What is the ruling regarding the customary three-days and forty-days gatherings held after the demise of a person?
In the Name of Allah, the Most Gracious, the Most Merciful.
As-salāmu ‘alaykum wa-rahmatullāhi wa-barakātuh.
The customary, 3days, 40days and 1year gatherings staged after the demise of a person is a baseless custom in Islam and thus is strictly prohibited. These gatherings are clear innovations and misguidance and does not attract the mercy and blessings of Allah ﷻ. The Scholars of Islam are unanimous that these gatherings and ceremonies are clear deviations and innovations as it is not from the teachings and practices of the Blessed Prophet ﷺ, nor any of his Noble Companions, nor any of the Tabi’een, nor any of the Tabi’ al-Tabi’een, nor any of the illustrious Fuqaha, nor any of the great Mudaditheen, nor any of the Imams of the followed schools of Islamic Jurisprudence nor any of the rightly guided scholars that came afterwards. These gatherings being an innovation in Islam, do not benefit the deceased in any way as it is an action rejected and unacceptable and consequently void of rewards and blessing.
~ Misconception ~
It is proven in the Hadith of the Prophet ﷺ that good-deeds done on behalf of the deceased will benefit him. In these gatherings the Quran is recited, inspirational and spiritual talks are given, people are fed. These ceremonies are a source of consolation for the Bereaved family. Furthermore, these ceremonies are conducted and attended by Imams and Scholars of the locality.
~ Clarification ~
- Firstly, there are two conditions for the acceptance and validity of any deed, in other words a deed will only be rendered good and accepted if two conditions are met viz (i) legislated and endorsed by the sacred laws of the Shariah and (ii) done for the pleasure of Allah ﷻ. The first condition here is missing as these gatherings are not from the teachings of Islam. Therefore such an action can never be regarded as a good or righteous deed and consequently is void of reward. Furthermore, how can the deceased be benefited from actions void of reward and blessings.
- Secondly, the reading of the Holy Quran, imparting religious advice and feeding people especially the poor are acts of great virtue. If done with the intention of Isaal al Thawaab then it will reach and benefit the deceased by the permission of Allah ﷻ. However, the manner in which it is customarily done (i.e.in the form of gatherings, specific day and place after the demise etc.) is a clear innovation (bid’ah) as it not established from the teachings of Islam. Nor was it practiced by the rightly guided Scholars throughout the centuries. The Prophet ﷺ said: Whoever innovates something in this matter of ours (Islam) that which is not of it, then it will be rejected.
NB: Gathering and inviting people for the recitation of Quran/Khatmul-Quran for the purpose of Isaal al-Thawaab upon the deceased is also contrary to the Sunnah of the Prophet ﷺ, the practice of his noble companions and the pious processors.
“During the time of the Prophet ﷺ many of his family members, his wives, daughters, uncles and his illustrious companions left the world whilst engaged in the most noble work and effort of uplifting the religion of Islam. Despite the Prophet’s deep love for them, he did not on any single occasion commemorate the innovative custom of inviting people on different intervals to recite the Qur’aan for Isaal-e-Sawaab. Concerned and beloved ones should recite Qur’an or perform any act of virtue, i.e. give charity make Dua etc. with sincerity and gift it to the deceased. That is closer to the Sunnah and more beneficial to the deceased than performing an act of Bid’ah which is of no benefit to the deceased, thus, defeating the actual purpose.”
- Thirdly, these ceremonies are not a source of comfort for the family of the deceased, rather it is a burden upon them and a waste of time, money and other valuable resources. The family members don’t even get time to morn their beloved as they are pre-occupied with all these preparations. Furthermore, the family is deceived into believing that such ceremonies bring benefit to the deceased. The grief and sorry of the family can be lessened by doing those actions which are of benefit to the deceased. If however, the family members insist on such innovative ceremonies, then it is not permissible to participate in any way whatsoever as there is no obedience to any creation if it involves disobedience to the Creator!
- Fourthly, in these gatherings there is a lot of eating, drinking and feasting. This action is very thoughtless, insensitive and inconsiderate as feasting are for times of happiness and joy e.g. weddings (Walima), birth of a child (Aqeeqah) Eid etc. How is it that when a loved one dies his family and friends commemorate his death by feasting? It is as though they become so overwhelmed with joy and happiness upon his death. This action of theirs is the height of sheer ignorance, even animals don’t behave towards their dead in this manner. May Allah ﷻ guide and protect us!
- Fifthly, these innovative gatherings are associated with other evils such as free-mixing, neglecting the laws Hijab, forsaking of Salah, correspondences between strange men and women and other acts detested by the Shariah. These gatherings are a complete waste of time, money and effort. If the money and food is given to the poor and needy with the intention of Isaal al-Thawaab then the deceased would be benefited, by the will of Allah ﷻ. Those involved in these types of innovations are often negligent of Salah and Fasting and other religious obligations during his/her lifetime. Therefore if one really wants to benefit the deceased he can offer to pay Fidyah for his missed Fast, Salah and performs those acts endorsed by the Shariah.
- Sixthly, these Three-Days, Forty-Days and One-Year ritual ceremonies after death are practices of the disbelievers and has no basis in Islam. Christians believe that Jesus, after being allegedly crucified and killed on the cross on Good Friday was resurrected on the third day i.e. Easter Sunday. They believe that his soul roamed the earth and appeared amongst his companions for a period of forty days. Thereafter on the fortieth day he allegedly ascended to the heavens. Furthermore, they believe that the soul of a dead person roams about as Jesus allegedly did and on the fortieth day the soul will be assigned a place, wherein it will await the Day of Resurrection. Thus they engage themselves in ritual (prayers) for a period of forty days. Similarly, are the beliefs of the, Hindus.
How can a person believing in the Oneness of Allah ﷻ and the Last Day indulge himself in such reprehensive actions that bring about the displeasure of Allah ﷻ. The Prophet ﷺ warned against such people. He said; You will certainly follow the ways of those who came before you hand span by hand span, cubit by cubit, to the extent that if they entered the hole of a lizard, you will enter it too We said: “O Messenger of Allah, (do you mean) the Jews and the Christians?” He said: Who else?
NB: If these ceremonies are staged and observed on days other than the customary third, fortieth and yearly the ruling will be the same (i.e. strictly prohibited)
- Seventhly, the Shariah strongly warns against innovations in religion and its severe repercussions. Allah ﷻ mentions in the Quran: “and whoever opposes the Messenger after guidance has become clear to him and follows other than the way of the believers, We will give him what he has taken and drive him into Hell, and evil it is as a destination”. (4:115).
The Messenger of Allah ﷺ said; “beware of newly invented matters, (in religion) for every newly invented matter (in religion) is an innovation, and every innovation (bid’ah) is misguidance, and all misguidance is in the fire of Hell”. As Muslims, we are commanded to adhere to Book of Allah ﷻ and the Sunnah of His Messenger ﷺby following the footsteps of the rightly guided scholars. As for the deviated Scholars and Imams, their actions do not represent Islam nor depict the Sunnah of the beloved Prophet ﷺ.
- Eighthly, the affairs of the soul viz. what happens to it after death, where does it go, what benefits it etc. are all matters of the unseen. The belief of a Muslim regarding these affairs are restricted to what Allah ﷻ and His Messenger has taught us. It is a grave sin to attribute to the Shariah that which it is free from. Allah Ta’ala mentions in the Quran: Say! (O Muhammad) My Lord has only prohibited indecencies, those of them that are apparent as well as those that are concealed, and sin and rebellion without justice, and that you associate with Allah that for which He has not sent down any authority, and that you say against Allah (His religion) what you do not know.
Allah ﷻ has placed ‘attributing to Him that which he is free from” after Shirk in sequence to show it severity.
NB: It is not permissible to stage these ceremonies even if the deceased made Wasiyah (bequest) for it. If it was undertaken by the family members of the deceased without the consent of the deceased then those family members will be sinful and not the deceased.
NB: If such innovative practices are prevalent in one’s family or the society then it is incumbent that one expresses his disapproval whether in written or orally.
And Allah Ta’āla Knows Best
Mufti Kaleem Muhammad
Darul Iftaa, Jaamia Madinatul Uloom (Trinidad)
 Excerpt from Mufti Desai (db)
This answer was collected from Fatwa-tt.com, which is operated by the Darul Iftaa of Jaamia Madinatul Uloom (Trinidad and Tobago) under the advice and guidance of Mufti Ebrahim Desai (Daamat Barakaatuhum) of South Africa.