Ruling on gathering for offering condolences
We wrote to you two years ago about establishing a house for offering or receiving condolences in the south of Jeddah without recitation of the Glorious Qur’an in it. There is no house for this purpose, contrary to the north of Jeddah, in which a house for this purpose was built two years ago on the hand of Shaykh Muhammad ‘Awad ibn Ladin (may Allah have mercy upon all people). The reason behind building a house for offering or receiving condolences is that many families live in small flats of only two or three rooms. When a member of the family dies, the flats cannot accommodate those who come to offer condolences to their male or female relatives and neighbors besides the bereaved family. Thereupon, we thought that a house would serve this purpose as a pious act intended to please Allah. We referred this question to your honor to examine it and guide us to what is appropriate.
Every act done for the Sake of Allah (Exalted be He) should agree with what comes in the Book of Allah or the authentic sayings, acts or approvals of the Prophet (peace be upon him). A person is rewarded when offering condolences because he or she is soothing the pain and sorrow of the bereaved family and through supplicating for them. The etiquette of offering condolences to the bereaved family was authentically reported in the Sunnah (acts, sayings or approvals of the Prophet) of the Chosen Prophet (Muhammad, peace be upon him), the deeds of the Companions and the Four-Rightly Guided Caliphs (may Allah be pleased with them all).
It was reported that the Prophet (peace be upon him) offered condolences to a daughter of his when her child died saying: “To Allah belongs what He took and to Him belongs what He gave. Every thing is recorded with Him for an appointed term.” Also, he commanded her to show patience and Ihtisab (confident anticipation of Allah’s Recompense).
It was related by Al-Bukhari and Muslim. It is also permissible to supplicate by any other Mashru’ (Islamically lawful) Dua’ (supplication) reported from the Prophet (peace be upon him) like: “May Allah soothe your grief, compensate your suffering and grant you a better substitute.” This is based on what was reported on the authority of Um Salamah who said: “I heard the Messenger of Allah (peace be upon him) saying: “Whomever is inflicted with misfortune and then says: ‘Inna Lillahi wa Inna Ilaihi Raje`un [Truly to Allah we belong and truly, to Him we shall return] and then says: ‘O Allah, reward me because of my misfortune, and bestow on me a better substitute,’ then Allah will reward him because of his misfortune and will bestow on him a better substitute.’” Umm Salamah said: “When Abu Salamah died, I said what the Messenger (peace be upon him) ordered me, so Allah (Exalted be He) bestowed on me a better substitute; the Messenger of Allah (peace be upon him).” (Related by Muslim)
Condolences are offered to the deceased’s guardian at home, in the street, in the market or at work. It was not narrated that the Prophet (peace be upon him), his revered Companions, the Four-Rightly Guided Caliphs or an Imam (an initiator of a school of jurisprudence) appointed a time or a place to receive condolences or gather people for this purpose. If doing this is a good deed, the Prophet (peace be upon him) would have necessarily done it. He (peace be upon him) did not appoint a place or a time to receive condolences about his uncle, Hamzah ibn ‘Abdul-Mutalib, and his cousin, Ja’far ibn Abu Talib, who were killed, or his children Ibrahim and Zaynab and other virtuous Companions who died in the era of the Prophet (peace be upon him). He himself died afterwards and despite the deep love for him in the hearts of the Muslims and the Companions in particular, they did not gather to receive condolences.
If gathering for condolences had been Mashru’, they would have gathered for this purpose. Also, Abu Bakr, ‘Umar, ‘Uthman and ‘Ali as well as the Mothers of the Believers and other Companions died; however, it was not known that anyone appointed a place to gather the people in it to receive condolences. This proves that gathering for the purpose of receiving condolences, and preparing food and drink for the attendants is a baseless Bid’ah (innovation in religion) which should be fought and denied. Whoever does it incurs sins.
When this was done in the late generations, the revered Companion Jarir ibn ‘Abdullah Al-Bajaly commented: We (the Companions of the Prophet) considered gathering for the purpose of visiting the bereaved family and preparing food after burying the deceased, to be acts of wailing.” It was related by Imam Ahmad through a good Isnad (chain of narrators).
We identify it as a Bid`ah when a place or time is specified for this purpose and also, when bringing lights, readers of the Qur’an, and food and drinks for the bereaved family. We come to say that it is not permissible to establish a house for the purpose of offering or receiving condolences whether it is paid for or free.
May Allah grant us success. May peace and blessings be upon our Prophet Muhammad, his family, and Companions.
Date: Muharram 3, 1442 AH
Source: Fatawa Al-Lajnah Ad-Daimah no. 14705
Shaykh Abdul-Aziz Bin Baz
Shaykh Abdul-Razzaq al-Afify