of his wealth should be given in charity. In such a case, the will of the person shall first be executed and then the balance of his legacy remaining after the execution of the will shall be distributed according to the shares prescribed by the Qur’an.
Furthermore, in the case the deceased had only daughters or in case of absence of any children, if the deceased has only sisters, then a part of his wealth shall remain undistributed. The deceased may also freely make a will in favor of anyone regarding the undistributed part of his wealth.
I hope this helps.
September 26, 2003