Things That Benefit the Dead

Things That Benefit the Dead

by Muhammad al-Jibaly
From ‘The Inevitable Journey: Life in al-Barzakh’

“And that the human being can have nothing but what he has earned (good or bad)” (53:39)

Commenting on this ayah, Ibn Kathir rahimahullaah, said: “Imaam ash-Shafi’ee concluded from this ayaah that reciting the Qur’aan does not benefit the dead, because it is not from their doing and earning. For this reason, Allaah’s Messenger sallallaahu ‘alayhi wa sallam did not recommend it to his ummah, encourage them to do it, or guide them to it with a text or a hint. Nor was such a thing reported from any of the sahaabah rahimahullaah. Had this been any good, they would have preceeded us in doing it. Matters of worship must be limited to the texts, and are not liable to modifications based on analogies and opinions.” (Tafseer Qur’aan il-‘Adheem) It is in general true that one cannot benefit from other people’s deeds after his death. But this has important exceptions detailed in this chapter.


When the Muslims pray janazah for their deceased brother, they are granted intercession for him. The more the number of Muslims who join in the prayer, the more beneficial it is for the deceased.

This means that Allaah takes their testimony and supplication regarding the deceased’s apparent actions as a sufficient reason for forgiveness. Since those Muslims who associated with him did not find any major problem to prevent them from supplicating for him, Allaah the most generous accepts that and agrees to forgive many of his hidden sins that they did not know. Anas and ‘Aishah rahimahullaah reported that Allaah’s Messenger sallallaahu ‘alayhi wa sallam said:

“Whenever a (Muslim) person dies, and a group of Muslims numbering one hundred pray janazah for him, all interceding on his behalf, their intercession is granted (by Allaah) and he is forgiven.” (Muslim and others).

Ibn ‘Abbas rahimahullaah reported that Allaah’s Messenger sallallaahu ‘alayhi wa sallam said, “Whenever a Muslim man dies, and forty men stand for his janazah prayer, all of them not joining anything with Allaah in worship, Allaah grants them intercession for him.” (Muslim and others).

Maymunah rahimahullaah reported that Allaah’s Messenger sallallaahu ‘alayhi wa sallam said, “Whenever a (Muslim) person dies, and a group of (Muslim) people pray janazah for him, they are granted intercession for him.” (an-Nasa’i, verified hasan by al-Albaanee, sahih ul-jami’. no. 5787).

Maalik ibn Hubayrah rahimahullaah reported that Allaah’s Messenger sallallaahu ‘alayhi wa sallam said, “Whenever a Muslim dies, and three lines of Muslims pray janazah for him, he is granted forgiveness.” (Ahmad, Abu Dawud, and others, verified hasan by al-Haafidh and others; al-Albaanee disagrees with this because Muhammad ibn Ishaaq one of the narrators is known to be a mudallis (one who is ambiguous in stating his sources) and did not declare direct hearing of this report (Ahkaam ul-Janaa’iz, 128). Yet the Prophet’s sallallaahu ‘alayhi wa sallam practice of forming three lines for janazah prayer provides a further supporting evidence for this hadith).


Any good deed that a Muslim starts during his lifetime, and that is of renewed benefit and ongoing use for the Muslims, will continue to benefit him and augment his record of good deeds, even after his departure – as long as its benefits continue to reach others. Allaah subhanahu wa ta’ala says – “We record that (deeds) which they have put forward and their traces (that which they have left behind).” (Yaa-Seen 36:12)

Abu Hurayrah rahimahullaah reported that Allaah’s Messenger sallallaahu ‘alayhi wa sallam said: “When a human being dies, all of his deeds are terminated except for three types: an ongoing sadaqah, a knowledge (of Islaam) from which others benefit, and a righteous child who makes du’aa for him.” (Muslim and others).

Abu Qataadah rahimahullaah reported that Allaah’s Messenger sallallaahu ‘alayhi wa sallam said: “The best that a man can leave behind after his death are three things: a righteous child who makes du’aa for him, an ongoing sadaqah whose rewards continue to reach him, and a knowledge that continues to be implemented after him.” (Ibn Maajah, and others. Verified to be sahih by al-Mundhiri and al-Albaanee).

Abu Qataadah rahimahullaah reported that Allaah’s Messenger sallallaahu ‘alayhi wa sallam said: “Among the good deeds that continue to benefit a believer after death are: a knowledge that he taught and disseminated, a righteous child who lived after him, a Qur’aan book that he left as inheritance a masjid that he built, a house that he built for the two wayfarers, a stream that he ran, or a charity that he gave from his wealth during his healthy lifetime so that it would reach him (in rewards) after death.”

(Ibn Maajah and others. Verified hasan by al-Mundhiri and al-Albaanee). Commenting on this, al-Mundhiri rahimahullaah said: “Some scholars say that the deeds of a human being end with his death. However, since he had caused these things (which are mentioned in the above hadiths), such as the earning of a child, disseminating the knowledge among those who take it from him, compiling a book that remains after him, or establishing a sadaqah, the rewards of these things continue to reach him as long as they continue to exist.” (‘Awn al-Ma’bud, 8:86)

The reason that one continues to receive rewards for these deeds even though they are done by other people, is that he had initiated them during his life or contributed to them to a certain degree, whether little or large. Since Allaah does not neglect an atom’s weight of deeds, He records these contribution for a person even after his death. Abu al-Wafaa’ bin ‘Aqeel said: “The best explanation for this in my view is that a human being, by his efforts and good conduct, had earned friends, produced children, married spouses, done good, and was amiable to the people. Because of this, they invoke mercy for him and do good on his behalf.

All of this is then a result of his own earning.” (ar-Ruh, Ibn al-Qayyim, p.171). And Rasheed Ridaa rahimahullaah said, “Among the deeds that benefit a person, even though they are done by others, are those that count like his own because he caused them, such as his children’s supplication for him, or their performing hajj, giving sadaqah, or fasting on his behalf – all of which having been established with authentic hadiths.” (Tafseer al-Manaar 8:247)


One’s child is from his earning

The above hadiths indicate that a righteous child benefits his deceased parents with du’aa. It is further demonstrated here that he can benefit them by spending sadaqah, as well as doing other charitable deeds, on their behalf. ‘Aishah rahimahullaah reported that Allaah’s Messenger sallallaahu ‘alayhi wa sallam said, “Indeed the best that one eats is that which he earns. And his child is from his earning.” (Ahmad, Abu Dawud, and others. Verified sahih by al-Albaanee in Akhaam ul-Jana’iz, 217).

The reason for this is that a parent benefits himself by rearing his child according to the teachings of Islaam, and exerting a consistent effort to raise him as a righteous person. As the child grows into adulthood and does righteous deeds, his parents deserve a merit in that they helped him accomplish that and his good actions are therefore, at least in part, from his parents’ earning. Sadaqah from a child A’ishah rahimahullaah reported that a man asked Allaah’s Messenger sallallaahu ‘alayhi wa sallam, “My mother had a sudden death, and did not have chance to bequeath anything. Had she been able to do, I think that she would have given sadaqah. Would she or I get any rewards if I give sadaqah on her behalf?” He sallallaahu ‘alayhi wa sallam replied, “Yes! So give sadaqah on her behalf” (al-Bukhaaree, Muslim and others).

Ibn ‘Abbas rahimahullaah reported that Sa’d bin ‘Ubadah’s mother died during his absence on a trip. He came to the Prophet sallallaahu ‘alayhi wa sallam and asked him, “O Allaah’s Messenger! My mother has passed away during my absence. Would it be of benefit to her if I give sadaqah on her behalf?” He sallallaahu ‘alayhi wa sallam replied, “Yes!” He said, “Be my witness then that I give my fruitful garden as sadaqah on her behalf.”

Abu Hurayrah rahimahullaah reported that a man asked the Prophet sallallaahu ‘alayhi wa sallam “My father has died, leaving behind a wealth; but he did not bequeath anything. Would it help him if I give sadaqah on his behalf?” He sallallaahu ‘alayhi wa sallam replied, “Yes!”. (Muslim, Ahmad and others).

Abdullaah ibn ‘Amr rahimahullaah reported that al-‘Aas bin Waa’il as-Sahmee (his grandfather) bequeathed that one hundred slaves be freed on his behalf. His son, Hishaam freed fifty; and ‘Amr wanted to free the other fifty, but decided to ask Allaah’s Messenger sallallaahu ‘alayhi wa sallam first. He came to the Prophet sallallaahu ‘alayhi wa sallam and said, “O Allaah’s Messenger sallallaahu ‘alayhi wa sallam! My father has bequeathed that one hundred slaves be freed on his behalf. Hishaam has freed fifty and fifty are left. Should I free them for him?”

He replied: “Had he been a Muslim, your freeing slaves, giving sadaqah, or performing Hajj on his behalf would all have reached (in rewards) and benefited him.” (Ahmad, Abu Dawud, al-Bayhaqi, verified hasan by al-Albaanee, in Akhaam ul-Jana’iz, 218). Commenting on these hadiths, ash-Shawkaani said: “This indicates that the rewards for a sadaqah from a child reach the parents after their death – even if they had not bequeathed it. These hadiths restrict the general meaning of Allaah’s subhanahu wa ta’ala saying: “And that the human being can have nothing but what he has earned.” (53:39)

But there is no indication in these hadiths that the sadaqah except from one’s own child, helps. Since it is established that a person’s child is his own earning, it is not possible to claim that the meaning (of these hadiths) needs to be restricted. As for the sadaqah from other than one’s child, it is apparent from general Qur’aanic texts that it does not help the deceased. This should then be maintained unless an additional evidence can be brought to restrict it.” (Nayl al-Awtar 4:97)

Charitable Deeds from a Non-Child

Some scholars, such as an-Nawawi, hold the opinion that all charitable deeds on behalf of a deceased person can benefit him, whether done by his children or other people. This is refuted by ash-Shawkaani’s above strong argument. Similarly, al-Albaanee says in this regard: “Some scholars have treated a non-child as a child (in this matter). This analogy is invalid for various reasons:

1. It conflicts with the general Qur’aanic texts that make a person’s good deeds a condition for entering Jannah. There is no doubt that a parent benefits himself by raising his child and nurturing him. Thus unlike other people, he deserves a reward for this.

2. The difference between the two cases inhibits such an analogy. As in ‘Aaishah’s hadith, Allaah has made a child part of his parent’s earnings – but not of other people’s earnings. Al-‘Izz bin ‘Abdus-Salaam said: “If one does an act of obedience and dedicates its reward to a living or dead person, the reward will not reach that person. And if he starts an act of worship intending it on behalf of a dead person, it would not be as intended – except for things excluded in Islaam such as sadaqah, fasting and hajj.” (al-Fatawa 24:2)

3. Had this analogy been possible it would have implied that it is recommended to dedicate rewards to the dead. In such a case, the Salaf would have done this, because they surely used to have more concern than us about doing good. But they did not do it. Ibn Taymiyyah said: “It was not the practice of the Salaf, when they performed a voluntary prayer, fasting, hajj or Qur’aanic recitation, to dedicate the rewards of that to the dead Muslims. Thus, one should not abandon the way of the Salaf, because it is better and more complete.” (al-Ikhtiyaaraat ul-‘Ilmiyah 54. Note that Ibn Taymiyyah has another opinion contradicting this one, which was advocated by his student, Ibn al-Qayyim in ar-Ruh. That opinion conflicts with Ibn Taymiyyah’s known position of rejected qiyas in matters of worship; and it was refuted in a strong and sound manner by Rasheed Rida’ in Tafseer ul-Manaar 8:254-270).

Claims for Ijmaa’

It should be noted that there are claims for Ijmaa’ (consensus) that a dead person benefits from the good deeds, including Qur’aanic recitation, done on his behalf by other people. Whereas these claims have been demonstrated to be invalid in the above discussion, they further fall under the following two considerations:

1. It has been demonstrated by staunch scholars, such as Ibn Hazm (in Usul ul-Ahkaam), ash-Shawkwaani (in Irshaad ul-Fuhul), and ‘Abd ul-Wahhab Khallaaf (in Usul ul-Fiqh), that it is not possible to justify Ijmaa’ for other than the most obvious matters in Islaam. Imaam Ahmed has indicated this in his famous refutation against those who claim Ijmaa’.

2. I have investigated many of the cases for which there have been claims of ijmaa’ and found that there is an obvious difference of opinion concerning them. I (Sheikh al-Albaanee) even found (in some cases) that the opinion of the majority of scholars is contrary to the claimed ijmaa’!” (Ahkaam ul-Janaa’iz, 219).

A Dangerous Belief

The danger of holding a wrong belief in regard to this issue has been clarified and emphasized by al-Albaanee: “We do not doubt this wrong belief’s evil effects upon one who adopts it. He would rely upon others for acquiring rewards and high ranks (in the hereafter), because he knows that the Muslims dedicate hundreds of good deeds everyday to all of the living and the dead Muslims, and he is one of them; that would then relieve him from having to work hard when others are striving on his behalf!… A more dangerous saying is that it is permissible to perform Hajj on behalf of others, even if there is no valid excuse preventing them from performing it by themselves. This causes many of the wealthy people to drop hajj or other obligations, giving themselves the excuse,

“They will perform hajj on my behalf after my death!.. There are many other similar opinions that clearly have evil effects on the (Muslim) societies. It is imperative for the scholars who wish to reform (the societies) to reject such opinions, because they conflict with the texts, as well as the spirit of the Shari’ah.. As for the person who rejects the opinions described above, it is inconceivable that he would ever rely on other people in doing deeds and acquiring rewards. He realizes that only his own deeds can save him, and he is rewarded in accordance with what he himself earns. It is then incumbent that he strives t the utmost to leave behind him good traces which will result in good rewards for him even in the loneliness of his grave – instead of those imaginary good deeds.” (Ahkaam ul-Janaa’iz, 222-223).


Fasting the Vowed Days

Aa’ishah rahimahullaah reported that Allaah’s Messenger sallallaahu ‘alayhi wa sallam said: “Whoever dies while he has a fasting to fulfill (as a vow), his wali’ (kin/guardian) should fast for him.” (al-Bukhaaree, Muslim and others).

Ibn Abbas rahimahullaah reported that a woman was travelling in the sea, and she vowed that if Allaah saved her she would fast for one month. Allaah saved her, but she died before fulfilling her vow. Her daughter came to the Prophet sallallaahu ‘alayhi wa sallam and mentioned this to him. He asked “Had she owed money as debt, wouldn’t you have paid it on her behalf?” She replied, “Yes”. He said: “Allaah’s debt is more worthy of being fulfilled. So fulfill (the vow) for your mother.” (al-Bukhaaree, Muslim and others).