Sadly, the new Saudi lottery-style system which elects pilgrims to “win” a visa, has seen many pilgrims’ dreams of visiting God’s home, shatter. For many of us, whether we plan to make the journey this year or in the future, there are a number of matters that we need to prepare for, not just on a spiritual and financial basis but also on a legal front.
This article will help provide an understanding of what it means to get one’s legal affairs in order before setting out to complete the fifth pillar of Islam, Hajj.
Making a Will
There are fewer more important times to make a Will than before embarking on a once-in-a-lifetime pilgrimage to Makkah, the birthplace of Islam. Making a Will is one of those tasks which ensures that one’s legal affairs are in order. Not just any Will, but an Islamic Will.
In a nutshell, an Islamic Will differs from a “non-Islamic” Will as it incorporates the rulings contained within chapter 4 of the Holy Quran, known as the Chapter of the Womenfolk. This details rules that are fardth (i.e. obligatory) on every Muslim when it comes to the distribution of their estate following death. Any other type of Will is unlikely to be accepted by God and as such, this can place the acceptance of the Hajj into question. Therefore, the importance of an Islamic Will cannot be understated.
Once you have your Islamic Will in place, though not a requirement, it’s best to let your executors know that they have been appointed in your Will and provide them with a copy. The original copy is the copy that they may need, therefore be sure to let them know where this can be found.
[Read more on why every Muslim should have a Will]
Powers of Attorney
During Hajj, it’s inevitable that you will be in close contact with many other pilgrims. This contact is likely to increase the chances of becoming infected with an illness. At best this might be a common cold, at worst something much more sinister as the global pandemic has shown. The latter could lead to time being temporarily or permanently incapacitated, and in turn, lead to some time in a Saudi-Arabian hospital.
Whilst abroad, the cost of your care will not be covered by the NHS and consequently, you may have to foot the cost of your health bills through your own resources. The question therefore follows, who has the legal authority to access your money whilst you are incapacitated or unable to do so?
In the UK, the solution is a Lasting Powers of Attorney also known as an “LPA”. Put simply, an LPA is a court-registered legal document which devolves authority to a third party (your “Attorney”) to handle your affairs. LPAs are categorised into two types,
- 1. Property and Financial Affairs
- 2. Health & Welfare.
Whilst the two are distinct, in practice, there is significant overlap.
By use of an LPA, your attorneys can do all the things you can do without restriction, except changing your Will. In addition, the Property and Financial Affairs LPA does not require you to have lost, either permanently or temporarily, mental capacity. You may just need help to access funds, whether that be by selling an asset such as a property in your absence, or withdrawing money from your bank. Both could be crucial to pay for your care whilst you’re in foreign lands.
Amongst others, a common use for the Health and Welfare LPA is that if specified, it can allow your attorneys to access your medical records from any medical institution holding them. This may be crucial if you need to provide a foreign health system access to your NHS medical records.
In order to prepare a Lasting Power of Attorney, you can either make an application yourself online or otherwise instruct a lawyer who can help you draft the precise wording to include. A lawyer will also take out the hassle of registering this legal document whilst providing you with expertly tailored legal advice.
So, whenever it is that you plan to make a pilgrimage, be sure to tie your camels – get your legal affairs in order and trust in God.
Russell Ali is a lawyer and founder of Legal Muslim, a service that seeks to help Muslims understand their Islamic rights in non-Muslim lands.
None of the above constitutes legal advice. If you a require specific answer to a specific problem, you should seek independent legal advice.