Shari`ah ruling on wills

Q: What is the Islamic ruling on the will a person makes before death? How should it be formed? What should be included in the will?

A: Anyone who wishes to bequeath a part of their property must write their will as soon as possible before death overtakes them. They must care to register it and have witnesses to it. There are two types of wills. (Part No. 16; Page No. 264)  First: The Wajib (obligatory) will points out one’s rights and obligations, such as a debt, loan, transaction values, or deposits as well as rights owed by others to the will-maker. In this case, the will is Wajib in order to secure one’s property and absolve oneself from liabilities. This also prevents the occurrence of any disputes after one’s death between heirs and the holders of these rights. The Prophet (peace be upon him) said: It is not permissible for any Muslim who has something to will to stay for two nights without having their last will and testament written and kept ready with them. (Related by Al-Bukhari and Muslim; the wording is that of Al-Bukhari, vol. 3, p. 186) Second: The Mustahab (commendable) will involves absolute donation, such as bequeathing one-third or less of one’s property to a relative other than one's heirs or to charitable works, such as giving Sadaqah (voluntary charity) to the poor and needy, or other charitable causes, (Part No. 16; Page No. 265) such as building Masjids (mosques). In this regard, Khalid ibn `Ubayd Al-Sulamy reported that the Messenger of Allah (peace be upon him) said: Allah has given you authority over the disposal of one-third of your wealth at the time of your death, so that you may be able to add to the record of your (good) deeds. Al-Haythamy said in Majma‘ Al-Zawa‘id that this Hadith was reported by Al-Tabarany through good Isnad (chain of narrators). A similar Hadith was reported by Imam Ahmad on the authority of Abu Al-Darda'. This is also based on the Hadith of Sa`d ibn Abu Waqqas reported in the Two Sahih (authentic) Books of Hadith (i.e. Al-Bukhari and Muslim) in which he said: The Prophet (peace be upon him) came visiting me while I was (sick) in Makkah. [‘Amir the sub-narrator said,] and he disliked dying in the land from where he had migrated. He (peace be upon him) said, ‘May Allah bestow His Mercy on Ibn ‘Afra’ (Sa‘d ibn Khawlah).’ I said, ‘O Messenger of Allah, may I will all my property (in charity)?’ He (peace be upon him) said, ‘No.’ I said, ‘May I will half of it?’ He (peace be upon him) said, ‘No.’ I said, ‘One-third?’ He (peace be upon him) said, ‘(Yes), one-third, although one-third is much. It is better for you to leave your heirs wealthy than to leave them poor, begging from others.’ (The wording of the Hadith is that of Al-Bukhari) In another wording by Al-Bukhari: I (Sa‘d) said, ‘I want to will my property, and I have only one daughter. May I will half of my property (to be given in charity).’ He (peace be upon him) said, ‘Half is much.’ I said, ‘Then one-third.’ (Part No. 16; Page No. 266) He (peace be upon him) said, ‘One-third, yet even one-third is much.’ The narrator added: "So the people started to will one-third of their property and that was permitted to them." May Allah grant us success. May peace and blessings be upon our Prophet, his family and Companions.