How the living may help the dead
by Imam 'Abdallah Ibn 'Alawi al-Haddad
Rady Allahu 'Anhu
Translated by: Dr. Mostafa al-Badawi, Madina
Translated by: Dr. Mostafa al-Badawi, Madina
from The Lives of Man
Praying for the dead, asking forgiveness for them, and giving charity on their behalf are some of the things God causes the dead in their graves to benefit from and be protected by. There are many hadiths about this, and many fine and virtuous people have witnessed it in their dreams. Sa'd ibn 'Ubada, may God be pleased with him, once said to the Messenger of God, may peace and blessings be upon him: 'My mother's soul departed suddenly, and had she been able to speak she would have given alms. Would it bring benefit to her if I did it on her behalf?' 'Yes!' he replied. So he dug a well (for people to take water from) and said: 'This is on behalf of Sa'd's mother.'
And another man said: 'O Messenger of God! My parents have died; is there anything left with which I may be good to them?' And he replied: 'There are four things: praying and asking forgiveness for them, carrying out their promises, being good to their friends, and giving proper attention to those kinship bonds which could have only be attended to by them.'
And the Prophet said, may peace and blessings be upon him: 'Were it not for the living the dead would have been doomed'; in other words, because of the prayers and requests for forgiveness and for mercy which they receive.
And he said, may blessings and peace be upon him: 'My Nation is a nation covered with mercy. Its members enter their graves with sins like unto the mountains, and leave their graves having been forgiven because the living have asked forgiveness for the dead.'
It is related that the gifts of alms, prayers, and Qur'anic recitation sent by the living to the dead reach them carried by the angels on plates of light, and adorned with silk handkerchiefs, and they say to them: 'This is a gift from so-and-so', and in this way they find joy and delight.
A dead man was once seen in a dream and, upon being questioned about his state, said that he had been greeted by an angel who attempted to burn his face with a flame held in his hand. But one of the living said: 'God have mercy on so-and-so!' -and the flame went out.
One of the greatest things which one may offer to the dead is to recite Qur'an and send on the reward for it. This is of great benefit and baraka. The Muslims have agreed on this everywhere throughout the ages, the majority of scholars and virtuous people have recommended it, and there are hadiths to confirm this. Although, these hadiths have weak chains of transmission, there is a principle, as the hadith scholar al-Suyuti (may God show him His mercy) has said, that: 'Weak hadiths may be acted upon when they indicate acts of goodness.' And these are indeed acts of goodness.
All the Qur'an is blessed and beneficial, but the most beneficial thing to offer to the dead is Surat al-Ikhlas eleven times, and this has been seen in many blessed dreams. Each person should recite this noble sura the said number of times, either each night, each day, or more, or less, or even only on Thursday night, and offer this reward to his parents, teachers and all those who had rights over him.
He must not forget his dead ones when he prays, asks forgiveness, or gives alms, lest he in turn be forgotten after his death, for the one who remembers is remembered, and the one who forgets is forgotten. Benevolence goes ahead of you, and God allows not the reward of those who have done good to be wasted. (18:30)
You should know that it is recommended to visit graves. The Messenger of God, may blessings and peace be upon him, permitted this after having at first forbidden it. It contains benefits both for the living visitor and the dead person who receives the visit. The Prophet said, may peace and blessings be upon him: 'Visit graves, for they remind you of death.' And: 'I used to forbid you to visit graves, but now you should visit them. They render one able to do without the things of the world, and remind one of the Hereafter.' He also said: 'No man visits the grave of his brother and sits by it but that he (the dead man) finds solace in this, having his spirit restored to him until the visitor departs.' And he said: 'A dead (person) in his grave is never more comforted than when those that he loved in the world pay him a visit.'
When a visitor enters the cemetery or passes it by he should say: 'Peace be on you, O place of believers. We are granted respite until tomorrow. That which you were promised has come to you, and we will, God willing, rejoin you. You are our predecessors and we are your followers. I ask God to give us and you well-being. O God, forgive us and them!
It is recommended to visit the cemetery on Thursday night, Friday, Friday night until sunrise, and on Monday, for it is said---and this is supported by various narrations---that the spirits of the dead return to their graves at those times.
The visitor must ask for forgiveness and mercy for them, read whatever Qur'an he can and make over the reward to them; he should remember that soon he will go to the same end, and learn the lessons to be drawn from their condition.
When he visits the graves of his parents, relatives, or anyone else who had rights over him, he must sit with unhurried serenity, pray for them, and ask abundantly for forgiveness, for they rejoice at this, and are glad. When he visits the graves of righteous people he should pray in abundance, for prayers are answered at many such places, as has often been experienced. The tomb of Imam Musa al-Kazim, the son of Imam Ja'far al-Sadiq, is known in Baghdad has the 'Proven Medicine', that is, for prayers to be answered and worries to be relieved, and so is the tomb of Ma'ruf al-Karkhi, also in Baghdad. Some of the noble house of the 'Alawi Sayyids used to sit at the tomb of our master al-Faqih al-Muqaddam for such long periods, in the heat of the sun, that sweat could have been wrung from their clothes, while they, because of their profound concentration in prayer, were unaware of this. This is reported of Shaykh 'Abdallah ibn 'Ali and others.
Source: Imam 'Abdallah ibn 'Alawi al-Haddad, Sabil al-iddikar wa'l i'tibar bima yamurru bi'l insan min al-a'mar,(The Lives of Man), translated by Dr. Mostafa al-Badawi, The Quilliam Press, London, England, 1411/1991, p. 45-48