Monday, October 28, 2013

Unravelling Urdu

Urdu is the lingua franca of the Muslims of the Indo-Pak Subcontinent. As a relatively new language, its history is intertwined with the Muslim rule of India. As the common language of the soldiers Muslim armies it evolved by borrowing their native words from Arabic, Persian, Turkish and regional Indian languages. For most of the history of Muslim rule in India, Persian was the official court language. It was used in all literature, communication, edicts, deeds, wills, contracts, etc. To be considered educated a person was supposed to know Persian and its rich literature no matter what religion one followed. About 200 years ago towards the end of the Mughal reign, Urdu slowly displaced Persian.

During the Partition of India, Urdu became a means for the demand of a separate Muslim homeland and as such it was quickly adopted as the official language of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan, despite a dearth of native speakers among its citizens. Since then there have been serious dissatisfaction with the promotion of Urdu at the expense of other regional languages in Pakistan. As the feelings of Muslim nationalism gradually dissipated and were substituted by regional demands, language riots broke out for greater demands for languages such as Bengali, Sindhi, Seraiki, etc. Urdu eventually became a political rallying point for the Muhajirs. Thus historically this language has been intertwined with the politics of the Indo-Pak Subcontinent.
Culturally Urdu represents the culmination of centuries of malaise in the Indian Muslim psyche. Its literature is filled with a passion for women, wine and a longing of past glories. It seldom points to any practical and sound solution for the revival of Muslims to regain their leadership position of the world.  Iqbal’s poetry is filled with instigations for Muslims to wake up from centuries of this slumber, but it gives few solutions that are holistically sound and based on religion. Urdu religious literature is also marked by an excess of piety, which crosses the limits, by its exaggerated praise of pious men of past; raising their status to inhuman levels. The intercultural milieu of the Subcontinent and its distance from the source language of Islam continues to give rise to numerous deviant sects and groups. Their ideologies have affected the very fabric of Urdu language which is often used to convey and promote them.

The language of Islam in the Subcontinent used to be Arabic like everywhere else. All religious education was conducted in it. It was slowly replaced by Persian and then by Urdu. Even in religious seminaries, although Arabic is still taught it has taken the place as a subject among several subjects and not the medium of instructions of all subjects as should be the case. The further a nation is from the source language of the religion, the more chances of deviation arise. The miracle of Islam is the Quran, whose linguistic eloquence and meaning cannot be fathomed without a deep understanding of Arabic. The Quran and the Sunnah cannot be implemented without a tight grip on Arabic. The absence of Arabic at a community level in society has led to a lack of understanding and adoption of the holistic worldview of the sources of Islam. The essence of Islam is missing from our individual and collective lives, no matter how enthusiastically we claim love for it for historical and nationalistic reasons. Without a love of Arabic our love for Islam is not sincere. Many of our current problems stem from the fact that we discount the internal spirit of the religion by sticking rigidly to its external rulings.
In recent years, the status of Urdu as a Muslim language has been seriously challenged. The mainstream digital media regularly broadcasts programs and views in Urdu that are openly secular. The inundation of Hindi songs and movies in Muslim communities has set its own worldview which is at direct contrast with the Islamic one. English has directly challenged the position of Urdu as the language of education and reform. Khyber-Pakhtunkha province of Pakistan recently decided to teach English instead of Urdu in its public schools. Muslims are not reading much and those that are, are switching from Urdu to English for economic reasons alone. It is best if we face the fact that Urdu is a dying language that will eventually merge with Hindi and English to become a common hodge-podge vernacular for the masses of South Asia.

It is thus wise for Muslim families from the Subcontinent to revive Arabic learning and give it due importance. Many families make a decision about what set of languages they should teach their children – English, Urdu, French, Chinese, Arabic, etc. In today’s globalized world, the child will learn English regardless of how much effort we put in it. If the family is culturally inclined and speak Urdu at home, the child will eventually learn to understand and perhaps speak Urdu without extra effort. French and Chinese are good languages to learn for dawah purposes due to the shear large number of its speakers, worldview. But in order to convey the message of Islam, your child must first imbibe it himself and that is only possible by immersing him in Arabic. It is more productive if parents set a good example by constantly engaging themselves with acquiring Arabic. This way they will pass on their love and enthusiasm for it to their children.  If your child masters Arabic, learning to read and write Urdu will not be problematic, due to the similarity in their script. In fact, by learning Arabic, your child’s Urdu will automatically improve as one of the foundations of Urdu is Arabic.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Writing About the Writings

Formal writing is a specific form of expression that developed over centuries. Islam ushered in the era of written scholarship, where writing changed from being a privilege of a selected few to the right of the Muslim masses. The Quran eulogizes writing: "Noon. I swear by the Pen and by that which they write" (Qalam V.1). Although the Prophet (SWAS) himself could not read or write, he made it incumbent upon both male and female Muslims to learn. Soon Arabic became the language of global scholarship. Almost every masjid had its adjoining kuttab or madrasah. The Abbasids translated ancient Greek, Persian and Indian manuscripts to Arabic; followed by a period of synthesis and new developments in all subjects of inquiry. The work done at that time, became the basis of the European Renaissance and establishment of modern scholarship as we know it. Writing has become the premiere choice of scholarly engagement in the last couple of centuries.

Writing became the means of exchanging and preserving ideas. In fact, the most important idea for mankind, i.e. its purpose and mission in life, was written down by scribes as revealed to successive Messengers of Allah (SWT) - the last being preserved by Allah (SWT) Himself forever.

As compared to speaking, writing is more of an asynchronous process. One can think about an idea, ponder over about its nuances of meaning and constantly refine it until it comes out just right. This cannot be easily done with synchronous speech. Preferring script to speech means that the writer can think more about the impact of his words and their consequences, something that may save him a lot of embarrassment. The best aspect of writing I personally find helpful is that I can take a position, build up my case, present the evidence and conclusion, without being interrupted by anyone.

The best writing is that which emanates from true faith by studying the original sources of knowledge, i.e. from the Knower of all, Al Aleem. Thus a study of the Quran and Hadith, their understanding in the context of our lives and times brings out gems of insights which are worthy of sharing with others. In fact, sharing them makes one more conscious of their veracity and inspires oneself to right conduct. Come to think of it, it fulfills a duty every conscientious Muslim is obligated to undertake and will be asked about on the Last Day.

My writing also enabled me to fulfill many of my social obligations that I had long neglected. These days there are many alternatives to formal written narratives like calling or texting on a phone, chatting, video conferencing, etc. Living on a shoe-string budget in the United States, I always preferred writing letter to making long distance calls to my family (email did not exist for the public back then). That phase of my life was followed by another three years where I had minimum contact with family and friends except through emails and letters. I lived in a new country, without telephone, cell phone, etc. My days and night were spent reading, researching and writing which I did quite a lot while teaching in a university and surviving on my own.

I came out of my isolation through the written word. At first, I expressed my views through individual replies to emails to friends and family. This was followed by a desire to address them collectively on pertinent common topics. Often the articles were followed by written exchanges by my audiences which allowed be to further refine them. I looked up everyone I could and added them to my distribution list. Thus writing allowed me to re-establish ties with my extended family and friends who are scattered over the world. Some of my early emails were published without my permission in a Pakistani Canadian publication after which I decided to post almost everything on a dedicated blog.

I am now attempting to select, arrange, re-edit/re-format a subset of those write-ups in a form of a book for wider distribution.

Through Allah's (SWT) tawfeeq, the circumstances to write these articles were created by the efforts of my teachers who gave me genuine ilm and under whom I am still learning; Umm Abdullah who provided me time and opportunity to write them with full concentration. I pray that this work is a form of sadaqajaria for them, my parents and everyone else who provided feedback and helped to spread it to others. Ameen.

Monday, October 14, 2013

Reaping the Rewards of Ramadan

Ramadan is the annual discount days that we get for stocking up hasanaat for our aakhirah. The rate is exceedingly profitable, so it is important to consider how best to use this opportunity for everyone in the family, especially the head of the household.

Like all limited time offers, proper time management is key. A daily schedule helps in keeping focus on what is important. Wasting valuable time by sleeping away the hours should be curtailed – rather sleep should be kept to the minimum. Watching TV should be limited to only those broadcasts that are truly beneficial, like live taraweeh broadcasts from the Haramain. Similarly, all Eid shopping should be out of the way in the beginning of Ramadan, so that the last ten days can be best utilized for worship.

Time should be reserved for personal and collective worship, throughout the day. This includes the daily adhkar, Quran recitation, qiyaam, congregational prayers, taraweeh, etc. The men of the family should encourage others to participate in worship and take them with them for collective worship. Even if young ones do not participate fully, just being in the masjid, while seeing worshippers pray together in the special Ramadan atmosphere leaves a lasting impact on their young hearts and minds.

Learning is another beneficial activity of that one should establish both at a personal as well as a family level. Personally, one can use Ramadan to memorize a portion of the Quran, or understand its meaning, or daily study some ahadith, The family can also learn together. Last Ramadan while walking to and from the masjid my son who was 6 then, memorized some surahs of Juz Amma, just by repeating after me. Older kids can be asked to research the background to these surahs and report back to the family when the family is together, e.g. while driving, sharing meals, etc. The younger ones can be asked to draw and color whatever they have heard.

Ramadan is also a time for sharing whether it be sharing food, clothes, wealth, knowledge, etc. Some may disagree, but I have found that rather than arrange and iftaar parties throughout the month for the rich, where people participate in food orgies and end up missing taraweeh prayers, it is better to supply food to less privileged members of society, e.g. the needy, students, bachelors, orphans, travelers, etc. Taking your kids with you for daily rounds of food distribution engenders a love of giving and an appreciation of the blessings they have in their lives. Projects can also be developed through zakat money which many Muslims choose to pay during this blessed month.

To free up time for all the above activities, it is important to keep food shopping, preparation, presentation and consumption to a minimum. A simple meal can suffice daily for futoor as well as suhoor. Husbands can help by doing groceries quickly using a shopping list at a less crowded time of the day and not picking faults in food presented to them.

Sons, husbands and fathers play a big role is helping to maximize the benefits of Ramadan for themselves and their families. A family which is properly led to utilize Ramadan time for worship, learning and charity can hope to achieve the real spiritual goals of this month.

Characteristics of a Believing Wife

The Prophet (SWAS) has been reported to have said: "A woman is normally sought as a wife for her wealth, beauty, nobility, or religiousness, but choose a religious woman and you will prosper. " (Muslim)

Some well intentioned Muslims try to heed to this Prophetic advice in choosing a spouse and make religion the principal criteria for their selection. Soon they face problems defining religiousness or those main religious characteristics that are of greatest benefit with respect to a potential wife. Does wearing a hijab and praying regularly qualifies a Muslima in satisfy this criteria? Certainly it is an indication, but sometimes appearances are deceptive and so some deeper characteristics should be considered before making this important decision.

The foremost of these is having the right belief or aqeeda, for someone's system of belief might be different from someone else's. If one spent one's entire life in doing good works, but one's belief system is corrupted they may not gain any reward for it in the aakhirah. In terms of marriage, belief forms the basis of a worldview a person acquires, so two people having different beliefs can not easily agree on common understanding because their perspectives are different. Spouses are like a pair of eyes in a head; each has separate vision, but when they focus on common vistas they provide a depth in perception that is not possible by either one of them alone. Thus having different color eye glasses on each eye, results only in confusion. This poses more difficulties for children who are often left perplexed about how they see reality. Even among Muslims, different sects have different aqeeda, so care must be taken in choosing a mate whose belief one concurs with.

The next important characteristic may be quite difficult to ascertain. It is sincerity to Allah (SWT) which is a very private matter as it has to do with intention of a Muslim. When a wife does everything primarily for Allah's (SWT) sake, one can be sure that Islam is not just on her lips but has entered her heart. That is the essence of religion. So when she does something good to him or his relatives it is primarily to seek reward from Allah (SWT). It will make no difference to her if she is appreciated for her good deeds or not as she knows that Allah (SWT) appreciates her. Many misunderstandings and complaints, typical in marriages, can be neutralized by this great characteristic alone.

Love of the Prophet (SWAS) and his Sunnah should be another important consideration for marriage. The Sunnah provides Muslims with exemplary patterns of lifestyle which provide the context to live the most natural way that Allah (SWT) intended us to live. A wife who takes the Prophet (SWAS) as the best role model for herself will try to constantly try to improve her character according to his. She will cultivate good characteristics like patience, thankfulness, humility, devotion, truthfulness, modesty, sincerity, dependability, etc. Such characteristics are indispensable in a good believing wife. The life of someone who follows the Sunnah is characterized by perfect balance. They fulfill the rights of Allah (SWT) as well as those around them. A wife who loves the Prophet (SWAS) will follow the caring way he dealt with people. Wives play a big role in social interactions of families and friends, so a genuinely concerned and caring wife will be a source of good dawah and reform. She will constantly think about the welfare of others, in both their religious and mundane matters. She will help keep good ties of kinship. Certainly she will not forget the responsibilities she owes to her own children whose characters she is most likely to influence in life.

After the love of Allah (SWT) and the love of the Prophet (SWAS), should come the love of learning. A wife who is committed to a lifetime of learning will always look for ways to keep improving herself, both in deen and dunya matters. She will be eager in each stage of her life to learn the required knowledge to carry out her responsibilities in the best of manners. With the correct aqeeda she will always try to build up her inner vision by placing what she learns in the correct framework of belief. This will allow her to ultimately develop insights about the nature of things. This hikma (wisdom) and firasa (intuition) are rare and valuable qualities to have in a wife. Indeed the Prophet (SWAS) has been reported to have said: "…Whoever follows a path in pursuit of knowledge, Allah will make easy for him a path to Paradise..." (bn Majah). She is also more likely to pass on this love of learning to her children

A wife can have all the above qualities, yet if she is not obedient then the family unit is prone to tear apart. Obedience should foremost be to the commands of Allah (SWT), to the Prophet (SWAS) and then to the husband. It is the nature of human societies that they need a responsible person in any situation who looks after the interests of the whole group. In a family that responsibility lies with the husband, who should seek to acquire all the above characteristics himself before demanding them in his potential spouse. There can not be two people in the family competing to lead. If the wife does not obey the husband, chaos ensues. At a macro level this leads to disruption in society, as the family unit is the basis of any healthy society.

For a successful Islamic marriage, both the husband and the wife should be committed to constantly improve themselves and acquire good characteristics that are deeper than just the apparent symbols of religion. If a wife has the right aqeeda, is sincere to Allah (SWT), loves and practices the Sunnah, is committed to learning and is obedient to the husband, then there is very little else that a wise practicing Muslim should consider.

Saturday, October 12, 2013

Digging Down into the Depths of the Deen

Have you ever considered a deep rooted tree? No matter what the elements throw at it, it holds its ground. In the winter it shrivels and becomes leafless, but come spring, the deep roots it has are enough to help revive it so that it flourishes and gives fruit and shade. The Prophet (SWAS) uses the similitude of such a tree to describe true believers.

Ibn Umar reported that Allah's Messenger (may peace be upon him) one day said to his Companions: Tell me about a tree which has resemblance with a believer. The people began to mention (different) trees of the forest. Ibn 'Umar said: It was instilled in my mind or in my heart and it stuck therein that it implied the date- palm tree. I made up my mind to make a mention of that but could not do that because of the presence of the elderly people there. When there was a hush amongst them (after they had expressed their views), Allah's Messenger (may peace be upon him) said: It Is the date-palm tree. (Sahih Muslim)

What distinguishes a believer from a disbeliever is that his worldview is formed based on the Truth and Reality, whereas that of a disbeliever's perspective is distorted and based on delusions and doubts. Allah (SWT) contrasts them in the following verses

Have you not considered how Allah presents an example, [making] a good word like a good tree, whose root is firmly fixed and its branches [high] in the sky? It produces its fruit all the time, by permission of its Lord. And Allah presents examples for the people that perhaps they will be reminded. And the example of a bad word is like a bad tree, uprooted from the surface of the earth, not having any stability. Allah keeps firm those who believe, with the firm word, in worldly life and in the Hereafter. And Allah sends astray the wrongdoers. And Allah does what He wills. (Ibrahim 14:24-27)

It is the Sunnah of Allah (SWT) that he tests humanity time and again. Just like a tree suffers from the elements, man also undergoes punishment and trials from Allah (SWT).

Alif-Lam-Mim. Do people think that they will be left alone because they say: 'We have faith', and will not be tested? And We indeed tested those who were before them. And Allah will certainly make known, those who are true, and will certainly make known those who are liars. (29:1-3)

Scholars say when someone undergoes bad times he can judge whether it is a punishment from Allah (SWT) or a test from Him (SWT) by studying his reaction to the ill he undergoes. If his problems cause him to become rebellious and his devotions to Allah (SWT) decrease, know that it is a punishment. If he becomes repentant and becomes closer to Allah (SWT), know that it is a test and it is beneficial for him.

The question arises as to how a person can prepare himself to withstand the tests of life? The answer is to establish stable foundations for himself, just as the good tree has deep roots to stabilize it. That foundation for a believer is sound and deep knowledge of the deen which he must constantly endeavor to pursue. Allah (SWT) says:

But those firmly grounded in knowledge among them and the believers believe in what has been revealed to you, [O Muhammad], and what was revealed before you. And the establishers of prayer [especially] and the givers of zakah and the believers in Allah and the Last Day - those We will give a great reward. (Nisa 4:162)

The above verse shows the excellence and importance of being firmly grounded in knowledge. It indicates that to protect a person’s eeman and help him stay firm in the trials and tribulations, which are inevitable, he must dig down to the depths of the deen, by constantly seeking knowledge of Islam. Realize that the pre-requisite of faith is knowledge, so it you feel spiritually weak, the remedy is to engage in seeking knowledge. In Islam, faith is not blind short-lived enthusiasm, rather knowledge leads to faith which leads to good works which leads to success in this world and the next.

The pursuit of knowledge must begin with the basics. The first type of knowledge that is essential is the knowledge of the Quran. That means that the Quran should not only be learnt to be read, but also its meaning should be understood. Its worldview must be known and implemented. This knowledge is just the basic. Next comes the knowledge of the Sunnah. After these two come other branches of Islamic knowledge like Fiqh, Aquida and Seerah.

It is inconceivable that the life of this world will not have problems. Allah (SWT) has promised us that He (SWT) will definitely test us. We should use the bounties and resources He (SWT) has bestowed us to prepare for those tests. The best preparation is to constantly keep learning the knowledge of the deen starting from the basics and endeavoring to go deep down. Only with deep knowledge we would be like the deep rooted tree which can withstand severe weather which is bound to come, sooner or later. A wise person will use the opportunities in life to prepare for bad times.

The Prophet (saw) advised to: Take benefit of five before five: Your youth before your old age, your health before your sickness, your wealth before your poverty, your free time before you are preoccupied, and your life before your death. (Al Hakim)

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

A Life Transformed

Perhaps the most influential factor in changing my life has been my association with the Quran. Growing up in the United Arab Emirates, the Quran was always there somewhere in the background of things. I learnt to read it with a Qari and read several azjaa of the Quran under his supervision, never to open it again until my university days in the United States. The summer before I left Abu Dhabi to the States, we visited Pakistan as was our annual ritual. In those days I used to turn to my maternal cousins in Pakistan for wisdom and guidance. So, during that trip, I confided with my cousin that I did not feel confident leaving home for the first time and that too to a non-Muslim country. The absence of any religious / Arabic instruction in my secular international school in Abu Dhabi had not prepared me for it. My cousin, in his wisdom, thought it proper to take me to the market to buy some Islamic books. One among these was Marmaduke Pickthall’s English translation of the meaning of the Holy Quran. It was worth Rs. 75 at the time. It turned out that Rs. 75 was the most profitable transaction that I ever made! I was 18 then.
In school, there was not one subject that was my favorite. I enjoyed and saw the intrinsic beauty in almost all subjects I studied. When the time came to choose a major, I just went with what was popular at that time, i.e. Electrical Engineering. I enjoyed it and did very well, finishing the program before time and graduating with honors, Alhamdulillah. Before retiring to bed, more often than not, I used to read at random from Marmaduke Pickthall. I did not understand much of it. There were no footnotes nor any tafseer, just verse by verse translation in literary English. It was not until the sophomore year when I went for summer school to Lansing, Michigan, that this translation started affecting me. In East Lansing Islamic Center, near the campus of Michigan State University, I heard an audio tape. I recognized that it was playing the same translation that I used to read at night in Pickthall’s own rendition, but what was different was the fact that it was interwoven by the very beautiful recitation of the corresponding Arabic by Qari Shakir Qasmi. I asked the brothers about it and they said that they can make a copy of the entire set for me for $50. That was another profitable transaction that I made! I was 20 then. The impact of the pure Arabic is indescribable, especially if you understand its literal meaning by the translation that followed every Arabic verse. When I returned to Buffalo, NY, my bed time routine was transformed to listening to the $50 tapes while following from the Rs. 75 book. This experience made me undergo deep emotions and tears used to flow uncontrollably as I listened to divine speech. Yet, I did not understand it. I did not understand the highly literary vocabulary and I was completely ignorant of its context. I distinctly remember in one of those snowy nights in Buffalo, I made a dua: “O Allah! I am convinced that this is the Truth from you due to the emotional impact it has made on me. Please make me capable of understanding the message you are conveying to me!”
I listened to those tapes during my graduate school and the four years of my professional life in the States. I listened to it constantly while my ears were free: while driving, doing chores, cooking, before dozing off, etc. It eventually colored my mind with the correct/natural/proper thought patterns in all aspects of life. Slowly, I felt I did not belong to any particular group and thus did not feel obliged to follow any social trends. Rather, the Quran enabled me to seek out guidance and comfort from universal principles. It gave me confidence to make decisions in life, even if they were contrary to popular opinion. Basically, the Quran gave me a conscience to act instinctively to what I felt was uniquely right for me. By listening to it constantly, it developed a natural magnetic field around me which attracts certain things in certain situations and repels others in others. By following its commands and shunning its prohibitions, I found this field grows in strength. In Islamic terminology, it is called eemaan – a force that can give undiminishing reserves of energy to very ordinary humans.
The context of the Quran came to me slowly, over the years. In graduate school, I read my first Seerah book – Martin Lings’ “The Life of Muhammad (SWAS)”. While working professionally, I have never stopped taking Islamic/Arabic courses online and onsite, still continue to do so and plan to continue till my last moments, insha Allah. What have specially helped me are courses in Aqeedah, Arabic, Tafseer, Seerah, Tazkiyya and Tajweed. My knowledge is still very much lacking in Fiqh and Hadeeth.  Although, I do not claim to understand all the Quran, but today I can understand its basic message and worldview in the intended manner without the use of translations and tafseer books, Alhamdulillah. I understand that it needs constant effort, which I continue to exert.   
I believe that all the uncountable blessings I enjoy today including eeman, stable family life, fulfilled career and professional accomplishments, wealth, peace, security, health, vision, skills, balance, wisdom, conscience, courage, love of learning, righteous company, etc. have been a gift from Allah (SWT) through my association with His speech. Some inexpensive transactions and decisions made in the early part of my life turned out to transform it to provide invaluable blessings of this life and the next (insha Allah). May Allah (SWT) give me enough tawfeeq to fulfill the trust of the Quran.  Ameen.

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Insights Into Inheritance

The law of inheritance in Islam is perhaps the most comprehensive in any religion. It is detailed in the Quran and explained further in the Sunnah. It is a branch of Islamic Jurisprudence that is considered most difficult to master. It is in part due to this science that the Muslims developed Algebra.

In Islam, all wealth belongs to Allah (SWT). It is distributed to different people in various portions to fulfill their needs, to test them and to use it to gain Allah’s pleasure. The wise person is one who uses it to his best advantage and applies it in ways such that it continues to benefit him even when he passes away from this Earth. The question arises as to what is the best use of wealth?

The Messenger of Allah (SWAS) said: “When a man dies, his deeds come to an end except for three things: sadaqah jariyah (perpetual charity); knowledge which is beneficial; or a virtuous descendant who prays for him (the deceased).” [Sahih Muslim]

The best strategy, in my opinion, would be to dedicate a portion of one’s wealth for Islamic education institutes / masajid and scholarships. In doing so you can combine the benefits of all three sources: the charity would be perpetual until the institutes/scholarships last; they would be disseminating Islamic beneficial knowledge and the students which your wealth would support would be like your progeny who pray for you after your death. You will get a share of their good works written to your account.

Unlike other cultures, Islam does not allow you to put all your wealth in one specific project. You are only allowed to spend up to one-third in charities of your choice. The rest must be distributed according to Islamic inheritance laws.

Narrated Sa'd bin Abi Waqqas: I was stricken by an ailment that led me to the verge of death. The Prophet came to pay me a visit. I said, "O Allah's Apostle! I have much property and no heir except my single daughter. Shall I give two-thirds of my property in charity?" He said, "No." I said, "Half of it?" He said, "No." I said, "One-third of it?" He said, "You may do so, though one-third is also too much, for it is better for you to leave your off-spring wealthy than to leave them poor, asking others for help. And whatever you spend (for Allah's sake) you will be rewarded for it, even for a morsel of food which you may put in the mouth of your wife." I said, "O Allah's Apostle! Will I remain behind and fail to complete my emigration?" The Prophet said, "If you are left behind after me, whatever good deeds you will do for Allah's sake, that will upgrade you and raise you high. May be you will have long life so that some people may benefit by you and others (the enemies) be harmed by you." But Allah's Apostle felt sorry for Sa'd bin Khaula as he died in Mecca. [Sahih Bukhari]

The Quran says that man does not know what relative may bring him maximum benefit. Allah (SWT) alone knows and He (SWT) has appointed just shared for all the heirs.

Allah commands you as regards your children's (inheritance); to the male, a portion equal to that of two females; if (there are) only daughters, two or more, their share is two thirds of the inheritance; if only one, her share is half. For parents, a sixth share of inheritance to each if the deceased left children; if no children, and the parents are the (only) heirs, the mother has a third; if the deceased left brothers or (sisters), the mother has a sixth. (The distribution in all cases is) after the payment of legacies he may have bequeathed or debts. You know not which of them, whether your parents or your children, are nearest to you in benefit, (these fixed shares) are ordained by Allah. And Allah is Ever All-Knower, All-Wise. (An-Nisa 4:11)

It is important to note that these shares are fixed. Even if you know that your heirs are billionaires and the amount you are leaving may be better used somewhere else, the distribution of your estate has to be done according to the shares outlined in Islamic inheritance law.

Another set of common mistakes take place with respect to the shares of women in the family. Either they are deprived of the Islamic shares or they are given shares equal to men in the family. Both practices are against Islam. Women have their share of inheritance which in general is half that of the male relatives. Considering the fact that in Islamic societies, women do not have to spend on themselves or their families, there is wisdom in ordaining this portion. On the other hand, it does not mean that women do not inherit at all. Thus their portions must be legally given to them.

A lot of well-intentioned Muslims, in an attempt not to offend the heirs, avoid writing a Will in their lifetime. This is a grave mistake. Every Muslim should be ready for death and should take all steps necessary to ensure that his heirs carry out his instructions according to his wish while adhering to Islamic laws. Doing so also removes misunderstandings or potential causes of conflict among the heirs.

PS: If you need a draft of an Islamic Will or if you need to know which lawyers in UAE prepare Islamic Wills based on your needs, do not hesitate to get in touch with me.