Dr. Monzer Kahf, a prominent Muslim economist and counselor, states: “Estate and financial planning for Muslims in the United States poses three major points:
1. It has a strong bearing on the implementation of property and inheritance laws of the Shari’ah, especially distribution in accordance with the Shari’ah, wife/husband inheritance and the Shari’ah given rights of heirs including immediate ownership. The very foundation of the Islamic definition of the right of ownership is at stake here because the Shari’ah does not extend this right beyond death. After passing away, I cannot impose my views on what I used to own when I was alive! Am I not only a ‘Vicegerent” and Allah is the True Owner. Even the last will within one-third is a mere exception, a special grace from Allah, as Abu Bakr As-Siddiq put it!
2. It has a strong bearing on the future of the economic base of the Muslim communities, Mosques and Islamic centers. Unless we apply the ideas of waqf and wasiyyah as major sources to finance the community activities they will remain weak and lacking long term planning.
3. It has the huge advantage of benefiting from the economic opportunities and protection of individual Muslims vis a vis avoidable taxes, smooth and fast transfer of ownership to their heirs, reduced cost of estate and preservation of privacy. LAST WILL, as we made it in ISNA, helps only in the distribution in accordance with the Shari’ah, which is itself a great contribution. It does not take advantage of the economic opportunities and protection provided by available forms of estate and family financial planning.
The “BUT”: Although there are several Muslim estate planning specialists, analysts, and consultants, unfortunately I have not come across any single one of them who understands and incorporates the relevant Islamic rules in estate and family financial planning.
I have a personal interest in the matter because I live in a State where owning a mere 20,000 dollars in real estate equity takes the estate to probate court. I did one for my own in consultation with lawyers and estate planners. We need to cooperate in this matter, Muslim lawyers, the Shari`ah experts and financial analysts to produce a basic form, as we did in LAST WILL; that helps providing the core of estate and family financial planning; that gives all the Shari’ah requirements within an acceptable legal framework. It still has to be adjusted to accommodate specifics of the state of the individual Muslim who is going to use it.