Esaal e Sawaab
To put simply, Esal e Sawab is nothing other than to ask Allah for the forgiveness of our sins, and to raise the spiritual status of the deceased. This may be achieved through various practices, such as the offering of du’as [supplications], to recite the Qur’an, to offer Qurbani [at Eid al Adha], and also, to perform a compulsory Hajj [fard] on the behalf of the deceased.
As this chapter will seek to demonstrate, Insh Allah, by using the Qur’an and the Sunnah as evidence, and by examining the fatwawa’s of the scholars of Islam, we shall indeed discover that this is not an innovative practice [bid’a], but something that has been practiced by Muslims throughout the centuries, and secondly, which is permissible.
Evidence from the Qur’an
Allah (Almighty.) has ordered the Muslims (believers) that you pray for your parents as follows:
O’ My Lord [Allah (Almighty.], have mercy on my parents like they have bought me up through my childhood.
(Surah Isra, Verse 24)
Allah (Almighty.) has praised those Muslims who ask for forgiveness of the deceased. They ask for forgiveness in the following manner:
O’ Allah (Almighty.) forgive us and forgive our Muslim brothers and sisters who have passed away.
(Surah Hashir, Verse 10)
The above mentioned verses demonstrate that if anyone prays on behalf of another person, the latter will receive the [spiritual] benefits – Allah Willing. This also demonstrates that if it was the wrong action Allah would not have ordered us to pray for other people, nor would He have stated that those who ask for forgiveness for the deceased, receive praises from Allah.
Evidence from the Sunnah
Imam Bukhari and Imam Muslim write that:
A man came to the Prophet Muhammad [May Allah bless Him and grant Him peace] and said ‘My mother has suddenly died and she did not leave any will, but I suspect that if she did that then she would have told me to give something to charity. Now if I offer something in charity on her behalf, will she get the reward?’Prophet Muhammad [May Allah bless Him and grant Him peace] said ‘Yes’. Then the man said that I make you, the Prophet, as my witness, that I offer my garden full of fruits to charity.
(Bukhari Muslim, Chapter Al-Wasiha)
This hadith, as can be clearly read, proves that to offer a charity on behalf of the deceased will result in the deceased obtainig a benefit.
Imam Bukhari writes that:
Prophet Muhammad [May Allah bless Him and grant Him peace] has said, The status of the deceased is raised(during their time in the grave), and the deceased ask Allah (Almighty.) why has this happened, Allah (Almighty.) replies that your son has prayed for your forgiveness. (Al-Adab, Al-Mufid Chapter Excellency of the Parents by Imam Bukhari)
From this particular hadith, it can be understood that not only charity, but the offering of prayers (making duas) and the giving of alms, will also benefit the deceased.
After providing evidence from the primary and secondary sources, we shall now move onto the evidences provided by some of the scholars on this topic.
Hafidhh Ibn Taymiyyah writes:
From the authentic Hadith, there is evidence pointing out that the deceased person will gain rewards from all the good deeds carried out on his/her behalf by others. Some people raise the objection that a person can only gain reward from their own actions, and refer to the Qur’an [for evidence]. This is not correct. Firstly, because a Muslim recieves the reward of those deeds that he /she has never done themselves [for example]: like Allah says in the Qur’an that the Angels of the Throne of Allah, glorify Allah and ask for forgiveness on behalf of all the Muslims. It is also evident from the Qur’an: [that] Allah (The Almighty) ordered Prophet Muhammad [May Allah bless Him and grant Him peace] to pray for his Ummah, since his du’a is the peace of mind for the Ummah. In the same way the d’ua is offered in the funeral prayer, also when visiting the grave and offering d’ua for the deceased.
Secondly, we know that Allah (Almighty.) rewards us through the deeds of other people, which are carried out on our behalf. An example is where the Prophet Muhammad [May Allah bless him and grant him peace] said “Whenever a Muslim prays for other Muslims, Allah (Almighty.) appoints an Angel to say Amin”, i.e., the angel asks Allah (Almighty.) for the acceptance of the prayer. Sometimes Allah (Almighty.) blesses the participants of the funeral prayer in response to the prayer from the deceased and vice versa.
(Mujmua Al-Fatawa vol:7, page 500 & vol:24, page 367) Published by Hafidhh Ibn-e-Taymiyyah in Saudi Arabia
Hafidhh Ibn Qayyam writes:-
“If a Muslim recites Qur’an, performs Hajj, offers du’a, gives in charity on the behalf of the deceased, then the deceased gets the benefits of it. Some innovators say that the deceased do not get any such reward, which is wrong according to the authentic Hadith. The proof is in the Qur’an that Allah (Almighty.) has praised those who ask for forgiveness for their Muslim brothers. Authentic Hadith proves that Prophet Muhammad [May Allah bless him and grant him peace] replied to a question saying that to offer alms on behalf of a deceased person earns benefit. Some individuals suspect that the earlier Muslims did not do Esal-e-Sawab. This is because of their own ignorance or lack of knowledge. The earlier Muslims did not do these to show off. The Prophet Muhammad [May Allah bless him and grant him peace] himself gave permission to offer Alms, so it is right to say that Esal-e-Sawab is right. The ayah in the Qur’an which states that only the own deeds are rewarded, means that he is righteous to get rewarded, which means that he is righteous to receive reward, but a present from someone else is also rewarded to the deceased by Allah (Almighty.).
(Kitab-ur-Rooh; by Hafidhh Ibn-ul-Qayyam Chapter 16)
Qadi Shawkani writes:
According to the Sunni faith, a deceased receives rewards from others praying, performing Hajj, offering Alms, but the “Mutazala” refuse to accept this. if it is wrong to offer these to the deceased, then Islam would not have allowed us to say “Salaam” (peace be to you) to the deceased when visiting or entering the graveyards. (Nal-Al-Autar, chapter: Janaiz by Qadi Shawkani).
These above references prove our argument for Esal-e-Swab and that the suspicion that people harbour in that it has no basis in either the Qur’an or the Sunnah, is not true.
Origins and Development
The origin of Esal-e-Swab is in the Qur’an but it is carried out in different manner in different communities. For example, to preach Islam to invite others to the Deen is proven but the methods are different for different situations. For example Islamic circles are held on Saturday’s or Sunday’s some but it is not mentioned in the Qur’an or Hadith that they should be held on these evenings. In the same way, the origin of Esal-e-Swab is in the Qur’an and Hadith and to call it an innovation is not right. Now we will discuss a few things concerning with Esal-e-Swab to which according to some people are, innovations
1) When a person dies, Muslims offer Alms, “Sadaqa”, on his behalf and pray in congregation. In these gatherings Islamic teachings are preached; This serves as a way to preach or spread Islam.Through these gatherings, the deceased receive benefit because Muslims pray for his/her fogiveness and others get knowledge of Islam. The poor get benefit from these Alms or charity. As you can see if you look at it from any angle, it is not an innovation.
2) Some people raise the question that a day should not be fixed for this, in that fixing such a day is “Haram” in Islam. The answer to this question is that “fixing a day” is Haram, Esal e sawaab will be haraam if it is said that outside of this day it will not be Esal-e-Sawab, (like Qurbani, Hajj and Salaah times are fixed), but Esal-e-Sawab on a fixed day is just for convenience of relatives and friends for “Du’a”. Like any Islamic conference, the date of it is fixed in advance. Alternatively, like Salaah “Jamat” time is unlike fixed. No one can become an innovator because of this. in the same way, to fix a day for “Du’a” for the deceased is not an innovation.
In Islam is it permissible for a person to fix a time, or date for voluntary (Nafal) prayer?
Imam Bukhari writes one day after the Fajar prayer, the Prophet Muhammad [May Allah bless him and grant him peace] asked Bilal [May Allah bless him and grant him peace], tell me what good deeds you do because I heard your foot steps in Jannat. Bilal replied the only thing I do is after I make Wudu I pray Nafal how much Allah (Almighty.) wills me to do.
(Bukhari: Chapter of Salaah)
Hafidhh Asqalani writes in his commentary on this Hadith. We can understand from this Hadith that it is permissible for a person to fix a time for his/her voluntary prayer. (Fath-ul-Bari Book of Salaah)
There is a prayer (Du’a) said for the deceased for this we can fix a time that suits our self. We can give charity for them, keep fast for them and also we can get together and read Qur’an for them. For the people who get together and read Qur’an, we could be hospitible by providing for them by giving food and drink. This is all done with the intention of Sawab (blessings). For example, when Islamic circles are held, there are usually refreshments held after and this is carried out with the intention of blessings. This is one way of doing Esal-e-Sawab. There are many other ways of doing Esal-e-Sawab. One of them is urs.