Islām is a way of life, which guides and assists mankind through every situation. For dealing with moments of grief too, Allāh ta'ālā has conveyed instructions through His Messenger sallallāhu 'alayhi wasallam. There can be few instances that cause greater grief than the death of a loved one. Following the instructions brought by Rasūlullāh sallallāhu 'alayhi wasallam will help lessen the grief and sorrow of the bereaved immensely, and make those who console them worthy of great reward. This is done through the Sunnah of ta'ziyah.
Our children attend madrasahs every evening, yet we as their parents do not attach much significance to them, regarding them merely as places that look after the ummah's infants. We hold them on a par with nurseries, as places of elementary learning. We should realise though, that as long as we fail to attach importance to them, we will remain ignorant of our children's development and progress.
In the period before the advent of our beloved Messenger sallallāhu 'alayhi wasallam, the whole world was engulfed in the darkness of ignorance. Humans were uncivilised, morally decadent and devoid of good character. When Allāh ta'ālā sent the Leader of all the Ambiyā 'alayhimus salām and the Seal of the Messengers 'alayhimus salām, Muhammad Rasūlullāh sallallāhu 'alayhi wasallam, the entire world was illuminated. By following his example and teachings people of all backgrounds and creeds, Muslim and non-Muslim alike, have achieved great successes throughout the ensuing fourteen centuries.
The underlying reason behind success in following his example is that Allāh ta'ālā created His beloved Rasūl sallallāhu 'alayhi wasallam the best in every way. Whenever the Sahābah radhiyallāhu 'anhum described a particular characteristic of his, they would always qualify it with the superlative it deserved. They described him, for example, as the most generous, the most knowledgeable, the most courageous etc. Their descriptions proclaim quite clearly to all who followed his era that in every praiseworthy trait Rasūlullāh sallallāhu 'alayhi wasallam was 'The Best'.
Even objective non-Muslims, have had no option but to praise the Messenger of Islām sallallāhu 'alayhi wasallam.
George Bernard Shaw writes:
I have studied him – the wonderful man and in my opinion far from being an anti-Christ, he must be called the Saviour of humanity. (The Genuine Islam, Vol 1 No8, 1936)
Pandit Gyanandra Dev Sharma Shastri, at a meeting in Gurakhpur, India (1928) said:
They (Muhammad's critics) see fire instead of light, ugliness instead of good. They distort and present every good quality as a great vice. It reflects their own depravity… The critics are blind. They cannot see that the only 'sword' Muhammad wielded was the sword of Mercy, Compassion, Friendship, and Forgiveness – the sword that conquers enemies and purifies their hearts. His sword was sharper than the sword of steel.
Philosopher, orator, apostle, legislator, warrior, conqueror of ideas, restorer of rational doctrines, of a religion without images; the founder of twenty terrestrial empires and of one spiritual empire, that is Muhammad. As regards all standards by which human greatness may be measured, we may well ask, is there any man greater than he? (Histoire de la Turquie, Vol II, Paris, 1854)
A critic, David Samuel Margoliouth, an Oxford University Professor of the early 20th century, wrote a biography of Rasūlullāh sallallāhu 'alayhi wasallam. He writes in his preface:
The biographers of the Prophet Mohammed form a long series which it is impossible to end, but in which it would be honourable to find a place. (Margoliouth, Mohammed and the Rise of Islam, 1905)
When Gandhi read the sīrah of Rasūlullāh sallallāhu 'alayhi wasallam in two volumes, he commented:
When I closed the second volume I was sorry there was not more for me to read of that great life. (Gandhi, Young India, 1924)
The sīrah (life or biography) of Rasūlullāh sallallāhu 'alayhi wasallam is full of lessons. It is an ocean that has no shore, meaning the sīrah is never-ending when it comes to deriving lessons from it. It is from the miracles of Rasūlullāh sallallāhu 'alayhi wasallam that his life has been recorded and preserved in such detail. All credit goes to his beloved Companions y who recorded this beautiful life with great care and detail to the extent that his humorous statements have also been preserved, and have proven to be an ocean of knowledge. Let us study an example:
Sayyidunā Anas ibn Mālik radhiyallāhu 'anhu narrates how Rasūlullāh sallallāhu 'alayhi wasallam would try cheering up his younger brother by saying a little rhyme:
O Father of 'Umayr! What has happened to the nughayr (a type of bird)? (Al-Bukhārī)
The small child would be delighted at the rhyme and by the fact that Allāh's Messenger would call him, a mere toddler, Father of 'Umayr!
This is one small and seemingly insignificant episode from the life of Rasūlullāh sallallāhu 'alayhi wasallam, but the 'Ulamā having pondered over this statement of Rasūlullāh sallallāhu 'alayhi wasallam were able to deduce over sixty religious precepts from it. Such is the power and depth of a single humorous statement, what can one say about his formal and serious statements!
The blessed sīrah is truly a light and full of guidance for all circumstances and situations we may encounter in life. Allāh ta'ālā says:
Indeed, there is a beautiful example for you in the Messenger of Allāh... (33:21)
The life and teachings of Rasūlullāh sallallāhu 'alayhi wasallam are truly comprehensive that a day will never come when the Muslims will not be able to find a solution through them to any issue they encounter. Guidance can be found in his teachings on every subject matter. And if we follow these beautiful teachings, we will become successful in both worlds.
So we need to emulate the Prophet sallallāhu 'alayhi wasallam in all aspects of our lives: 'aqā'id (beliefs), 'ibādāt (acts of worship), mu'āmalāt (dealings and transactions), mu'āsharāt (social conduct) and akhlāq hasanah (good character). It is unfortunate that many of us have confined Dīn to the first two branches, 'aqā'id and 'ibādāt, only. Rasūlullāh sallallāhu 'alayhi wasallam has warned of destruction for such people. Once Rasūlullāh sallallāhu 'alayhi wasallam asked his Sahābah:
'Who is a poor person?' They replied, 'A poor person amongst us is he who has neither dirham nor wealth.' Rasūlullāh sallallāhu 'alayhi wasallam said, 'The poor person in my Ummah will be one who will come on the Day of Judgement with his salāh, sawm and zakāh; however, he swore at someone, accused someone, unlawfully consumed the wealth of someone, killed someone and hurt someone, then his good deeds will be given to his victims. And if his good deeds are exhausted but the compensation of his victims remain, then their sins will be taken and entered in his account and he will be thrown in the hell-fire.' (Muslim)
In addition to protecting our good deeds, the practice of mu'āmalāt, mu'āsharāt and akhlāq hasanah presents the beauty of our Dīn to the whole of humanity, as they predominantly relate to social interaction. The life of Rasūlullāh sallallāhu 'alayhi wasallam and of those who followed him to the highest degree, contain numerous episodes of winning the hearts of people, through practically demonstrating these branches of Dīn.
If we strive to make our lives fully in accordance with the teachings of the Prophet sallallāhu 'alayhi wasallam and emulate him in every way, then we will become the beloved of Allāh ta'ālā.
Say [O Prophet sallallāhu 'alayhi wasallam], 'If you really love Allāh, then follow me, and Allāh will love you and forgive you your sins. Allāh is Most-Forgiving, Very-Merciful.' (3:31)
Once we become His beloved, we will automatically become the beloved of His entire creation. The Prophet sallallāhu 'alayhi wasallam has said:
When Allāh ta'ālā makes a servant His beloved, then Allāh ta'ālā summons Jibra'īl 'alayhis salām and says, 'Indeed, Allāh ta'ālā loves such a person; you too love him.'
When Jibra'īl 'alayhis salām hears this command of Allāh ta'ālā, his heart is infused with love for this person. Such a person is now the beloved of Allāh ta'ālā and Jibra'īl 'alayhis salām. Then, Allāh ta'ālā commands Jibra'īl 'alayhis salām to address the dwellers of the heavens and say;
Indeed, Allāh ta'ālā loves such a person; you too love him.
Upon hearing the command, their hearts too are infused with his love.
Then this person is granted acceptance amongst the people on the earth [resulting in everyone entertaining love for him]. (Al-Bukhārī)
This is a simple solution to the problems that are blighting the entire world at the moment; in fact, this is the only solution. As Muslims, we should endeavour to adopt the way of the Prophet sallallāhu 'alayhi wasallam in every facet of our lives. Our 'aqā'id (beliefs), 'ibādāt (acts of worship), mu'āmalāt (dealings and transactions), mu'āsharat (social conduct) and akhlāq hasanah (good character) should all be like that of the Prophet sallallāhu 'alayhi wasallam.
If we desire that the people of the world look at us with love and respect, then we need to resolve to live our lives according to the way of the Prophet sallallāhu 'alayhi wasallam so that we become the beloved of Allāh ta'ālā and as a result become the beloved of the entire creation.
Let us resolve today, assess/review our lives and rectify any shortcomings. When our actions completely reflect the teachings of the beloved of Allāh ta'ālā, then spiritual blessings will become apparent which will resolve all our issues of this world and the Hereafter. This is a very pertinent matter at the current time and needs our utmost attention. If we make a firm resolution to learn the way of the Prophet sallallāhu 'alayhi wasallam and act upon it accordingly - whether the action is fardh, wājib, sunnah or mustahabb - then success awaits.
On the occasion of the death of a person, we are reminded of the Hereafter, and to an extent, we are mindful of ensuring that our actions concerning the deceased are completed according to the Commands of Allāh ta'ālā and the sunnah of the Prophet sallallāhu 'alayhi wasallam. Unfortunately, one area which remains largely unpractised and neglected is that of the correct distribution of inheritance.
The wealth, possessions, property, etc. that a person leaves behind are the deceased's estate. This needs to be distributed to the rightful inheritors in accordance with the laws of Sharī'ah. The Prophet sallallāhu 'alayhi wasallam, stressing its importance, says,
Learn (the knowledge of) inheritance and teach it (to the people), for it is half of knowledge; and it will eventually be forgotten. It will be the first (knowledge) to be taken away from my Ummah. (Ibn Mājah)
Nowadays, even those considered religious, who are very cautious regarding their wealth and food, ensuring that they are all from halāl sources, are neglectful regarding this part of Sharī'ah. Beware of the fact that not giving someone their due right from the inheritance is just like stealing their wealth. Stated below are a few points which will, inshā'allāh, help us learn some basic principles of inheritance, together with prevailing misconceptions and incorrect practices. Due to the delicate and complex nature of the rules of inheritance, one must consult the 'Ulamā and Muftīs in all circumstances.
When distributing the deceased's estate, the following steps need to be taken in the order mentioned:
From the estate, the first right of the deceased is that of the funeral expenses. It is of course another matter if out of love one or more of the inheritors decide to personally bear the expenses. However, if the deceased be a woman survived by her husband, then her husband will bear the funeral expenses. This will be his responsibility, irrespective of whether she has left behind an estate or not. It should be remembered here that neither should one indulge in extravagance nor miserliness, but a path of moderation should be adopted.
After drawing the funeral expenses, one will need to ascertain whether the deceased had left any debts. If needed, scrutinise his records and statements to determine this. Any debts need to be paid off before any inheritor can receive any share. For example, if the deceased left behind a house valued at £100,000 and also had debts amounting to the same, then the house will be sold and the debt will be settled after deducting funeral expenses. The inheritors will, in such circumstances, receive nothing. Should the inheritors refuse to clear the debts and unjustly claim the house for themselves, then the estate, which they will have wrongfully seized, will be deemed harām.
A person has the right to make a wasiyyah (bequest) in one third of his estate in favour of certain individuals or eligible organisations and causes. There are two principles which apply to this.
Firstly, the deceased cannot make a wasiyyah for anyone who stands to receive a share in his inheritance as defined by the Sharī'ah. This is because the Prophet sallallāhu 'alayhi wasallam has said, “There is no wasiyyah for the inheritor.” (Abū Dāwūd)
Secondly, wasiyyah can only apply to a maximum of one third of the estate.
For example, if a person makes a wasiyyah for £5,000 to be donated to a particular masjid, as far as the first condition is concerned, the masjid will be eligible as it is not an inheritor of the deceased. However, upon death, if after deducting the funeral expenses and debts, it is calculated that only £9,000 remains, then the masjid will not receive £5,000 as proposed in the wasiyyah. Rather, it will only receive £3,000, as wasiyyah can only apply to a maximum of one third of the estate.
Lastly all those who are eligible to receive a share of the inheritance should get their respective shares according to what has been defined in great detail in our Sharī'ah. For this, an 'Ālim or Muftī should be consulted.
Important note: Females who stand to inherit are often neglected. The Sharī'ah, with its wisdom, has allocated shares for both males and females and it is important that these are abided by.
For men there is a share in what the parents and the nearest of kin have left. And for women there is a share in what the parents and the nearest of kin have left, be it small or large, a determined share. (4:7)
Unfortunately, nowadays in society it is common that women are not given their share; rather, they are contacted by the brothers who inform them of their plans for their share of the wealth and in doing so attempt to coax them into making the same decision. In many cases, due to the position of the brother in the family, the sister, daughter, etc. will find it difficult to actually acquire her share. Therefore, the money should be physically handed over to her so that she can decide as she wishes.
Note: It should be borne in mind that in situations wherein there is a minor (non-bāligh) amongst the inheritors, and the inheritors decide to collectively spend the estate in a certain cause, the consent of the minor will not be valid until he/she reaches maturity. This is because in many cases the consent of a minor is not valid in Sharī'ah. However, if other inheritors besides the minor decide to individually or collectively spend their share of the inheritance in a particular cause then this is their prerogative.
Note: Another very important matter to keep in mind is that of separate and identifiable ownership. Many people nowadays have joint bank accounts. Upon the death of a person, it becomes extremely difficult and sometimes impossible to ascertain exactly how much belonged to each person because each would deposit their money into one account. By keeping separate bank accounts it becomes easy to distribute the inheritance correctly after someone's death. Similarly, every item in the home should have an identifiable owner, so upon the death of someone there are no issues. In order to do this, records should be kept clearly identifying the owners of all items in the home.
Inshā'allāh, if we keep in mind the importance of consulting the 'Ulamā and Muftīs regarding inheritance and start with the few basic principles mentioned above, we will be able to ensure its correct implementation upon someone's death. May Allāh ta'ālā grant us the tawfīq to fulfil His commandments in all facets of our lives.