Monday, 22 October 2018

Transfer of Good Deeds and Benefit to the Deceased

بِسْمِ اللهِ الرَّحْمٰنِ الرَّحِيمِ

وَالْصَّلَاةُ والْسَّلَامُ عَلَى رَسُولِهِ الْكَرِيمِ

وَعَلَى اَهْلِ بَيتِهِ الْطَّيِّبِينَ الْطَّاهِرِينَ الْمَظْلُومِينَ

One of the salient features of Islam is the concept of ايصال or the receiving of reward and benefit for the deceased through the prayers and certain other good deeds done on their behalf by their living relatives. The Holy Quran teaches Believers the following prayer:

رَبَّنَا اغْفِرْ لَنَا وَلِإِخْوَانِنَا الَّذِينَ سَبَقُونَا بِالْإِيمَانِ

Our Lord forgive us and our brethren who preceded us in Faith

(Sura 59:10)

Thus it is established in Islam that Allah not only forgives those who pray for their own individual forgiveness, but loves that Believers should pray for the forgiveness of their fellow Believers, and this means He will obviously forgive the latter for the prayers of the former. The Prophet  صلى الله عليه وآله وسلم said:

إِذَا مَاتَ الإِنْسَانُ انْقَطَعَ عَنْهُ عَمَلُهُ إِلاَّ مِنْ ثَلاَثَةٍ إِلاَّ مِنْ صَدَقَةٍ جَارِيَةٍ أَوْ عِلْمٍ يُنْتَفَعُ بِهِ أَوْ وَلَدٍ صَالِحٍ يَدْعُو لَهُ

“When a human dies, his deeds cease except for three: ongoing charity or beneficial knowledge or a righteous child praying for him.”

(Sahih Muslim)

The first two are quite understandable because there are examples of how someone’s good deeds while he was alive continue to have an effect after his death, and so it is obvious why he should continue to receive thawaab, ajr and hasanaat for it, written in his book of deeds, after his death. As for a righteous child who prays for his or her parent, it is likewise understandable why this should be considered a good deed for the deceased parent, because the righteousness of the child is at least in part due to the parent’s righteousness. Generally, it has to be understood that Islam teaches that a person’s good deeds only benefit himself:

مَنْ عَمِلَ صَالِحًا فَلِنَفْسِهِ

Whoever does a good deed, it is for himself

(Sura 45:15)

Based on their reading of this and some other verses in the Quran, certain modernist sects like the Parwezis, absolutely deny the fact that a deceased person can receive the good deeds of his or her children. This Ayat al Mubaraka, for example, does not specifically negate the fact that a child’s prayers for his or her deceased parent are written in the latter’s register of good deeds. The fact of the matter is, when Allah Most High says “whoever does a good deed...” (45:15), this includes the good deeds whose reward is transferred to him. That good deed is considered his own, thus there is no contradiction between the Quran and the concept of eesaal thawaab. Some other Muslims believe that the transfer of rewards to the deceased is limited to the du’aa (supplication) on his behalf by his child. However, the truth is that the transfer of reward to the deceased person by his close, living relatives is not limited to supplications on his behalf, but may include other acts of worship. When the mother of the illustrious Sahabi and chief of the Khazraj, sayyidina Sa’d bin Ubada رضي الله عنهما, died, he asked the Prophet صلى الله عليه وآله وسلم if he could spend sadaqa (charity) on her behalf and if that would benefit her. When the Prophet صلى الله عليه وآله وسلم replied in the affirmative, sayyidina Sa’d bin Ubada رضى الله عنه made him صلى الله عليه وآله وسلم a witness to the fact that he had given away his garden, al-Mikhraf, as charity on behalf of his deceased mother (Sahih al-Bukhari #2756).

Sayyidina Ibn Abbas رضى الله عنه narrates that a woman of the tribe of Juhaina came to the Prophetصلى الله عليه وآله وسلم  and asked him if she could perform Hajj on behalf of her mother, who had vowed to perform it but died before she could fulfil her vow. The Prophet صلى الله عليه وآله وسلم answered:

نَعَمْ‏.‏ حُجِّي عَنْهَا، أَرَأَيْتِ لَوْ كَانَ عَلَى أُمِّكِ دَيْنٌ أَكُنْتِ قَاضِيَةً اقْضُوا اللَّهَ، فَاللَّهُ أَحَقُّ بِالْوَفَاءِ

“Yes, perform Hajj on her behalf. Had there been a debt on your mother, would you have paid it? So, pay Allah’s debt, for Allah has more right to be paid.”

(Sahih al-Bukhari #1852)

Regarding obligatory fasts, Umm al-Mu’minin A’ishaرضى الله عنها  narrates the Prophet صلى الله عليه وآله وسلم commanded:

مَنْ مَاتَ وَعَلَيْهِ صِيَامٌ صَامَ عَنْهُ وَلِيُّهُ

“Whoever died and had fasting upon him, his guardian must fast on his behalf”

(agreed upon)

Therefore, it is not only the supplications on behalf of the deceased by their children that benefit them, but also certain other acts of worship such as monetary charity (including animal sacrifices), pilgrimage and fasting will benefit the deceased if they are performed by their close relatives on their behalf.

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