Conveying the Reward of Actions in this World to the Dead
By Mawlana Muhammad Zakariyya Kandhalawi رحمه الله
Translated by Mawlana Ismaeel Nakhuda رحمه الله
(Translator’s Note: Below is an insightful passage from Shaykh al-Hadith Mawlana Muhammad Zakariyya Kandhalwi’s رحمه الله Fada’il-i-Sadaqat in which the author, while commenting on a hadith, mentions some insightful references and comments regarding sending reward for pious actions to those who have passed away. Noticing the brilliant way the shaykh has discussed this topic here and how people nowadays often consider isolated views on this subject as the mainstream view, I felt it apt to translate this passage and share with our readers for their benefit.)
 Sayyiduna Sa‘d (may Allah be pleased with him) asked, “Oh Messenger of Allah (ﷺ) my mother has passed away. Which form of charity [for sending her reward] is most superior?” The Prophet (ﷺ) replied, “Water is the most superior.” At this, Sayyiduna Sa‘d (may Allah be pleased with him) had a well excavated for the reward of his mother. (Narrated by Malik, Abu Dawud and al-Nasa’i)
Commentary: The reason why the Prophet (ﷺ) mentioned that water was most superior was because it was very much needed in Madinah. Firstly, water is particularly needed everywhere in hot countries and there was scarcity of water in Madinah Munawwarah at that time. Aside from this, there is a general benefit in water and the need was also general.
It is mentioned in one hadith that the person who starts a system of supplying water from which humans, jinns and birds drink will continue receiving its rewards even after death until the Day of Reckoning. A person came to Sayyiduna ‘Abdullah bin Mubarak (may Allah be pleased with him) and said, “There is a wound on my knee that has been there for seven years. I have tried every type of medicine and cure and nothing has benefitted me. I have also visited renowned physicians.” Sayyiduna ‘Abdullah bin Mubarak (may Allah be pleased with him) replied, “Have a well dug at a place where there is a scarcity of water. I have hope in Allah that when water comes out from there, then the bleeding on your knee shall stop.” The person did as suggested and the wound healed.
The famous hadith scholar, Abu ‘Abdullah Hakim (may Allah have mercy on him) had some wounds on his face. He tried all sorts of treatment, none of which were useful. He spent a year like this. Once he asked his teacher, Abu ‘Uthman Sabuni (may Allah have mercy on him), to supplicate for him. It was a Friday and he supplicated for a long time. The congregation said amin. The next Friday, a woman arrived and presented a chit on which it was written, “When I returned home the previous Friday, I continued diligently supplicating for Hakim. In a dream I saw the Prophet (ﷺ) who said, ‘Tell Hakim to make water abundantly available for the Muslims.’ Having heard this, Hakim had a public fountain established on his door in which arrangements were made for it to be replenished with water and ice. A week passed and all of the wounds on his face healed and his face had become even more handsome than before.1
It is mentioned in a hadith that Sayyiduna Sa‘d (may Allah be pleased with him) said, “Oh Messenger of Allah (ﷺ), when she was alive my mother used to perform Hajj with my wealth. She used to give in charity with my wealth, maintain ties and support people. Now she has died and if we were to carry out all of these works on her behalf, then would she benefit?” The Prophet (ﷺ) replied that they would reach her.2
It is mentioned in a hadith that a woman asked the Prophet (ﷺ), “My mother has suddenly passed away. If she had not passed away suddenly then she would have given some charity etc. If I were to give some charity on her behalf, then would it be from her?” The Prophet (ﷺ) said, “Yes, give charity on her behalf.”3
One should diligently perform acts of righteousness (isal al-thawab) on behalf of one’s parents, spouses, siblings, children and other relatives, particularly those whose wealth may have reached us after their death or they had carried out special acts of kindness to us, such as teachers and shaykhs. It would be grossly void of honour for one to benefit from their wealth and also their kindness while they were alive, and then to ignore them when they are in need of our gifts and favour. When a person dies, all his actions stop except if he has left behind a continuous act of charity (sadaqah jariyah) or carried out another action that meets the criteria of a continuous act of charity which shall be mentioned later on. After death, people are in need and awaiting the reward (isal al-thawab) and supplications etc. of others.
It is mentioned in one hadith that the dead person in his grave is like the person who is drowning in water and desires aid from a helper from all sides. He awaits for a father, brother, friend, etc. whose supplication and help (in the least) may reach him. And when help reaches him, then this becomes more dearer to him than the entire world.4 Bishr bin Mansur (may Allah have mercy on him) says that in the days of plague there was a man who used to frequently attend funeral prayers and would, in the evening, stand by the gates of the cemetery supplicating: “May Allah exchange the trouble you experience from being lonely into pleasure, shed mercy on your being alone, overlook your mistakes and accept your righteous actions.” He would return home after making this supplication. One day, by chance, he did not make this supplication and returned home just like that. He saw a dream in which there was a large crowd of people who came to him. He asked them, “Who are you? Why have you come?” They replied that they were the inhabitants of the cemetery. “You have made us habituated to receive every day in the evening some gifts from yourself.” He asked what these gifts were. They responded, “The supplication you make every evening is gifted to us.” The person narrates, “I henceforth never abandoned this supplication.”
Bashshar bin Ghalib Najrani (may Allah have mercy on him) says, “I used to supplicate a lot for Rabi‘ah Basriyyah and once saw her in a dream. She said, ‘Bashshar, your gifts reach me in trays of light (nur) which are covered in silk.’ I asked her what this was at which she replied, ‘Those supplications done by Muslims for the deceased and that are accepted are then presented to the deceased in trays of light and covered in silk and it is said that such a such person has sent this to you.’”5 Similar stories of this type will be mentioned in the commentary of the hadith that follows. Imam Nawawi has mentioned in the commentary of Sahih Muslim that there is no disagreement among the Muslims regarding whether the reward of charity reaches the deceased. This is the correct way (madhhab) and that which some people have written that the deceased does not receive any reward after their death is totally false and an obvious mistake. It is against the Qur’an, the hadiths of the Prophet (ﷺ) and the consensus of the Ummah (ijma‘), and it because of this that this view is definitely not worthy of attention.6
Shaykh Taqiyyuddin (may Allah have mercy on him) mentions that the person who thinks that a person only receives the reward of his deeds is going against the consensus of the Ummah because the Ummah is agreed that a person benefits from the supplication of the other which is benefitting from the actions of others. In addition to this, the Prophet (may Allah bless him and grant him peace) will intercede on the Day of Reckoning, as will other prophets and the pious—this is benefitting from the actions of others. In addition to this, the angels supplicate for the believers and also seek forgiveness for them (as is mentioned in the first ruku‘ of Surah al-Mu’min); this is an example of benefitting from the actions of another person. Further to this, Allah Most High will forgive many people simply because of His mercy and this is an example of benefitting from something apart from one’s effort and actions. In addition to this, the children of believers shall enter into paradise with their children (as is mentioned in the first ruku‘ of Surah al-Tur); this is an example of benefiting from the actions of others. In addition to this, the obligation of Hajj can be fulfilled through a substitute (Hajj Badl), which is an example of benefitting from the action of another. In sum, there are many things that act as proofs and evidence for this, the summarising of which is difficult.7
A pious man said, “My brother passed away, I saw him in a dream and asked him what happened to you after you were placed in the grave. He replied, ‘At that time, a flame came to me. However, at the same moment, the supplication of a person reached me. If it had not come to me, then the flame would have touched me.”
‘Ali bin Musa Haddad (may Allah have mercy on him) mentions, “I was with Imam Ahmad bin Hanbal (may Allah have mercy on him) at a funeral. Muhammad bin Qudamah Jawhari (may Allah have mercy on him) was with us. When the body had been buried, a blind person came, sat down by the grave and began reciting Qur’an. Imam Ahmad bin Hanbal (may Allah have mercy on him) said, ‘Reciting the Qur’an while sitting by the grave is an innovation (bid‘ah).’ When we began to return from that place, Muhammad bin Qudamah asked Imam Ahmad on the road, ‘What do you think of Mubashshir bin Isma‘il Halabi?’ Imam Ahmad replied, ‘He is a reliable individual.’ Ibn Qudamah asked, ‘Did you seek any knowledge from him?’ He replied, ‘Yes, I took hadith from him.’ Ibn Qudamah said, ‘Mubashshir narrated to me that ‘Abdur-Rahman bin ‘Ala bin Lajlaj narrated from his father that when he was about to die he willed that the beginning and end of Surah al-Baqarah be recited by his head side and that he said, “I heard ‘Abdullah bin ‘Umar (may Allah be pleased with him) mentioning this in his will.”’ Having heard this story, Imam Ahmad said to Ibn Qudamah to return to the cemetery and to tell the blind man to recite the Qur’an.”
Muhammad bin Ahmad Marwazi (may Allah be pleased with him) says that I heard Imam Ahmad bin Hanbal (may Allah have mercy on him) saying, “When you visit the cemetery, then recite Surahs al-Fatiha, al-Ikhlas, al-Falaq and al-Nas, and convey the reward to the people of the cemetery. The reward shall reach them.8 The author of Al-Mughni, which is a very reliable book on Hanbali fiqh, has also narrated this story and other narrations relating to this topic. It has been mentioned in Badhl al-Majhud from Bahr that the person who fasts or performs salah, or gives charity, and conveys the reward to another person, regardless of whether the person is alive or dead, then its reward shall reach them—there is no difference if the person who is being awarded the reward is alive or dead.
The saying of Sayyiduna Abu Hurayrah (may Allah be pleased with him) has been narrated in Sunan Abu Dawud, “Is there anyone who will take the responsibility to offer two or four rak‘ahs of prayer at Masjid ‘Ithar (close to Basra) and say that [the reward of] this prayer is for Abu Hurayrah.”9 A lot of diligence should be expended on sending reward to one’s beloved deceased people. Aside from fulfilling their rights, one shall soon meet with them after death. What shame would there be if one were not to remember their rights, their favours and also themselves when spending their wealth on one’s self?