Death is inevitable and is the most important thing that we need to think about and plan for it. God has ordered us to write a will before death for the proper distribution of our inheritances while inheritance law refers to whatever one receives upon the death of a relative due to the laws of descent and distribution, which apply when there is no will. Therefore, it is our duty to leave a will before our death if we can for the benefits of our relatives. He has also given us the details on the distribution of inheritances in case what we leave behind us without a will. However, the scope of this article is not to pin point the shares of all possible surviving ascendants or descendants in the inheritance laws in different scenarios.
Writing a will
God has ordered us to write a will before our death but He does not dictate us any specific share for any heirs in a will that we can leave behind. As such, He has provided us full freedom to give any share of our inheritances to any heir based on current financial situation but He does teach us to be equitable if we obey Him and really care about all our nearest and dearest ones. Thus, God wants us to follow His teachings and laws to avoid any injustice towards any of our relatives. The general terms and conditions of a will are stated in the verses of Sura 2: Al-Baqarah whereas specific terms for a will are stated in Sura 4: Al-Nesaa:
[2:180] Decreed for you (all) when the death approaches any of you, is good if he leaves the will for the parents and the near relatives in fairness, a duty upon the righteous.
[2:181] If anyone alters a will he had heard, the sin of altering befalls those responsible for such altering. God is Hearer, Knower.
[2:182] If one sees gross injustice or bias on the part of a testator, and takes corrective action to restore justice to the will, he commits no sin. God is Forgiver, Most Merciful.
[4:9] Those who are concerned about their own children, in case they leave them behind, shall observe God and be equitable.
The Quran teaches us that one shall leave a will but does not prescribe any specific share for one’s heirs to conform to the specific circumstances of the deceased. It states that it is a sin if anyone alters a will who has heard it. However, it also leaves a room for us to take corrective measure to restore justice if gross injustice or bias on the part of the testator is found in a will. Hence, it is our duty to leave a will before our death if we can being equitable especially to our parents and own children.
Distribution of inheritances left behind without a will
We do not know when, how and where we will die. As such, if anyone of us dies without leaving a will, God has declared a will for this person for the benefits of the deceased family members specifying definite share for each surviving member as detailed out in the verses of sura 4: Al-Nesaa with a clear instruction to execute the will after fulfilling all debts of the deceased:
[4:11] GOD decrees a will for the benefit of your children; the male gets twice the share of the female. If the inheritors are only women, more than two, they get two-thirds of what is bequeathed. If only one daughter is left, she gets one-half. The parents of the deceased get one-sixth of the inheritance each, if the deceased has left any children. If he left no children, and his parents are the only inheritors, the mother gets one-third. If he has siblings, then the mother gets one-sixth. All this, after fulfilling any will the deceased has left, and after paying off all debts. When it comes to your parents and your children, you do not know which of them is really the best to you and the most beneficial. This is GOD’s law. GOD is Omniscient, Most Wise.
[4:12] You get half of what your wives leave behind, if they had no children. If they had children, you get one-fourth of what they leave. All this, after fulfilling any will they had left, and after paying off all debts. They get one-fourth of what you leave behind, if you had no children. If you had children, they get one-eighth of what you bequeath. All this, after fulfilling any will you had left, and after paying off all debts. If the deceased man or woman was a loner, and leaves two siblings, male or female, each of them gets one-sixth of the inheritance. If there are more siblings, then they equally share one-third of the inheritance. All this, after fulfilling any will, and after paying off all debts, so that no one is hurt. This is a will decreed by GOD. GOD is Omniscient, Clement.
[4:33] For each of you, we have designated shares from the inheritance left by the parents and the relatives. Also those related to you through marriage, you shall give them their due share. GOD witnesses all things.
[4:176] They consult you; say, “GOD advises you concerning the single person. If one dies and leaves no children, and he had a sister, she gets half the inheritance. If she dies first, he inherits from her, if she left no children. If there were two sisters, they get two-thirds of the inheritance. If the siblings are men and women, the male gets twice the share of the female.” GOD thus clarifies for you, lest you go astray. GOD is fully aware of all things.
Both men and women has inheritance rights
The Quran has ensured the share of women as men and all relatives including orphans and needy in the will as well as in the inheritance laws. The women must get a definite share even it is a small inheritance:
[4:7] The men get a share of what the parents and the relatives leave behind. The women too shall get a share of what the parents and relatives leave behind. Whether it is a small or a large inheritance, (the women must get) a definite share.
[4:8] During distribution of the inheritances, if relatives, orphans, and needy persons are present, you shall give them therefrom, and treat them kindly.
God has specified clear cut entitlement and specific shares for each relative in a will as declared by Him in case we are not able to leave any will behind us. The son (male) gets twice of the daughter (female) which conforms to our family structure as the son (man) has the higher responsibility to support the family and the daughter (female) is taken care of by the husband (male). The shares for the other heirs as specified in the distribution of inheritance conform to the family structure as well.
Role of men and women in the family
Primarily, men are responsible for providing the financial support for the family while women are responsible for taking care of their children even from the embryonic stage. God has bestowed higher responsibility on us to take care of our parents as well as our children. He has also made them primary heirs in a will as well as in the distribution of inheritances of the deceased:
[4:34] Men are the care givers for women because of the certain qualities that they are exclusively given and because they are the ones who provide for living and spend from their money. Righteous women would always accept that and they would always guard such an arrangement even in their privacy, when alone, as dictated by God. If you fear rebellion from the women, you shall advise them wisely, then you may stay away from them in bed, then you may deliberately and entirely ignore them. If they follow your advice, you should not make life difficult for them. God is Most High, Supreme.
[46:15] We enjoined the human being to honor his parents. His mother bore him arduously, gave birth to him arduously, and took intimate care of him for thirty months. When he reaches maturity, and reaches the age of forty, he should say, “My Lord, direct me to appreciate the blessings You have bestowed upon me and upon my parents, and to do the righteous works that please You. Let my children be righteous as well. I have repented to You; I am a submitter.”
Those who obey God must write a will before their death being equitable to their relatives but no specific share is prescribed for their heirs in the will. To alter a will is a sin but there is no sin to take corrective measure to restore justice in a will if a gross injustice or bias is found on the part of a testator. On the other hand, God has specified clear cut entitlement and specific shares for each relative in inhertance law as declared by Him in case we are not able to leave any will behind us. The shares for the heirs as specified in the distribution of inheritance conform to the family structure. God has made parents and children primary heirs in a will as well as in the distribution of inheritances of the deceased as well. Thus, we cannot but appreciate and uphold the divine justness and equitability in a will as well as in the distribution of inheritance disregarding how many scholars agree or disagree with it, and any sharia laws regarding inheritance introduced by different sects are not acceptable to the true believers of Islam.
Peaceful Friday, salaam and God bless.