Beliefs & Methodology
"And that the human being can have nothing but what he has earned (good or bad)."
Al-Qur'an 53:39


Commenting on this ayah Ibn Kathir, rahimahullah, said, "Imam ash-Shafi'i concluded from this ayah that reciting the Qur'an does not benefit the dead, because it is not from their doing and earning. For this reason, Allah's Messenger, upon whom be peace, 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 sahabah. 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." [Tafsir Qur'an il-'Adhim] 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.

Janazah Prayer

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 Allah 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 Allah, the Most Generous, accepts that and agrees to forgive many of his hidden sins that they did not know. Anas and A'ishah, rahimahullah, reported that Allah's Messenger, sallallahu '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 Allah) and he is forgiven."
Muslim and others

Ibn 'Abbas, rahimahullah, reported that Allah's Messenger, sallallahu 'alayhi wa sallam, said:

"Whenever a Muslim man dies, and forty men stand for his janazah prayer, all of them not joining anything with Allah in worship, Allah grants them intercession for him."
Muslim and others

Maymunah, rahimahullah, reported that Allah's Messenger, sallallahu '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-Nisa'i, verified hasan by Al-Albani, Sahih al-Jami'. no. 5787

Malik ibn Hubayrah, rahimahullah, reported that Allah's Messenger, sallallahu '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-Hafidh and others; Al-Albani disagrees with this because Muhammad ibn Ishaq 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 (Ahkam ul-Jana'iz, 128). Yet the Prophet's, sallalaahu 'alayhi wa sallam, practice of forming three lines for janazah prayer provides a further supporting evidence for this hadith).

Deeds of Renewed Benefit

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. Allah, the Most High, says:

"We record that (deeds) which they have put forward and their traces (that which they have left behind)."
Al-Qur'an 36:12

Abu Hurayrah, rahimahullah, reported that Allah's Messenger, sallallahu '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 Islam) from which others benefit, and a righteous child who makes du'a for him."
Muslim and others

Abu Qatadah, rahimahullah, reported that Allah's Messenger, sallallahu 'alayhi wa sallam, said:

"The best that a man can leave behind after his death are three things: a righteous child who makes du'a for him, an ongoing sadaqah whose rewards continue to reach him, and a knowledge that continues to be implemented after him."
Ibn Majah, and others. Verified to be sahih by Al-Mundhiri and Al-Albani

Abu Qatadah, rahimahullah, reported that Allah's Messenger, sallallahu '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'an 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 Majah and others. Verified hasan by Al-Mundhiri and Al-Albani

Commenting on this, Al-Mundhiri, rahimahullah, 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 ahadith), 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 Allah does not neglect an atom's weight of deeds, He records these contribution for a person even after his death. Abu al-Wafa' ibn 'Aqil 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 Rashid Rida, rahimahullah, 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 ahadith."
Tafsir al-Manar 8:247

Charitable Deeds from a Child

One's Child is from His Earning

The above ahadith indicate that a righteous child benefits his deceased parents with du'a. It is further demonstrated here that he can benefit them by spending sadaqah, as well as doing other charitable deeds, on their behalf. A'ishah, rahimahullah, reported that Allah's Messenger, sallallahu '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 as sahih by Al-Albani in Akham ul-Jana'iz, 217

The reason for this is that a parent benefits himself by rearing his child according to the teachings of Islam, 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, rahimahullah, reported that a man asked Allah's Messenger, sallallahu '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 replied, "Yes! So give sadaqah on her behalf." [Al-Bukhari, Muslim and others]

Ibn 'Abbas, rahimahullah, reported that Sa'd bin 'Ubadah's mother died during his absence on a trip. He came to the Prophet, sallallahu 'alayhi wa sallam, and asked him, "O Allah'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 replied, "Yes!" He said, "Be my witness then that I give my fruitful garden as sadaqah on her behalf."

Abu Hurayrah, rahimahullah, reported that a man asked the Prophet, sallallahu '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, sallallahu 'alayhi wa sallam, replied, "Yes!" [Muslim, Ahmad and others]

Abdullah ibn 'Amr, rahimahullah, reported that al-'As bin Wa'il as-Sahmi (his grandfather) bequeathed that one hundred slaves be freed on his behalf. His son, Hisham, freed fifty; and 'Amr wanted to free the other fifty, but decided to ask Allah's Messenger, sallallahu 'alayhi wa sallam, first. He came to the Prophet, sallallahu 'alayhi wa sallam, and said, "O Allah's Messenger, sallallahu 'alayhi wa sallam! My father has bequeathed that one hundred slaves be freed on his behalf. Hisham 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 as hasan by al-Albani, in Akham ul-Jana'iz, 218). Commenting on these ahadith, ash-Shawani 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 ahadith restrict the general meaning of Allah's saying:

"And that the human being can have nothing but what he has earned."
Al-Qur'an 53:39

But there is no indication in these ahadith 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'anic 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-Shawkani's strong argument above. Similarly, al-Albani 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'anic 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 'Aishah's hadith, Allah has made a child part of his parent's earnings - but not of other people's earnings. Al-'Izz ibn 'Abdus-Salam 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 Islam such as sadaqah, fasting and hajj." [Al-Fatawa 24:2]; and
  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'anic 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-Ikhtiyarat 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 Rashid Rida' in Tafsir ul-Manar 8:254-270.

Claims for Ijma'

It should be noted that there are claims for Ijma' (consensus) that a dead person benefits from the good deeds, including Qur'anic 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-Ahkam), ash-Shawkwani (in Irsad ul-Fuhul), and 'Abd ul-Wahhab Khallaf (in Usul ul-Fiqh), that it is not possible to justify ijma' for other than the most obvious matters in Islam. Imam Ahmad has indicated this in his famous refutation against those who claim ijma'; and
  2. I have investigated many of the cases for which there have been claims of ijma' and found that there is an obvious difference of opinion concerning them. I (Shaykh al-Albani) even found (in some cases) that the opinion of the majority of scholars is contrary to the claimed ijma'! (Ahkam ul-Jana'iz, 219).

A Dangerous Belief

The danger of holding a wrong belief in regard to this issue has been clarified and emphasized by Al-Albani:

"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."
Ahkam ul-Jana'iz, 222-223

Fulfilling the Deceased's Vows

Fasting the Vowed Days

'A'ishah, rahimahullah, reported that Allah's Messenger, sallallahu 'alayhi wa sallam, said:

"Whoever dies while he has a fasting to fulfill (as a vow), his wali' (kin/guardian) should fast for him."
Agreed upon

Ibn Abbas, rahimahullah, reported that a woman was travelling in the sea, and she vowed that if Allah saved her she would fast for one month. Allah saved her, but she died before fulfilling her vow. Her daughter came to the Prophet, sallallahu '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, "Allah's debt is more worthy of being fulfilled. So fulfill (the vow) for your mother." [Agreed upon]

Sa'd bin 'Ubadah reported that he told Allah's Messenger, sallallahu 'alayhi wa sallam, "My mother has died and she had an unfulfilled vow." He instructed him, "Fulfill it for her." [Agreed upon]

These ahadith clearly indicate that it is recommended for a deceased's wali to fulfill his vows of fasting.

Fasting the Missed Days of Ramadhan

Some scholars recommended, in addition to this, fasting the days of Ramadhan that the deceased had missed. However, the correct position in this regard is expressed by Imam Ahmad, rahimahullah, "One may not fast for a dead person except in the case of a vow." [Al-Masa'il, 96 by Abu Dawud]

This position is confirmed by the understanding of two of the Companions, 'Aishah and Ibn 'Abbas. 'Amrah reported that her mother died without making up her missed days of Ramadhan. She asked 'Aishah rahimahullah, "Should I make that up on her behalf?" She replied, "No! Rather give sadaqah to the needy in the amount of a half sa' (of grains or food) for every missed day." [At-Tahawi, Ibn Hazm, verified to be sahih by al-Albani, Ahkam ul-Jana'iz, 215] Sa'id ibn Jubayr, rahimahullah, reported that Ibn 'Abbas, rahimahullah, said, "If a man gets sick in Ramadhan and then dies without fasting, food should be given on his behalf - without a need to make up for the fasting. But if he had made a vow (to fast), his wali' should fast for him." [Abu Dawud, Ibn Hazm, verified sahih by al-Albani, Ahkam ul-Jana'iz, 215]

Commenting on this, Al-Albani says:

"This understanding is adopted by the Mother of the Believers, as well as Ibn 'Abbas, the great scholar of the Ummah, and is further held by the Imam of Sunnah, Ahmad ibn Hanbal. It is the most moderate and appropriate opinion in this regard; and it fulfills all of the relevant hadiths, without rejected any of them, especially the first, which the Mother of the Believers, rahimahullah, did not find applicable to the fasting of Ramadhan. She is the reporter of the hadith, and it is established that a narrator of a hadith is more knowledgeable about the meaning of what he reports, especially when his understanding agrees with the rules and foundations of the shari'ah, as is the case here."
Ahkam ul-Jana'iz, 215-216

And Ibn Al-Qayyim, rahimahullah, comments on 'Aishah's above hadith by saying:

"One group (of scholars) generalizes this and enable other people to follow it clean and pure, as it was revealed, and says that both the vowed and missed obligatory fasting should be made up for the deceased. Another group rejects this and says that no fasting may be made up for him. A third group is more specific in saying that only the vowed fasting, but not the obligatory fasting, should be for his brother, the appointed angel says, 'Amin; and the same be given to you.' "

Guarding in Allah's Way

As has been previously demonstrated standing guard in the way of Allah benefits a person after his death. Fudalah ibn 'Ubayd and 'Uqbah ibn 'Amir, rahimahumullah, reported that Allah's Messenger, sallallahu 'alayhi wa sallam, said:

"The deeds of a dead person are sealed (at the time of death) except the one who stands guard in the way of Allah; his good deeds continue to increase until the Day of Resurrection, and he is protected from the trial of the grave."
Ahmad, Abu Dawud, At-Tirmidhi, and others, verified sahih by Al-Albani in Sahih ul-Jami' no. 4562

Reviving the Sunnah

Calling to a forgotten sunnah or fighting an established bid'ah are amongs the most important charitable deeds that a person can do during his lifetime. They help revive Allah's din to Muhammad, sallallahu 'alayhi wa sallam. Jarir bin 'Abdullah, rahimahullah, reported that they (the companions) were with Allah's Messenger, sallallahu 'alayhi wa sallam, in the middle of the day when a group of people arrived (from outside al-Madinah) to see him. They were barefoot, (almost) naked, wearing only woolen lined cloth pieces or cloaks, armed with swords, wearing no izars or anything else beside that. Most or all of them were from (the tribe of) Mudar. The face of Allah's Messenger, sallallahu 'alayhi wa sallam, changed (reflecting sadness) when he noticed their extreme poverty. He went in (to his house), then he came out. He commanded Bilal to give adhan, prayed dhuhr, then mounted a small minbar. He gave a khutbah in which he praised and thanked Allah, and then said, "After this, (I say that) Allah has revealed in His book:

'O people! Revere your lord who has created you from one soul, and created from it its mate, and from these two spread forth multitudes of men and women; and fear Allah through whom you demand your mutual rights, and revere the ties of the wombs. Indeed Allah is ever watchful over you.'
Al-Qur'an 4:1

"And He says:

'O you who believe! Revere Allah, and let every person look to what he has sent forth for the morrow; and revere Allah. Allah is well Aware of what you do! And be not like those who forget (disobey) Allah, and He caused them to forget themselves. Those are the disobedient. Not equal are the dwellers of the Fire and the dwellers of Jannah. It is the dwellers of Jannah that will be successful.'
Al-Qur'an 59:18-20

"Spend (in Allah's way) before you are prevented from spending. Let a man spend of his dinars, dirhams, clothes, measure of wheat, barley or dates." Until he said, "Do not belittle any amount of sadaqah (charity). Safeguard yourselves from the Fire, even with half a date." Observing the people's slow response, the Prophet's face showed signs of anger. But then, one man from the Ansar came with a parcel full (of money) of silver and gold, which he could hardly hold in his palm. He handed it to Allah's Messenger, sallallahu 'alayhi wa sallam, while he was still on the minbar, and said, "O Allah's Messenger! Take this in Allah's way." He, sallallahu 'alayhi wa sallam, took it. Abu Bakr, rahimahullah, then stood and gave something. Then 'Umar, rahimahullah, gave something. Then the rest of the Muhajirun and Ansar gave. Thus people followed each other in giving charity. This one would give a dinar, this a dirham, this such and this such - until there were two piles of food and clothes; and the face of Allah's Messenger, sallallahu 'alayhi wa sallam, lighted up with a reddish-golden colour. So he said, "He who initiates in Islam a good way gets his reward for it, as well as rewards similar to those who follow him into it, without reducing any of their rewards. And he who initiates in Islam an evil way gets his burden for it, as well as burdens similar to those who follow him into it, without reducing any of their burdens." He, sallallahu 'alayhi wa sallam, then recited:

"We record that which they have done, as well as their traces - and We have enumerated everything in a clear book."
Al-Qur'an 36:12

And he, sallallahu 'alayhi wa sallam, divided what was collected among them (the poor people from Mudar). [Muslim, Ahmad and others, Ahkam ul-Jana'iz, 224-226]


From the above discussion, we can conclude that:

  1. A person's deeds are sealed by his death. Nothing that takes place after that can affect his records; and
  2. The exception to the above rule is that anything, good or bad, that takes place after a person's death, which he contributed to its occurrence in any manner during his lifetime, will appear in his records in proportion with his contribution to it.

  From The Inevitable Journey: Life in Al-Barzakh


Be Mindful O Mankind!

A believer covers up and advises [his or her fellow believers], whereas an evildoer exposes and humiliates [others].
- Al-Fudayl ibn Iyyad (d. 187H), may Allah have mercy upon him