There are basically 2 forms of Isaal-e-Sawaab:
- The conveying of the reward of charitable deeds.
- The conveying of the reward of physical deeds that do not entail wealth, e.g. Salaat, fasting, Dhikr, recitation of the holy Qur’an, Tawaaf of the Ka’abah, etc.
The first form is unanimously acceptable by the Ahlus Sunnah Wal Jama’ah. The second form is correct according to the Hanafi and Hanbali Madhab and several Shaafi’ee and Maaliki scholars as well.
As for the reward of Du’aa (which is separate from the above), there is also unanimity of the scholars in its reward reaching and benefiting the deceased. (refer al-Azkaar of Imaam Nawawi)
Hafiz ibnul Qayyim (RA) states that if one accepts the charitable form of Isaal-e-Sawaab and refutes the physical form, it would be said to him: ‘What is the proof to show that the recitation of the holy Qur’aan does not reach the deceased?’
And Allamah Qurtubi states, ‘Just as the reward of charitable deeds benefit the deceased, similarly, the recitation of the holy Qur’aan, Du’aa and Isghtifaar also do the same, because all of these are regarded as Sadaqah (charity) in Shari’ah.’ (al-Tazkirah pg.71)
He, thereafter, mentioned 2 narrations recorded in Sahih Muslim which prove that even Salaat and Dhikr of Allah (Tasbeeh, Takbeer and Tahleel) were all classified as Sadaqah by Rasulullah (Sallallaahu Alayhi Wasallam). Hence, there remains no dispute in whether the reward of Qur’aanic recital benefits and deceased or not.
Besides the above, we will now for academic reasons, mention some proofs that substantiate both forms of Isaal-e-Sawaab.
- 1. Rasulullah (Sallallaahu Alayhi Wasallam) slaughtered sheep during his farewell Hajj and made intention for himself and all those (alive, deceased and to come) who bring faith on his prophethood. (Sahih Bukhari)
- Imaam Bukhari has reported on the authority of Sayyiduna Abdullah ibn Abbaas (Radhiallaahu Anhu) that Sayyiduna Sa’ad ibn Ubaadah (Radhiallaahu Anhu) was away when his mother passed away. When he returned, he asked Rasulullah, ‘Will it be of any benefit if I give charity on her behalf?’ Rasulullah (Sallallaahu Alayhi Wasallam) replied in the affirmative. (Sahih Bukhari Hadith2762)
Hafiz ibn Hajar al-Asqalaani (RA) states in his monumental commentary of Sahih Bukhari entitled, ‘Fath al-Bari’, ‘This Hadith proves the permissibility of charity on behalf of the deceased and that the reward will reach him.’ (Fath al-Baari vol.5 pg.477 Hadith2761)
- Sayyiduna Abdullah ibn Abbaas (Radhiallaahu Anhu) reports a man once asked Rasulullah (Sallallaahu Alayhi Wasallam), ‘O Prophet of Allah! My father has passed away and he did not perform Hajj, can I perform Hajj on his behalf?’ Rasulullah (Sallallaahu Alayhi Wasallam) enquired of him, ‘If your father had any debt, would you have paid it.?’ The man replied, ‘Yes.’ Upon this, Rasulullah (Sallallaahu Alayhi Wasallam) said, ‘In that case, the Deen of Allah has more right.’ (Sunan Nasaaie Hadith26331)
- A separate incident of a similar nature has been recorded by Imaam Bukhari in his Sahih (Hadith6698). Hafiz ibn Qayyim (RA), the famous student of Hafiz ibn Taymiyah (RA), after quoting the above Ahaadith, states: ‘These quotations all concur with the fact that when the living carry out any deed on behalf of the deceased, the reward will reach him (benefit him).’ (Kitaab Ruh pg.161)
- Sayyiduna al-Lajlaaj (Radhiallaahu Anhu), a companion of Rasulullah (Sallallaahu Alayhi Wasallam), had bequested his son that after he leaves this world, he should recite the beginning and end of Surah al-Baqarah at the head side of his grave. Sayyiduna al-Lajlaaj (Radhiallaahu Anhu) then mentioned that he heard this from Rasulullah (Sallallaahu Alayhi Wasallam). (al-Mu’jamul Kabeer of Imaam Tabrani; Hafiz Haythami has regarded the narrators of this tradition as reliable – refer Majmauz-zawaaid vol.3 pg.44)
- Such has also been recorded to be the practice of Sayyiduna Abdullah ibn Umar (Radhiallaahu Anhu). (Sunan al-Kubra of Imaam Bayhaqi vol.4 pg.56). This narration has been classified as Hasan (sound) by Imaam Nawawiy and Hafiz ibn Hajar (RA). (al-Azkaar pg.212 Hadith493; al-Futuhaat al-Rabbaaniyya vol.3 pg.194)
- Allaamah al-Qurtubi [ra] states that, ‘Some of our Ulama have based the permissibility of Isaal-e-Sawaab of the recitation of the Qur’aan on the Hadith of Sahih Bukhari (Hadith216, 1361) and Sahih Muslim wherein there is mention of Rasulullah [Sallallaahu Alayhi Wasallam] placing fresh branches on 2 graves and He [Sallallaahu Alayhi Wasallam] said, ‘Perhaps their punishment will be lightened through it as long as the branches do not dry up.’ (The Ulama explain the reason for this to be the Tasbeeh that those fresh branches will recite).
Allaamah al-Qurtubi further states, ‘If the Tasbeeh of trees can benefit the deceased, then why not the recitation of the Qur’aan by a believer in Allah?’ (Al-Tazkirah pg.70)
Hafiz ibn Hajar (RA) has mentioned in a reply to a query of whether the reward of recitation of the Qur’aan reaches the deceased, that; it is Mustahabb (meritorious) for one to do this form of (Isaal-e-Sawaab) abundantly. (refer Tawdehul Bayaan li wusooli thawaabil Qur’aan of Shaykh Abdullah Siddique al-Ghumariy pg.2) Besides these there are numerous other narrations of this nature.
It thus becomes abundantly clear through the abovementioned Ahaadith that Isaal-e-Sawaab is totally permissible in all it’s forms and is in fact a very virtuous deed. This is the view of the overwhelming majority of the classical scholars (Muhadditheen and Fuqahaa) of Islam. (refer Kitaab al-Rooh of ibn Qayyim pg.153; Fathul Baari vol.5 pg.477 Hadith2761; Sharhus-Sudoor of Allamah Suyuti pgs.402, 403 Dar ibn Kathir; al-Hidaaya vol.1 pg.296-297; Fathul Qadeer vol.3 pg.65-66; Shaami vol.2 pg.243 – HM Saeed)
If after understanding the above, one still denies the validity of the physical form of Isaal-e-Sawab, then the following method can in no circumstance be refuted. And that is that after one carries out a physical form of worship (i.e. Salat, fasting, recitation of the holy Qur’aan, etc.), he should make a Du’aa to Almighty Allah that Allah, firstly, accepts this noble deed and he should thereafter ask Allah to grant the reward to so and so person. In this way, if Allah accepts the Du’aa, the reward will automatically be conveyed to that specific person alive or deceased.
This method has been prescribed by great scholars like Imaam Nawawi and Hafiz ibn Hajar so as to remove all differences of opinion. We have already mentioned that there is no doubt in the deceased benefiting from the Du’aas of the living. In a narration of Sahih Muslim, Rasulullah (Sallallaahu Alayhi Wasallam) has mentioned that one the three things that will benefit the deceased is the Du’aa of his pious children. (Sahih Muslim pg.4199)
Lastly, we would like to mention that this Mas-alah (issue) is not something connect to beliefs, instead it is a Faraaidh (secondary) issue which entails a difference of opinion as well. (Fatawa ibnus salaah vol.1 pg.149). Hence, no one can claim that either part is guilty of perpetrating an act of Bid’ah (innovation), bearing in mind that the majority of the scholars accept all forms of Isaal-e-Sawaab. (refer Kitaab al-Ruh)
The incident of Imaam Ahmad ibn Hanbal has been recorded by Imaam Abu Bakr al-Khallaal in his Kitaabul Jaami as well as in his booklet entitled, ‘Amr bil Ma’roof Wa Nahy anil Munkar, and according to this, Imaam Ahmad had approved of the recitation of the beginning and end of Surah al-Baqarah (refer Atharul Hadith of al-Muhaddith Shaykh Muhammad Awwaamah pgs.162-163)