Testimony of Two Just Witnesses for the Final Will and Testament
So far throughout the Surah we have learned several commands related to life such as eating, drinking, marriage, punishments, and other matters that are halal and haram. Towards the end of this Surah, Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala guides us regarding what should be done by a person who is near his death time.
يِـأَيُّهَا الَّذِينَ ءَامَنُواْ شَهَـدَةُ بَيْنِكُمْ إِذَا حَضَرَ أَحَدَكُمُ الْمَوْتُ حِينَ الْوَصِيَّةِ اثْنَانِ ذَوَا عَدْلٍ مِّنْكُمْ أَوْ ءَاخَرَانِ مِنْ غَيْرِكُمْ إِنْ أَنتُمْ ضَرَبْتُمْ فِى الاٌّرْضِ فَأَصَابَتْكُم مُّصِيبَةُ الْمَوْتِ
“O you who believe! When death approaches any of you, and you make a bequest, then take the testimony of two just men of your own folk or two others from outside, if you are traveling through the land and the calamity of death befalls you.”
Each person, no matter how rich or poor he is, has some possessions. In Surah al-Nisa, Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala has comprehensively outlined the matter of inheritance. Everything that we own goes to our heirs except one third of our wealth which can be given to a non-heir.
Since everyone who has been born will taste death therefore we should be concerned about our possessions. Whose haq is it? Are my investments or assets all scattered? Will my heirs be able to benefit from what I own? Will they easily receive my possessions or will it be too difficult for them to identify what I own? Have I fulfilled all legal requirements?
It is the responsibility of every person to leave his property in such a way that his heirs are not left confused. If we are living in an extremely unorganized manner, if we cannot deal with our property how do we expect our heirs to receive everything smoothly?
In this ayah, Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala explains what to do if death approaches a person and he has not prepared a will. Such a person will take two just people from the Muslims. These people should be just and righteous so that they don’t cheat the dying person with regards to his bequest.
Two people are being made witness so that the bequest is carried out according to the dying person’s instructions.
If death approaches at a place where there are no Muslims or while one is traveling then two non-Muslims can be taken. These people should be just and righteous.
Now a situation can arise that the deceased’s family upon receiving the belongings claim that a few of the items are missing. The witnesses assure this was all that they were given. What happens in this case?
Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala says,
تَحْبِسُونَهُمَا مِن بَعْدِ الصَّلوةِ فَيُقْسِمَانِ بِاللَّهِ إِنِ ارْتَبْتُمْ لاَ نَشْتَرِى بِهِ ثَمَناً وَلَوْ كَانَ ذَا قُرْبَى وَلاَ نَكْتُمُ شَهَـدَةَ اللَّهِ إِنَّآ إِذَاً لَّمِنَ الاٌّثِمِينَ
“Detain them both after the Salah, (then) if you are in doubt (about their truthfulness), let them both swear by Allah (saying): ‘We wish not for any worldly gain in this, even though he (the beneficiary) be our near relative. We shall not hide the testimony of Allah, for then indeed we should be of the sinful.’”
If the family has a doubt that these two people may have committed treachery or theft then they will be detained after Asr Salah and asked to swear. How do we know it’s Asr Salah? It is because the word used is As-Salat meaning one Salah. This indicates this is a particular Salah that this ayah is not referring to and not just any Salah. Secondly, the Prophet sallAllahu sallAllahu aalyhi wa sallam once detained two men after Asr Salah.
They will swear in the Name of Allah that we will not barter or purchase in exchange for the testimony of Allah a price of this dunya which is temporary. The testimony of Allah is truth and we will not prefer anything of the world over truth even if the person who is taking benefit of our false testimony is our near relative.
The testimony of Allah means the testimony that Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala has made us responsible for. This means not doing any acts of treachery or theft. If we distort our testimony, change, alter or hide it then we will be of the sinful.
When the witnesses have taken their testimony now the family cannot accuse them any further.