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Charity through a Will

Death and Grief
Feeling Depressed after Ramadan
Secularism Prior to 1975

Q: It is my intention to give my wife, by a will, a plot of land which I have bought so that she would give it away as a donation to pay the expenses of a small school for the children of our village. Is it appropriate?

A: What I find strange is that you wish to give the land to your wife by will and she will give it as a donation for the commendable purpose you have mentioned. Why should all this be in two steps, first giving it to your wife, then she giving it away? Why do you not do it straightaway, mentioning in your will that this land goes to that particular purpose? This seems more logical and more acceptable. There are complications with the way you have chosen.
To start with, your wife is one of your heirs. As such, you may not give her by will anything over and above what Allah has apportioned to her. Even though your intention is that what she receives by will shall end up in other people’s hands and for a different purpose than making it her property, taking this step is wrong because it places the possession of that land in her hands. This you cannot do. Other heirs may contest this will and the court of law will rule in their favor.
Secondly, from what you have said, it may be that the plot of land constitutes more than one third of your property. If the case is such, then you should not make a will that involves the whole of the land as it exceeds the maximum limit the Prophet, (Pbuh) has set for a will, namely, one third of what you own. If it is less than one third, then you can give it away for a charitable purpose such as a school in your village. You should, however, make a direct will to that effect, appointing a trustee to supervise the transfer and/or management of the land for that particular purpose.