What is the significance of doing Qurbani on behalf of the Prophet (Allah bless him & give him peace)? Apparently, this is a common practice within Muslims. Is it permitted, recommended or Bid’a?
This issue goes back to the legal ruling of performing good actions on behalf of the deceased and donating the rewards to them. According to the overwhelming majority of Islamic scholarship, including scholars from the four main Sunni Schools of Islamic Law, it is perfectly allowed to perform good actions and donate the reward of those acts to the deceased (isal al-thawab), and that this benefits the deceased. This includes both: 1) Acts of worship with a financial element to them (ibadat al-maliyya) such as charity (sadaqa), sacrifice (udhiya/qurbani) or pilgrimage (hajj), and (2) Solely physical actions such as praying, fasting and reciting Qur’an. In fact, there is scholarly consensus (ijma’) regarding the permissibility of donating the reward of actions with a financial element to them. (Ibn Abidin, Radd al-Muhtar; Hattab, Mahawib al-Jalil; Nawawi, al-Minhaj; Ibn Qudama, al-Mughni)
Imam Muslim has titled a section of his Sahih Collection, “The Reward of Charity on Behalf of the Deceased Reaches Him” and then relates from Sayyida A’isha (Allah be pleased with her) that a man came to the Messenger of Allah (Allah bless him & give him peace) and said, “My mother died a sudden death and did not leave a bequest in her will; I believe that were she able to speak she would have donated to charity. If I donate on her behalf, will the reward reach her?” The Messenger of Allah (Allah bless him & give him peace) replied, “Yes.” (Sahih Muslim 1004)
Imam Bukhari has titled a section of his Sahih Collection, “Performing Hajj and Fulfilling Vows on Behalf of the Deceased…” and then relates from Abdullah ibn Abbas (Allah be pleased with him) that a woman from the tribe of Juhayna came to the Messenger of Allah (Allah bless him & give him peace) and said, “My mother had made a vow to perform Hajj but was unable to do so until she died. Can I perform Hajj on her behalf?” The Messenger of Allah (Allah bless him & give him peace) replied, “Yes, perform Hajj on her behalf; if she had a debt, wouldn’t you pay it back for her? So pay off her debt to Allah, for He is more deserving of [His debts] being fulfilled.” (Sahih al-Bukhari 1754)
As such, there is nothing wrong with performing good righteous actions on behalf of the deceased and donating the reward to them. The reward will reach them and they will benefit, Insha Allah, without it decreasing the reward of the one performing the deed.
This includes performing the Udhiya/Qurbani sacrifice on behalf of the deceased such as one’s parents, grandparents, spouse, relatives, teachers, the great luminaries of Islam, Companions and family of the Messenger of Allah (Allah be pleased with them), all the Prophets and Messengers of Allah (Peace be upon them) and our beloved Messenger (Allah bless him & give him peace). In fact, there is scholarly consensus on this, since Udhiya is amongst the monetary forms of worship.
The Messenger of Allah (Allah bless him & give him peace) himself performed Udhiya/Qurbani on behalf of his Ummah and family members – both the living and deceased. (Muslim, Ahmad, Abu Dawud, Ibn Majah and others). In the narration recorded by Imam Muslim, the Messenger of Allah (Allah bless him & give him peace) laid down the ram, and slaughtered it saying, “In the name of Allah! O Allah, accept from Muhammad, the family of Muhammad and the Ummah of Muhammad.” (Sahih Muslim 1967)
Moreover, Hanash (Allah be pleased with him) relates that, “I saw Ali (Allah be pleased with him) sacrificing two rams.” I asked him, “What is this?” He replied, “Verily the Messenger of Allah (Allah bless him & give him peace) advised me to sacrifice on his behalf [after his passing], hence I am sacrificing on his behalf.” (Sunan Abu Dawud 2783, Sunan Tirmidhi 1495 and Musnad Ahmad)
Performing Udhiya/Qurbani [or any other form of Ibadah] on behalf of the Messenger of Allah (Allah bless him & give him peace) does not mean that he is in need of a favor from us; rather, it is us who benefit. Imam Ibn Abidin (Allah have mercy on him) explains in his Radd al-Muhtar that the Messenger of Allah (Allah bless him & give him peace) has the most right over us in terms of us donating rewards of good actions, as a small gesture of thanksgiving and gratitude for what he has done for us in protecting us from going astray. [Add to this the fact that he did not forget his Ummah even when offering Udhiya/Qurbani]. This is similar to reciting Salawat on him and asking Allah to increase his status over and above what he already enjoys. It is for this reason we see Abdullah ibn Umar (Allah be pleased with him) performing Umrah on behalf of the Messenger of Allah (Allah bless him & give him peace) after his passing away without being instructed to do so by the Messenger of Allah (Allah bless him & give him peace). Likewise, it is established that some of the early Muslims would perform Hajj, complete the Qur’an, and sacrifice on behalf of the Messenger of Allah (Allah bless him & give him peace). (See: Radd al-Muhtar ala ‘l-Durr al-Mukhtar 2/244)
As such, as Imam Zafar Ahmad Usmani (Allah have mercy on him) states, whosoever is capable of performing Udhiya/Qurbani on behalf of his beloved Messenger (Allah bless him & give him peace) every year should do so whether by sacrificing a small animal or one seventh of a large one. We ask Allah to enable us in doing so always, Ameen. (See: I’la al-Sunan 17/268)
Before parting, I would like to highlight three related points:
1) Performing Udhiya/Qurbani on behalf of the Messenger of Allah (Allah bless him & give him peace) is recommended (and rewarding) but not necessary. Some Muslims consider it to be necessary, and at times, look down upon those who choose not to do it! This is wrong and must be avoided.
2) The meat of the animal sacrificed on behalf of the Messenger of Allah (Allah bless him & give him peace) or any deceased person will be treated in the same way as the meat of the animal sacrificed for one’s personal Qurbani. As such, it is permitted to consume from the meat or give it to whomsoever one wishes, rich or poor, Muslim or non-Muslim. It is preferable, however, that it is divided into three parts: One part for the home, one part for relatives and friends, and one part for the poor and needy.
If Udhiya/Qurbani is performed for a deceased due to his bequest/Will (wasiyya), and it is from the deceased’s wealth, then one is not allowed to consume its meat; rather, it is incumbent to give all the meat of the sacrificed animal to the poor and needy (those who are entitled to receive Zakat).
3) It is permitted to perform one’s personal obligatory Qurbani, and intend with it donating the reward to the Messenger of Allah (Allah bless him & give him peace) or some other deceased individual. In this case, one sacrifice will be sufficient for both intentions provided the main intention is of fulfilling the obligation (wujub) of Qurbani.
However, if the main intention is to perform a voluntary (nafl) Qurbani on behalf of a deceased, then this will not be sufficient to absolve one from one’s personal obligation, and as such, two separate sacrifices will need to be done. (Radd al-Muhtar 6/335)
And Allah knows best
[Mufti] Muhammad ibn Adam
Leicester , UK