Can you fast on behalf of the deceased?


An Arab lady wrote to Hazrat Amirul Momineen, Khalifatul Masih Vaa that it was narrated in ahadith that if a person died and had some outstanding fasts to observe, their children could observe those fasts on their behalf. She then asked what the Jamaat’s view was in this regard. 

In his letter dated 24 May 2021, Huzooraa provided the following guidance:

“Prayer and fasting are physical acts of worship and their reward goes to the person who performs them. Therefore, praying and fasting on behalf of the deceased is not the responsibility of the bereaved children. 

“The majority of jurists, including Imam Abu Hanifarh, Imam Malikrh and Imam Shafi‘irh, do not consider it correct to observe such fasts. They also argue that fasting is a physical act of worship which becomes obligatory according to the principles of Islamic law and it cannot be delegated to another person during one’s life or after one’s death. (Al-Fiqh al-Islami Wa ‘Adillatuhu by Dr Wahbah al-Zuhayli [Damascus: Dar al-Fikr, 1985], Vol. 2, p. 681)

“As far as the recording of such narrations in the books of hadith is concerned, the scholars of hadith and its commentators have also mentioned different or opposing ahadith while interpreting these narrations. For instance, the narrations regarding fasting by the children of the deceased on their behalf are narrated by Hazrat Aishara and Hazrat Ibn Abbasra, but in the books of hadith, there is also a narration by Hazrat Aishara and Hazrat Ibn Abbasra which instructs not to fast on behalf of the deceased but to feed [the poor] on their behalf. (Fath al-Bari fi Sharh Sahih al-Bukhari, Kitab al-Sawm, Babu Mun Mata wa ‘Alaihi Sawm) 

“Likewise, there are many contradictions in the narrations of this kind by Hazrat Ibn Abbasra. In one place, for example, there is a man asking questions and in another narration, it is a woman. Similarly, there is a difference of opinion as to whether the fasts [mentioned in the narration under discussion] were the fasts of Ramadan or the fasts of vows [nazr]. Likewise, in one place the person is being asked about fasting and in another narration, he is being asked about Hajj. (Sharh Bukhari by Hazrat Syed Zainul Abidin Waliullah Shahra, Kitab al-Sawm, Vol. III, p. 630)

“Therefore, due to such contradictions, even among the muhaddithin, the scholars of hadith, there are different opinions about fasting on behalf of the deceased, but no one has declared it obligatory [wajib].

“However, doing something on behalf of the deceased that benefits God’s creation is referred to as an ongoing charity [Al-Sadaqah al-jariyah], the reward of which reaches the deceased.”

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