Question # 339: What is the best way to benefit the deceased for Isal e sawab and reward after death?

bismi-llahi r-raḥmani r-raḥīm,

Assalamu ‘laikum warahmatullahi wabarakatuh,

All praise and thanks are due to Allah (سبحانه و تعالى), and peace and blessings be upon His Messenger (صلى الله عليه و سلم).

Dear questioner,

First of all, we implore Allah (سبحانه و تعالى) to help us serve His cause and render our work for His sake.

Shorter Answer: It is not prescribed in Islam to give the rewards for any action to a living person, but with regard to the dead, it is permissible within the guidelines set out in the shari’ah. Among our deeds whose rewards are allowed to be given to the dead, are the following:

  • Making Du’aa’
  • Making up fasts (Although there is some scholarly difference of opinion on fasts that should be observed on behalf of the dead apart from fasts related to vows, but the correct view is that all kinds of fasts can be observed)
  • Paying off debts
  • Fulfilling vows to do acts of worship
  • Hajj and Umrah
  • Righteous deeds done by the children
  • Charity (There is some difference of opinion among the scholars concerning this matter; some scholars says that the dead receives only the reward from the charity by his son)

The reward for praying (salaah), doing Tawaaf and reading Qur’an cannot be given to the dead.

Lastly, one should avoid forbidden (haraam) innovations (bid’ah) such as marking the fortieth day after death, or the passing of one year since the death, or gatherings for reciting al-Faatihah, doing forbidden acts at graves, and so on. (Also Refer Question # 277: Commemoration of Death and Question # 17: Visiting dargah: Grave Worship – Element of Shirk for further details)

Long Answer: It is not prescribed in Islam to give the rewards for any action to a living person, but with regard to the dead, it is permissible within the guidelines set out in the reports (of the Sunnah) … The basic principle concerning acts of worship is that this should not be done, unless there is evidence (daleel) from the shari’ah which allows doing so.

With regard to giving the reward for good deeds to the dead: Islam permits doing this in the case of some deeds, so we should limit ourselves to that – it is not right to make an analogy between these and other deeds, because the basic principle concerning acts of worship is not to do anything unless there is evidence (daleel).

Among the deeds whose rewards we are allowed to give to the dead, or by means of which the dead can benefit from the actions of the living, are the following:

  1. Du’aa’: Allah (swt) says in the Qur’an: “And those who came after them say: “Our Lord! Forgive us and our brethren who have preceded us in Faith…” (Soorah al-Hashr, 59:10)

Further, it was reported that Abu Hurayrah (رضي الله عنه) said: “The Messenger of Allah (صلى الله عليه و سلم) told us of the death of the Negus, the king of Ethiopia, on the day that he died, and said, ‘Pray for forgiveness for your brother.’” (Narrated by al-Bukhari and Muslim) It was narrated that ‘Uthman ibn ‘Affan said: “When the Prophet (صلى الله عليه و سلم) finished burying someone who had died, he would stand over him and say, ‘Pray for forgiveness for your brother, and ask that he may be made steadfast, for even now he is being questioned.’” (Narrated by Abu Dawood. An-Nawawi classed the isnad of this hadith as jayyid in al-Majmoo’)

Ibn al-Qayyim (may Allah have mercy on him) said: “The fact that the dead benefit from Du’aa’s is indicated by the consensus of the ummah on offering Du’aa’ for him during the janaazah (funeral) prayer, hence we know that Du’aa’ benefits the deceased… This is supported by many ahadith and is in fact is the whole point of praying for the deceased. The same applies to making Du’aa’ for him after the burial, and making Du’aa’ for them when visiting their graves.” (ar-Rooh)

  1. Making up fasts that were obligatory upon the deceased because of vows, as expiation (kafaarah) and so on: It was reported from ‘Aa’ishah (رضي الله عنها) that the Messenger of Allah (صلى الله عليه و سلم) said: “Whoever dies and had any fasts outstanding, his heir should observe those fasts on his behalf.” (Narrated by al-Bukhari and Muslim)

It was reported from Ibn ‘Abbas (رضي الله عنه) that a woman came to the Messenger of Allah (صلى الله عليه و سلم) and said, ‘My mother has died and she one month’s fasting outstanding.’ He said, ‘Do you not think that if she was in debt, you would pay it off for her?’ She said, ‘Yes.’ He said, ‘The debt owed to Allah is more deserving of being paid off.’” (Narrated by al-Bukhari and Muslim)

There is some scholarly difference of opinion on this matter. Some scholars say that no fasts should be observed on behalf of the dead apart from fasts related to vows, but the correct view is that all kinds of fasts should be observed on behalf of the dead.

Al-Haafiz ibn Hajar said: The Salaf had differences of opinion concerning this matter: Fasting on behalf of the dead was permitted by the scholars of hadith. Al-Shafi’i former view was that it was allowed depending on whether or not the hadith was sahih, as was transmitted by al-Bayhaqi in al-Ma’rifah. This is also the view of Abu Thawr and a group of the Shafi’i muhaddatheen. Al-Bayhaqi said in al-Khilaafiyaat: “This is a proven matter. I do not know of any difference of opinion among the scholars of hadith concerning its soundness, so we must act in accordance with this.” Then he quoted al-Shafi’i, with an isnad going back to him: “Concerning everything that I have said, if something different is reported from the Prophet (صلى الله عليه و سلم) and is sahih, then follow the hadith and do not follow me.”

Al-Shafi’i’s later view, and that of Maalik and Abu Haneefah was that fasts should not be observed on behalf of the dead. Al-Layth, Ahmad, Ishaaq and Abu ‘Ubayd said: no fasts should be observed on behalf of him (the deceased), apart from fasts related to vows, because the general meaning of the hadith of ‘Aa’ishah should be interpreted within the specific framework of the hadith narrated from Ibn ‘Abbas.

However, there is no contradiction between these two ahadith that would necessitate reconciliation. The hadith of Ibn ‘Abbas is an independent matter in which he asked about something which happened specifically to him, whereas the hadith of ‘Aa’ishah is a statement of the general principle. In the hadith of Ibn ‘Abbas, this general principle is referred to at the end of the hadith, where it says, ‘The debt owed to Allah is more deserving of being paid off.’” (Fath al-Baari)

The Hanafis quote weak (da’eef) ahadith as evidence to say that it is not permitted to fast on behalf of the dead. Al-Haafiz ibn Hajar refuted this in the source referred to above.

Some of them quote as evidence the hadith: “When the son of Adam dies, his deeds come to an end apart from three: sadaqah jaariyah (ongoing charity); beneficial knowledge; or a righteous son who will make Du’aa’ for him.” (Saheeh Muslim). Imam Ibn al-Qayyim refuted those who quote this hadith as evidence, and said: “When you use this hadith ‘When the son of Adam dies, his deeds come to an end’, you are misquoting it. The Prophet (صلى الله عليه و سلم) did not say, ‘He no longer benefits at all’; what he said is that deeds of the individual come to an end. As far as the deeds of others are concerned, the (reward) is for the one who does them, and if he gives that to him, the reward of the one who did that reaches him, not the reward of his own deeds. What comes to an end is one thing, and what reaches him is something else. The same applies to another hadith, which is: ‘What reaches the deceased is his own hasanaat and deeds” – which does not rule out the fact that other things, the good deeds and hasanaat of others, may also reach him.” (ar-Rooh)

  1. Paying off debts: It was reported that Salamah ibn al-Akwa’ (رضي الله عنها) said: “We were sitting with the Prophet (صلى الله عليه و سلم) when a funeral bier was brought to him and they said, ‘Pray over him.’ He said, ‘Does he have any debts?’ They said, ‘No.’ He said, ‘Has he left anything behind?’ They said, ‘No.’ So he prayed over him. Then another funeral bier was brought to him, and they said, ‘O Messenger of Allah, pray for him.’ He said, ‘Does he have any debts?’ They said, ‘Yes.’ He said, ‘Has he left anything behind?’ They said, ‘Three dinars.’ So he prayed over him. Then a third funeral bier was brought, and they said, ‘Pray for him.’ He said, ‘Has he left anything behind?’ They said, ‘No.’ He said, ‘Does he have any debts?’ They said, ‘Three dinars.’ He said, ‘Pray for your companion.’ Abu Qutaadah said, ‘Pray for him, O Messenger of Allah, and I will take care of his debt.’ So he prayed over him.” (Narrated by al-Bukhari)
  1. Fulfilling vows to do acts of worship: It was reported from Ibn ‘Abbas (رضي الله عنه) that a woman from Juhaynah came to the Prophet (صلى الله عليه و سلم) and said: “My mother vowed to go for Hajj, but she did not go for Hajj before she died. Should I do Hajj on her behalf?” He said, “Yes, do Hajj on her behalf. Do you not think that if your mother was in debt you would pay it off for her? Pay off the debt that is owed to Allah, for Allah is more deserving that what is owed to Him should be paid off.” (Narrated by al-Bukhari)
  1. Performing Hajj on his behalf: It was narrated from Ibn ‘Abbas that the Messenger of Allah (صلى الله عليه و سلم) heard a man saying “Labbayka ‘an Shubrumah (At your service, O Allah, on behalf of Shubrumah).” The Messenger of Allah (صلى الله عليه و سلم) said, “Who is Shubrumah?” He said, “A relative of mine.” The Prophet (صلى الله عليه و سلم) said, “Have you ever done Hajj before?” He said, “No.” he said, “Do this Hajj for yourself, then do Hajj on behalf of Shubrumah.” (Narrated by Abu Dawood; Ibn Maajah – this version was narrated by him. The hadith was classed as sahih by Shaykh al-Albaani in Irwaa’ al-Ghaleel)
  1. Righteous deeds done by the children of the deceased: Shaykh al-Albaani (may Allah have mercy on him) said: “Whatever righteous deeds the righteous son does, his parents will have a reward like his, without it detracting from his reward in the slightest, because their child is part of their striving and earning. Allah (swt) says in the Qur’an: ‘And that man can have nothing but what he does (good or bad)’ (Soorah al-Najm, 53:39). The Messenger of Allah (صلى الله عليه و سلم) said: ‘The best that a man can benefit from is that which he earns, and his son is also part of his earnings.’ (Narrated by Abu Dawood; an-Nasaa’i; Narrated and classed as hasan by al-Tirmidhi. There is a corroborating report in the hadith of ‘Abd-Allah ibn ‘Amr, which was narrated by Abu Dawood, Ibn Maajah and Ahmad with a hasan isnad).” (Ahkaam al-Janaa’iz)
  1. With regard to giving charity and reading Qur’an: the correct view is that nothing from these actions reaches the deceased, because there is no evidence (daleel) to that effect. The basic principle is that this should not be done. Some scholars mentioned that there was consensus (ijmaa’) to the effect that the reward for charity on behalf of the deceased reaches him, but the correct view is that there is in fact a difference of opinion among the scholars concerning this matter.
  • Imam Ibn Katheer said: “‘And that man can have nothing but what he does (good or bad)’ [Soorah al-Najm, 53:39]. This means, just as he cannot bear the burden (of sin) of another person, so too the reward for the things he has done can only go to himself. From this aayah al-Shafi’i (may Allah have mercy on him) and those who followed him understood that the reward for reading Qur’an cannot be given to the dead, because it is not something that they have done and earned. Hence the Messenger of Allah (صلى الله عليه و سلم) did not recommend or encourage his ummah to do this, and did not command or hint to them to do this. Nothing to this effect has been transmitted from any of the Sahaabah (رضي الله عنهم). If it was a good thing, they would have done it before us. Acts of worship are restricted to things that are indicated in the texts (Qur’an and Sunnah), and there is no room for analogy (qiyas) or personal opinions.” (Tafseer Ibn Katheer)
  • Al-Shawkani said: “The ahadith on this topic indicate that charity given by a son reaches his parents after they die without their making a will to that effect, and the reward for that reaches them. These ahadith should be taken as excluding the child from the general meaning of the aayah: ‘And that man can have nothing but what he does (good or bad)’ (Soorah al-Najm 53:39). But these ahadith speak only of the charity of the son reaching the parents. It was reported that a man’s son is part of what he does (or his earnings), so there is no need to suggest that the ahadith are stating an exception from the general meaning of the aayah. As far as anybody apart from a man’s son is concerned, what is apparent from the general meanings of the Qur’an is that his reward does not reach the deceased, so we should accept this and not pursue the matter any further, unless we find evidence (daleel) to the contrary.” (Nayl al-Awtaar)
  • Shaykh al-Islam [Ibn Taymiyah] (may Allah have mercy on him) said: “It was not the custom of the Salaf, when they observed voluntary prayers or fasts, or did a voluntary Hajj, or read Qur’an, to give the reward for that to the deceased Muslims. So we should not deviate from the path of the Salaf, for it is better and more perfect.” (al-Ikhtiyaaraat al-‘Ilmiyyah)

Shaykh al-Islam (may Allah have mercy on him) had a different opinion to those quoted above. Ibn al-Qayyim agreed with him, and Shaykh Muhammad Rasheed Ridaa refuted their view in Tafseer al-Manaar.

  • From the Fatwas of the Standing Committee: “As far as we know, there is no report from the Prophet (صلى الله عليه و سلم) to indicate that he read Qur’an and gave the reward for that to the dead, whether they were his relatives or others. If the reward could reach them, he would have been keen to do that and would have taught it to his ummah so that they could help the dead thereby, for he (صلى الله عليه و سلم) was filled with compassion and mercy towards his ummah. His successors, the Khulafaa’ al-Raashideen, and the rest of his companions, followed his guidance, and we do not know of any of them giving the reward for reading Qur’an to someone else. The best of all goodness resides in following the guidance of the Prophet (صلى الله عليه و سلم) and of the Khulafaa’ al-Raashideen and the rest of the Sahaabah (رضي الله عنهم), and evil resides in following bid’ah and innovated matters. The Prophet (صلى الله عليه و سلم) warned us about that when he said, “Beware of newly-invented matters, for every newly-invented matter is a bid’ah (innovation), and every bid’ah is a going astray” and, “Whoever innovates something in this matter of ours (i.e., Islam) that is not a part of it, will have it rejected.” So on this basis, it is not permissible to read Qur’an for the dead or to give the reward for this reading to them. Doing that is bid’ah.

With regard to other kinds of acts of worship, wherever there is sahih evidence to indicate that the reward for them reaches the deceased, then we should accept this, such as giving charity on their behalf, making Du’aa’ for them and doing Hajj on their behalf. Anything for which there is no evidence (daleel) is not prescribed until evidence is established for it.

On this basis, according to the more sound of the two scholarly opinions, it is not permissible to read Qur’an for the dead, and the reward for this reading does not reach them. On the contrary, this is bid’ah.

(Standing Committee for Academic Research and Issuing Fatwaas)

With regard to the Tawaaf referred to in the question, it is not prescribed to do a voluntary Tawaaf and give the reward to the dead, because no evidence (daleel) to that effect has been narrated. But if it is Tawaaf of ‘Umrah or Hajj, then it is included in those ahadith and is permitted.

Shaykh ‘Abd al-‘Azeez ibn Baaz (may Allah have mercy on him) said: It is better not to do [Tawaaf for one of the relatives or parents or grandparents who have died], because there is no evidence (daleel) to that effect… With regard to praying (salaah) on their behalf, doing Tawaaf on their behalf and reading Qur’an for them, it is better not to do that, because there is no evidence (daleel) to that effect. Some scholars have permitted that, by analogy with charity and Du’aa’, but to be on the safe side, it is better not to do that. (Fataawa Ibn Baaz)

[However, one] …should avoid forbidden innovations (bid’ah) such as marking the fortieth day after death, or the passing of one year since the death, or gatherings for reciting al-Faatihah (the first chapter or soorah of the Qur’an), doing forbidden acts at graves, and so on, deeds which are done by those who are ignorant and are imitated by others.

(The above reply is based on various answers provided by Islamqa.info on the topic)

Allahu A’lam (Allah (سبحانه و تعالى) knows best) and all Perfections belong to Allah, and all mistakes belong to me alone. May Allah (سبحانه و تعالى) forgive me, Ameen.

Wassalaam