How is a gift actually enacted? Can one just say or write down that one will give someone something, and then it automatically becomes theirs?
Wa alaykum assalam wa rahmatullahi wa barakatuh,
Thank you for your important question.
A gift is only binding when one physically or legally makes the transfer: you give the person the mobile phone or register the house in their name, for example. Merely saying that one has given it to them, that it is theirs, or that one will give it to them is not binding, and it still belongs to one. [Minhaj al-Talibin, Nawawi]
To give an illustration, imagine if a father told his sons and daughters that he had given his property to his neighbor as a gift. Before giving the neighbor access to the property (all necessary keys for example) or before transferring the property to the neighbor’s name, he died. In such a case, the property would still belong to the original heirs, and it would not automatically go to the neighbor.
It would however be un-Islamic to go back on one’s promise or to not honor the wishes of one’s deceased relatives. [Iltimas al-Sa’d, Sakhawi]
The Messenger of Allah was asked about how to show kindness to parents after their death. He said, “One may pray for them, seek forgiveness for them, fulfill the promises they made after their death, keep family ties with those they kept family ties with, and honor their friends.” [Abu Dawud]
This however would be recommended, but not obligatory.
I pray this helps.
[Ustadh] Farid Dingle
Checked and Approved by Shaykh Faraz Rabbani
Ustadh Farid Dingle has completed extensive years of study in the sciences of the Arabic language and the various Islamic Sciences. During his studies, he also earned a CIFE Certificate in Islamic Finance. Over the years he has developed a masterful ability to craft lessons that help non-Arabic speakers gain a deep understanding of the language. He currently teaches courses in the Arabic Language.