The issue of Good Deeds towards the Others
Is it permissible to perform tawaf and offer the reward to a living or a dead person? What are the deeds for which the reward may be given to another person according to Islam?
In the Name of Allāh, Most Gracious, Most Merciful;
All praise and thanks are due to Allāh, May Allāh blessings and peace be upon His Messenger.
It is not prescribed in the syar’ie to offer the rewards for any action to a living person, but it is permissible with regard to the deceased, if it is done within the guidelines set out in the Sunnah. We shall look at this matter in detail, insya Allāh.
1 - Directing the reward of one’s acts of worship to the living person.
The basic principle concerning acts of worship is that this should not be done, unless there is evidence (dalil) from the syari’ah which allows doing so. There is nothing in the Sunnah or biographies (of the Salaf) to indicate that any one of the Salaf of this ummah did any good deed and then offered the reward to any of the Muslims.
Shaykh ‘Abd al-‘Aziz ibn Bāz when replied about offering the reward of reciting Qur’ān and nāfil prayers to one’s mother said: There is no evidence (dalil) in syari’ah to indicate that one can offer nafil prayers, except jenazah prayer or reciting Qur’ān to another person, whether he is alive or dead. There is no room for ijtihad in the acts of worship, and we should not do anything except that for which there is syar’ie evidence. However it is prescribed for you to make duā’ for her and to give in charity on her behalf, and to do Hajj and ‘Umrah on her behalf, if she is old and unable perform Hajj and ‘Umrah. [Fatawa al-Shaykh Ibn Bāz, 9/321]
2 - Giving the reward of good deeds to the deceased.
But Islam permits it which limited some cases of deeds; we should limit ourselves to it – it is not correct to make an analogy between these and other deeds, because the basic principle concerning acts of worship is not to do anything without any evidence (dalil) concerning it.
Among the deeds whose rewards we are allowed to award to the dead, which the dead can benefit from the actions of the living, are the following:
Allāh says: “And those who came after them say: “Our Lord! Forgive us and our brethren who have preceded us in Faith…” [Al-Hashr 59:10]
It was reported that Abu Hurairah (radiallahu`anhu) said: “The Messenger of Allāh (Sallallāhu 'alaihi wa sallam) 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, 1236; Muslim, 951]
It was narrated that ‘Uthman Ibn ‘Affan (radiallahu`anhu) said: “When the Prophet (Sallallāhu 'alaihi wa sallam) completed 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 Dawud, 3221; An-Nawawi classified the isnad of this hadīth as jayyid in al-Majmu’, 5/292].
2.2 Making up fasts that were obligatory upon the deceased because of vows, as expiation (kafarah) and so on.
It was reported from ‘Aishah (radiallahu`anhu) that the Messenger of Allāh (Sallallāhu 'alaihi wa sallam) said: “Whoever dies and had any fasts outstanding, his heir should observe those fasts on his behalf.” [Narrated by Al-Bukhari, 1851; Muslim, 1147]
It was reported from Ibn ‘Abbas (radiallahu`anhu) that a woman came to the Messenger of Allāh (Sallallāhu 'alaihi wa sallam) and said, ‘My mother has died and she had 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 (Sallallāhu 'alaihi wa sallam) said, ‘The debt owed to Allāh is more deserving of being paid off.’” [Narrated by Al-Bukhari, 1817; Muslim, 1148]
There is some scholarly difference of opinion on this matter; some say that no fasts should be observed on behalf of the deceased apart from fasts related to vows, but the correct view is that all kinds of fasts should be observed on behalf of the deceased.
Al-Hafiz 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'e earlier view was that it was allowed depending on whether or not the hadith was sahih, as was transmitted by Al-Baihaqi in al-Ma’rifah. This is also the view of Abu Thawr and a group of the Shafi'e muhaddathīn. Al-Baihaqi said in al-Khilāfiyāt:
“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'e, with an isnad going back to him: “Concerning everything that I have said, if something different is reported from the Prophet (Sallallāhu 'alaihi wa sallam)) and is sahih, then follow the hadith and do not follow me.”
Al-Shafi'e’s view and that of Malik and Abu Hanifah was that fasts should not be observed on behalf of the dead.
Al-Laith, Ahmad, Ishaq and Abu ‘Ubaid 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 ‘Aishah should be interpreted within the specific framework of the hadith narrated from Ibn ‘Abbas.
However, there is no contradiction between these two hadith that would necessitate reconciliation. The hadith of Ibn ‘Abbas is an independent matter, whereas the hadith of ‘Aishah is a statement of the general principle.
In the hadith of Ibn ‘Abbas (radiallahu`anhu), the general principle is referred to at the end of the hadith, where it says, ‘The debt owed to Allāh is more deserving of being paid off.’
[Fath Al-Baari, 4/193, 194]
The Hanafis quote weak (da’ief) hadith as evidence to say that it is not permitted to fast on behalf of the dead. Al-Hafiz 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 would come to an end apart (except for) three: sadaqah jāriyah (ongoing charity); beneficial knowledge; or a righteous (soleh) son who will make duā’ for him.” [Sahih Muslim, 1631].
Ibn al-Qayyim refuted those who quote this hadith as evidence, and said:
“When you use this hadith i.e ‘When the son of Adam dies, his deeds come to an end’, you are misquoting it. The Prophet (Sallallāhu 'alaihi wa sallam) did not say, ‘He no longer benefits at all’; what he said is that deeds of the dead individual would 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 offers that to him, the reward of the one who did it reaches him, not the reward of his own deeds. What comes to an end is one thing, and what reaches him is another. The same applies to another hadith, which is: ‘What reaches the deceased is his own hasanāt and deeds” – which does not rule out the fact that other things, the good deeds and hasanāt of others, may also reach him.”
[Al-Ruh, p. 129]
2.3 Paying off Debts
Jabir ibn Abdullah (radiallahu`anhu) narrated that a man died and they washed him, perfumed him and shrouded him. Then he was brought to Allah's Messenger, (Sallallāhu 'alaihi wa sallam), to lead the funeral prayer for him. They asked, "Could you pray for him?" He took a step forward then asked:"Does he have any outstanding debts?" It was answered: "Two dinar." He (Sallallāhu 'alaihi wa sallam), said: "Make the funeral prayer for your companion," and began to leave. Abu Qatādah (radiallahu`anhu) took responsibility for [paying] the debt, saying, "The two dinar are my responsibility." Allah's Messenger, (Sallallāhu 'alaihi wa sallam), asked: "Will the creditor be taken care of and will the dead person be absolved from them?" He replied, "Yes," so the Prophet, (Sallallāhu 'alaihi wa sallam), led the funeral prayer for him. A day later he (Sallallāhu 'alaihi wa sallam), asked Abu Qatādah: "What was done about the two dinar?" He replied, "He only died yesterday!" The following day he returned to the Prophet (Sallallāhu 'alaihi wa sallam) and said, "I have paid them off." The Messenger of Allah, (Sallallāhu 'alaihi wa sallam), said: "Now his skin has become cool."
[Musnad Ahmad, vol.3, p.330; authenticated in Ahkāmul-Janā'iz, p. 16]
2.4 Fulfilling vows to do acts of worship
It was reported from Ibn ‘Abbas (radiallahu`anhu) that a woman from Juhaynah came to the Prophet (Sallallāhu 'alaihi wa sallam) 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 Allāh, for Allāh is more deserving that what is owed to Him should be paid off.” [Narrated by Al-Bukhari, 1754]
2.5 Performing Hajj on his behalf
It was narrated from Ibn ‘Abbas (radiallahu`anhu) that the Messenger of Allāh (Sallallāhu 'alaihi wa sallam) heard a man saying “Labbaika ‘an Shubrumah (At your service, O Allāh, on behalf of Shubrumah).” The Messenger of Allāh (Sallallāhu 'alaihi wa sallam) said, “Who is Shubrumah?” He said, “A relative of mine.” The Prophet (Sallallāhu 'alaihi wa sallam) said, “Have you ever done Hajj before?” He said, “No.” he said, “Do this Hajj for yourself, and then do Hajj on behalf of Shubrumah.”
[Narrated by Abu Dawud, 1811; Ibn Majah, 2903 – this version was narrated by him. The hadith was classed as saheeh by Shaykh Al-Albani in Irwa’ Al-Ghalil, 4/171].
2.6 Righteous deeds done by the children of the deceased
Shaikh Al-Albani (may Allāh have mercy on him) said:
“Whatever righteous deeds of the righteous son, his parents will have a reward like his, and it is without the slightest doubt, because their child is part of their striving and earning. Allāh says: ‘And that man can have nothing but what he does (good or bad)’ [al-Najm 53:39]. The Messenger of Allāh (Sallallāhu 'alaihi wa sallam) 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 Dawud, 2/108; Al-Nasa’i, 2/211] It was classified as hasan by Al-Tirmidzi, 2/287. There is a corroborating report in the hadith of ‘Abdallāh Ibn ‘Amr, which was narrated by Abu Dawud, Ibn Majah and Ahmad (2/179, 204, 214) with a hasan isnad].” (Ahkam al-Janaa’iz, p. 216, 217)
In another hadith Abu Usaid Malik bin Rabi`ah As-Sa`idi (radiallāhu`anhu) reported: We were sitting with Messenger of Allah (Sallallāhu 'alaihi wa sallam) when a man of Banu Salamah came to him and asked, “O Messenger of Allāh, is there anything that I can do to continue honouring my parents after they die?” He (Sallallāhu 'alaihi wa sallam) said: “'Yes, you can invoke blessings on them, forgiveness for them, fulfil their last wishes (wasiyah or will), honour their friends and uphold the ties of kinship which you would not have were it not for them (i.e. parents).” [Abu Dawud].
2.7 Concerning Giving charity and Reading Qur’ān for the deceased in general:
Scholars differs in their opinion on it with some held that there is no evidence (dalil) to that effect. Hence it should not be done. While some views that there was consensus (ijma’) the reward for charity on behalf of the deceased would reach him..
(a) Imam Ibn Kathir said: [Allāh s.w.t Says:] “‘and that man can have nothing but what he does (good or bad)’ [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 him. It is on the basis of this ayat, al-Shāfi’e and his follower’s views that the reward for reading Qur’ān cannot be done to the dead, because it is not something that they have done and earned. The Messenger of Allāh (Sallallāhu 'alaihi wa sallam) did not recommend or encourage his ummah to do it. Nothing to this effect has been transmitted from any of the Sahabah (radiallahu`anhum). 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’ān and Sunnah), and there is no room for analogy (qiyas) or personal opinions.” [Tafsir Ibn Kathir, 4/259]
(b) Al-Shawkani said: “The hadith on this topic indicate that charity given by a son reaches his parents only after they die without their making a will to that effect, and the reward for that reaches them. These hadīh should be taken to excluding the child from the general meaning of the ayah: ‘And that man can have nothing but what he does (good or bad)’ [al-Najm 53:39]. But these hadith speak only of the charity of the son reaching the deceased 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 hadith are stating an exception from the general meaning of the ayah. As far as anybody, apart from a man's son is concerned, what is apparent from the general meanings of the Qur’ān 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 (dalil) to the contrary.” [Nayl al-Awtaar, 4/142]
(c) Ibn Taimiyyah said: It was not the custom of the Salaf, when they observed nāfil prayers or fasts, or did a voluntary Hajj, or read Qur’ān, to offer 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-Ikhtiyarat Al-‘Ilmiyyah, p. 54].
Ibn Al-Qayyim agreed with him, and but Shaikh Muhammad Rashid Reda refuted their view in Tafsir Al-Manaar (8/254-270).
(d) The Fatawa of the Standing Committee of the Fatwas [No.2232]:
As far as we know, there is no hadith to indicate that the Prophet (Sallallāhu 'alaihi wa sallam) read Qur’ān and offered the reward to the deceased, 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 the Prophet (Sallallāhu 'alaihi wa sallam) was filled with compassion and mercy towards his ummah. His successors, the Khulafa’ Al-Rashidīn, and the rest of his companions, followed his guidance (radiallahu`anhum)), and we do not know of any of them offering the reward for reading Qur’ān to someone else. The best of all goodness resides in following the guidance of the Prophet (Sallallāhu 'alaihi wa sallam) and of the Khulafa’ Al-Rashidīn and the rest of the Sahabah (radiallahu`anhum), and evil resides in following bid’ah and innovated matters. The Prophet (Sallallāhu 'alaihi wa sallam) 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’ān 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, which the sahih evidence prescribed that the reward reaches the deceased are such as giving charity on their behalf, making duā’ for them and doing Hajj on their behalf. Anything for which there is no evidence (dalil) it is therefore not prescribed and that is not and established act of worship.
On this basis, according to the more sound of the two scholarly opinions, it is not permissible to read Qur’ān for the dead, and the reward for this reading does not reach them. On the contrary, this is bid’ah.
(e) Standing Committee for Academic Research and Issuing Fatwas.
We have dealt on giving charity. The hadith quoted does not include all people; they refer only to the children of the deceased.
With regard to the Tawaf referred in the question, it is not prescribed to do a voluntary Tawaf and give the reward to the dead. There is no evidence (dalil) to that effect has been narrated. What was prescribed is the Tawaf of ‘Umrah or Hajj, then it is included in those hadith and is permitted.
Shaikh ‘Abd al-‘Aziz ibn Baaz was asked: Sometimes I performed Tawaf for one of my relatives or parents or grandparents who have died. What is the ruling on it? Also, what is the ruling on completing the Qur’ān for them?
He replied: It is better not to carry out that, because there is no evidence (dalil) to that effect… With regard to praying (solah) on their behalf, doing Tawaf on their behalf and reading Qur’ān for them, it is better not to do that as well, because there is no evidence (dalil) to that effect.
Some scholars have permitted that, by analogy with charity and duā, but to be on the safe side, it is better not to do that.
[Fatawa Ibn Baaz, 8/344, 345)].
(f) Scholars are of the opinion that it is permissible, based on general evidences that reward reaches the person after his death.
Abu Abdullah Al-Ubai, a Maliki scholar said: If one initially recites the Qur’ān to present its reward to a dead person, it will reach him like charity and Duā’. [But] if he presents the reward of the Qur'ān that he had recited [in the past], it will not reach the dead person since the reward of the reciter does not move from him to someone else. [Mukhtasar al-Khalīl]
Ibn Muflih, in his book "Al-Furua", reported from Ibn Al-Jawzi that he said: “The reward of the recitation of the Qur'ān reaches the dead person if one intends sending it to him or her before recitation”.
It is also reported in "Al-Insaf": “All the acts that are performed on behalf of someone need intention beforehand”.
However, this good deed should be without that kind of rituals like gathering and arranging for a Qur'ān reciter in exchange of money and so on.
[Excerpted from Fatawa No 9014, Islam QA]