- The Sending
of Rewards for the Dead
By Ibrahim B. Syed,
Research Foundation International, Inc.
Louisville, KY 40242.
Man gets what he strives for, says Surah An –
Najm, 53: 39
of 53:39 is
man can have nothing but what he strives for"
That no bearer of
burdens shall bear the burden of another;
and that there is nothing for man but what he has striven for;
that his striving shall soon be seen, and then he will be fully rewarded
From this verse three cardinal principles are
derived: (1) That every person is himself responsible for what he does;
(2) that the responsibility of one man's act cannot be transferred to
another unless he has a share in the commission of the act; and (3) that
even if a person wishes he cannot take on himself the responsibility of
another man's act, nor can the actual culprit be let off on the ground
that another person is willing to suffer the punishment on his behalf.
Another interpretation of this verse is that three
important principles are derived: (1) That every person will get only
the fruit of his own deeds; ,(2) that the fruit of one man's deeds
cannot be given to another unless he has a share in that deed, and (3)
that none can attain anything without striving for it.
Some people wrongly apply these three principles to
the economic problems of the world and conclude that no person can
become the lawful owner of anything except of his own earned income. But
this conclusion clashes with several laws and injunctions given by the
Qur'an itself, e.g. the law of inheritance, according to which many
individuals inherit a person and are regarded as his lawful heirs,
whereas the heritage is not their earned income. As for a suckling for
instance, it cannot be proved by any stretch of imagination that its
labour had any share in the wealth left by its father. Likewise, there
are the injunctions about the zakat and voluntary charities according to
which the wealth of one man is transferred to others only on the basis
of their legal and moral entitlement and they become its lawful owners,
whereas in the production of this wealth they did not make any
contribution at all. Thus, it is against the intention of the Qur'an to
take a verse of it and derive from it such conclusions as clash with the
other teachings of the Qur'an itself.
Some other people regard these principles as concerning the Hereafter
and raise the question whether, according to these principles, the deeds
of one man can in some way be also beneficial for the other person, and
whether the deeds of a person which he does for another person, or on
his behalf, can be accepted from him, and whether it is also possible
that a person may transfer the reward of his act to another. If the
answer to these questions be in the negative, the sending of
spiritual rewards (isal thawab) for the dead and performing Hajj on
behalf of another, would be inadmissible; even the prayer of
forgiveness for the other person would be meaningless, for this prayer
also is not the concerned person's own act and deed. However, this
extreme point of view has been adopted by none among the followers of
Islam except the Mu'tazilites. Only they take this verse in the meaning
that one man's acts and deeds can in no case be beneficial for the
other. On the contrary, the followers of the Sunnah are unanimous that
the prayer of one man is beneficial for the other because it is
confirmed by the Qur'an; however, they differ only in details, and not
in principles, as to whether the sending of spiritual rewards for
another and doing a good work on behalf of another is beneficial or not.
or THE SENDING
OF REWARDS FOR THE DEAD
The term Isal Thawab means to have the intention of sending
the reward of one's virtuous deeds and acts of worship for the blessing
and benefit of the deceased near and dear one. It is permissible to send
the rewards of one's monetary worship, optional charity and sacrifices,
and one's bodily worship, like optional prayers in fast, for the good of
the dead. ( According to Imam Malik, only the rewards of one's monetary
worship reach the dead one.)
To convey such rewards for the sacred soul of the greatest benefactor
of humanity, the Noble Prophet (may Allah's peace and blessings be upon
him), is a most commendable act on account of the innumerable favours
and extraordinary compassion and kindness showed by him for the Muslim
community. The least that a believer can do in this regard is to convey
the rewards of all his devotional acts of worship to the sacred soul of
Rasoolullah (SAS), for a person who does not have the good fortune of
doing so even once in his lifetime would indeed be a most unfortunate
The procedure of sending the reward is that after performing the
desired devotional acts, one should attend to Allah Almighty with one's
whole blind and soul and pray:
"My Lord! Convey the reward of my act of
devotion and worship to the soul of so and so."
It is to be expected that Allah in His unbounded
grace and mercy will convey the reward to the deceased one.
1. It is not necessary that a person should have the intention of
sending the rewards while actually engaged in the act of worship, but
one may do so even later whenever desired.
2. Allah not only blesses the deceased one with the rewards and
benefits sent for him, but favours the sender and worshipper too, with
His unbounded grace and mercy. Therefore a believer should always make
it a point to send the rewards of his voluntary acts of worship for the
souls of the righteous people of the community as well.
3. When a person intends to send the rewards an act of worship for
more than one departed soul, Allah does not distribute the rewards among
them, but one out of His infinite mercy blesses each of the souls with
4. It does not behoove the true Muslims that they should lay down
extra conditions, appoint special days, observe them like any other
Shari'ah injunctions and cause schisms among Muslims on their basis,
for the procedure and regulations concerning the conveying of rewards
for the dead are as simple as that.
According to some jurists one is allowed to
do “Isal Thawab” in the case of some monetary charity only. Imam Abu
Hanifah and some other jurists allow this for any good deed. You may
read the Qur’an, pray some Nafl prayer, make some Nafl fast, do a Nafl
Hajj, Umrah or tawaf, or any other good deed and ask Allah to give the
reward of these good deeds to your relatives, friends, teachers or any
Muslim or Muslims. This is permissible. It is a kind of du’a. Muslims do
du’a also for those who passed away. After doing some deeds of piety and
charity it is good to make du’a and include our relatives and teachers
in this du’a. Such du’as help those who are living as well as those who
passed away. But it is a bid’ah to make special ceremonies or appoint
special days for Isal Thawab.
(1) The term Isal Thawab means that after a
person has performed a good act, he may pray to Allah to grant its
rewards to another. In this regard, Imam Malik and Imam Shafi'I have
expressed the opinion that the rewards of the pure bodily acts of
worship, e.g., the Prayer, the Fasting and recitals of the Qur'an, etc.
cannot reach the other person; however, the rewards of one's monetary
acts of worship, e.g. charities, or Hajj, which is a combination of the
monetary and bodily worships, can reach the other, for the principle
is that one man's act should not be beneficial for the other. But
since according to authentic Ahadith the rewards of charities can be
conveyed and Hajj on behalf of another also can be performed, they admit
the permissibility of conveying of rewards to the extent of this kind of
the acts of worship only. On the contrary, the Hanafi viewpoint
is that a man can send the reward of each of his virtuous acts as a gift
to the other, whether it is the Prayer, or the Fast, or the recitation
of the Qur'an, or remembrance of Allah, or charity, or Hajj and `Umrah.
The argument is that just as a man after carrying out a piece of work
can tell the master to pay the wages to such and such other person
instead of him, so after performing a good deed also he can pray to
Allah to grant its rewards to such and such other person instead of him.
In this there is no rational ground for making exception of some kinds
of virtues and keeping it restricted to some other kinds of virtues. The
same is confirmed by a large number of the traditions: A Tradition, on
the unanimous authority of Hadrat 'A'ishah, Hadrat Abu Hurairah, Hadrat
Jabir bin 'Abdullah. Hadrat Abu Rafi', Hadrat Abu Talhah Ansari and
Hudhaifah bin Usaid al-Ghaffary has been reported in Bukhari, Muslim.
Musnad Ahmad, Ibn Majah, Tabari in Awsat, Musradrik and Ibn Abi Shaibah
saying that the Noble Prophet (upon whom be peace) got two rams and
sacrificed one on behalf of himself and his family and the other on
behalf of his Ummah.
Muslim, Bukhari, Musnad Ahmad, Abu Da'ud and Nasa'i have related a
Tradition from Hadrat 'A'ishah to the effect that a person said to the
Noble Prophet: "My mother has died suddenly. I think if she had a chance
to speak, she would have asked me giving away something in charity. Now,
if I give away something in charity on her behalf, will she get a reward
for it ?" The Noble Prophet replied: "Yes, she will. "
Several other traditions bearing on the same
subject also have been related in Bukhari, Muslim, Musnad Ahmad, Nasa'i,
Tirmidhi, Abu Da'ud, Ibn Majah, etc. on the authority of Hadrat
'A'ishah, Hadrat Abu Hurairah and Hadrat Ibn 'Abbas, according to which
the Noble Prophet permitted giving away of something in charity on
behalf of the deceased person describing it as beneficial for him.
Another tradition in Daraqutni has been related from Hadrat `Ali
according to which the Noble Prophet said: "If a person passing by the
graveyard recites "Qul huwallah-u ahad" eleven times and gives away its
reward for the dead, all the dead ones will be granted their due shares
of the rewards. "
These large number of the traditions which support one another
explicitly state that the transfer of the spiritual rewards is not only
possible but rewards of all kinds of acts of worship and virtuous deeds
can be sent and conveyed and in it there is no specification of any
particular kind of acts and deeds. In this connection, however, four
things should be understood well:
First, that the reward of that act only can be transferred, which may
have been performed purely for the sake of Allah and according to the
Shari'ah injunctions; otherwise obviously an act which is performed for
the sake of other than Allah, or in contravention of the Shari 'ah
injunctions, cannot even entitle its doer himself to any reward, nothing
to say of its transfer to another person.
Secondly, the gift of the rewards will certainly reach those righteous
persons who are staying as guests with Allah, but no rewards are
expected to reach those culprits who are placed in confinement there.
The gift can reach the guests of Allah but the criminals of Allah cannot
be expected to receive it. If a person sends his rewards to him because
of a misunderstanding, it will not go waste but instead of reaching the
culprit it will return to the actual worker himself just like the
money-order which returns to the sender in case it does not reach the
one to whom it has been sent.
Thirdly, the transfer of the reward is possible but not the transfer of
punishment. That is, it is possible that one may do a good deed and may
willingly transfer its reward to the other and it reaches him, but it
is not possible that one may commit a sin and transfer its punishment to
the other and it reaches him. The opposite of that is “Isal ‘Iqab” which
is to pray that the punishment of one’s bad deeds go to someone else.
This cannot happen and it is not allowed in Islam.
The fourth thing is that virtuous acts are beneficial in two ways:
First, on account of its those results which accrue to the soul and
morality of the doer himself because of which he becomes worthy of a
reward in the sight of Allah; second, on account of the reward which
Allah grants him as a gift and favour. The transfer of the spiritual
reward does not concern the first but only the second. This can be
understood by an example. A person tries to attain proficiency in the
art of wrestling or boxing by constant practice. The strength and skill
thus gained (by Boxer Muhammad Ali) is in any way specially meant for
his own self; it cannot be transferred to another. Similarly, if he is
attached to a royal court, and there is a stipend fixed for him as a
wrestler, he alone will receive it and no one else. However, in respect
of the prizes and gifts that his patron may like to grant him as an
appreciation for his creditable performance, he may request that they
may be given to his coach, or parents, or some other benefactor, on his
behalf. The same is the case with the virtuous deeds: their spiritual
benefits are not transferable and their rewards also cannot be
transferred to another, but as for their rewards and gifts he can pray
to Allah that these may be granted to a near and dear one, or a
benefactor of his. That is why it is termed as isal thawab
(conveying of spiritual rewards) and not as isal jaza' (conveying of
(2) Another form of a person's work being beneficial for another is that
one should either do a virtuous deed on the desire or beckoning of
another, or without his desire or beckoning, on his behalf, which, in
fact, was obligatory for him to carry out, but which he was unable to
carry out himself. In this regard, the Hanafi jurists say that the acts
of worship are of three kinds: purely physical, e.g. the Prayer(Salat)
; purely monetary, e.g. the zakat; and the compound acts of
bodily and monetary worship, e.g. Hajj. As for the first kind,
nobody can act as an agent of another. As for the second kind, one
can act as an agent of the other, e.g. the husband can pay the
zakat due on the ornaments of the wife. As for the third kind, one can
act as an agent of the other only in case the actual person on whose
behalf the act is being performed, is permanently, and not just
temporarily, unfit to carry out his obligation himself or herself. For
example, Hajj can be performed on behalf of another only in case the
person concerned is unable to go for Hajj himself nor-may have the hope
that he would ever be able to perform it himself. The Malikis and the
Shafi also concur on this. However, Imam Malik lays down the condition
that if the father has willed that his son should perform Hajj after
him, on his behalf, the son can perform Hajj on his father's behalf,
otherwise not. But the traditions in this regard are very explicit.
Whether the father has expressed the desire, or made a will or not, the
son can perform Hajj on his behalf.
Ibn 'Abbas has related that a woman from the tribe of Khath'am said to
the Noble Prophet: "The command for Hajj has reached my father at a time
when he has become very old: he cannot even sit on the camel's back."
The Noble Prophet replied: "You then may perform Hajj on his behalf."
(According to Bukhari, Muslim, Ahmad, Tirmidhi, Nasa'i). A tradition
bearing on the same subject has also been related by Hadrat 'Ali.
Hadrat 'Abdullah bin Zubair has made mention of a man of the same tribe
of Khath'am, who also put a similar question to the Noble Prophet
concerning his aged father. The Noble Prophet asked: 'Are you his
eldest son?" He answered in the affirmative (means YES). Thereupon the
Noble Prophet said "If your father had left behind a debt and you paid
it off, would it stand paid on his behalf?" He replied that it would.
The Noble Prophet said: "Then you should likewise perform Hajj also on
his behalf." (Ahmad, Nasa'i). Ibn 'Abbas relates that a woman from the
tribe of Juhainah came to the Prophet (SAS) and said: "My mother had
vowed to perform Hajj but she died before performing her vow. Now, can I
perform Hajj on her behalf ?" The Prophet (SAS) replied: "If your mother
had left behind a debt, would you not have paid it? Likewise, you should
also discharge the vow made to Allah, and Allah has a greater right that
the vows made to Him be performed." (Bukhari, Nasa'i). Bukhari and
Musnad Ahmad contain another tradition to the effect that a man came and
put the same question to the Prophet (SAS) concerning his sister as has
been mentioned above, and the Prophet (SAS) gave him also the same
These traditions provide a clear proof that so far as the compound acts
of bodily and monetary worships are concerned, one can act on behalf of
another. As for the purely bodily acts of worship, there are some
Ahadith which prove the permissibility of acting on behalf of another in
this kind of worship as well. For example, Ibn 'Abbas has related that a
woman from the tribe of Juhainah asked the Prophet(SAS) : 'My mother had
vowed to observe the Fast and she died without performing her vow. Now,
can I observe the Fast on her behalf?" The Prophet (SAS) replied:
"Observe the Fast on her behalf." (Bukhari, Muslim, Ahmad, Abu Da'ud).
And Hadrat Buraidah's tradition that a woman asked concerning her
mother: "She had one month's (according to another tradition two
months') Fasts to observe; can I observe those Fasts on her behalf?" The
Prophet (SAS) said that she could." (Muslim, Ahmad, Tirmidhi, Abu Da'ud).
And Hadrat 'A'isha's tradition that the Prophet (SAS) said: "If a
person dies and he had some Fasts to observe, his guardian should
observe those Fasts on his behalf." (Bukhari, Muslim, Ahmad). In the
tradition related by Bazzar the Noble Prophet's words are to the effect:
"If his guardian may so like, he may observe those Fasts on his behalf."
On the basis of these very traditions the Ashab al- Hadith and Imam
Auza'i and the Zahiris have formed the view that one is permitted to
perform bodily acts of worship also on behalf of the other. But Imam Abu
Hanifah, Imam Malik, Shafi'I and Imam Zaid bin 'Ali have given the
ruling that a fast cannot be observed on behalf of a dead person,
and Imam Ahmad, Imam Laith and Ishaq bin Rahawaih opine that this can be
done only in case the deceased person might have so vowed but might not
have been able to perform his vow. Those who oppose this give the
argument that the reporters of the Ahadith, which prove its
permissibility, have themselves given their rulings against it. Ibn 'Abbas's
ruling has been related by Nasa'i, thus: "No one should offer a Prayer
or observe a Fast on behalf of another." And Hadrat 'A'isha's ruling,
according to 'Abdur Razzaq, is: "Do not observe the Fast on behalf of
your dead ones; feed (the needy) instead." The same has been related
from Hadrat 'Abdullah bin 'Umar also by 'Abdur Razzaq that the Fast
should not be observed on behalf of the deceased person. This shows
that in the beginning it was permissible to perform acts of bodily
worship on behalf of others, but the practice that became established in
the end was that it was not permissible to do so; otherwise it was not
possible that those who have reported these Ahadith from the Noble
Prophet, should have themselves given rulings against them.
In this connection, it should be understood well that fulfilment of an
obligation on behalf of another can be beneficial only to those people
who have themselves been keen and desirous of fulfilling their
obligations and might have been unable to do so being rendered helpless
by circumstances. But a person who deliberately shirked going for Hajj
although he had the necessary means for it and had no feeling whatever
of this obligation in his heart either, cannot be benefited even if
several Hajj be performed on his behalf afterwards. This would be
analogous to the case of a person who deliberately avoided paying his
debts and had no intention to pay them till the last. Afterwards even if
every penny is paid off on his behalf, he would remain a debtor in the
sight of Allah. The payment of the debts by another can relieve only
such a person who in his lifetime was desirous of paying off his debts
but was unable to do so due to straitened circumstances.
Imagine a person’s mother who had a great desire to
build a hospital for the poor, but due to certain circumstances she was
not able to. Now if the son gets the chance to fulfil his mother’s wish,
then this will indeed be a rewarding deed for the son while her mother
has already got the reward of this because of her intention. Of course!
she may get a further reward because, as ‘Sadaqah-i- Jariyah’
(the charitable act of a person that continues to afford him reward even
after he dies), pious children themselves are a source of reward for the