In the name of Allah, Most Merciful, the Bestower of Mercy.
All praise is due to Allah, Lord of all creation, and may the peace and blessings of Allah be upon our Prophet Muhammad, his family and all his Companions.
It is legislated for you to make du’ā for the deceased Muslims, invoke Allah to have mercy upon them and to forgive them, and give charity on their behalf if you wish – this will benefit them immensely. As for visiting the grave, then that is legislated for men, and for women (occasionally). In an authentic hadeeth, the Prophet (salallāhu ‘alaihi wasallam) said: “I used to forbid you from visiting the graves ―but visit them, for indeed they will remind you of the Hereafter.” (Muslim 977, and Ahmad in his Musnad, 5/355, no. 23055)
As for whether the deceased is aware of the events taking place among his family members, then there is a hadeeth that mentions that the deeds of the living are presented to their close deceased relatives. The hadeeth is from Anas bin Mālik (radiyallāhu ‘anhu) where he narrated from Allah’s Messenger (salallāhu ‘alaihi wasallam):
إِنَّ أعمالَكم تعْرَضُ علَى أقارِبِكُمْ وعشائِرِكُمْ منَ الأمواتِ فإِنْ كان خيْرًا استبْشَرُوا وإِنْ كان غيرَ ذلِكَ قالُوا اللهم لا تُمِتْهُم حتى تَهْدِيَهُمْ كما هدَيْتَن
“Your deeds are presented to your close relatives and kin from those who have passed away – if the deeds are good, they are delighted by them but if they not, they say: ‘O Allah do not cause them to die until you have guided them just as you had guided us.'” (Reported by Ahmad 3/64–165) The muhaddith of this era, Shaikh Al-Albāni after initially declaring this hadeeth to be weak in Ad-Da’eefah (no. 863), he then corrected himself and declared the narration to be saheeh (authentic) in As-Saheehah (6/605) – and this is an indication of Imām Al-Albāni’s honesty, love for the truth and humbleness (rahimahullāh). Al-Imām Ibn Bāz (rahimahullah) however held that this hadeeth is weak, and he mentioned that a group of scholars took that view also. As a supporting proof, Ibn Bāz cited the hadeeth reported by Bukhāri and Muslim where the Prophet (salallāhu ‘alaihi wasallam) will be at the Hawd (Lake) on the Day of Judgment and people from his Ummah will be pushed back from coming close to it, so he will say: “My Ummah! My Ummah!” Or, “My companions! My companions!” And it will be said to him: “You do not know what they innovated after you.” Then Ibn Bāz (rahimahullāh) said: “This indicates that the hadeeth of the deeds of the living being presented to the deceased relatives and kin is not authentic. If the Messenger (salallahu ‘alaihi wasallam) does not know the condition of the people after his death, then others are even less likely to know. So the deceased’s senses are disconnected from this world as are his deeds and he does not know the state of the people.” (Fatāwa al-Jāmi’ al-Kabeer) And Allah knows best. Regardless of its authenticity, there is no proof to show that the dead can be approached for aid, assistance, intercession or conversation!
Some people say that they see their deceased family members in their dreams and they inform them of things that are going to happen. However, dreams cannot be trusted and cannot be relied upon in matters related to the Unseen. What is upon the believer is that he shows concern for his deceased relatives and does good for them whether they are aware of that or not. Make du’ā for them, invoke Allah’s mercy and forgiveness for them, and give charity on their behalf. If you see in a dream an encouragement to give Sadaqah, or visit a relative, etc., then that is in line with what Allah has commanded, so fulfilling that is praiseworthy and rewardable.
It is narrated from Abu Hurayrah (radiyallāhu ‘anhu) that he said: “A deceased person will be raised in rank after his death.” So, he will ask Allah: “How has this happened my Lord?” It will be said to him: “Your son sought forgiveness for you.” (Al-Adab al-Mufrad of Al-Bukhāri, no. 36, hasan). So children should be constant in seeking forgiveness for their parents. And Ibn Seereen (rahimahullāh) said: We were with Abu Hurayrah (radiyallāhu ‘anhu) one night and he supplicated: “O Allah forgive Abu Hurayrah and his mother and whoever seeks forgiveness for them.” Ibn Seereen said: “So we seek forgiveness for them both so that we may be included in the supplication of Abu Hurairah.” (Al-Adab al-Mufrad, no. 37, saheeh) And Allah’s Messenger (salallāhu ‘alaihi wasallam) said: “When a person dies, all of his deeds are cut off except for three: a continuous charity (sadaqah jāriyah), knowledge [he left behind] that is benefitted from or a righteous child who supplicates for him.” (Al-Adab al-Mufrad, no. 38, saheeh) Allah’s Messenger (salallāhu ‘alaihi wasallam) also said:
سبعٌ يجري للعبدِ أجرُهُنَّ وَهوَ في قبرِهِ بعدَ موتِهِ من علَّمَ علمًا أو كرَى نَهَرًا أو حفرَ بئرًا أو غرسَ نخلًا أو بنَى مسجدًا أو ورَّثَ مُصحفًا أو ترَكَ ولدًا يستغفرُ لَهُ بعدَ موتِهِ
“There are seven things that continue to benefit a servant while he is in his grave after his death: the one who taught knowledge, the one who dug out a canal [to allow water to reach the people], the one who dug a well, the one who planted a date palm tree, the one who built a masjid, the one who left the Mushaf as an inheritance [for it to be read by others] and the one who left behind a child who supplicates for him after his death.” (Al-Bazzār: Kashful-Astār 149, no 7289, Al-Bayhaqi in Shu’ab al-Imān 3/1276, no. 3449, see Saheeh Al-Jāmi’ 3602)
As for the hadeeth where it is ascribed to the Prophet (salallāhu ‘alaihi wasallam) that he said: “There is not a servant who visits the grave of a man whom he used to know in the world and then he gives him salām except that he will recognise him and return the salām.” Then Shaikh Al-Albāni (rahimahullāh) stated that its chain of narration is very weak because there is in the isnād Abdur-Rahmān bin Zayd who is an abandoned narrator. In another wording reported by Ibn Abi Dunya, a similar narration is reported that is ascribed to Abu Hurayrah (radiyallāhu ‘anhu). This narration has a disconnected chain of narration (munqati’) and additionally, it is weak due to Muhammad bin Qudāmah al-Jawhari. (See Ad-Da’eefah of Al-Albāni, no. 4493).
So, what is correct and legislated in the Shariah is to visit the grave of the deceased and make du’ā for him (or her) as the Messenger (salallāhu ‘alaihi wasallam) said: “Visit the graves for they will remind you of the Hereafter.” This visitation benefits the living and reminds them of the fact that they will die, so they can prepare themselves to meet their Lord – and it benefits the deceased because those who visit the graves make du’ā for them.
When visiting the grave, the Muslim conveys his salām to the dead, supplicates to Allah seeking forgiveness and mercy for them, and then he leaves the graveyard. It is not allowed to wipe the graves (seeking nearness or blessings), nor to establish the Salāh in the graveyards or to make i’tikāf (seclusion for hours and days), nor is it allowed to ask the dead for help or ask them to intercede with Allah on behalf of the living (shafā’ah or waseelah) – and we do not believe that supernatural events occur at graves. Rather, we should supplicate for the Muslims who are buried there:
اللهم اغفر لهم اللهم ارحمهم
“O Allah, forgive them. O Allah, have mercy on them.” The Prophet (salallāhu ‘alaihi wasallam) taught his Companions to say (when visiting the graves):
السَّلامُ عَلَـيْكُمْ أَهْلَ الدِّيارِ مِنَ المؤْمِنيـنَ وَالْمُسْلِمين
وَإِنّا إِنْ شاءَ اللهُ بِكُـمْ لاحِقـون
نَسْـاَلُ اللهَ لنـا وَلَكُـمْ العـافِيَة
Assalāmu `alaykum ahlad-diyāri minal-mu’minīna wa ‘l-muslimīn, wa innā in shā’ Allāhu bikum lāḥiqūn nas’alullāha lanā wa lakumul-`āfiyah.
“Peace be upon you O people of this abode, O believers and Muslims. We will be joining you soon if Allah wills. We ask Allah for wellbeing for us and for you.” (Muslim, Ibn Mājah, 115, see Mishkāt al-Masābīh, 1764)
In a narration:
السَّلَامُ عَلَى أَهْلِ الدِّيَارِ مِنَ الْمُؤْمِنِينَ وَالْمُسْلِمِينَ وَيَرْحَمُ اللَّهُ الْمُسْتَقْدِمِينَ مِنَّا وَالْمُسْتَأْخِرِينَ وَإِنَّا إِنْ شَاءَ اللَّهُ بِكُمْ للاحقون
“Peace be upon the inhabitants of this abode (graveyard), the believers and Muslims – may Allah have mercy on those of us who go before and those who go later. And if Allah wills, we will be joining you.” (Muslim, see Mishkāt al-Masābīh, 1767)
So this is the way to benefit the deceased, this is what is reported and legislated. Seek for them well-being, mercy and forgiveness from Allah, give Sadaqah (charity) on their behalf, even if they are not related – for a close friend, or the parent of a friend or the son of a loved one – donate on their behalf for a Salafi masjid, for the printing of beneficial books [upon the Sunnah] and for leaflets to be given out, or to feed the poor, to build a Quran school, or set up an endowment that is ongoing and so on.
As for reciting the Quran over the deceased, or for the deceased to pass the reward to them, then there is no basis for this practice in the Sharī’ah. The recitation of the Quran is so that the living can benefit from it and ponder over its words and meanings. As for reciting over the deceased or at his graveside after his death, or people reciting the Quran (or making dhikr) in their homes for him, then there is no basis to this in the Book or Sunnah. The affairs pertaining to what benefits the deceased are based upon proofs, and cannot be invented in the minds of people according to their desires, feelings or what they “feel is best”. The Prophet (salallāhu ‘alaihi wasallam) said:
من عمل عملاً ليس عليه أمرنا فهو رد
“Whoever does a deed that is not upon our affair (i.e. the Religion), then it is rejected.” (Muslim, 1718) Nothing can be done in this affair except that which can be proven textually because all acts of worship are based upon evidence. Nothing can be done for the deceased other than giving charity on their behalf, du’ā to Allah to forgive them and have mercy on them, performing Hajj and ‘Umrah on their behalf and paying off their debts. These things will benefit them and they are proven by the authentic narrations.
Allah, the Most High, said:
وَٱلَّذِينَ جَآءُو مِنۢ بَعْدِهِمْ يَقُولُونَ رَبَّنَا ٱغْفِرْ لَنَا وَلِإِخْوَٰنِنَا ٱلَّذِينَ سَبَقُونَا بِٱلْإِيمَـٰنِ وَلَا تَجْعَلْ فِى قُلُوبِنَا غِلًّۭا لِّلَّذِينَ ءَامَنُوا۟ رَبَّنَآ إِنَّكَ رَءُوفٌۭ رَّحِيمٌ
“And those who came after them say: “Our Lord! Forgive us and our brethren who have preceded us in Faith, and put not in our hearts any hatred against those who have believed. Our Lord! You are indeed full of kindness, Most Merciful.” (Al-Hashr: 10) This supplication of the later ones for those who came before them benefits them, and likewise charity. A man came to the Messenger (salallāhu ‘alaihi wasallam) and said: “Allah’s Messenger, my mother died all of a sudden without making a will. I think if she could have the opportunity to speak she would have given some Sadaqah. Would there be any reward for her if I give charity on her behalf?” He replied: “Yes.” (Muslim, 1004)
And in a narration, it is reported that ‘Umar (radiyallāhu ‘anhu) acquired land at Khaibar (next to Madinah). He came to Allah’s Messenger (salallāhu ‘alaihi wasallam) and sought his advice concerning it. He said: “Allah’s Messenger, I have acquired land in Khaibar. I have never acquired property more valuable to me than this, so what do you command me to do with it?” Thereupon Allah’s Messenger (salallāhu ‘alaihi wasallam) said: “If you like, you may keep the corpus of the land intact and give its produce in charity.” So ‘Umar (radiyallāhu ‘anhu) gave it as Sadaqah declaring that the property must not be sold or inherited or given away as a gift. And ‘Umar devoted its produce to the poor, to the nearest of kin, for the freeing of slaves, in the cause of Allah and for wayfarers. He said that there is no sin for one who administers it if he eats something from it in a reasonable manner, or if he feeds his friends and without storing the wealth with a view to becoming rich. (Muslim, Chapter of Endowments (Waqf), no. 1632)
So the Prophet (salallāhu ‘alaihi wasallam) opened the door for sadaqah for the deceased that would benefit him, likewise to perform Hajj or ‘Umrah on his behalf, and there are hadeeths that show its allowance – also, paying off his debt. As for reciting the Quran, or making dhikr on their behalf and gifting that to them or passing the reward to them, or to pray the Salāh on their behalf, or to fast on their behalf with voluntary fasts, then these acts have no basis to them and are not supported by any authentic proofs.
Much of the above was taken from the fatawa and books of Al-Imām Ibn Bāz (rahimahullah), and Al-Imām Al-Albāni (rahimahullāh).
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