Translation: Ishaaq bn AbdirRaheem Aboo Aamir
Question: We have a custom in far West Africa such that when a person dies, he will not be buried until a lot of money is collected in tens of thousands or millions of Francs depending on the status of the dead person to the people. Then on the third day, the people of the land will gather, so also on the seventh and the fortieth day. That is, after the death of the fellow. They gather in order to recite the invocation (for the Prophet (sallallâhu ’alayhi wa sallam)) and to give charity on behalf of the dead person – this depends on what they want.
The practice saddens when one hears of the death of a person because of what it involves of collection of money and getting it distributed among a particular group, and to the family of the dead person on the day of the burial or the third day, or the seventh or the fortieth.
Please explain to us the Shariah ruling as regard these matters which all Muslims who have concerned for their religion are worried about.
Answer: It was not established from the Prophet (sallallâhu ’alayhi wa sallam) nor his Companions (may Allaah be pleased with them) nor the other Pious Predecessors that they used to contribute money to give as charity on behalf of dead people, nor was it established that they would distribute the money among a particular group of people, or that the money be given to the relatives of the dead person. It was not known from them that they would limit charity on behalf of a dead person, or make supplication for him on the third or seventh or fortieth day after his death.
The Sahabah (may Allaah be pleased with them) would not gather for such too, rather what they used to do, after a dead person was buried, was that they would make supplication for him that Allaah –the Blessed and Mighty – should forgive him, and they would ask Him –the Blessed and Mighty – to make him to be steadfast when he is asked in the graves. They would not assign a specific time for this purpose nor a specific condition in giving charity on behalf of the dead person, or how to make supplications for him.
Therefore that the Companions (may Allaah be pleased with them) would not design a particular way of doing all those despite the large number of the dead among them; that indicates that the practice (of the people today) is illegal (that is, not permissible under the Shariah).
Therefore what you mentioned about the people of your town as regard their contributing money after any death and distributing that money, and gathering over it on the fourth day is among innovations that are imperative on the Muslims to eschew and abandon. And whoever is knowledgeable among the people, and is sure that they engage in the practice, should explain the truth (of the Sharîah position) to them and should condemn the innovation.
What is better is following the Prophet (sallallâhu ’alayhi wa sallam), his Companions and the Pious Predecessors, may Allaah be pleased with them all. It is part of their guidance that they would pray over the dead, follow his corpse (to where it would be buried), make supplications for him when being buried and when his grave is visited (after his death); they would also give charity on his behalf and prepare food for members of his household because of their preoccupation with his death which might make them unable to prepare food for themselves.
Thus it is not permissible for a Muslim to do more than what the Shariah permits as regard affairs of the dead and other issues of the Deen. Verily all innovations are misguidance.
All success lies with Allaah –the Blessed and Mighty. May He exalt the mention of our Prophet, Muhammad; his household and his Companions; and (may He bestow His) peace (on him).
(The Permanent Committee on Islamic Researches and Ifta. Question Two from Fatwa number 1313).