Someone asked if we can do good deeds on behalf of others, e.g. pray Quran on behalf of deceased parents. There is no such evidence that the Prophet (pbuh) or the companions or the salaf or kalaf ever prayed Quran on behalf of deceased people. Similarly, there is no evidence to support that one can give his reward to another living person.
Once the person is dead his book of deed is closed. That means the dead can no longer make corrections to his mistakes that he made on earth. His time is up. He had ample opportunity to perform his duties, if he didn’t he is accountable for it.This is easy to understand, one cannot really eat food on behalf of other or one cannot really drink water on behalf of other.
Allah (swt) said everyone is responsible for his own deeds, and no one is responsible for other’s deeds. Hence, no one can perform other’s obligatory duties like praying, fasting, doing wudu, do jihad etc.
Allah (swt) said : وَلاَ تَزِرُ وَازِرَةٌ وِزْرَ أُخْرَى ثُمَّ إِلَى رَبِّكُم – “6:164 No person earns any (sin) except against himself (only), and no bearer of burdens shall bear the burden of another. Then unto your Lord is your return,” [Al-An'am]
Ibn Kahtir mentions Allah the Exalted explained what He has revealed in the Scripture of Ibrahim and Musa, [أَلاَّ تَزِرُ وَزِرَةٌ وِزْرَ أُخْرَى ] – “53:39 That no burdened person shall bear the burden of another.”
Meaning, every soul shall carry its own injustices, whether disbelief or sin, and none else shall carry its burden of sin, as Allah states [وَإِن تَدْعُ مُثْقَلَةٌ إِلَى حِمْلِهَا لاَ يُحْمَلْ مِنْهُ شَىْءٌ وَلَوْ كَانَ ذَا قُرْبَى] – “35:18 And if one heavily laden calls another to (bear) his load, nothing of it will be lifted even though he be near of kin.”
Allah (swt) further said: وَأَن لَّيْسَ لِلإِنسَـنِ إِلاَّ مَا سَعَى - “53:39 And that man can have nothing but what he does (good or bad)’ [al-Najm 53:39].
Ibn Khatir mentioned regarding this verse that 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-Shafai and those who followed him understood that the reward for reading Quran cannot be given to the dead, because it is not something that they have done and earned. Hence the Messenger of Allah (pbuh) 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 Companions. 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 (Quran and Sunnah), and there is no room for analogy (qiyaas) or personal opinions.” (Tafsir Ibn Khatir)
The exception in this case is that he continues to earn from Sadaqa jaria, meaning the good things that he did in live and people benefit from it, or if he left books and people learn from it, or he established a mosque and people pray in it, or he left noble kids and they pray for him/her, then the deceased continue to get reward or benefit from it.
Evidence to that is 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.” (Sahih Muslim).
Ibn Khatir explained this hadith (Tafsir Ibn Khatir):
- These three things are, in reality, a result of one's own deeds, efforts and actions. For example, a Hadith states, «إِنَّ أَطْيَبَ مَا أَكَلَ الرَّجُلُ مِنْ كَسْبِهِ، وَإِنَّ وَلَدَهُ مِنْ كَسْبِه» (Verily, the best type of provision that one consumes is from what he himself has earned, and one's offspring are among what he has earned.)
- The ongoing charity that one leaves behind, like an endowment, for example, are among the traces of his own actions and deeds. Allah the Exalted said, [إِنَّا نَحْنُ نُحْىِ الْمَوْتَى وَنَكْتُبُ مَاَ قَدَّمُواْ وَءَاثَارَهُمْ] – “36:12 Verily, We give life to the dead, and We record that which they send before (them) and their traces”.
- The knowledge that one spreads among people which they are guided by is among his actions and deeds. A Hadith collected in the Sahih states, «مَنْ دَعَا إِلَى هُدًى كَانَ لَهُ مِنَ الْأَجْرِ مِثْلُ أُجُورِ مَنِ اتَّبَعَهُ، مِنْ غَيْرِ أَنْ يَنْقُصَ مِنْ أُجُورِهِمْ شَيْئًا» - “(Whoever invites to guidance, he will earn as much reward as those who follow him, without decreasing anything out of their own rewards.)
- Allah said, [وَأَنَّ سَعْيَهُ سَوْفَ يُرَى ] (And that his deeds will be seen.) meaning, on the Day of Resurrection,
- [وَقُلِ اعْمَلُواْ فَسَيَرَى اللَّهُ عَمَلَكُمْ وَرَسُولُهُ وَالْمُؤْمِنُونَ وَسَتُرَدُّونَ إِلَى عَـلِمِ الْغَيْبِ وَالشَّهَـدَةِ فَيُنَبِّئُكُمْ بِمَا كُنتُمْ تَعْمَلُونَ ] – “9:105And say: "Do deeds! Allah will see your deeds, and (so will) His Messenger and the believers. And you will be brought back to the All-Knower of the unseen and the seen. Then He will inform you of what you used to do.'',
- Then Allah will remind you of your actions and recompense you for them in the best manner, good for good and evil for evil. Allah's statement here, [ثُمَّ يُجْزَاهُ الْجَزَآءَ الأَوْفَى ] (Then he will be recompensed with a full and the best recompense.)
These are the general rules that every one responsible for his deeds and when he is dead his deeds are ceased which will be presented to him on day of judgment.
And now there are few exceptions to the general rule. There is scholarly consensus that the rewards for certain act of worship reaches the deceased, these include Hajj, Dua and Charity. Some scholar of opinion that reward of all act of worship reaches the dead including prayers and fasting, but these are refuted by others. We can state few cases of exceptions as following:
- Hiring a person to do hajj on one’s behalf.
- Performing Hajj for deceased parents
- Making Dua for others living or dead
- Paying debts or Zakat of the deceased
- Perform Obligatory Fast of the deceased
- Sacrificing an animal on behalf of the deceased
- Paying Charity on behalf of the deceased
1. Hiring a person to do hajj on one’s behalf.
This means if one is sick and he hires a wakeel to perform hajj on his behalf, then this is permissible.
The daleel for this is in Sunnah:Narrated 'Abdullah bin Abbas : Al-Fadl (his brother) was riding behind Allah's Apostle and a woman from the tribe of Khath'am came and Al-Fadl started looking at her and she started looking at him. The Prophet turned Al-Fadl's face to the other side. The woman said, "O Allah's Apostle! The obligation of Hajj enjoined by Allah on His devotees has become due on my father and he is old and weak, and he cannot sit firm on the Mount; may I perform Hajj on his behalf?" The Prophet replied, "Yes, you may." That happened during the Hajj-al-Wida (of the Prophet ). (Sahih Bukhari Volume 2, Book 26, Number 589), Also in Sahih Muslim Book 007, Number 3089)
Narrated Ibn 'Abbas: A woman from the tribe of Khath'am came in the year (of ,Hajjat-ul-wada' of the Prophet ) and said, "O Allah's Apostle! My father has come under Allah's obligation of performing Hajj but he is a very old man and cannot sit properly on his Mount. Will the obligation be fulfilled if I perform Hajj on his behalf?" The Prophet replied in the affirmative. (Sahih Bukhari Volume 3, Book 29, Number 78)
2. Performing Hajj for deceased parents.
Abdullah b. Buraida reported on the authority of his father: When we were sitting with the Messenger of Allah (pbuh), a woman came to him and said: I had gifted to my mother a maid-servant, and now she (the mother) has died. Thereupon he (the Holy Prophet) said: There is a definite reward for you and she (the maid-servant) has been returned to you as an inheritance. She (that woman) again said: Fasts of a month (of Ramadan) are due upon her; should I observe them on her behalf? He (the Holy Prophet) said: Observe fasts on her behalf. She (again) said: She did not perform Hajj, should I perform it on her behalf? He (the Holy Prophet) said: Perform Hajj on her behalf. (Sahih Muslim Book 006, Number 2558)
If the parents died and they made a vow in their life to perform hajj, then it is permissible for their heirs to perform the hajj for them.Narrated Ibn 'Abbas: A woman from the tribe of Juhaina came to the Prophet 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 Prophet 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 Bukhari Volume 3, Book 29, Number 77)
3. Making Dua for other (living or dead):
This is well known. Allah (swt) says in Quran “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 is permissible to make Dua for other to ask Allah (swt) to grand them peace and for their forgiveness.
However, it is not permissible for making Dua for forgiveness of the person who died as Kafr. This evident from the case of Ibrahim’s father and the Prophet Mohammad’s own uncle.
4. Paying debts or Zakat of the deceased.
Once the person dies his debts or Zakat should be paid from his/her estate. With regards to debts, If he didn’t leave behind anything then it is a good gesture for his heirs to pay off his debts.
Daleel for this is in Sunnah:Narrated Salama bin Al-Akwa: Once, while we were sitting in the company of Prophet, a dead man was brought. The Prophet 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 Apostle! Lead his funeral prayer." The Prophet 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 Prophet ), 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 Diners.', He (refused to pray and) said, "Then pray for your (dead) companion." Abu Qatada said, "O Allah's Apostle! Lead his funeral prayer, and I will pay his debt." So, he led the prayer. (Sahih Bukhari Volume 3, Book 37, Number 488r)
5. Performing Obligatory fast of the deceased.
If someone dies and has obligatory fast due for him, it is permissible for his family to finish his obligatory fast that he may have missed due to some sharaii reason.
The daleel for this is :It was reported from Aisha that the Messenger of Allah (pbuh) said: “Whoever dies and had any fasts outstanding, his heir should observe those fasts on his behalf.” (Sahih Bukhari, Sahih Muslim)
There is another hadith reported from Ibn Abbas that he reported that a woman came to the Messenger of Allah (pbuh) 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” (Sahih Bukhari, Sahih Muslim)
There is difference of opinion if between scholars if only the obligatory fast can be performed or if a nawafil fast can also be performed. Imam Ahmed is of opinion that no fast should be performed on behalf of dead except the obligatory fast due.Ahnaf quote few daeef hadith to state that no fast should be performed for the dead.
However, the hadith from Bukhari is very clear.
6. Sacrificing Animal on behalf of the deceased.
Generally sacrificing an animal (like on eid) is an act of ibadah for living people. However, this may have few situations.
- a. Person is performing sacrifice for himself and add his deceased family in his intention. This is permissible as the Prophet (pbuh) performed sacrifice for himself and the members of his family, some of whom died earlier.
- b. Deceased left a will to his heirs to sacrifice on his behalf, and if they are able to afford it, then it is permissible to do so.
- c. Sacrificing an animal on behalf of deceased relative. There is no evidence to support this type of sacrifice. Like some people sacrifice animal on anniversary of the deceased of their parents etc, this is pure bidda.
7. Giving charity on behalf of deceased.
It is permissible to give charity on behalf of the deceased.
The daleel for this is in Sunnah:Narrated Ibn 'Abbas: The mother of Sad bin 'Ubada died in his absence. He said, "O Allah's Apostle! My mother died in my absence; will it be of any benefit for her if I give Sadaqa on her behalf?" The Prophet said, "Yes," Sad said, "I make you a witness that I gave my garden called Al Makhraf in charity on her behalf." (Sahih Bukari, Volume 4, Book 51, Number 19)
Narrated 'Aisha: A man said to the Prophet, "My mother died suddenly, and I think that if she could speak, she would have given in charity. May I give in charity on her behalf?" He said, "Yes! Give in charity on her behalf." (Sahih Bukhari Volume 4, Book 51, Number 22)
Abu Huraira reported that a person said to Allah's Apostle (pbuh): My father died and left behind property without making any will regarding it. Would he be relieved of the burden of his sins if I give sadaqa on his behalf? He (the Holy Prophet) said: Yea. (Sahih Muslim Book 013, Number 4001)
8. Fulfilling vows on behalf of the deceased:
Narrated Ibn 'Abbas: Sad bin Ubada consulted Allah's Apostle saying, "My mother died and she had an unfulfilled vow." The Prophet said, "Fulfill it on her behalf." (Sahih Bukhari Volume 4, Book 51, Number 23)
Another important point to note and understand that these exception in situation where there is genuine case of missing an obligatory activity due to a genuine reason. If a person is negligent of performing fast despite that he had all the means to do so, then no matter how many fast his heirs perform, the deceased is still accountable for his negligence.
Similarly, if the deceased had all the means to perform hajj but he was negligent to do so, then no matter how many hajj his heir performs, the deceased is still accountable for his negligence.
Similarly, if the deceased never paid zakat for his wealth then no matter how much zakat his children pay on his behalf, he is still accountable for not fulfilling his obligation towards Allah (swt) when he was alive.
Point is there are no short cuts to dodge the basics of the Test on earthy life. We are all responsible and accountable for our actions on earth, and we have been given a specific time on earth to proof that we are obedient to Allah (swt) and we lived by his Shariah and we paid our dues, and we performed our obligatory tasks, and we refrain from things that Allah (swt) stopped us from. If there is no legitimate Shariah excuse for not performing his/her obligatory duties and person still doesn’t perform them, he is held accountable for them.
If one can get others to do his obligatory duties, then a rich man can setup a mosque and hire lot of people to do his prayers and fast, and get someone to go for hajj every year.. that’s too easy. Then all the benefits of ibadat can never be realize, that on the face these ibadat are done to please Allah (swt), however each of them has greater impact on person’s character and ethics, as we have mentioned in another paper. The salah, the zakat, the hajj and other ibadats has deep impact on person’s ethics and his moral conduct. These are not just simply rituals that we have to do; rather they are foundational pillar of Allah’s Deen. These are fundamental steps that help us to get to other steps. If one refuse to pray in his life he not disobeys Allah (swt) but denies himself a chance to get to the next step. Hence, it is important lesson for us that while we have our breath going, we realize the larger benefits of obeying Allah (swt) and show no laziness and negligence in performing these basics.