As with devotees all over the world, Muslims in Nigeria hold the words of the Qur’an in the very highest esteem by making efforts to understand how laws of the land may complement Shari’a.
One of the ways in which the Nigerian Muslim must be conscious of the law is as regards making Wassiyah (a Will). In line with this, there is an important point to be made.
Contrary to the popular assumption that the provision of the Faraid Rules of Distribution by the Holy Qur’an dispenses with the need to make a Will, tradition firmly dictates otherwise. For instance, the Prophet (PBUH) placed a duty on every Muslim to make a Will, as recorded in the Hadith Sahih Muslim Book 13, No. 3987-3990:
“It is the duty of a Muslim who has anything to bequest not to let two nights pass without writing a Will about it”.
Sa’d bin Abu Waqqas also recorded the Prophet (PBUH) as saying:
“It is better for you to leave your inheritors wealthy than to leave them poor begging others, and whatsoever you spend for Allah’s sake will be considered a charitable deed even the handful of food you put in your wife’s mouth”.
(Sahih Muslim Book 13, No.3991).
According to this wisdom, making Wassiyah to secure the future of loved ones is therefore both a voluntary act of charity and quite importantly, an act of religious fidelity. Let us explore the reasons for which every Nigerian Muslim needs to write a Will.
The release of your ‘institutionalised’ property for distribution based on Islamic principles hinges on the presence of a legally valid Will.
Some assets are invariably held by institutions, including (but not limited to): monies in bank accounts, shares and stocks with institutions, pension with a Pension Fund Administrator, investments, co-operative contributions, and jewelleries in banks. By law, these institutions are bound to demand a valid Will as a condition for the release of the assets in their custody.
Where a person does not make a Will during their lifetime, the next of kin must obtain a Letter of Administration in order to access certain assets of the deceased. The worrisome part, however, is that Letters of Administration in Nigeria can take years to obtain. What happens if your dependants are in urgent need of necessities to survive?
A Muslim Will (one that incorporates the tenets of Islam) instantly takes care of these problems.
No one knows the full extent of your assets but you.
Undisclosed knowledge remains undisclosed unless disclosed.
Self-explanatory as this might seem, it is a commonly neglected fact. Assets can be (and often are) lost or forgotten because the owner failed to document them before demise. If no one were able to identify your assets, you would have worked in vain to secure them for your loved ones.
Making a Muslim Will enables a person to identify everything that they own, such that none of these assets are lost or forgotten upon demise.
There is no other way to include beneficiaries from outside your family.
Even when a Letter of Administration is obtained for a person who died intestate (without a valid Will), such is only accessible by the next of kin of the deceased. Furthermore, only legal heirs of the deceased may benefit from the Estate, and dependants not considered legal heirs of the deceased would be excluded by default.
What then can be done for your loved ones who would not qualify as legal heirs upon your demise?
A Muslim Will is the only way by which a Muslim can make provision for beneficiaries who would not otherwise inherit as legal heirs under the Faraid Rules of Distribution.
WHY YOU NEED AN EXPERT
Now that the dangers of not having a valid will have been established, there is more to know. Making a Muslim Will requires the expertise of professionals in Islamic Estate Planning, as there are several delicate points which may determine the validity or otherwise of the Will. These points are discussed below.
The Faraid Rules of Distribution
The Faraid Rules of Distribution refer to the Muslim guidelines for the manner and order of distribution of the assets of a deceased Muslim. A summary of the Rules can be easily obtained from any professional with expertise in Islamic Estate Planning.
The rules of distribution under Faraid are quite complex, because each Muslim would have a unique distribution situation depending on dynamics of the surviving relatives. Consequently, distribution situations are often not replicable for other Muslims, and experts skilled in appropriate computations under Islamic law are required for smooth transfer and wealth preservation.
For the Will of a Nigerian Muslim to be considered valid, it must be made with the guidance of Islamic rules of succession. In the judicial decision of Ajibaiye v. Ajibaiye, it was found that a Muslim man from Kwara State did not dispose his property in accordance with the Islamic rules of succession. The court held that his Will was invalid. Likewise, Wills made without adherence to these guidelines are considered invalid for Nigerian Muslims.
Some of the Islamic restrictions that a professional would be required to abide by in making a Muslim Will are as follows:
- Only legal heirs can inherit from the (majority) two-third portion of a Muslim’s Estate. Legal heirs include the husband, wife/wives, sons and daughters, father and mother, grandfather and grandmother, grandson and granddaughter, brothers and sisters, and in-laws of the deceased. However, children born out of wedlock and adopted children are not legal heirs. They can only receive from the one-third portion of the Testator’s Will.
- The Testator has no power to reduce or increase the share of each legal heir under Faraid.
- A person who defects or renounces Islam cannot be a beneficiary under a Muslim Will.
- An organization or Charity hostile to Islam cannot be a beneficiary under a Muslim Will.
- A non-Muslim can only inherit from the one-third portion of a Muslim Will.
A professional with clear understanding of these rules would be able to navigate the necessities without invalidating the Will or going against the wishes of the Testator.
Some Muslims may prefer that the minority one-third share of their Estate be spread over generations or used to create and manage the activities of Zakat (alms giving), Hibah (donations), or even Waqf (Charity) to take care of a designated class of persons. This would require a professional with in-depth knowledge of how to apply Charity Trusts in a Shari’a-compliant manner.
Every Nigerian Muslim can secure the future of their loved ones, in line with the guidance of the Holy Qur’an and the urgent words of the Prophet (PBUH).
Remember your loved ones.
Write a Will today.