The significance of writing a will is evident through the following Quranic verses:
‘It is prescribed for you when death approaches any of you, if he leaves wealth, that he makes a bequest to parents and the next of kin, according to reasonable manners. (This is) a duty upon al-muttaqun or the pious.” (TMQ-2:180)
“O you who believe, if death approaches any one of you and make a bequest, then take the testimony of just two men of your own folks or two men from outside and if you are traveling through land and the calamity of death befalls you. Detain them both after salaat (namaz), (then) if you are in doubt (about their truthfulness), let them both swear by Allah (saying), “We do not wish any worldly gain in this, even though he (the beneficiary) be our near relative. We shall not hide the Testimony of Allah for then indeed we should be one of the sinful.” (TMQ-5:106)
“If then it gets known that these two had been guilty of sin let two others stand forth in their places, nearest in kin from them amongst those who claim a lawful right. Let them swear by Allah (saying): We affirm that our testimony is truer than that of both of them and that we do not have trespassed (the truth), for then indeed we should be among the wrong-doers.” (TMQ-5:107)
”Thus it is more likely that they will bear true witnesses or fear that after their oaths the oaths (of others) will be taken. So be mindful of your duty (to Allah) and listen (with obedience to him). (TMQ-5:108)
The following hadith also emphasizes the importance of making a will:
“Narrated Abdullah bin Umar that Prophet Mohammad (saw) said, “It is not possible for any Muslim who has something to will to stay for two nights without having his last will and testament written and kept ready with him.” (Sahih al Bukhari)
The above mentioned Quranic verses and hadith have set down the guidelines about making a will. In order to clearly understand the principles of will-making in Islam, we first need to look into the history perspective of these verses.
A trader named Badil-bin-abi-Maryam had traveled to Syria where he fell critically ill and was on the verge of death. He had a few possessions and a silver bowl with him. He gave these items to two Christians and asked them to hand it over to his heirs. He died soon after. On their return, the two Christians sold the silver bowl and distributed the money amongst them. They handed over the remaining items to Badil’s heirs. Badil had kept a letter for his heirs along with his possessions in which there was a list of the items. So his heirs came to know about the missing silver bowl. When the two Christians were asked about the silver bowl they took false oaths. However, their secret got exposed when Badil’s heirs got the information about the trader to whom the two Christians had sold the silver bowl. So Badil’s heirs took an oath against the lying Christians and took back the money of the silver bowl.
In light of this incident, the Quranic law regarding the wills was framed to ensure that the rightful heirs got their due shares. It also ascertains that the two witnesses will not try to tamper with the will and they will fear that if they give false witness then they will be accused of perjury in the society.