Wednesday, 15 June 2011


yeah, so i did a little venting today. i won't link to it, since it's hardly my finest moment, but i do believe it needed to be said. i feel a little like i did back in 2005, when i was publicly debating winston peters on tv & radio - it had to be done, but i felt sick in my stomach while doing it. it's not that i'm feeling sick right now, but not particularly happy either.

on to more coherent matters, i'm in the process of doing my will. yes, i know it's appalling that i haven't done so yet, but since i'm comfortable with the default place my money would go if died right now, i haven't made it as much of a priority as i could have.

under islamic law, a person can do what they like with 1/3 of their estate, but the distribution of the remaning 2/3 is tightly prescribed. which means that wills are much less likely to be contested (at least if people follow the rules). i love the fact that a persons estate is widely distributed across surviving family members, and that there is no scope to build empires by cheating some of your children out of their inheritance.

even though it is so prescriptive, there's a lot to think about: guardianship of children, what to do with the 1/3 i have discretion over, who the executors will be, whether i've considered all eventualities (& there are so many!). still, as my lawyer says, a will is a living document & i've got to make sure that i review it regularly - i'm thinking every 5 years.

i also want to keep it pretty simple. i've seen examples that are so prescriptive, and detail, for example, all the funeral rites. i think that makes it more difficult for the people you leave behind, so i'm going to leave all that out & ask that the nearest muslim organisation to the place where i die be asked to ensure that the proper rites are followed.

the thing about muslim burials is that a person is supposed to be buried at the place they die & not transported back to their place of residence or place of birth. there should be no headstones or other permanent markings on the grave, so the grave doesn't become a shrine. your memory lives on in the minds of people you have touched and through the contributions you have made to society. if you haven't done much of either, then i guess you'll be quickly forgotten.

the deceased should be buried as soon as practically possible - the same day if it can be managed - so there is no waiting for relatives or friends to get to the funeral. this is because prayers for your loved departed ones can be made at any time & any place, and be equally valid.

if there's one thing the writing of a will does, it's that it makes you confront your mortality. and given what i've written above, for many muslims it also causes us to think about our legacy - not in terms of the wealth we've amassed but more in terms of the intangibles. in other words, not about what we have amassed but more about what we've given. very often it makes us aware of just how much we have fallen short.


Deborah said...

Saw your various comments. And I've seen the pain and hurt in various responses, including yours. And I've seen the hard work put in by some people to work through the issues, and revise understandings, and apologise, sincerely, and keep on working to get it right. I've also seen the hard work done by some people in accepting those apologies, and looking for ways to keep on talking, rather than just shouting and shouting and shouting some more. I think that the people who were most concerned in all this, have been the people who have shown the greatest integrity, and the greatest willingness to listen, and to work for change.

I think your vent was good.

stargazer said...

thank you deborah, you can't imagine how much that means to me right now. i've just had my 2nd sleepless night this week - i think i slept after 5, & i've got a huge meeting coming up this weekend that'll take 2 days. it's one that is going to be really challenging & i need to be on top of my game. so to have this stuff right now is hugely stressful.

but i don't want to turn this into "brown lady tears" either. i stuffed up, it's not all about me & when i feel up to it, i'll write a proper apology on THM.

in the meantime, i sincerely and very much appreciate your message of support.

Hugh said...

I missed the venting, but... I've always found wills, and the way people economically manage death, difficult. One interesting fact is that, in the European tradition, the consensus that wills are the main way to regulate the economic effects of death is very recent! In a European context the Romans "invented" wills, but for a long time they were seen as immoral by post-Roman legal bodies. There was a very strong belief among Germanic tribes that the right of male children to an equal share in their parent's wealth was absolute, to the extent that they could actually prevent their parents of disposing of it before they died, and any parents' attempt to withhold money from one child or another was seen as immoral. This is why so many European states tended to splinter after their ruler died - every son had to have his share of territory, and an attempt by a ruler to change that would provoke massive resistance.

The funny thing is, I'm not au fait with Islamic history, but as far as I know this didn't happen, so perhaps Islamic society treated inheritance of monarchy as different to inheritance of other property? Maybe any dynastic inheritance was always in the private one-third?

stargazer said...

well islamic society, and particularly the wealthy elite, haven't always followed the rules they were supposed. for example, leadership is not meant to be hereditary at all in islam, but it doesn't stop people in power establishing "royal" families (looking at you saudi, jordan, oman etc) and passing on leadership to sons. but generally, the ordinary people do follow the rules and split up properties.

Hugh said...

I'm not surprised - if there's a religion whose rules have always been followed I expect it's a very small one. But I do wonder how Islamic monarchs justified subverting the intent of those laws. It's rare for a ruler to simply say "F this law, it doesn't apply". There's always some form of justification and it can be interesting to see what people reach for even if it is transparently self-serving.