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How to Honour Your Loved Ones Once They Leave This World

by Musa Bukhari

As Muslims, we have rights upon each other while alive, such as visiting the sick and protecting the honour of a Muslim, but we also have rights upon each other after our death, such as attending the janazah prayer. In this article, we will look at eight things that we can do to help our brothers and sisters after they have passed away.

1. Janazah (Funeral) Prayer

Anas and A'ishah, rahimahullah, reported that Allah's Messenger (sallallahu alayhi wa sallam) said:

"Whenever a (Muslim) person dies, and a group of Muslims numbering one hundred pray janazah for him, all interceding on his behalf, their intercession is granted (by Allah) and he is forgiven.” (Sahih Muslim)

There is another hadith which states:

"Whenever a (Muslim) person dies, and a group of (Muslim) people pray janazah for him, they are granted intercession for him." (An-Nisa'i, verified Hasan by Al-Albani)

When we pray for our Muslim brother or sister in Islam, we are helping to fulfill our duty to them after their death. Janazah prayer is a Fard kifayah (community obligation), meaning that not everyone is obligated to pray every janazah prayer, but we must make sure that someone somewhere is praying the janazah in the community when needed. To ensure this is happening, we should make it a personal goal to attend at least a couple of janazah prayers per month for the sake of Allah to help intercede for our Muslim brother or sister in front of Allah.

Here are some du’as that can be read at the janazah prayer:

“O Allah forgive our living and our dead, those who are with us and those who are absent, our young and our old , our menfolk and our womenfolk. O Allah, whomever you give life from among us give him life in Islam, and whomever you take away from us take him away in Faith. O Allah, do not forbid us their reward and do not send us astray after them.” (Ibn Majah)

“O Allah, surely [name the person] is under Your protection, and in the rope of Your security, so save him from the trial of the grave and from the punishment of the Fire. You fulfil promises and grant rights, so forgive him and have mercy on him. Surely You are Most Forgiving, Most Merciful.” (Ibn Majah, Abu Dawud)

“O Allah, Your male slave and the child of Your female slave is in need of Your Mercy, and You are not in need of his torment. If he was pious then increase his rewards and if he was a transgressor then pardon him.” (Al-Hakim)

2. Make Du’a for Their Forgiveness

The du’as mentioned above can be made by any Muslim for any other deceased Muslim and Allah will accept it as intercession for the deceased if He wills. When it comes to the child of the deceased, if they were righteous, their du’as can actually elevate the ranks of their deceased parents!

Abu Huraira reported: The Messenger of Allah (sallallahu alayhi wa sallam) said, “Verily, Allah Almighty will raise the status of his righteous servants in Paradise and they will say: “O Lord, what is this? Allah will say: “This is due to your child seeking forgiveness for you.” (Musnad Aḥmad)

SubhanAllah! Allah is truly Al-Kareem! Simply by seeking forgiveness for their deceased parent, a child can help their parent’s ranking with Allah! Allah not only forgives the parent but also elevates his or her status. What a beautiful religion we have in which we can benefit those that we love even after they leave us. All Praise is due to Allah.

3. Sadaqah Jariyah (Deeds of Continued Benefit)

Abu Hurayrah, rahimahullah, reported that Allah's Messenger, sallallahu 'alayhi wa sallam, said: "When a human being dies, all of his deeds are terminated except for three types: an ongoing sadaqah, a knowledge (of Islam) from which others benefit, and a righteous child who makes du'a for him.” (Muslim)

Another narration states in more detail: "Among the good deeds that continue to benefit a believer after death are: a knowledge that he taught and disseminated, a righteous child who lived after him, a Qur'an book that he left as inheritance a masjid that he built, a house that he built for the two wayfarers, a stream that he ran, or a charity that he gave from his wealth during his healthy lifetime so that it would reach him (in rewards) after death." (Ibn Majah)

Commenting on this, Al-Mundhiri, rahimahullah, said: "Some scholars say that the deeds of a human being end with his death. However, since he had caused these things (which are mentioned in the above ahadith), such as the earning of a child, disseminating the knowledge among those who take it from him, compiling a book that remains after him, or establishing a sadaqah, the rewards of these things continue to reach him as long as they continue to exist." (‘Awn al-Ma'bud)

If we were taught something by someone, we can pass on that knowledge with the intention that the reward also reaches the deceased person. This will count as sadaqah jariyah for him or her. We should also encourage the children of the deceased to increase in their sincere du’a for their parents so that it may serve as a means of forgiveness and elevation for them.

4. Sadaqah from a Child

Aisha (RA) reported that Allah's Messenger (sallallahu alayhi wa sallam) said: "Indeed the best that one eats is that which he earns. And his child is from his earning." (Ahmad, Abu Dawud. Verified as Sahih by Al-Albani in Akham ul-Jana'iz)

This hadith shows that child-rearing counts as something a person has “earned,” meaning whatever good actions the child does, the parents have a share in that reward, without it decreasing the children’s reward. So the sadaqah that a child gives, or any other good deeds that they do, the parents also have a share in the reward. What a beautiful way to keep a legacy going!

A child can also give sadaqah on their deceased parent’s behalf: Aisha (RA) reported that a man asked Allah's Messenger (sallallahu alayhi wa sallam), "My mother had a sudden death, and did not have chance to bequeath anything. Had she been able to do, I think that she would have given sadaqah. Would she or I get any rewards if I give sadaqah on her behalf?" He replied, "Yes! So give sadaqah on her behalf." [Al-Bukhari, Muslim and others]

A child can help their deceased parent through the good deeds they do on the regular basis since their parents brought them up with good morals and habits, but a child can also explicitly give sadaqah on behalf of their parents to benefit them directly.

5. Fulfilling the Deceased’s Vows

Aisha (RA) reported that Allah's Messenger (sallallahu 'alayhi wa sallam) said:

"Whoever dies while he has a fasting to fulfill (as a vow), his wali' (kin/guardian) should fast for him." (Muttafaqun ‘alayh, agreed upon)

Ibn Abbas (RA) reported that a woman was travelling in the sea, and she vowed that if Allah saved her she would fast for one month. Allah saved her, but she died before fulfilling her vow. Her daughter came to the Prophet, sallallahu 'alayhi wa sallam, and mentioned this to him. He asked, "Had she owed money as debt, wouldn't you have paid it on her behalf?" She replied, "Yes". He said, "Allah's debt is more worthy of being fulfilled. So fulfill (the vow) for your mother." (Muttafaqun ‘alayh, agreed upon)

A vow made to Allah can consist of a fast to be kept or money to be given in sadaqah, and these types of vows can and should be fulfilled on behalf of the dead person if possible.

6. Fasting the Missed Days of Ramadan

This position is confirmed by the understanding of two of the Companions, Aisha (RA) and Ibn 'Abbas (RA). 'Amrah reported that her mother died without making up her missed days of Ramadan. She asked Aisha (RA) "Should I make that up on her behalf?" She replied, "No! Rather give sadaqah to the needy in the amount of a half sa' (of grains or food) for every missed day." [At-Tahawi, Ibn Hazm, verified to be sahih by Al-Albani, Ahkam ul-Jana'iz, 215]

Sa'id ibn Jubayr (RA) reported that Ibn 'Abbas (RA) said, "If a man gets sick in Ramadan and then dies without fasting, food should be given on his behalf - without a need to make up for the fasting. But if he had made a vow (to fast), his wali' should fast for him." [Abu Dawud, Ibn Hazm, verified sahih by al-Albani, Ahkam ul-Jana'iz, 215]

And Ibn Al-Qayyim, rahimahullah, comments on 'Aishah's above hadith by saying:

"One group (of scholars) generalizes this and enable other people to follow it clean and pure, as it was revealed, and says that both the vowed and missed obligatory fasting should be made up for the deceased. Another group rejects this and says that no fasting may be made up for him. A third group is more specific in saying that only the vowed fasting, but not the obligatory fasting, should be for his brother, the appointed angel says, 'Amin; and the same be given to you.' "

The summary is that some scholars hold the opinion that the missed Fard fasts of the deceased may be made up by the children of the deceased, but other scholars say that it is only the vowed fasts that are to be made up and not the Fard fasts; rather, food can be given to the poor as demonstrated in the hadith of Aisha (RA).

7. Reviving the Sunnah

The Prophet (sallallahu alayhi wa sallam) said, "He who initiates in Islam a good way gets his reward for it, as well as rewards similar to those who follow him into it, without reducing any of their rewards. And he who initiates in Islam an evil way gets his burden for it, as well as burdens similar to those who follow him into it, without reducing any of their burdens." (Sahih Muslim)

If someone taught you a sunnah, then pass it on to others with the intention of benefitting them in their graves. That way, it will count as Sadaqah Jariyah for them and they will be rewarded each time you follow the sunnah that they taught you.

Forgotten sunnahs include: using the siwak before each prayer, getting wet in the rain, dusting off your bed at night before getting into it, saying “Rabbigh-firli (O Allah, forgive me) between the two sajdahs, drinking in three short breaths instead of one long gulp, etc. All of these are sunnahs of the Prophet (sallallahu alayhi wa sallam) that many people don’t pay attention to. If you know of any forgotten sunnahs, pass them onto someone! Maybe it will benefit you after your death by the permission of Allah! And if you know of anything that was taught to you by the deceased, then practice it so you can help them increase their reward with Allah.

8. Honour their Loved Ones

It is also a forgotten sunnah to honour the dead by honouring who they loved—their parents, their children, their spouse who grieves after them. The Prophet (sallallahu alayhi wa sallam) grieved deeply for Khadijah (RA). When he saw the necklace that used to belong to her, he wept in front of the Sahabah. When he heard Hala’s voice (the sister of Khadijah (RA), he cried (sallallahu alayhi wa sallam). The Prophet (sallallahu alayhi wa sallam) turned his grief into service. He would send gifts over to the family and friends of Khadijah (RA). He respected those she respected. He maintained good relations with those who were important to her.

It is also especially important to honour one’s parents’ relatives and friends after their passing. Abu Usaid Malik bin Rabiah As-Saidi (RA) reported: We were sitting with Messenger of Allah (sallallahu alayhi wa sallam) when a man of Banu Salamah came to him and asked, "O Messenger of Allah! Is there any obedience to parents left that I can show to them after their death?'' He (sallallahu alayhi wa sallam) replied, "Yes, to pray for them, to supplicate for their forgiveness, to fulfill their promises after their death, to maintain the ties of kinship which cannot be maintained except through them, and honour their friends.'' (Abu Dawud)

We must serve our parents and honour those they love while they are alive, but we should increase that even after their death. This is a way for us to earn the blessings of being obedient to our parents and serving them because to honour and respect and serve the ones they loved is to honour and respect them. And Allah knows best.

May Allah make us of those who are able to fulfill all our obligations before we die and May He accept them from us. May Allah forgive all sins of the Muslims who have passed away before us and May He elevate their ranks. May Allah allow us to leave behind good works of Sadaqah Jariyah behind us and May He allow those in their graves to benefit through the work they left behind through us. May Allah forgive all those who have no one to pray for them. May Allah unite us all in Jannatul-Firdaus with our loved ones. Ameen.

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