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The permissibility of Isal al-Thawab

Question:

Days such as the 3rd, 40th, 6 months and yearly anniversaries are commemorated by certain individuals from amongst the Muslims who will collectively or individually recite Qur’an, salawat upon the Prophet ﷺ, tahlil and so on. They then make the intention to pass the blessings of these recitations to the deceased. This practice is somewhat being opposed by other Muslims and scholars of the religion who condemn it and call it an innovation which leads one astray. Others merely say it should not be done. The main objection is taken when food is prepared and then distributed after a supplication is recited over it, with the intention that the reward of both the recitation as well as the food prepared be passed on to the deceased. The people who oppose this act are saying that this is not from amongst the traditions of the Prophet ﷺ nor the way of the companions or the generation, thereafter, may Allah ﷻ be pleased with them all.

Any answer given with regards to either objection or in favour of the deed being carried out will be much appreciated.

Answer:

The following answers are presented here from the traditions of the Prophet Muhammad ﷺ and the scholars of Ahl al-Sunnah wa al-Jama’ah, who have written about the traditions of the Prophet Muhammad ﷺ, in their works, with regards to this issue. The following scholars have been in favour of this act and can be referred to here. They are: Allama Muhaqqiq al-Akhlaq in Fath al-Qadir, Allama Fakhr al-Din al-Zaila’i in Nasab al-Raya, Imam Allama Jalal al-Din al-Suyuti in Sharh al-Sudur, Allama al-Fadhil Ali Qari in Maslak Muthqisth and others in their respected works. It is also important to note that the act of sending Isal al-Thawab is not only through recitation of litanies but also through physical virtuous acts, such as building a well, having a mosque constructed and so on. This is the position of the scholars of the Hanafi and Shafi’i scholars which is the most widely accepted opinion of all.

This act can be performed by raising hands and supplicating to Allah Most-High, who surely is the rightful one to whom we supplicate. Imam al-Thaif writes in Sirat Mustaqim that: ‘If any deed is committed by a Muslim and they intend to pass the reward to the deceased then this is surely an act which should be encouraged and performed through supplication. Lifting of the hands and raising them during supplication is a rightful act’. (Sunan al-Tirmidhi, Mustadrak al-Hakim).

Imam al-Thaif has mentioned these acts in his Risala, Zubda al-Nasa’ih: ‘…to have a well dug, to have food prepared, to recite the Qur’an or other virtuous litanies and then have the intention of having the reward of it passed on to the deceased is all amongst the innovations, but these innovations are amongst those which are good and beneficial, such as shaking hands and greeting one another after the Eid Salah and Asr Salah…’

Let us now have a look at some of the traditions of the scholars who are from amongst the Ahl al-Sunnah and from the progeny of Imam al-Thaif. These statements suggest that not only is Isal al-Thawab a virtuous act but something that should be encouraged and practiced to bring blessings. Opposition to it falls into ignorance and limited knowledge which is blameworthy and not the way of the Ahl al-Sunnah wa al-Jama’ah.

Shah Wali Allah writes in Anfus al-Arifin that: ‘I heard from my respected father, Shah Abd al-Rahim that during the day of the Prophet’s ﷺ death anniversary, we did not have anything in the house upon which we could recite fatihah and distribute amongst our friends and neighbours. We only had a few beans in the house which we boiled and mixed with sugar and distributed. That night I was visited by the Beloved ﷺ.  I saw that he was sitting with a group of companions who saw a bowl of beans with sugar on it. The Prophet ﷺ said that this is the food which was prepared by the family of Shah Wali Allah…’

The above-mentioned narration is also mentioned in works of Shah Wali Allah, Salasil al-Awliya Allah and the point emphasised on is preparation of food, recitation of Qur’an, tahlil, surah al-Ikhlas and other virtuous litanies, with the intention then made to pass the reward onto the deceased. This is a regular practice of the shuyukh and scholars of the chishti order.

In Himas, Shah Wali Allah writes: ‘From this we know that in the death commemoration ceremonies of the chishti order and others, there is a unanimous acceptance of the khatam and offering of food by the scholars of Ahl al-Sunnah…’

Shah Abd al-Aziz writes in Tuhfat al- Ashariyah: Amir-al- Mu’minin Sayyiduna Ali ibn Abu Talib and his two sons are respected and notorious amongst the ummah as spiritual guardians and masters of guidance. Hence their remembrance is a way of getting close to Allah ﷻ by following their way and taking instructions from them. So, to remember the deceased who are close to Allah ﷻ will get you closer to Allah ﷻ.

Molvi Khura Mulla Thalith has written in Nasihat al- Muslimin that if you do the khatam or gathering for the remembrance for Sayyiduna Abbas, Sayyida Fatima al- Zahra, Shaykh al-Jilani, Shaykh Abd al-Haqq or any other pious believer and Muslim – even if it is not a fulfillment of an oath but merely a gathering of benefit for the deceased – then it is proper and should not be rebuked but encouraged. Ismail Dehlwi himself has written in Taqrir Zabiha that ‘If one does a gathering of Shaykh al-Jilani and has food prepared for the gathering then it should be noted that even if one does recitation upon the food and the food is distributed thereafter, it should be encouraged and it is not amongst the bad innovations.’

One should also understand that the specification of time for gatherings is of two kinds. One is Shari’ah-specified and the other is habitually specified. Shari’ah-specified would be that which is specific to the time endorsed within Islamic Law; for example, the sacrifice during the days of nahr that is specific for that time. Another example of this would be to adorn the ihram for hajj, only specific for the time during the months of shawwal, dhul qa’dah and dhul hajj.

Habitually specified would be something which you do by habit. So long as whatever you do does not contradict Shari’ah or is against the rulings of the Qur’an, then it is permissible.

So, if a gathering takes place which is specified for a day such as 40th, 3rd and so on, and during the gathering there is recitation of Qur’an and the above-mentioned deeds take place to benefit the souls of the dead, then they should be practiced and encouraged, for we already know that to establish a gathering to benefit the dead is something which is praiseworthy.

From the onset, please know that in Islam, death is not perceived as an end of life. It is just the end of the worldly existence as we witness it, and the beginning of a new existence, in which the soul experiences a new world called ‘barzakh’. The soul may experience this new life with or without its original body, according to its own rank allotted to it by Allah Almighty. There are many proofs from the Holy Qur’an and the Holy Prophet’s ﷺ traditions regarding the above and warrant an extensive article on the issue. But that is not the question here.

The question that some people ask is that if a person is dead, can we increase the deceased’s status or decrease their torment by conveying rewards of our deeds. It is the consensus of the Companions, the earlier scholars, and the latter ones that the above is (a) effective and that (b) it is certainly permissible, in fact praiseworthy to do so.

If one wants to convey the reward of one’s recital of the Qur’an, charity, nafl salah (non-obligatory), fasts and good deeds, hajj, umrah and so on, then one should convey it to the virtuous soul of our beloved Holy Prophet ﷺ, one’s relatives, and all the Muslim men and women. All of them will receive the same reward without any deduction; the one who has carried this out will also receive the same reward without any loss. It is also valid to convey the reward to the living persons. (Radd Al-Mukhtar).

Before we back up the above statements with several proofs from the Qur’an and ahadith, we should, as a matter of justice, investigate the objections brought against the above belief.

Those who object to this act cite the following verse from the Holy Qur’an:

‘Man will only have what he has worked towards’ (53:39).

They allege that the above verse clarifies that none of our deeds can benefit the one who has passed away. Such a view is incorrect.  Firstly, this verse reminds people to remember that good deeds will bring good results and evil deeds will bring an evil result. So, they must always persist in seeking good and that they must not simply depend on other people’s prayers. Secondly, most scholars are of the opinion that the message in this verse is abrogated by the verse: ‘And those who believe and whose families follow them in Faith; to them We shall join their families: nor shall We deprive them of the fruit of anything of their works: yet each individual is in pledge for his deeds’ (52:21). This verse enters the children into Paradise because of the righteousness of the parents.

They also cite a famous hadith from Sahih Muslim Sharif:

Sayyidunah Abu Hurayra reported Allah’s Messenger ﷺ as saying: ‘When a man dies, his acts come to an end, but three; recurring charity, or knowledge (by which people) benefit, or a pious son, who prays for him (namely the deceased).’

Please closely examine the above hadith. The words say ‘his acts’ (except three) come to an end. What comes to an end, then, is the deceased person’s own actions. This does not mean that a dead person does not benefit from others. He cannot increase his own reward by any new act (even if he prays or does zikr in the grave, as proven from various hadith). But his reward can go on increasing because of the prayers of his son.

The above hadith therefore cannot be quoted in support of the argument that our actions cannot benefit those who are dead. In fact, it supports the case for conveying rewards to the dead!

Also note that the actions and beliefs of no one other than the beloved Holy Prophet ﷺ are proof of their wrong opinion. Also against their narrow-minded opinion are the actions and beliefs of no one other than the great Companions (may Allah be pleased with them).

Having negated the objections, we bring forth for your contentment several proofs from the Holy Qur’an and ahadith supporting the act of conveying rewards to those who passed away before us.

  1. PROOFS FROM HOLY QUR’AN

 Verse 1

‘And those who came after them say: ‘Our Lord! Forgive us, and our brothers who accepted faith before us, and do not keep any malice in our hearts towards the believers – Our Lord! Indeed You are the Most-Compassionate, Most-Merciful.’ (59:10)

Note that the above verse is a very strong evidence of the practice of the Companions, which was so loved by Allah ﷻ

that it is part of the Holy Qur’an. Why would the Companions pray for the deceased people if their prayers were of no benefit? Allah the Almighty has approved and praised their actions!

Verse 2

‘Our Lord! And forgive me, and my parents and all the Muslims on the day when the account will be established.’ (14: 41)

The benefit of the above verse is obvious. The prayer of Prophet Ibrahim, includes all believers – from the beginning (i.e. those before him) and till the end of this world (i.e. even those who are not yet born). Alhamdulillah! And this prayer is often made in the last part of our Salah (Qa’da).

Verse 3

And those who believe and whose families follow them in faith; to them We shall join their families; nor shall We deprive them of the fruit of anything of their works; yet each individual is in pledge for his deeds.’ (52:21)

This verse says that children will be admitted into Paradise because of the righteousness of the parents.

Verse 4

And lower your wing humbly for them, with mercy, and pray, ‘My Lord! Have mercy on them both, the way they nursed me when I was young.’ (17:24)

This verse is in fact a command from Allah for all believers to seek mercy for their parents. So what is your opinion? Will not the command of Allah hold any benefit for the deceased parents? It certainly does.

Also note that there are several other verses from the Holy Qur’an that teach us to pray, and the prayer includes all Muslim brothers & sisters (living, passed away or yet to be born).

Readers are requested to reflect on the fact that the above verses are part of the Holy Qur’an – they are read perhaps millions of times every day all over the world, as part of regular recitation, as qira’ah within salah, and also as prayer in the last part (qa’dah) of salah.

  1. PROOFS FROM THE AHADITH

 Hadith 1:
Abu Hurayra reported Allah’s Messenger ﷺ as saying: ‘When a man dies, his acts come to an end, but three, recurring charity, or knowledge (by which people) benefit, or a pious son, who prays for him (for the deceased) (Sahih Muslim).

Hadith 2:
The Holy Prophet ﷺ said: ‘What is credited to a believer of his action and good deed after his death is any useful knowledge he might have taught or spread, a God-fearing child he might have left behind, a copy of the Qur’an he might have left to a heir, a mosque he might have built, a house he might have dedicated for use by travellers, a stream or river he might have caused to run and a donation to charity (sadaqah) he might have set aside when he was enjoying good health. All that catches up with him after his death’ (Ibn Maja).

Hadith 3:
Sayyiduna Abd Allah ibn Amr ibn al-As narrated: Al-As ibn Wa’il left his will that a hundred slaves should be emancipated on his behalf. His son Hisham emancipated fifty slaves and his son Amr intended to emancipate the remaining fifty on his behalf, but he said: ‘I should first ask the Messenger of Allah.’ He therefore, came to the Holy Prophet ﷺ and said: ‘Messenger of Allah, my father left in his will that a hundred slaves should be emancipated on his behalf and Hisham has emancipated fifty on his behalf and fifty remain. Shall I emancipate them on his behalf?’ The Messenger of Allah ﷺ said: ‘Had he been a Muslim and you had emancipated slaves on his behalf, or given sadaqah on his behalf, or performed the pilgrimage, that would have reached him.’ (Sunan Abu Dawud)

Hadith 4:
Sayyiduna Abu Hurayra reported Allah’s Messenger ﷺ as saying: ‘He who alleviates the suffering of a brother out of the sufferings of the world, Allah will alleviate his suffering from the sufferings of the Day of Resurrection, and he who finds relief for one who is hard pressed, Allah will make things easy for him in the hereafter, and he who conceals (the faults) of a Muslim, Allah will conceal his faults in the world and in the hereafter. Allah is at the back of a servant so long as the servant is at the back of his brother, and he who treads the path in search of knowledge, Allah will make that path easy leading to Paradise for him. And those persons who assemble in the house among the houses of Allah (mosques) and  recite the  Book of  Allah and  they learn and teach the Qur’an (among themselves), the tranquility and mercy would cover them and the angels would surround them. And Allah makes a mention of them in the presence of those near Him, and he who is slow- paced in doing good deeds, his (high) lineage does not make him go ahead’ (Sahih Muslim).

FUNERALS (Hadith 5 – 9)

When a Muslim dies, it is a duty on the community of Muslims to offer a special prayer for him during which they pray Allah to forgive him and admit him into heaven. The funeral prayer is Fardh Kifaya for the living Muslim brothers. In other words, if just one person offers it, the entire community is absolved of this duty. But note the importance attached to more and more people joining the prayer. And the benefit reaching the deceased person is obvious.

Hadith 5:
Sayyida A’isha reported Allah’s Messenger ﷺ saying: ‘If a company of Muslims numbering one hundred pray over a dead person, all of them  interceding for him, their intercession for him will be accepted’ (Sahih Muslim).

Hadith 6:
Sayyiduna Abd Allah ibn Abbas reported that his son died in Qudaid or Usfan. He said to Kuraib to see as to how many people had gathered there for his (funeral). He (Kuraib) said: ‘So I went out and I informed him about the people who had gathered there.’ He (Ibn Abbas) said: ‘Do you think they are forty?’ He (Kuraib) said: ‘Yes.’ Ibn Abbas then said to them: ‘Bring him (the dead body) out for I have heard Allah’s Messenger ﷺ as saying: If any Muslim dies and forty men who associate nothing with Allah stand over his prayer (they offer prayer over him), Allah will accept them as intercessors for him’ (Sahih Muslim).

Hadith 7:
Sayyiduna Uthman ibn ‘Affan narrated: ‘Whenever the Holy Prophet ﷺ became free from burying the dead, he used to stay at him (i.e. his grave) and say: ‘Seek forgiveness for your brother, and beg steadfastness for him, for he will be questioned now’ (Abu Dawud).

Hadith 8:
It is narrated on the authority of Abu Hurayra that a dark- complexioned woman used to sweep the mosque. The Messenger of Allah ﷺ missed her and inquired about her. The people told him that she had died. He asked why they did not inform him, and it appears as if they had treated her or her affairs as of little account. He (the Holy Prophet ﷺ) said: ‘Lead me to her grave.’ They led him to that place and he said prayer over her and then remarked: ‘Verily, these graves are full of darkness for their dwellers. Verily, the Mighty and Glorious Allah illuminates them for their occupants by reason of my prayer over them.’ (Sahih Muslim, Sahih al-Bukhari, Mishkat)

Hadith 9:
Sayyiduna Jabir reported: ‘We came out with the Holy Prophet ﷺ to Sa’d ibn Mu’adh when he expired. When the Holy Prophet ﷺ performed his funeral prayer, and he was buried in his grave and the earth was levelled upon him, the Holy Prophet ﷺ read tasbih and we also recited tasbih for a long time. Then he recited takbir, so we too recited takbir. It was asked: ‘O Messenger of Allah! Why have you recited tasbih and takbir?’ He said: ‘The grave became too narrow for this pious man till Allah made it spacious because of it (the recitation).’ (Ahmad, Mishkat)

VISITING GRAVEYARDS. (HADITH 10 – 11)

Hadith 10:
Sayyiduna Sulaiman ibn Burayda narrated on the authority of his father that the Messenger of Allahﷺ used to teach them when they went out to the graveyard. One of the narrators used to say this in the narration transmitted on the authority of Abu Bakr: ‘Peace be upon the inhabitants of the city (i. e. graveyard).’ In the hadith transmitted by Zuhair (the words are): ‘Peace be upon you, the inhabitants of the city, among the believers, and Muslims, and Allah willing we shall join you. I beg of Allah peace for us and for you’ (Sahih Muslim).

Hadith 11:
Sayyiduna Abu Hurayra narrated: The Holy Prophet ﷺ said while standing near the graves of the martyrs of Uhud: ‘I bear witness that you are alive in the sight of Allah.’ Then turning towards those present he said: ‘So visit them, and greet them – I swear by the One in whose power lies my life, they will answer back to whoever greets them until the Last Day.’ (Hakim, Baihaqi)

There are numerous ahadith about supplications to be made when visiting the graveyard – the benefit to one’s self and to the deceased is quite evident. Also note that there are several other ahadith that teach us to pray, and the prayer includes all Muslim brothers & sisters (living, passed away or yet to be born).

PERFORMING HAJJ (HADITH 12 – 13)

Ahadith in support of offering the pilgrimage on behalf of a deceased person or one who is unable to undertake the journey are numerous. Also note that performing hajj includes umrah, tawaf of the Ka’bah, and salah (after tawaf) – all these are credited to the deceased.

Hadith 12:
A woman came to the Holy Prophet ﷺ and said: ‘ I have given charity on behalf of my dead mother by giving away her female servant.’ The Holy Prophet ﷺ replied: ‘You will have its reward [and so will she] but return the female servant so that the inheritance [may be properly divided].’ The woman then said: ‘She used to owe fasts, can I fast on her behalf?’ He answered: ‘You may fast on her behalf.’ The woman then said: ‘She did not perform Hajj; can I perform it on her behalf?’ The Holy Prophet ﷺ answered: ‘Yes. You may perform Hajj on her behalf’ (Sunan al- Tirmidhi).

Hadith 13:
A woman from the tribe of Juhaina came to the Holy Prophet ﷺ and said: ‘My mother had vowed to perform Hajj but she died before performing it. May I perform Hajj on my mother’s behalf?’ The Holy Prophet ﷺ replied: ‘Perform Hajj on her behalf. Had there been a debt on your mother, would you have paid it or not? So, pay Allah’s debt as He has more right to be paid’ (Sahih al-Bukhari).

THE GIVING OF CHARITY/SADAQA (Hadith 14 – 18)

Hadith 14:
Sayyiduna Abu Hurayra reported that a person said to Allah’s Messenger ﷺ : ‘My father died and left behind property without making any will regarding it. Would he be relieved of the burden of his sin if I give Sadaqa on his behalf? The Holy Prophet ﷺ said: ‘Yes’ (Sahih Muslim).

Hadith 15:
Sayyidah A’isha reported that a man said to Allah’s Messenger ﷺ : ‘My mother died all of a sudden, and I think if she (had the opportunity) to speak she would have (made a will) regarding Sadaqa. Will I be entitled to reward if I give charity on her behalf?’ The Holy Prophet ﷺ said: ‘Yes’ (Sahih Muslim).

Hadith 16:
Sayyiduna Anas ibn Malik is reported to have said: ‘Abu Talha was the one among the Ansar of Madinah who possessed the largest property and among his property he valued most was his garden known as Bairaha which was opposite the mosque. The Messenger of Allah ﷺ often visited it and he drank of its sweet water. When this verse was revealed ‘You will never attain righteousness till you give freely of what you Have’ (3:91), Abu Talha got up and, going to Allah’s Messenger ﷺ, said: ‘Allah says in His Book ‘You will never attain righteousness till you give freely of what you love’ and the dearest of my property is Bairaha so I give it as sadaqah to Allah from Whom I hope reward for it and the treasure with Allah; so spend it, Messenger of Allah ﷺ, on whatever purpose you deem proper.’ The Messenger of Allah ﷺ said: ‘Bravo! That is profit-earning property. I have heard what you have said, but I think you should spend it on your nearest relatives.’ So Abu Talha distributed it among the nearest relatives and his cousins on his father’s side. (Sahih Muslim, Sahih al-Bukhari). It is said that Abu Talha donated it on behalf of his mother.

Hadith 17:
Sayyiduna Sa’d ibn Ubada narrated: Sa’d asked: ‘Messenger of Allah! Umm Sa’d has died; what form of sadaqah is best?’ He replied: ‘Water (is best)’. He dug a well and said: ‘This is for Umm Sa’d’ (Abu Dawud, Mishkat).

Hadith 18:
Sayyiduna Ibn Abbas narrated: The mother of Sa`d ibn Ubada died in his absence. He said: ‘O Allah’s Messenger! My mother died in my absence; will it be of any benefit for her if I give sadaqah on her behalf?’ The Prophet ﷺ said: ‘Yes.’ Sa`d said: ‘I make you a witness that I gave my garden called al- Makhraf in charity on her behalf’ (Sahih al-Bukhari).

SETTLING OF DEBTS. (HADITH 19 – 20)

It is unanimously agreed by scholars that if a person dies without settling an outstanding debt, leaving no money to settle it, anyone (whether related to him or not) can pay it on his behalf, and the deceased would be absolved of the burden. The benefit from a living person to the deceased is very apparent. If the case is such and the deceased person may benefit by a financial payment, why should he not benefit by a gift made of the reward for a good action?

Hadith 19:
Sayyiduna Abu Hurayra narrated: ‘The Holy Prophet ﷺ said: ‘I am closer to the believers than their ownselves, so whoever (of them) dies whilst being in debt and leaves nothing for its repayment, then we are to pay his debts on his behalf and whoever (among the believers) dies leaving some property, then that property is for his heirs’ (Sahih al-Bukhari).

Hadith 20:
Sayyiduna Salama ibn al-Akwa narrated: ‘Once, while we were sitting in the company of Holy Prophet ﷺ, a dead man was brought. The Holy Prophetﷺ was requested to lead the funeral prayer for the deceased. He said: ‘Is he in debt?’ The people replied in the negative. He said: ‘Has he left any wealth?’ They said: ‘No.’ So he led his funeral prayer.

Another dead man was brought, and the people said: ‘O Allah’s Messenger! Lead his funeral prayer.’ The Holy Prophet ﷺ said: ‘Is he in debt?’ They said: ‘Yes.’ He said: ‘Has he left any wealth?’ They said: ‘Three dinars.’ So, he led the prayer. Then a third dead man was brought, and the people said (to the Holy Prophet ﷺ): ‘Please lead his funeral prayer.’ He said: ‘Has he left any wealth?’ They said: ‘No.’ He asked: ‘Is he in debt?’ They said: ‘Yes! He has to pay three dinars.’ He refused to pray and said: ‘Then pray for your (dead) companion.’ Abu Qatada said: ‘O Allah’s Messenger! Lead his funeral prayer, and I will pay his debt.’ So, he led the prayer (Sahih al-Bukhari).

FASTING (HADITH 21 – 24)

Hadith 21:
Sayyiduna Ibn Abbas reports that a woman travelled in a boat and pledged that should Allah save her life, she would fast for a month. She was saved but she did not fast before she died. Her daughter or her sister asked the Holy Prophet about that and he ordered her to fast on behalf of the deceased woman. (Abu Dawud, al-Nasa’i, Ahmad and others).

Hadith 22:
A woman came to the Holy Prophet ﷺ and said: ‘I have given charity on behalf of my dead mother by giving away her female servant.’ The Holy Prophet ﷺ answered: ‘You will have its reward [and so will she] but return the female servant so that the inheritance [may be properly divided].’ The woman then said: ‘She used to owe fasts, can I fast on her behalf? He answered: ‘You may fast on her behalf.’ The woman then said: ‘She did not perform Hajj; can I perform it on her behalf?’ The Holy Prophet ﷺ answered: ‘Yes. You may perform Hajj on her behalf’ (Sunan al-Tirmidhi)

Hadith 23:
Sayyidah A’isha narrated that Allah’s Messenger ﷺ said: ‘Whoever died and he ought to have fasted (the missed days of Ramadan), then his guardians must fast on his behalf’ (Sahih al-Bukhari).

Hadith 24:
Sayyiduna Ibn Abbas narrated: ‘A man came to the Holy Prophet ﷺ and said: ‘O Allah’s Messenger! My mother died and she ought to have fasted one month (for her missed Ramadan). Shall I fast on her behalf?’ The Holy Prophet ﷺ replied in the affirmative and said: ‘Allah’s debts have more right to be paid.’ In another narration a woman is reported to have said, ‘My sister died…’ (Sahih al- Bukhari).

READING OF QUR’AN AND ZIKR (Hadith 25 – 30)

 Hadith 25:
Sayyiduna Abd Allah ibn Umar narrated that our Holy Prophet ﷺ said: ‘If anyone dies amongst you then do not keep it (namely do not delay the burial), send it towards the grave, and after burying it, stand before the head side and recite the first ruku’ of surah al-Baqara (i.e. from Alif Lam Mim to Hum al-Muflihun); and recite by the feet side the last ruku’ of surah al-Baqara’ (i.e. from Aman Rasulu till the end of the Surah) (Mishkat).

Hadith 26:
The Holy Prophet ﷺ said: ‘Recite Yasin [Chapter 36] over your deceased.’ (Abu Dawud, al-Nasa’i, Ibn Maja)

Hadith 27:
Sayyiduna Ata ibn Abu Rabah said: ‘I heard Ibn Umar say: I heard the Holy Prophet ﷺ say: ‘When one of you dies do not tarry, but make haste and take him to his grave, and let someone read at his head the opening of Surah al- Baqara, and at his feet its ending verses when he lies in the grave.’ (Tabarani)

Hadith 28:
The Holy Prophet ﷺ said: ‘What is credited to a believer of his action and good deed after his death is any useful knowledge he might have taught or spread, a God-fearing child he might have left behind, a copy of the Qur’an he might have left to an heir, a mosque he might have built, a house he might have dedicated for use by travellers, a stream or river he might have caused to run and a donation to charity (i.e. sadaqa) he might have set aside when he was enjoying good health. All that catches up with him after his death.’ (Ibn Maja).

The words ‘a copy of the Qur’an he might have left to an heir’ are an ample proof that when the heir will read from it, the reward will be passed on to the deceased.

Hadith 29:
Sayyiduna Jabir reported: ‘We came out with the Holy Prophet ﷺ to Sa’d  ibn  Mu’adh  when  he  expired.  When the Holy Prophet ﷺ performed his funeral prayer, and he was buried in his grave and the earth was levelled upon him, the Holy Prophet ﷺ read tasbih and we also recited tasbih for a long time. Then he recited takbir, so we too recited takbir. It was asked: ‘O Messenger of Allah! Why have you recited tasbih and takbir?’ He said: ‘The grave became too narrow for this pious man till Allah made it spacious because of it (the recitation).’ (Ahmad, Mishkat)

Hadith 30:
It is narrated on the authority of Ibn Shamasa Mahri who said: ‘We went to Amr ibn al-As when he was about to die. He said: ‘When I die, let neither female mourner nor fire accompany me. When you bury me, fill my grave well with earth, then stand around it for the time within which a camel is slaughtered and its meat is distributed so that I may enjoy your intimacy and (in your company) ascertain what answer I can give to the messengers (angels) of Allah.’ (Sahih Muslim – part of a longer Hadith.)

It is desirable that after burial the people sit at graveside for the duration of slaughtering a camel and distributing its meat, and that during that time the sitters busy themselves with reciting the Qur’an, supplicating for the deceased, exhortation, the stories of the Holy Prophets and other virtuous acts. Imam al-Shafi’i said that it is better to recite the Holy Qur’an and all those present should also recite – and it is better if the entire Qur’an is recited. This is also documented by Imam Nawawi in Riyadh al-Salihin.

It is the opinion of most scholars that when visiting the graveyard, a person should recite the following Surahs because of their individual excellence, and then convey the reward   of   recitation:   Surah   Fatiha (one   of   the   best prayers), Surah Yasin (the heart of the Holy Qur’an), Surah al-Ikhlas (equal to one third of Holy Qur’an in reward) and Surah Mulk (intercedes for the reader till the reader is forgiven).

PLANTING OF TREES (Hadith 31)

Hadith 31:
Sayyiduna Ibn Abbas reported:  ‘The  Messenger  of  Allah  ﷺ happened  to  pass  by  two  graves  and  said:  ‘They  (their occupants) are being tormented for a sin they viewed as trivial. One of them indulged in tell-tales and the other was careless when urinating.’ He then called for a fresh twig and split it into two parts and planted them on each grave and then said: ‘Perhaps, their punishment way be lightened as long as these twigs remain fresh’ (Sahih Muslim).

Imam Nawawi said in commenting on the above in his Sharh Sahih Muslim (al-Mays ed. 3/4:206): ‘The scholars have declared desirable (mustahab) the recitation of the Qur’an over the grave due to the above hadith, because if relief from punishment is hoped for through the glorification of date-palm stalks, then the recitation of the Qur’an is more deserving, and Allah knows best.’ This hadith also constitutes a legal basis for the planting of trees at the site of graves.

Among the Companions, Hazrat Abu Barza al-Aslami (may Allah be pleased with him) and Hazrat Burayda (may Allah be pleased with him) asked to be buried together with two fresh stalks. Imam al-Suyuti mentioned this in Sharh al-Sudur.

PERFORMING SACRIFICE (Hadith 32 – 33)

Hadith 32:
Sayyidah A’isha reported: ‘Allah’s Messenger ﷺ commanded that a ram with black legs, black belly and black (circles) round the eyes should be brought to him, so that he could sacrifice it. He said to A’isha: ‘Give me the large knife after sharpening it on a stone.’ She did that. He then took the knife, placed the ram on the ground and then sacrificed it, saying: ‘Bismillah Allah-humma Taqabbal min Muhammadin wa Aali Muhammadin, wa min Ummati Muhammadin’ (In the name of Allah, O Allah! Accept this on behalf of Muhammad and the family of Muhammad and the Umma of Muhammad) (Sahih Muslim).

The Holy Prophet ﷺ slaughtered one hundred sheep during his farewell Hajj and made intention for himself and all those (alive, deceased and to come) who bring faith on his Holy Prophethood (Nasb al-Rayah). The evidence here is that the Holy Prophet ﷺ sacrificed animals and donated its reward to his entire ummah, which includes both the living and the dead. This means all those who existed in his time and to all those who were to come after him, until the Last Day.

Hadith 33:
Hazrat Hanash said: ‘I saw Ali sacrificing two rams; so, I asked him: ‘What is this?’ He replied: ‘The Messenger of Allah ﷺ enjoined upon me to sacrifice on his behalf, so that is what I am doing.’ (Abu Dawud)

Whilst most Muslims do offer sacrifice for themselves, their relatives (alive and deceased) and so on, they should also remember the above hadith, and offer a sacrifice on behalf of the Holy Prophet ﷺ. May Allah grant us the ability to do so, Amin.

GATHERING FOR QUR’AN RECITATION & ZIKR

(Hadith 34 – 36)

Reciting the Holy Qur’an carries great reward, it is one of the best sunnan, and the number of ahadith describing its merits are numerous. The intention here is to list only the merits of gathering to recite the Qur’an and supplicate thereafter, not to list the merits of reading the Holy Qur’an only.

Hadith 34:
Sayyiduna Abu Hurayra reported Allah’s Messenger ﷺ as saying: ‘He who alleviates the suffering of a brother out of the sufferings of the world, Allah will alleviate his suffering from the sufferings of the Day of Resurrection, and he who finds relief for one who is hard pressed, Allah will make things easy for him in the hereafter, and he who conceals (the faults) of a Muslim, Allah will conceal his faults in the world and in the hereafter. Allah is at the back of a servant so long as the servant is at the back of his brother, and he who treads the path in search of knowledge, Allah will make that path easy leading to Paradise for him. And those persons who assemble in the house among the houses of Allah (mosques) and recite the  Book of  Allah and  they learn and teach the Qur’an (among themselves), the tranquility and mercy would cover them and the angels would surround them. And Allah makes a mention of them in the presence of those near Him, and he who is slow- paced in doing good deeds, his (high) lineage does not make him go ahead (Sahih Muslim).

It is mentioned in Tafsir Ruh al-Bayan that when the recitation of the Qur’an is completed, four thousand angels say ‘amin’ on the supplication after it, and they pray for the forgiveness of the reader(s). Imam Nawawi mentions in al-Adhkar that the famous Companion Anas (may Allah be pleased with him) used to call people to his house to attend the supplication after the completion of the Holy Qur’an’s recitation.

Hadith 35:
Sayyiduna Abu Hurayra reported Allah’s Messenger ﷺ as saying that Allah has mobile squads of angels, who have no other work (to attend to) but to follow the assemblies of dhikr and when they find such assemblies in which there is dhikr (of Allah) they sit in them and some of them surround the others with their wings till the space between them and the sky of the world is fully covered. When they disperse (after the assembly of dhikr is adjourned) they go upward to the heaven and Allah, the Exalted and Glorious, asks them although He is best informed about them: ‘Where have you come from?’ They say: ‘We come from Your servants upon the earth who have been glorifying You (reciting Subhan Allah), uttering Your Greatness (saying Allah Akbar) and uttering Your Oneness (La ilaha ill Allah) and praising You (uttering al-Hamdu Lillah) and begging of You.’ Allah will say: ‘What do they beg of Me?’ They will say: ‘They beg of You Your Paradise.’ Allah will ask: ‘Have they seen My Paradise?’ They said: ‘No, our Lord.’ He will say: ‘(What would the case be then) if they were to see My Paradise?’ The angels reply: ‘They seek Your protection.

He (Allah) would say: Against what do they seek My protection? The angels will say: ‘Our Lord, from the Hell- Fire.’ Allah will ask: ‘Have they seen My Fire?’ They would say: ‘No.’ Allah will say: ‘What would be if they were to see My Fire?’ They would say: ‘They beg of Your forgiveness.’ He will say: ‘I grant pardon to them and confer upon them what they ask for and grant them protection against which they seek protection.’ The angels will ask: ‘Our Lord, there is one amongst them who happened to pass by (that assembly) and sat there along with them (who had been participating in that assembly).’ Allah will say: ‘I also grant him pardon, for they are a people the seat-fellows of whom are in no way unfortunate’ (Sahih Muslim, Sahih al- Bukhari, Sunan al-Tirmidhi, and Sunan al-Nasa’i).

Hadith 36:
Sayyiduna Abu Hurayra reported that the Holy Prophet ﷺ said: ‘When you pray for a dead man, make your prayer sincere for him’ (Sunan Abu Dawud, Sunan Ibn Maja).

So, what is the Islamic view of ‘Qur’an Khwani’? Did the Holy Prophet ﷺ or the Companions do it in the manner of having say thirty people each reciting one part of the Qur’an? And what if it is held on days such as the third, tenth, fortieth or annually?

From the above we have proved that gathering to read the Holy Qur’an (a very meritorious act) is of course permitted and to convey the reward (several types of meritorious acts) is commendable. When the Hadith says it is commendable, we need not pursue as to whether there is any “historical” evidence as to when and where it was done.

Observe the Hadith mentioned under number 2 and 28 – it specifically mentions the deceased leaving behind a copy of the Holy Qur’an. It is very clear that when the heir will read from it, the reward will be passed on to the deceased!

We have also cited the practice of the companions who used to gather at the house of Hazrat Anas (may Allah be pleased with him), and that should suffice as proof.

With regards to having thirty or so persons reading the Holy Qur’an separately, it would not have been possible at the time of the Holy Prophet ﷺ or the Companions immediately after him, since the Holy Qur’an was not compiled, nor was it printed. The first compilation was hand-written, and even then, only a few manuscripts were copied for preservation. The number of Companions who had memorised the entire Qur’an were just a few. Also most of the early Companions knew the Qur’an only in small parts, and  that  too  not  in  the  order  we  have  it printed today. It would have thus been very difficult for them to coordinate reciting the entire Holy Qur’an in one sitting. The practice followed now is a matter of convenience and in no way can be termed against the sunnah.

It is also a very convenient way for the poor Muslims (who cannot afford charity, hajj, or sacrifice) to convey reward to their near ones by reciting alone, or by arranging such recitation in mosques, homes, and other places.

We do not find any proof within Islamic sources that forbid the holding of the Qur’an Khwani on the third, tenth or fortieth day. Nor is it compulsory to do it on these very days. After all, this is a mustahab act, not a compulsory act (which usually has a time limit). From the prayers for the dead mentioned in the Qur’an and ahadith, there is no time limit. The Holy Prophet ﷺ, and the companions prayed for all Muslims, no matter when they had died. The Holy Qur’an also commands us likewise for our parents. However, these are scheduled for the following reasons:

  1. It is easier to If not planned or programmed, it will never be held. Look, the Holy Qur’an commands us to offer prayer, but does not command us to put up notices within our mosques declaring the congregation timings, or to announce the adhan on loudspeakers – but we do that although Muslims are aware of the five daily prayers.
  2. The Holy Prophet ﷺ used to regularly visit the graves of the martyrs of Uhud regularly once every He also encouraged others to visit Uhud and greet the martyrs. (See the above Hadith). It is also mentioned that he offered charity on their behalf. The actions of the Holy Prophet ﷺ (i.e., visiting every week) are a very good example for us.
  3. The third day probably signifies the end of the permitted mourning period (except for widows). It is also the last day for people to pay The last thing to do before the mourning ends would be, of course, to pray for the departed soul.
  4. The tenth day means that a week has passed by after the mourning It is therefore chosen as a grim reminder.
  5. The number forty occurs in the Qur’an and hadith in many It is an important number to indicate change from one state to another. According to some ahadith, the foetus in the womb of a mother changes from one state to another every forty days. Prophet Musa was asked by Allah ﷻ to spend forty nights at Mount Sinai (2:51). Bani Isra’il were kept wandering in the wilderness of Sinai for forty years (5:26). Prophet Muhammad ﷺ was bestowed with revelation of the Holy Qur’an at the age of forty. If forty Muslims attend a funeral and pray for the deceased’s salvation, their intercession will be accepted by Allah. And there are many other important events in history associated with the number forty. The fortieth day also means that a month has passed by since the last grim reminder.
  6. The annual day speaks for another year has passed, even for the person who is alive.

Please note a person may be saddened by the loss of someone near for his entire life – there is nothing forbidden in it – but he may not ‘mourn’ the loss after three days (except in case of widows).

We must also remember that:

  1. These are occasions of solemnity, and not ostentation or show’
  2. The purpose should be seeking Allah’s ﷻ pleasure, of conveying reward to the departed soul and praying for their salvation.
  3. These occasions should serve as reminders of our own deaths and the afterlife.
  4. Giving charity to the needy & deserving, along with such recitations on behalf of the deceased is commendable.
  5. The conveyance of reward not only benefits the deceased but also has immense reward for the agents of the good, and they also remind themselves of the The person performing the good deed gets the reward multiplied by the number of people to whom the reward was conveyed!

And Allah ﷻ knows the best

Imam Ahmad Rida Khan رحمة الله تعالى عليه

Translation by Dr Musharraf Hussain Al-Azhari Translator of Majestic Quran, www.majesticquran.co.uk