Reviewed by: David Pickup, Noorie Waheed and Kathryn Sykes
Author: Mufti Talha Ahmad Azami, Shahzad Siddiqui, Jo Summers
Publisher: Euromoney Books
ISBN: 9781843747673
Price: £175

As a non-Muslim, the most striking thing for me about this subject is that many of the concepts dealt with are those with which any practitioner will grapple – identifying assets, advising on moral or legal obligations and dividing estates.

It is fascinating that algebra started as way of calculating shares for inheritance. Islamic law of wills is concerned with rights and duties, as all legal systems are. The Islamic concepts of capacity and trusts are sophisticated – and perhaps older and better established than other legal systems. Perhaps this originates from ideas of family life and duties that go deeper than other societies. In the common law, we are used to the freedom to choose beneficiaries with little restriction which contrasts with the Islamic rules; but that has been gradually eroded and open to challenge.

A Muslim colleague found the book clear and interesting. It distinguishes between sharia law and other jurisdictions, and looks at drafting wills from an Islamic perspective. It includes the teachings of the Qur’an, the hadith and fatwas. It identifies the rights of distributing the estate and these are in the following order: expenses of burial; remaining wealth will be spent fulfilling any monetary or religious debts the deceased may have had, or completing the Hajj if it could not be performed by the deceased in his lifetime. From the remainder, one-third will be allocated to fulfilling the will of the deceased; the remaining two-thirds will be distributed among the heirs in accordance with the sharia law. The book provides examples to illustrate any potential problems and gives solutions.

The practical advice is helpful but, as it is aimed at an international audience, can only give general guidance regarding the actual drafting of wills. But it is made clear how complicated the drafting of Islamic wills is, highlighting the importance of studying the subject properly.

David Pickup (with Noorie Waheed and Kathryn Sykes), of Aylesbury-based Pickup & Scott