بِسْمِ اللهِ الرَّحْمنِ الرَّحِيْم

اَلْحَمْدُ لِلّهِ رَبِّ الْعَالَمِيْن،وَالصَّلاۃ وَالسَّلامُ عَلَی النَّبِیِّ الْکَرِيم وَعَلیٰ آله وَاَصْحَابه اَجْمَعِيْن۔

Commandment in relation to performing sacrifice on behalf of the deceased

Commandment in relation to sacrifice: In the light of the verses of the Holy Quran and sayings of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) the Muslim community unanimously agrees on the practice of sacrifice as a motto of Islam and performs it properly and regularly every year. However, there has been a disagreement in the Muslim community about whether performing sacrifice is compulsory (Waajib) or Sunnat-e-Muakkadah [that practice of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) that was regular and that was emphasised by him]. Born in 80 AH, Imam Abu Hanifah (RHA), who benefitted a great deal from the companions of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) and the immediately following generation, and learned scholars associated with the Hanafi school of jurisprudence have stated in the light of the verses of the Holy Quran and sayings of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) that it is compulsory (Waajib) for anyone with certain financial resources (the desired economic wherewithal). Imam Malik (RHA) too maintains that it is compulsory. Imam Ahmad bin Hanbal (RHA) too made a statement in relation to compulsion of performing sacrifice. Learned scholars from India and Pakistan follow the same stance. Allamah Ibne Taymiyyah (RHA) too has declared the statement related to compulsory status of sacrifice correct and acceptable. However, there is another group of jurists and learned scholars that have ruled sacrifice as Sunnat-e-Muakkadah. But then, when it comes to the practical side of it there is a consensus in the Muslim community that sacrifice must be performed dutifully and that it is not right on an affluent person’s part not to perform sacrifice, regardless of how it gets named. In “Jawaahar Al-Ikleel Sharah Mukhtasar Al-Khaleel” Imam Ahmad bin Hanbal (RHA) has been quoted as saying that in case all the people of a city abstain from performing sacrifice then Muslims will have to wage a war against them because sacrifice is a motto of Islam.

The opinion in relation to sacrifice being compulsory is cautionary based on the following arguments:

  1. Allah says in the Holy Quran, “Offer prayer in the name of your Lord and perform sacrifice” (Surah Al-Kauthar, verse no. 2). In this verse Allah has commanded to perform sacrifice. In Arabic language the word Amr (commandment) implies compulsion.
  2. Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) said, “One who has the means of performing sacrifice yet does not do it should not enter our Eidgaahs (Places where only Eid prayers are offered)” (Musnad Ahmad 2/321, Ibne Majah). Starting from the early period of Islamic history until now, majority of hadith scholars have declared this saying of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) as authentic. In this saying, Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) has issued strict warning for the person who does not perform sacrifice despite the desired set of resources at his disposal and such a warning is usually issued in the context of negligence towards something that is compulsory.
  3. Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) said, “He who performs sacrifice before offering Eid prayer will have to offer another sacrifice (after performing Eid prayer). Sacrifice must be performed after offering Eid prayer by uttering Bismillah at the time of sacrificing” (Bukhari and Muslim). Had performing sacrifice not been compulsory Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) would not have instructed believers to perform it again in the case someone performed it before the Eid prayer, even though those were the times when common people were economically not very sound.
  4. While standing in Arafat Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) said, “O people! Every year it is necessary for every owner of a household to perform sacrifice” (Musnad Ahmad 4/215, Abu Dawood, Tirmidhi).
  5.  Abdullah bin Umar (RA) narrates that Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) stayed in Madinah for ten years and during that time period he (PBUH) used to regularly perform sacrifice (Tirmidhi 1/182). There is not even a single evidence to be found in hadith collections to refute that during his stay of ten years in Madinah Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) performed sacrifice every year. On the contrary, in authentic traditions it has been recorded that during his stay in Madinah Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) performed sacrifice every year, as mentioned in the aforementioned hadith.

Sacrificing on behalf of the deceased:

Although there is disagreement on this issue, on the basis of the following reasons, presented in the light of Sharia, majority of the learned scholars of the Muslim community have written that sacrifice can be performed on behalf of the deceased too.

  1. Alongside performing sacrifice on his behalf, Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) used to perform sacrifice on behalf of people of his Ummah as well (Baihaqi 9/268). Such a sacrifice was not restricted by Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) to the living and neither is there is any statement made by Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) or any of his companions that says that sacrifice can only be performed on behalf of those who are living. And performing sacrifice is a kind of charity and in the light of the verses of the Holy Quran and sayings of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) the entire Muslim community agrees that charity can be done on behalf of the dead. Allamah Ibne Taymiyyah (RHA) has said that performing sacrifice on behalf of the dead is better and sacrifice performed on behalf of the dead should be done exactly the way it is done on behalf of the living (Majmoo-al-Fataawa 26/306).
  2. It has been recorded in hadith books that the fourth caliph and Prophet Muhammad’s (PBUH) son-in-law Ali (RA) used to offer two sacrifices; one on behalf of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) and another for himself. When he was questioned on this, he said, “Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) has instructed me to perform sacrifice and that is why I sacrifice on his (PBUH) behalf and will forever do so” (Tirmidhi and Abu Dawood). After mentioning this hadith, Imam Tirmidhi (RHA) (209-279 AH) said that on this issue there is difference opinion among the learned scholars of the Muslim community. There is one group that has declared it permissible to perform sacrifice on behalf of the dead whereas there is another group that has questioned it. As a matter of fact, before the famous books of hadith were compiled, Imam Abu Hanifah (RHA),  Imam Ahmad bin Hanbal (RHA) and learned scholars associated with the Hanafi school of jurisprudence and other learned scholars who accepted these traditions as worth practicing, allowed to perform sacrifice on behalf of the deceased. And this very statement is authentic and stronger because sacrificing on behalf of the deceased is an act of charity and there is a concept of Pilgrimage and Umrah on behalf of the dead. So just the way charity is done on behalf of the deceased sacrifice too can be performed on behalf of the deceased because, in the light of the verses of the Holy Quran and sayings of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH), we do not have a single argument on the basis of which we could say that other acts (of charity) could be done on behalf of the deceased but one cannot perform sacrifice on behalf of the deceased.

There are two ways in which a sacrifice can be performed on behalf of the deceased: In case the dead person had willed that a sacrifice be performed on his/her behalf and the sacrifice is done from wealth that is his or hers. In that case the meat of that sacrifice is to be given away to poor people and it is not permissible for rich people to eat that meat. Secondly, in case the deceased did not make a will that a sacrifice be performed on his/her behalf and inheritors and relatives do it on their own without any compulsion (as we often do for our deceased parents and other relatives on the occasion of Eid-al-Adhaa), then the meat of that sacrifice can be consumed by both poor and rich. It is not necessary to give away all the meat in charity. Instead people can give away and/or use for their own family as much as they want, as written in an authentic book on Hanafi jurisprudence (Rad Al-Mukhtaar, volume 9, page no. 484) written by famous Syrian scholar Allamah Ibne Aabideen (RHA).

Several additional traditions in relation to this topic:

  • As per a narration that has the consensus of Ayesha (RA), Abu Hurairah (RA), Jabir (RA), Abu Raafe’ (RA), Abu Talha Ansari (RA) and Huzaifah (RA), Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) sacrificed two rams, one on his behalf and the second on behalf of the Muslim Ummah (Bukhari, Muslim, Musnad Ahmad, Ibne Majah). The Muslim community has a consensus that the reward of performing sacrifice reaches others too, even those who are living.
  • A person asked Prophet Muhammad (PBUH), “My mother died suddenly. My hunch is that had she had an opportunity to say something she would have definitely asked for charity in her name. Now if I do some charity on her behalf would she be rewarded for that?” Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) said, “Yes” (Bukhari, Muslim, Musnad Ahmad, Abu Dawood, Nasa‘ee). The Muslim community agrees that the reward for sacrifice reaches not only the deceased but also the living.
  •  Saad bin Ubaadah (RA) asked Prophet Muhammad (PBUH), “My mother has died. Should I do charity on her behalf?” Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) said, “Yes” (Musnad Ahmad, Abu Dawood, Nasa‘ee, Ibne Majah). Several other narrations related to this topic reported by  Ayesha (RA),  Abu Hurairah (RA),  Abdullah bin Abbas (RA) have been recorded in Bukhari, Muslim, Musnad Ahmad, Nasa‘ee, Tirmidhi, Abu Dawood and Ibne Majah in which Prophet Muhammad permitted to perform sacrifice on behalf of the deceased and called it beneficial for the dead.
  •  Abdullah bin Abbas (RA) narrates that a woman from Khush’am tribe asked Prophet Muhammad (PBUH), “My father got to know about obligatory pilgrimage at an extremely old age. He cannot even sit on a camel’s back”. Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) said, “In that case you perform pilgrimage on his behalf” (Bukhari and Muslim).
  • Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) said, “What is your opinion, in case your father is under debt and you pay his debt on his behalf, would it be considered settled on his behalf?” That person said, “Yes”. So Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) said, “Similarly you perform pilgrimage on his behalf” (Musnad Ahmad and Nasa‘ee).
  •  Abdullah bin Abbas (RA) narrates that a woman from Juhainah tribe asked Prophet Muhammad (PBUH), “My mother had made a wish to perform pilgrimage but she died before she could perform the pilgrimage. Can I perform pilgrimage on her behalf?” Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) asked the woman, “Had your mother been under debt would not you pay the amount on her behalf? Similarly you people should give Allah what is due to Him. And Allah is more deserving than fulfilling the promises made to Him” (Bukhari and Nasa‘ee).

Doing away with a doubt:

It is said that there is no proof that Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) sacrificed on behalf of his wives or children after their death. This is almost like saying that there is no proof that Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) performed pilgrimage or Umrah on behalf of his wives and children after their death. However, in the light of several traditions, the entire Muslim community agrees that doing pilgrimage or Umrah on behalf of another person is absolutely right even though Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) himself never performed any pilgrimage or Umrah on behalf of his wives and children after their death. Verily Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) did not perform any sacrifice separately on behalf of his wives and children after their death but the Prophet (PBUH) always used to perform sacrifice on his behalf and in the second sacrifice that he performed he included everyone in his intention (that the reward be for everyone). Moreover, at that point in time neither was the Prophet (PBUH) so sound in terms of his economic wherewithal that for each and every deceased person he could perform a separate sacrifice. The fact of the matter is that right from the best of the times [the one closest to the period of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH)] till the present age, a sizeable group of jurists and learned scholars have always had a consensus that sacrifice can be performed on behalf of the deceased. In case a person does not want to perform sacrifice on behalf of his dead relatives then he is at liberty to not do so, however, those who want to spend their money in the path of Allah by performing sacrifice on behalf of their deceased relatives in the light of Prophet Muhammad’s (PBUH) statements and actions, statements made by companions of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) and people from their immediately following generation, jurists and learned scholars of the Muslim community, can only be stopped from doing so through the verses of the Holy Quran or sayings of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH), something that will not be found till the Day of Judgement.

Doing away with another doubt:

Allah says in the Holy Quran, “That no bearer of burdens will bear the burden of another. And that there is not for man except that which he earned” (Surah Al-Najm, verse no. 38-39). Similarly, Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) said, “Once a person is dead his chain of actions is severed except three acts: perpetual charity, knowledge of the sort people benefit from, and prayer of a virtuous son that he does for his father” (Ibne Majah and Ibne Khuzaimah). What these references imply is that on a general basis each and every person will be rewarded or punished for what he/she did. However, if a person offers burial prayer after the death of his father, wife or some close relative, or prays for their forgiveness, or performs pilgrimage or Umrah on their behalf, or performs sacrifice on their behalf or does charity, or recites the Holy Quran and prays for the reward for the same to be registered for the dead, Allah will accept that very act and will reward the dead accordingly, In sha Allah. In case we take the aforementioned verse of the Holy Quran and saying of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) on a general and common basis then everything performed on behalf of the dead (pilgrimage, Umrah, sacrifice etc.) will become impermissible. In fact, prayer for forgiveness for someone else, even burial prayer will become meaningless because these too are not the person’s own deeds, the one for whom prayer is done. In sayings of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) there are numerous examples of this sort. For instance, Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) said, “He who managed to regularly offer Fajr and Asr prayer will enter paradise” (Bukhari and Muslim). This saying of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) does not imply that we only offer these two prayers regularly and then do whatever we please because entry in paradise is promised in any case. No, this is not at all what it means. Instead, this statement of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) is about underlining the special significance of these two prayers because one who regularly offers these two prayers will most definitely be regular with respect to other prayers as well. And the one who actually performs prayer regularly will be regular in terms of discharging his/her other religious obligations too, in sha Allah. Similarly, in the hadith mentioned earlier, special significance of three things is expressed.

Mohammad Najeeb Qasmi (http://www.najeebqasmi.com/)