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بِسْمِ اللهِ الرَّحْمنِ الرَّحِيْم

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

Transmitting Thawab of Quran Recitation to Deceased Persons

It appears that the Muslim community is ordinarily guided by the clearly laid down ordinances of the Shariat in almost eighty per cent of practical problems of life. But for certain reasons diversity of opinion about the rest of 20 per cent problems has existed since the early times some reasons thereof are discussed below:

  1. Diversityininterpretationoftexts: It refers to variations in the interpretation of the texts of Quran and hadeeth. For instance, in Ayat 43 of Surah An-Nisa the wording is: "Aulaamastum an-nisa" ["Or if you have touched your wives"]. By this dictum one group of theologians have meant that mere touching of women nullifies the wadhu [ablution]. Other interpreters and jurists have held conversely that touching of women here means sexual intercourse which nullifies the bath [full bath for ritual purity]. To them mere touching or hugging or kissing of wife does not nullify wadhu. Thus such differences pertain to interpretation of texts and are not of substantial differences.
  2. Difference spertaining to determination of naasik hand mansukh: Such differences pertain to the last observed practice of the prophet on a given matter. For instance, it is established from traditions of the prophet that he used to raise his hands before going to ruku' and on rising from ruku'. It is also established at the same time that he did not raise his hands.  But what was his practice during his last days is a debatable matter.
  3. Applicationofreligiousordinancestoemergingproblems:  Diversity of opinion in the application of the norms and ordinances of the Shariat to the emerging problems is inevitable because every mujtahid or faqih is entitled to formulate his own opinion in the light of Quran and sunnah. For instance, the issue of transplantation of organs or donating one's organs to others (e.g. donation of kidney).
  4. Doubts about authenticity of certain ahadeeth: Sometimes the authenticity of certain ahadeeth becomes controversial and in the same way application of certain ahadeeth to a particular subject becomes debatable.

One out of these 20 per cent debatable matters is the issue of transmitting the thawab [reward] of recitation of the Quran to a deceased person. Opinions have differed on this issue since the earlier times. One group of theologians and jurists holds that a deceased person does not get the reward [thawab] of recitation of Quran. Prominent among them are Imam Malik (RHA) and Imam Shaf'ei (RHA). Another group including Imam Abu Hanifah (RHA), Imam Ahmad Bin Hanbal (RHA) and many disciples of Imam Malik and Imam Shafe'I, hold that the benefit of recitation of Quran certainly reaches the deceased persons.

Allamah Qurtubi (RHA) in his book Tadhkirahfiahwalalmauta [A Discourse on affairs of Deceased Persons] enlightens that the crux of this problem is sadaqah [alm] and there is nobody opposed to it. If a sadaqah made for the benefit of a deceased person reaches him so in the same way recitation of Quran, prayers and supplications also benefit the deceased since all this falls within the category of sadaqaat. Those who say Imam Shafe'i was opposed to recitation of Quran for the benefit of the deceased are misguided. The difference of opinion is regarding whether its thawab reaches the mayyit or not. Imam Shafe'i and most theologians hold that the thawab of recitation shall reach the mayyit provided the reciter supplicates to Allah in this behalf. Those who hold that it does not reach the mayyit do so in the context of the reciter not supplicating to Allah in this behalf. In sum, Allamah Qurtubi's discourse confirms the opinion of the majority of scholars to the effect that the mayyit gets the reward of recitation of Quran.

Some Traditions Relevant to this Issue

  1. It is uniformly narrated by Ayesha (RA), Abu Hurairah (RA), Jabir (RA), Abu Rafe' (RA),  Abu Talha Ansari (RA), and Hudhaifah (RA) that the Messenger of Allah (PBUH) sacrificed two lambs, one on his own behalf and the other on behalf of his Ummah (followers) [Bukhari; Muslim; Ahmad; Ibn Majah; Tibrani; IbnAbiShaibah]. It indicates and the community believes that the thawab of offering sacrifice is transmitted to dead, even the living beings.
  2. A person informed the Messenger of Allah (PBUH)) that his mother died suddenly. Had she lived she would have asked for giving of some sadaqah. If I give a sadaqah on her behalf now would she get the reward? The Messenger of Allah replied, yes [Bukhari; Muslim; Ahmad; Abu Daud; Nasai].
  3. Sa'd Bin 'Ibadah(RA) queried the prophet about his mother who had died. Can he give a sadaqah [alm] on her behalf?  He replied, yes [Ahmad; Abu Daud; Nasai; Ibn Majah]. Similar traditions have been narrated by  Ayesha (RA),  Abu Hurrairah (RA), and  Abdullah Bin 'Abbas (RA)and are available in the collections of ahadeeth in which the Messenger of Allah (PBUH) has permitted for giving of sadaqah on behalf of dead persons and declared it as beneficial for the deceased.
  4. It is narrated by 'Abdullah Bin 'Amr Bin Al-'As (RA) that his grandfather 'As Bin Wael had vowed during Jahiliyyah [Age of Ignorance/paganism] to sacrifice 100 camels. After his demise, his uncle Hisham Bin Al-'As had sacrificed 50 camels of his liability.  'Amr Bin Al-'As (RA) asked the prophet what should he do? The prophet replied that if your father had affirmed the oneness of God you may fast on his behalf or give sadaqah. It will be beneficial for him [Ahmad].
  5. The Messenger of Allah (PBUH) advised: If some one of you dies hurry up for his burial. Recite Surah Al-Fatiha over his head and recite last portion of Surah Al-Baqarah over his feet [Tibrani].
  6. The companions of the prophet too are reported to have acted according to this advice of the prophet. Imam Bihaqui has recorded that ‘Abdullah Bin Umar (RA) recited Surah Fatihah over the head of a dead body and the last ruku' of Surah Al-Baqarah over its feet [Imam Navwi, Al-Adhkar].
  7. The Messenger of Allah (PBUH) pronounced: "Surah Yaseen is the core of the Quran. Whosoever wants proximity to Allah and well-being in his after-life can attain it by reciting it. Read out this Surah over your dead [Ahmad; IbnAbiShaibah; Abu Daud; IbnMajah; IbnHabban; Bihaqui; Nasai]. A group of scholars of hadeeth holds this hadeeth to be authentic while another group holds it to be weak. But it is the view of scholars of hadeeth that so far as virtuous causes are concerned even allegedly weak ahadeeth are acceptable. On the analogy of recitation of Surah Yaseen for the dying or dead body theologians have justified the reading of the whole of Quran for the benefit of a mayyit.
  8. The Messenger of Allah (PBUH) pronounced:  If somebody is in throes of death recite Surah Yaseenat him. Allah shall ease the hardship of this state for him [Dailmi, Nailal-Autar].
  9. It is narrated through Anas (RA) that if somebody recites Surah Yaseen in a graveyard Allah diminishes the punishment of grave for the grave-dwellers.  This hadeeth has been cited by many theologians in their works. For instance, Imam Ibn Qudamah Hanbali (RHA) has in his famous book Al-Mughni--Kitabal-Janaez quoted another hadeeth of the Messenger of Allah (PBUH) that if anybody recites Surah Yaseen over the grave of his parents or any other person Allah shall forgive the sins of the mayyit.

A famous Muhaddith Abu Mugheerah (RHA) has quoted Safwan (RA) as saying that the predecessors have stated that if Surah Yaseen is recited over a mayyit he/she will be treated leniently [Ahmad]. A number of similar ahadeeth have been quoted by scholars which all recommend the recitation of Surah Yaseen for the mayyit. One scholar says it means recitation of Surah Yaseen over the grave.

  1.  The Messenger of Allah (PBUH) has pronounced: If anybody passing through a graveyard recites Qul huallaho Ahad eleven times and transmits its reward to the dead then the reciter himself will get a reward equal to the number of the buried [Darqutni].
  2.   The Messenger of Allah (PBUH) pronounced: If someone entering a graveyard recites Surah Al-Fatiha, QulhuallahhoAhad and Alhaakumut-Takathur and then prays that the reward of what he has recited should reach those who are buried there and they will intercede on his behalf on the Day of Judgment [Darqutni].
  3. Abdur Rahman Ibnul 'Alaa (RA) cited his father as saying that when I pass away embed me in the lehd [grave] chanting Bismillahi'alaSunnatiRasulillah.  Then recite Surah All-Fatiha over my head, because I heard Abdullah Bin Umar (RA) saying like this [Al-Khilaalfil-Jame']. Allamah Hafidh Ibn Qayyim also has cited this hadeeth in his book entitled Ar-Ruh [the Soul] and quoted the pious predecessors as advising that when they die Quran should be recited over their graves.
  4.  Somebody submitted before the Messenger of Allah (PBUH) that he served his parents when they were alive. How can he serve them when they are dead? The Messenger of Allah (PBUH)) answered: the way of service for them is that when you perform salat perform it for your parent and when you fast also fast for your parent [Bukhari; Muslim; Ahmad; Nisai]. This hadeeth has been cited by a number of theologians in their works.
  5.  The Messenger of Allah (PBUH) pronounced:  Benevolence towards your parent is that while praying for yourselves pray for them also; while fasting for yourselves fast for them also; and while giving charity give charity for them also. [Al-Musannaf by Sheikh IbnAbiShaibah].
  6.  It is narrated by Abdullah Ibn Abbas (RA) that a woman from the tribe of Khash'am approached the Messenger of Allah (PBUH) saying that the obligation of hajj was ordained at a time when my father had become too old to perform it as he   could not ride a camel. The prophet pronounced:  Perform hajj on his behalf [Ahmad; Nasai].
  7.  Abdullah Bin Zubair (RA) mentioned a man from the same tribe of Khash'am who made the same query to the prophet. The Messenger of Allah questioned him:  What do think if your father owes a debt and you pay it on his behalf? Will it be discharged? He said yes. Then the prophet said:  So perform hajj on his behalf in the same way [Ahmad; Nasai].
  8.  Abdullah Ibn Abbas (RA) narrates that a woman from the tribe of Jaheenah approached the prophet asking: My mother had vowed to fast but she died without fulfilling the vow. Can I fast on her behalf? The prophet advised her to fast on her behalf [Bukhari; Muslim; Ahmadd; Nasai].
  9. Buraidah (RA) has narrated that a woman queried the prophet about her mother who had one month’s fast (or two months' fast, according to another narration) due upon her. She asked whether she can fast on her behalf.  The prophet allowed to do so [Muslim; Ahmad; Tirmidhi; Abu Daud].
  10.  It is narrated by ‘Ayesha (RA) that the prophet (PBUH) said:  If somebody dies with fast due upon him it will be undertaken on his behalf by his wali (nearest kinsman) [Bukhari; Muslim; Ahmad].

Here is a necessary clarification in this regard.  The mandate for discharging of due salat or siyam on behalf of the dead refers only to nafil [optional] salat and siyam.  So far as fard [obligatory] salat and siyam are concerned, other ahadeeth have clearly ruled out performance of such obligations on behalf of the dead.  They can be discharged only by payment of fidyah [ransom] on their behalf.

The Messenger of Allah has pronounced: Let not the kin of a dead person wail and cry over his body.  This causes the torturing of the mayyit [Bukhari; Muslim].

Now let us deal with that school of theologians who hold that the thawab [reward] of recitation of Quran does not reach the mayyit. They base their stand on following grounds:

  1. The ayat that "No load-bearer shall bear the load of others. And that man gets only that for which he makes effort" [An-Najm:  38-39].

If the generality of this ayat lends itself to this narrow and literal interpretation that the thawab of recitation of Quran does not reach the mayyit then giving of sadaqat [alms] for transmitting their thawab to others, offering sacrifices on behalf of others, and performance of hajj by a substitute will all become invalid. Not only this but stretching this interpretation further one can assert that praying for forgiveness [maghfirat] for others and even funeral prayers [salatal-janaez] are void because all these actions are not the dead person's personal actions  in favour of whom prayers are being offered. Far from that, the essential meaning of this ayat is that every person shall receive reward or punishment for his own deeds, not for deeds of others.  Thus if any person performs salatal-janazah or prays for forgiveness for his father, mother, wife or any kinsman or kinswoman, or performs hajj or umrah as their substitute or offers sacrifices or distributes sadaqat on their behalf or recites Quran for the peace of their souls Allah will grant the thawab of all these acts if He is pleased, even if the mayyit may be a sinner.  If perchance God does not ordain its reward for the mayyitthen its thawab will definitely rebound to the performer of such deeds. To give an example from mundane life, if a money order sent to a recipient is not delivered to him it will be returned back to the sender.

  1. The Messenger of Allah pronounced: A man's deeds cease as soon as he is dead. But three of his deeds continue for ever: His recurring sadaqah, his beneficial knowledge, and prayers of an upright son for his father [IbnMajah; IbnKhuzaimah].

The prophet's above-mentioned pronouncement is meant merely to emphasize the special importance of the above-mentioned three acts.  If this hadeeth is interpreted literally then mothers, sisters, brothers and other kinsmen shall be excluded from one's prayers for their forgiveness.  There are a number of other similar traditions. For instance, the prophet pronounced that anybody who performs the salat of fajr [dawn] and 'asr [declining day] shall enter the Paradise [Bukhari; Muslim]. This hadeethdoes not mean at all that we should perform only the salats of fajr and 'asr regularly and forget about the rest assuming that our admission into Paradise is guaranteed. That is not so. As a matter of fact, the prophet merely emphasized the particular importance of these two salats. Thus the hadeeeth in question merely signifies the particular importance of the aforementioned three acts.

Summary: As mentioned earlier, there exists a consensus among the community over 80 per cent of the problems by virtue of the existence of clear-cut norms and ordinances of the Shariat. Nevertheless, there prevails a diversity of opinion regarding the rest of 20 per cent practical problems of life since very early times. There can be no absolute consensus on these. Nor there can be a way out from these differences now or in the future.  Nor we are bound to solve such controversial matters. They are likely to find a settlement on the Day of Rising, as asserted by a renowned Saudi theologianDr Sheikh 'Ayidh Al-Qarni during his recent tour of India.

Therefore, we have an option to follow the opinions of the theologians of our choice on these 20 per cent of the remaining problems, provided such opinions are not contrary to the express norms of the Shariat.

We have seen one of such debatable problems is the question of transmission of the thawab of recitation of the Quran to a dead person. One group of theologians and jurists holds that the thawab of recitation of Quran does not reach the dead person while another group holds that like the thawab of hajj, zakat, animal sacrifices and sadaquat the thawab of recitation of Quran also reaches the dead person. Among the latter are Imam Abu Hanifah (RHA) and Imam Ahmad Bin Hanbal (RHA).   Imam Shafe’i (RHA) and some disciples off Imam Malik (RHA) are of the view that the dead persons get the thawab of recitation of Quran, as expounded by Imam Navwi (RA) in his book Al-Adhkaar and Imam Suyuti (RHA) in his book SharhAs-Sudur. ImanTaqiuddin As-Sabki Ash-Shafe' has also justified in his book the bequeathing of the thawab of recitation of Quran to the dead persons.

AllamahIbnTaimiyyah (RHA) has also justified the bequeathing of the thawab of recitation of Quran [FataawaIbnTaimiyyah, Part 24]. Imam Abu Bakr Al-Maruzi, a disciple of Imam Hanbal has quoted Imam Hanbal as saying that when you enter a graveyard first recite Ayatul Kursi then Surah Tawheed thrice and then pray to Allah to transmit its thawab to the dwellers of graves [Al-MaqsadAl-ArshadfiDhikrAs'habilImamAhmad]. Sheikh Abdullah Bin Muhammad Hameed (RA), a former head of the Supreme Judicial Council of Saudi Arabia, has written a 16-page monograph on this subject highlighting the opinions of the majority of theologians in favour of transmitting the thawab of recitation of Quran to the dead persons.

A clear proof for validity of deputization in respect of monetary and mixed monetary and physical worship is found in ahadeeth commanding the general consensus of the community. And so far as deputization in purely physical worship is concerned it is also proved from a number of ahadeeth. There appears to be no reason for the exclusion of certain categories of virtuous acts. Also there is no prohibition anywhere in the Quran or hadeeth of reciting Quran for the benefit of the dead persons. It is commonsense on the part of a labourer to tell his hirer to give his wages to somebody else of his choice. In the same way anybody can perform a good deed and pray to Allah to bestow its reward to a designated dead person. Thus it is quite desirable for us to bequeath the thawab of recitation of Quran to our dead. But it would be wrong to fix a particular day or time for doing this.  We should recite as much of Quran as possible and transmit its reward to a dead person and pray for him to be forgiven.    ::

Mohammad Najeeb Qasmi (www.najeebqasmi.com)