THE VITAL IMPORTANCE OF LEAVING A WILL

Ramia Abdo Sultan

The passing of a loved one is a time of great sadness – and significant stress – particularly for the immediate family of the deceased.

The poor family already has so much to deal with after their loved one has passed, and their issues will become a lot more complicated if their deceased father or mother, sister or brother or son or daughter has not left a valid will in place.

In too many cases, people – especially those who are young and healthy – don’t give death much thought….assuming that they are indestructible.

As Muslims, we all know that the time of our passing – as is the case with everything that happens in our life – is pre-written. 

Along with the guarantee of death, we are told by Allah SWT as to the importance of ensuring we have a will in place. 

In fact, it is a command from Allah SWT….

“If one of you facing death can leave a legacy, he should bequeath it to his parents and relatives, according to the law. This is the duty of the pious.”  (Al Baqara 180).

So it is important, as long as you are 18 years and over, that you have an Islamic will in place so that if you do pass away suddenly, your wishes can at least be executed by those you have directed in your will.

As Australian Muslims, we have three choices:

1.    Not to have a Will – in which case the State or Territory will determine who inherits, and this may conflict with Islamic law;

2.    To have a Will and exercise our absolute freedom under Australian law to distribute to whomever we please (subject to potential litigation should spouse/child/dependant be left out); or 

3.    Have a Will that applies Islamic law and complies with Australian law (limited freedom).

As previously mentioned, death will come to all of us, but there are a number of things we can do to make our passing easier especially for the loved ones we leave behind. 

Having a will in place ensures that we leave instructions behind that are pleasing to Allah SWT and comply with the Islamic inheritance code.

Our beautiful religion places a great deal of emphasis on both the laws of inheritance and making a will – thereby obligating every sane adult Muslim to have an Islamic will in place.

Ramia Abdo Sultan is a prominent Sydney lawyer and co-founder/partner in the legal firm, Lawbridge Lawyers, a company with a very unique skill set compared with other law firms.

They offer a very distinctive legal service with the ability to reconcile the legal and Islamic issues in matters that require this to occur…. particularly for Australian Muslims caught up in legal issues – including Wills, of course. 

This is an area of the legal system which has always been of vital concern to Ramia in her 16 years as a lawyer.

Ramia is also Community Relations Advisor to the Australian National Imams Council (ANIC), Australia’s peak Islamic body, which holds key representation from Australian-based Muslim Clerics, comprising over 200 Muslim Imams, Clerics and Scholars.

Her work with the Australian Muslim community allows her to reconcile the Australian legal system and Islamic values, which more often than not, can serve as a complementary role.

In 2015, Ramia completed her Masters degree in Law with a distinction in Islamic Studies through Charles Sturt University, where her thesis focused on the differences between Australian Inheritance law and Islamic Inheritance law.

“It is of great concern to me that so many people within our community seem to be oblivious to the importance of having an Islamic will in place and the negative consequences of passing without a will,” says Ramia. 

“This is an especially serious issue for revert Muslims who must ensure they have a will in place, to at least secure their preferred burial and funeral rights to be undertaken by their nominated Executor.”

This is an especially serious issue for revert Muslims who must ensure they have a will in place, to at least secure their preferred burial and funeral rights to be undertaken by their nominated Executor.

“I well recall a case in 2015, where a sister who had just embraced Islam, fell ill and passed away but she did not leave an Islamic will in place. 

“Under Australian law, her non-Muslims parents, being her next of kin, had authority and they chose to have her body cremated. 

“This was obviously the cheaper option but goes against our religious requirement that the body be ritually washed and shrouded before burial, which should be as soon as possible after death.”

“Cases like this can get quite ugly, where the corpse of a revert Muslim is fought over by their family who wants a cremation and Muslim community members who want to offer an Islamic burial for their brother or sister in Islam, and it is absolutely heartbreaking to watch, especially when it could have easily been resolved with a will.”

“Many people hold the view that Islamic law is repressive, but in my research, I have found that Islam in fact offers the most just inheritance system. 

“We have to accept that Islam is perfect – but Muslims are not always perfect,  and hence we need to work towards understanding the moral and Islamic duties we have in order for us to embrace the perfect system.

“Australian law is formed on emotion and when people are emotional, their decisions are not always rational. 

“We often see this reflected in wills drafted by individuals driven by their ego and emotions – and the result is not that great. 

“The unique feature about the Islamic system is that it ensures fairness and equity – putting aside emotion; it limits portions in a way that each beneficiary receives their share based on financial responsibility.”

Another area where issues can arise after a Muslim has passed away (and this can occur whether you have an Islamic will in place or not) is when the authorities have determined that an autopsy is required.

“I have known of cases where the Coroner would not release the body for several days, which of course places a lot of stress on the loved ones, as does the intrusive nature of the autopsy procedure,” Ramia explained. 

“What many people do not know is that an objection can be made to the Coroner; the next of kin can submit the objection, stating that the family objects on religious grounds, and for obvious reasons, it is important that the objection be lodged immediately.”

“If families experience issues or need any assistance in lodging their objection, they are welcome to reach out and we can offer them whatever guidance and support they may need.”

Summing up, Ramia lists five main reasons as to why leaving a will is so important:

1.    To ensure that our estate is distributed according to Allah’s laws, rather than the presiding judge at court that day;

2.    To ensure our body is treated with respect and in compliance with Islamic laws;

3.    To avoid unnecessary delays for the family in distributing the estate;

4.    To avoid complex and expensive legal battles with people who do not fear Allah SWT and want to make potential claims on your estate;

5.    To allow you to choose a preferred guardian for minors- subject to the law, of course.

· Ramia Abdo Sultan conducts short workshops and virtual seminars in educating Muslim brothers and sisters on the importance of Islamic wills. She is a fantastic role model and a wonderful asset to our community!