The Funeral Prayer in Absentia

kembalinya.jpgThis was an article that I had written immediately after the death of Shaykh `Abd al-Aziz b. Abd Allah b. Baz – may Allah have mercy on him.

I was blessed to have the honor of meeting him a few times and asking him some questions – once I also had iftar in his house in Mecca in the month of Ramadhan. My most memorable memory with him is his visit to a group of British hujjaj in the Hajj of 1997 (1417 AH). He was sitting on a sofa, and I was at his feet (literally!) with the microphone; sitting immediately to his right was Sh. Suhaib Hassan, translating, and it was my privilege to hold the mic up and transfer it between the two of them. After half an hour of keeping my arm extended upwards, it felt like it would just fall off from exhaustion, yet out of respect for the two Shuyukh I simply could not show my tiredness; neither did I feel charitable enough to hand the mic to the brothers sitting next to me. Alhamdulillah I managed to survive (arm intact!), and at the end of the lecture, due to my strategic position, I was able to kiss the Shaykh on his forehead and make du`a for him. If ever I came close to doing tabarruk with pious saints, that was it!

Two years later, in Jan of 1999, as I was preparing for my mid-term exams of my third year at the Islamic University of Madinah, the phone rang. I picked it up; a close friend of mine said salam and asked, 'Have you heard the news?' I replied in the negative, but by the tone of his voice, my heart started to beat rapidly.

He just said, 'La ilaaha illa Allah… Sh. Ibn Baaz…' and then silence. My heart felt like it stopped beating. I will never forget that day… truly the loss of an `alim is something that only the people who appreciate knowledge can understand.

The article was written a few days after his death; I have left it as it was written, unedited, despite the fact that I feel it requires some improvement in language and style.

Salaam Alaikum.

A number of people sent me queries concerning the correct opinion on praying salah al-Janaazah in absentia (on a person who is not present). The question was obviously relevant since people all over the world prayed salah al-janaazah for Shaykh Ibn Baz rahimahullah.

Before I breifly answer the question, I would like to mention the fact that this occurence (that so many millions of people prayed over Sh. Ibn Baz) is in and of itself an indication insha-Allah of the status and sincerity of the Shaykh. As some of the salaf said: The criterion between the person of sunnah and the person of bida'ah is the janaazah; meaning that Allah az wa jal blesses the scholar of the sunnah to have many people pray for his forgiveness. The janaazah of imam Ahmad was attended by more than a hundred thousand people, according to some reports, and for that time and age that is an astounding figure.

In the janaazah prayer of Sh. Ibn Baz, it was estimated that over a million people were present in the haram, and over fifty-thousand accompanied the bier to the grave. Also, all over the Kingdom, by Royal Decree, every single masjid prayed the salah on the Shaykh after salah al-Jumu'ah. I attended the prayer in the Prophet's masjid, where Sh. al-Qaasimi (the grandson of the one who compiled Majmu' al-Fatawa) gave a short but eloquent khutbah, in which he praised knowledge, and the people of knowledge, and mentioned Sh. Ibn Baz, and his qualities, and the loss that this was to the ummah. People were openly crying…

One point that the Sh. did mention, however, and I felt that this was a very important point, is that people should not despair, for there will always be good in the ummah as long as there are scholars and students of knowledge. He also emphasized the fact that the death of Sh. Ibn Baaz should cause all of us to ponder over the status of knowledge in our lives, and how important it is that all of us -each and every one of us – must do his best to try to fill the large vacuum that is left.

The point that I was trying to make was that I believe this is the first time in history where so many people have prayed over a single person – literally millions and millions of people world-wide. This not to mention the fact that people of all statuses, kings (King Fahad and the royal princes all came to Mecca to pray), dignitaries of all nationalities, scholars (Sh. Uthaymeen, Sh. Subayil,… even Qardawi came to Mecca!) and average people, the vast majority of whom had not even met the Shaykh… yet their hearts will filled with love for him, and great sadness at his death… This is something that can only come through the blessings of Allah subhaanahu wa ta'alaa, no amount of publicity, or writing, or speeches, or fatwas, can make a person achieve such a status. The only way this comes about (and this was something that Sh. al-Qasimi mentioned) is when a person sticks to the sunnah, and increases his sincerty to Allah, and makes his da'wah, to Allah, for Allah, and by the commandments of Allah. Then, and only then, will his da'wah be blessed, and the people will accept him, and love him…

Verily, the death of Sh. Ibn Baaz is something that causes the hearts to melt, and the eyes to cry, and the souls to despair… but to Allah we belong, and to Him we will return. We pray that Allah blesses us with more scholars, and helps us all to increase in knowledge. Ameen

Concerning the fiqhi question that was posed, briefly, there are two opinions on the issue. Before mentioning them, it is relevant to mention that the only occurrence in the sunnah of salah al-janaazah in absentia is when the Prophet (S) prayed for Najaashi, the ruler of Abyssinia, the same day that he died. This incident is reported in Bukhari and Muslim

The first opinion is that of the Hanafees and Malikees, and is that it is not permissable to pray over a person who is not present. Ibn Aabideen states in his famous Haashyiyah (v. 3, p. 99): “And of the conditions of the janaazah salah … is that the body be placed in front of the imam…so it is not permissable upon one who is absent (ghai'ib). As for the Prophet's prayer upon Najashi, then it is interpreted that … this was a speciality only allowed for him (khusoosiyyah)… another proof for this is that many of the Companions died during his lifetime, but it is not reported that he prayed for any of them.” al-Khaleeli says in his Matn (v. 3, p. 71 of al-Mawaahib al-Jaleel): And it is not permissable to pray for… one who is absent (gha'ib).

The second opinion is that of the Dhahirees, Hanbalees and the Shafi'ees. They hold that it is allowed to pray over a person in absentia, and claim that the prayer of the Prophet (S) over Najashi was not a speciality only for him. Imam an-Nawawi states in his Rawdat at-Talibeen (v. 2, p. 130), “And it is permissable to perform the salah in absentia.” Ibn Hazm states in his al-Muhalla (v. 5, p. 138) “And a dead Muslim is prayed over even in absentia.” The Hanbalees, however, add a condition. Ibn Qudaamah says in his Mughni (v. 4. p. 446), “And it is permissable to pray the salah in absentia… upto one month of the person's death.”

The reason for this difference of opinion is whether the prayer of the Prophet (s) over Najashi was something that was special for him or not? Those that claim that it was, say that Allah caused the earth to 'swallow up', and so the Prophet (S) could see Najashi in front of him. However, this is not authentically narrated in any hadith, so it cannot be accepted. Also, as it is well known in the science of usool al-fiqh, to claim that something is special for the Prophet (S) requires evidence and clear proof, and in this case there is none. So between these two opinions, the stronger one without any doubt is the second one, i.e., that it is allowed to pray the janaazah prayer in absentia.

However, the scholars who allowed this type of prayer themselves differed over the conditions concerning when this was allowed.There are three opinions that I have come across (if anyone comes across any more, please forward them to me).

The majority of them, and this is what the madh-hab of the Hanbalees and Shafi'ees is upon, is that there is no condition whatsoever. So, even if a person has been prayed over, it is still allowed to pray for him in another country. This is also the opinion of as-Shawkaani (Nayl al-Awtaar, v. 4, p. 63).

Some scholars, amongst them Shaykh Ibn Baaz himself, and the opinion of the Hay'at Kibaar al-Ulaama of the Kingdom, stated that this was to be done only when the person that died was of a high status, and had aided Islam, such as a just king, or a scholar. (See Fatawa al-Lajnat ad-Da'imah, v. 8, p. 418, fatwa # 5394). Shaykh Uthaymeen says of this opinion, “This is a middle opinion (between the two extreme opinions) which many modern and past scholars have chosen.” (Sharh al-Mumti, v. 5, p. 438).

The last opinion is that of Shaykh al-Islaam Ibn Taymiyyah and others, who stated that this was only to be done when a person died without having a janazah performed on him. So, for example, when a person dies in a non-Muslim country, and there are no Muslims to pray for him, then in this case the salah should be performed for him.

Now, the reason for the difference of opinion concerning these conditions is: What was the reason ('illah) due to which the Prophet (S) prayed for Najashi? Was it to show that it was permissable (which is what the first group says), and thus allowed for everyone? Was it due to the fact that Najashi was an important person (the second group)? Or, was it due to the fact that he was the only Muslim in the country, and none of the people prayed for him (the third group)?

In my humble opinion, the first opinion is the weakest. This is becuase it is well-known that many of the Companions died outside of Madinah during the lifetime of the Prophet (S), but he did not pray for any of them (to be more accurate, there are no authentic reports that he prayed for other Companions. There are some week reports that he prayed for some Companions that died outside of Madinah, cf. Nayl al-Awtar, v. 3, p. 62). Had it been something encouraged, the Prophet (S) would not have left it for no reason, especially since he was so eager to pray for his Companions. He said concerning the old, black woman that used to clean the masjid and whom the Companions buried at night without telling him, “Why did you not inform me? For verily my salah upon them is a mercy…” and he went to her grave and prayed over her. So, this shows that he would not have left the janaazah prayer upon such Companions for no reason.

Therefore, it seems as if one of the last two opinions is the correct one. Both of these opinions have very good reasons ('illah) for them. It can be said that the Prophet (s) prayed for Najashi because of his status, and to show that a person who has helped Islam (since Najashi sheltered the Muslims who emigrated to his country) should be given the honour of having janaazah performed on him in abenstia. It can also be stated that since Najashi was the only Muslim, and no one prayed for him, the Prophet (S) prayed for him.

In my humble opinion, between these two opinions it cannot be stated with one-hundred percent certainty which of the two is correct. This is because it is a matter of ijtihaad what the exact reason behind the Prophet (S) praying janaazah over Najashi was. Also, Ibn Qudaamah brings a very good point. He states (al-Mughni, v. 3, p. 336) “… they (the 'other side') state that since no-one prayed over Najashi (this was why the Prophet (S) prayed over him)…. but this is very improbable, for Najashi was the King of the Abyssinians, and he accepted Islam and openly proclaimed it, so it seems very improbable that no-one would have followed him (in accepting Islam), and (therefore) not pray over him.”

In other words, what is the evidence that no one prayed over Najashi? There are no reports to the contrary (ie., that no one prayed over him). Also, as Ibn Qudaamah points out, it does seem unrealistic that Najashi, who was so loved by his people, and who openly accepted Islam and helped the Prophet (S), would not have succeeded in converting some of his people, and thus there would have been some Muslims to pray over him. So, based on these facts, perhaps the second opinion (that it should be prayed over a person of status) is more realistic.

On the other hand, it could be argued that no mention is made of these Abyssinian converts (if they ever existed), and also there are no reports in the books of Islamic history concerning these people, and what happened to them or their progeny. Therefore, if no mention is made of them, then there is no evidence to suggest that they exist, and anyone who claims that they did must bring forth his proof! So, in light of this reason, the third opinion (that it should only be prayed over a person for whom janaazah has not been prayed) seems to be more realstic!

So, which of the two opinions is correct? Like I stated earlier, it really seems difficult to defend one over the other. (Therefore, I would advise the brothers, even if they follow another opinion, not to cause a fitnah when some people do pray salah al-janaazah over a famous person, as long as that person was one who helped Islam).

However, perhaps the second opinion has some slight weight over the third one (please note the emphasis!!!)

On what basis, though? Well, both sides put forth a statement that they use to justify their opinion.

The second group (those that say the 'person of status' condition) states: Najashi was a just Muslim ruler, who aided and helped the Muslims, and therefore the Prophet (S) prayed for him. The third group states: Najashi was the only Muslim in his country, and was not prayed over.

Now, it could be stated: The statement of the second group is an indisputable fact. All the books of history mention this. The statement of the third group, however, is not fact, and is based on circumstantial evidence. Nowhere does it state that no one accepted Islam, or that Najashi was not prayed over. These are only presumptions. and no evidence can be brought forth to support it. Therefore, since the second group is basing their opinion on an indisputable fact, whereas the third one is basing it on disputable opinion, perhaps the second group has some slight advantage in the opinion that they hold, and therefore it is allowed, even encouraged, to pray over someone who helped and aided Islam, whether the body is in front of the group, or in absentia.

And Allah subhaanahu wa ta'aala knows best!!!

Wa Salaam

PS I would be interested in hearing other opinions as well. If anyone has any other evidences, or can shed light on other perspectives, please forward them here. Also, there is no copyright on this 'article', so forward as you please.

78 Responses

  1. Amad

    SubhanAllah, he was not a person, he was a legend… that is what is amazing about Imams… they just garner this aura, a respect that is not confined to just people of ‘their ideology’.

  2. AnonyMouse

    As-salaamu ‘alaikum wa rahmatullaahi wa barakaatu,

    I’m extremely disappointed in myself that despite knowing that Sheikh bin Baz was one of the greatest scholars of our times, that I have learnt next to nothing about him.
    Subhan’Allah… I resolve to read up on his biography, insha’Allah!

    May Allah have mercy on him and enter him into Jannatil-Firdaus, ameen!
    And may Allah haver mercy on this Ummah and bless us with more great scholars like Sheikh bin Baz, ameen!

    Your little sister in Islam,

  3. Bint Bashir

    May Allah shower his mercy on the Sheikh, and make his eternal abode that of Janant al Firdous, Ameen.

    The article although the author stated could be edited, I feel that as it is alllows the reader to feel the effects of the events that unfolded. The sentiment expressed in the authors words and tone allows us to feel how the ummah cries at the loss of an ‘alim. Very touching.

  4. Abdu

    First of all, I ask Allah (SWT) to grant this blog success, and to make it a great benefit to people. May Allah reward everyone involved for their efforts.
    Secondly, MashAllah this was a very good article, I especially appreciated the in depth answer to the question about the janaza.

  5. Umm Reem

    Shaikh Bin Baz’s death was, indeed, a major loss for the entire Ummah. May Allah azzawjal grant him Jannat-ul-Firdaous, amin.

  6. Bint Amina

    He was a fountain of knowledge, may Allah ta’ala have mercy upon him and grant him Al Firdaus.

    “Verily, the death of Sh. Ibn Baaz is something that causes the hearts to melt, and the eyes to cry, and the souls to despair… but to Allah we belong, and to Him we will return. We pray that Allah blesses us with more scholars, and helps us all to increase in knowledge. Ameen”

    SubhaanAllah, how true this is and may Allah ta’ala put in his place another who may propagate the da’wah as he did. Aameen.

  7. Abu Ninja

    In my loooong journey, I was once unfortunately part of a takfeeri group who followed a so-called ‘scholar’ who would make takfeer of Shaikh Ibn Baaz (raheemaullah).

    Although in those days while I was with this group, I never made takfeer of Shaikh Ibn Baaz but must admit however that I did used to hold some feelings of animosity towards the Shaikh and warn others from reading his books, may Allah forgive me.

    Allhamdulillah one of the things that eventually led me to leave this takfeeri group was the whole issue of the takfeer made by this so called ‘scholar’ on Shaikh Ibn Baaz. Whenever he was asked as to who were the real ulamah, he would always respond with the names of Salmaan al-Oadah and Safar al-Hawali. Then one day while I was reading through Salmaan al-Oadahs website (IslamToday), I happened to come across a transcript of a discussion between Salmaan al-Oadah and a certain individual who had written in to Salmaan al-Oadah and was criticising Shaikh Ibn Baaz, even making takfeer of him. To my shock, Salmaan al-Oadah replied back to this individual asking him to cease saying such an evil thing and to go listen to his lecture titled ‘The Virtues Of Shaikh bin Baaz.’ The individual replied saying something along the lines of, “but shaikh he was the one who signed the fatwa to have you imprisoned.” Salmaan al-Oadah replied by cautioning the individual and said that in his heart he has nothing but love for Shaikh Ibn Baaz and that he was a like a father for him.

    This really shocked me. On one hand this takfeeri scholar was making takfeer of Shaikh Ibn Baaz left, right and center, and on the other hand Salmaan al-Oadah who this takfeeri scholar would refer to as one of the real scholars of the ummah today, had nothing but love and praise for Shaikh Ibn Baaz. This started me questioning other things this takfeeri ‘shaikh’ was coming out with. Then one day I stumbled upon a statement signed by the Commanders of the Mujahideen in Chechnya asking Muslim to make dua for them in the approaching month of Ramadan. In the last paragraph of this statement, the Commanders praised Shaikh Ibn Baaz by making dua for the Shaikhs grave to be filled with light, mentioning that Shaikh Ibn Baaz always showed support towards the Mujahideen in Chechnya and whenever he heard of their plight, the Shaikh would make qunoot dua for them.

    This further shocked me, as this takfeeri shaikh used to always mention how Shaikh Ibn Baaz hated the mujahideen and anyone who made jihad. Soon after, all praise be to Allah, I left this takfeeri group. I then happened to one day come across a brief biography online of Shaikh Ibn Baaz written by one of the Shaikhs students, Salih al-Munajjad. It can easily be found on the web. Whilst reading through the biography of the Shaikh, my heart began to fill up with more and more love for the Shaikh and eventually tears began to flow down my face and I started to cry. I felt so ashamed of holding bad feelings in my heart towards the Shaikh. I printed off as many copies as I could of the biography and distributed it to the brothers in my local community.

    Allhamdulillah I was fortunate that one night in my dream I had the pleasure of meeting Shaikh Ibn Baaz. I was sat in haram in Makkah reading from the mushaf, Shaikh Ibn Baaz walked past me and came and sat down in front of me leaning against one of the pillars of the sacred Masjid and started talking to me. The amazing thing was that in the dream the Shaikh wasn’t blind and could see. I woke up feeling a real joy in my heart. Without a doubt, Shaikh Ibn Baaz was one of the biggest scholars in our lifetime and his passing away was a sign that knowledge is being taken away.

    May Allah grant Shaikh Ibn Baaz a lofty place in jannah and shower him with His mercy on the Day of Judgment.

  8. Abu Eesa

    Abu Ninja- that is a very touching message and very close to my heart. I too was affected by this ‘Sheikh’ but only came to his kalam about Sheikh ibn Baaz later at which point I realised his falsehood walhamdulillah. The truth always prevails and look at the status of Sheikh Ibn Baaz and look at the status of his enemies, disgraced. May Allah guide the latter though and forgive them and forgive all the dead scholars who taught us our religion.

  9. abu abdAllah, the Houstonian

    bismillah. could you please amplify the commentary you gave about this hadith:

    …concerning the old, black woman that used to clean the masjid and whom the Companions buried at night without telling him, “Why did you not inform me? For verily my Salaat upon them is a mercy…” and he went to her grave and prayed over her.

    specifically, i have a series of questions :)
    does the hadith suggest in any way that she had not been prayed over by the sahabah, radi Allaho anhum?

    assuming the sahabah had rushed to properly prepare her, pray over her, and bury her, wouldn’t that be their normal sunnah?

    when considering the position against the ruling that janazah-absent-the-body is generally permissible, is this hadith offered (by you or anyone else) as a proof because the Prophet sull Allaho alayhi wa sallam went to the graveyard to pray for her?

    does his — sull Allaho alayhi wa sallam — doing so imply that at that time it was permissible (beyond making dua to Allah for the deceased, preferably while facing the qiblah so as to protect oneself from sin) to pray at or near graves (as in a graveyard)?

    if so, and assuming that was abrogated later, wouldn’t that make the hadith (almost) ineffective as a proof — because at one time a person could do as he did, and then after that the option disappeared?

    if not, then his prayer was other than salat-ul-janazah, right? the sunnah is to make dua for the deceased while he is being buried, and especially when the angels are questioning him. would not all of this also make the hadith ineffective as a proof?

  10. Rumey

    I thought it was at the very foundation of Islam that, in the sight of Allah, every Muslim was equal. Therefore allowing a prayer for a Mushlim (who was regarded “famous” or who had in the eyes of others “been a just king” or equally exhalted) and not allowing it for the humble pious muslim (who maybe a king /sole supplier etc. to his own family) seems to go against the very fundamentals of Islam that I hold dear.

  11. Caraspot

    Thanks so much , I will share this blog link to my Facebook account to let many people know this..! Nice article!!!

  12. Women's Boots

    SubhaanAllah, how true this is. May Allah guide the latter though and forgive them and forgive all the dead scholars who taught us our religion

  13. Anak Jaman

    im not muslim,. but in my location 87% muslimi, and i have couple muslim >.<, im realy love she :(. how tell you admin about it ?

  14. Toyota car price

    The article although the author stated could be edited, I feel that as it is alllows the reader to feel the effects of the events that unfolded. The sentiment expressed in the authors words and tone allows us to feel how the ummah cries at the loss of an ‘alim. Very touching…..

  15. tiket pesawat

    A number of people sent me queries concerning the correct opinion on praying salah al-Janaazah in absentia (on a person who is not present). The question was obviously relevant since people all over the world prayed salah al-janaazah for Shaykh Ibn Baz rahimahullah.

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