Responsibilities of Humans when Someone Dies

'To Allah belongs the intercession altogether. To Him belongs the kingdom of the heavens and the earth.' (az-Zumar 44)

We will refer back to the first sentence in the first section: 'The living go on and the dead do not.'

A man is living in our midst. Suddenly death snatches him from us. We wail and wear black. We set up the funeral tents and so forth. In short, we do what is necessary. Then we forget him on the premise that 'The living go on and the dead do not.' Or else we continue to remember him and abandon ourselves to our grief, living a life of constant anguish, claiming to be faithful to the dead. So our life is spent either in forgetfulness or grief. However, life is short. There is no time in it for either forgetfulness or grief. Real life does not consist of forgetfulness. Real fidelity is not to persist in grief.

Let us consider together how we can help the dead person who has left us. How can we support him in that severe trial? He is in fact in greater need of us than the living. He is now alone, buried in a grave inside the earth. The possibility of action is now finished for him. His subterfuges, have come to an end. However, the benefit he can derive from actions which the living perform on his behalf have not come to an end, provided that Allah gives permission, since Allah said in His Mighty Book, `Who will intercede with Him except by His permission?"

The Messenger of Allah, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, said,

'When a man dies, his actions cease except for three things: a sadaqa which goes on, knowledge which continues to benefit people or a righteous son who makes supplication for him.'

There are many things which the living can do to rescue the dead. They include supplication for them, asking forgiveness for them, acts of generosity, hajj, fasting and other sorts of worship. These can be attributed to the dead person with Allah's permission.

Even more important than all these is to settle the dead person's debts, whether that debt. be financial or spiritual - debts to other living persons or debts of worship owed to Allah the Great.

When someone who is alive intercedes for a dead person who is being punished, his punishment is halted, even if only for a time. When he intercedes for the person enjoying bliss, that person is raised a degree.

Ibn Abi'd-Dunya mentioned that one of his companions said, `My brother died and I saw him in a dream. I said, "How was it when you were placed in your grave?" He replied, "Someone brought me a fiery flame and if it had not been that someone else made supplication for me, I think he would have hit me with it."'

Bashar b. Ghalib said, `I saw Rabi'a, on whose behalf I used to make frequent supplication, in a dream. She said to me, "Bashar b. Ghalib! Your gifts have been brought to me on plates of light, covered in silken cloths." I asked, "How can that be?" She replied, "That is what the supplication of living believers is like. When they make supplication for a dead person, that supplication is answered for them on plates of light, veiled in silken cloths. Then they are brought to the dead person for whom the supplication was said and they are told, This is the gift of so-and-so to you.'"'

`Amr b. Jarir said that when one of Allah's servants supplicates for his dead brother, an angel takes this supplication to him in his grave and says, "You stranger in the grave! Here is a gift from a brother who feels compassion for you."

The Messenger of Allah, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, said,

'After he has died, the believer only gets the benefit of the following actions and good deeds: knowledge which he has taught and passed on, a righteous son he leaves behind, a copy of the Qur'an which he has bequeathed, a mosque he has built, a house he has built for the traveller, a water channel he has dug, or an act of charity which he spent out of his property when he was alive and in good health and which comes to him after his death.'

The Qur'an says, `Those who have come after them say, "Our Lord, forgive us and our brothers who preceded us in belief.' (al-Hashr 10) Allah - glory be to Him! - praised them for asking for forgiveness for the believers before them. He indicated that they are helped when the living ask for forgiveness for them.

The Prophet, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, said,

`When you pray over a dead person, make sincere supplication for him.'

In his supplication he would say,

'O Allah! So-and-so the son of so-and-so is in Your custody and near to You. Protect him from the trial of the Grave and the punishment of the Fire. You are worthy of fidelity and truth, so forgive him and show mercy to him. You are Forgiving, Merciful.'

When the Prophet, blessings and peace be upon him, finished burying someone who had died, he stood over him and said,

`Ask forgiveness for your brother. Ask for him to be made firm. He is being questioned now,'

He also said,

Teach your dead the words, "There is no god but Allah.."'

There is a report from Abu Hurayra, may Allah be pleased with him, about the reward of acts of charity reaching the dead.

Abu Hurayra said that a man said to the Prophet, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, `My father has died and left some property, but he did not leave a will. Will he be rewarded if I make an act of charity on his behalf?' He replied, `Yes.'

The Prophet, peace and blessings be upon him, said about the reward of fasting reaching the dead person,

`If someone dies and owes some days of fasting, then his heir should fast on his behalf.'

He also said,

`If someone dies and owes a month's fast, his heir should feed a poor person for him for every day he owes.'

As regards the reward of the hajj reaching a dead person,

Ibn `Abbas, may Allah be pleased with him, said, `A man asked, "Prophet of Allah! My father has died and has not done the hajj. Shall I do it on his behalf?" He replied, "Do you not think that if your father had a debt, you would pay it for him?" He replied, "Yes." The Prophet said, "A debt that is owed to Allah is even more worthy of being paid."

The Muslims are agreed about paying debts for which a dead person is still responsible, even if the person who pays it is a stranger and the money does not come out of the inheritance. This is indicated in the hadith of Abu Qatada.

Abu Qatada said he would pay two dinars on behalf of a particular dead person. When he had paid them, the Prophet, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, said to him, `Now his skin is cool.'

They are agreed that when someone who is alive has a claim against a dead person, any muslim is allowed to help him and discharge the debt as they would if the debt was owed by a living person.

The Messenger, blessings and peace be upon him, said,

`Recite the sura, Yasin when your people die.'

This can be taken to mean that it should be recited to the person when he is near death and it can also be taken to mean that it should be recited at his grave. The first possibility is more likely because the dying person benefits from the tawhid, the good news that the people of tawhid go to the Garden and the delight of the person who dies in upholding the knowledge of tawhid that this sura contains. It says, `Ah, would that my people knew that my Lord has forgiven me and that He has placed me among the honoured.' (Yaa-sin 26-27) The soul rejoices at this and desires to meet Allah as Allah desires to meet it. This sura is the heart of the Qur'an and something wonderful occurs when it is recited in the presence of a dying person.

Speaking in general terms, recitation of the Qur'an is one of the acts of worship whose reward reaches the dead person, provided that the reciter first intercedes with Allah on his behalf. Allah might or might not accept it, as is the case with all other acts of worship. He might accept one man's habut not that of another man. He might accept the prayer of one man and not that of another man. What counts is the sincere intention to do the action for the sake of Allah the Great alone.

Let us imagine a group of Muslims who have gathered together to remember someone who was dear to them and has died. They are still wearing black and their grief is still fresh. They have gathered for the sake of the love and comradeship that exists between them to remember Allah and to intercede with Him on behalf of their loved one.

This gathering might take place anywhere, but let it be the home of one of them. Each of them is holding a copy of the Qur'an whose recitation they have divided up between themselves. They begin the recitation with the intention of directing its reward to the dead person. This does not diminish the reward that any of them receive in anyway, but the reward also reaches the dead person in his grave if Allah so wills. There is a reward for both the living and the dead.

Included among those people might be a son or grandson of the dead person. This is an extension of his actions and a result of his efforts in this world, for he left a righteous son there and consequently righteous descendants. There might be a brother; a father, a relative or a friend among them which is an indication of his good behaviour with other people, otherwise they would not mention him in their supplication, or remember him or intercede on his behalf with the Lord of Might and Majesty. This is also the result of the dead man's own actions.

A righteous son or daughter is a true treasure for a man and profits him during his lifetime and after his death. Every father or mother should try as hard as they possibly can to bring up righteous children. Every son should try to obey his parents during their lifetime and after their death. It must be realised that a dead person knows what his living relatives and brothers are doing. It is said that a man in his grave delights in the righteousness of his children after him.

We could go on and on. Discussion about the soul, the dead and the Next World is unending. It is a subject which has been thoroughly studied for hundreds of years. In spite of that, we still have not plumbed its depths. We have only skimmed the surface of real knowledge of it. Only Allah - glory be to Him and may He be exalted! , has complete knowledge of it.

Whoever says, `I know', is ignorant. I have discovered from my own experience that whenever someone increases in knowledge, they discover how much greater their ignorance is.

The words of Allah are true when He says, 'They will ask you about the spirit. Say, `The spirit is at the behest of your Lord. You have been given but little knowledge."

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