Q. My father passed away about two weeks ago. I wanted to know when me or my family members go to his grave, is he able to hear us and what we are saying to him? And if not is there any way we can have him hear what we say? Please respond promptly because I really want to now because I think maybe it will help me with the pain I’m dealing with.
Ans. Praise be to Allah
The principle is that the dead do not hear the words of the living because Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala says (interpretation of the meaning), “… but you cannot hear those who are in graves.” [Surah Fatir: 22] and “Verily, you cannot make the dead to hear…” [Surah al-Naml: 80]
Perhaps the psychological motive for your wishing that you father could hear you is an attempt to do something to re-establish the communication that has been cut, in order to alleviate the pain you are feeling. But you should understand, my sister, that Islam has explained what actions on the part of the living may benefit the dead, and what may reach them in their graves.
The Prophet salAllahu ‘alayhi wa sallam said, “When a person dies, all his deeds come to an end except three: sadaqah jaariyah (ongoing charity, e.g. a waqf or endowment), beneficial knowledge (which he has left behind), or a righteous child who will pray for him.” [at-Tirmidhi #1376]
The most important thing that will benefit your father after his death, and that you can do for him now that he is in his grave, is to strive to pray for him and ask for forgiveness and mercy for him, and for Paradise and salvation from the Fire, and other good and beautiful du’as (prayers).
Prayers for forgiveness offered by both sons and daughters of the deceased bring great benefits, as the Prophet salAllahu ‘alayhi wa sallam said, “A man’s status will be raised in Paradise and he will ask, ‘How did I get here?’ He will be told, ‘By your son’s du’as (prayers) for forgiveness for you.’” [Ibn Maajah # 3660; see also Saheeh al-Jaami’, 1617]
Another thing that may reach the deceased is sadaqah (charity) given on his behalf, because ‘Aa’ishah radhiAllahu ‘anha reported that a man said to the Prophet salAllahu ‘alayhi wa sallam, “My mother has passed away, and if she could have spoken, she would have given something in charity. Will she receive a reward if I give something on her behalf?” He said, “Yes.” [Bukhari, Fath, 1388]
Ibn ‘Abbas radhiAllah ‘anhu reported that the mother of Sa’d ibn ‘Ubadah radhiAllahu ‘anhu died when he was away from her. He said, “O Messenger of Allah, my mother has died and I am away from her. Will it benefit her anything if I give in charity on her behalf?” He said, “Yes.” He said, “Then I ask you to be my witness that I am giving my garden al-Mikhraaf (so called because it bore so many dates) in charity on her behalf.” [Bukhari, Fath, 2756]
Abu Huraira radhiAllahu ‘anhu reported that a man said to the Prophet salAllahu ‘alayhi wa sallam, “My father has died and left money behind. He did not make a wasiyyah (a will); will it expiate for his sins if I give some of it in charity on his behalf?” He said, “Yes.” [an-Nisaa’i]
Sa’d ibn ‘Ubadah said, “I said: ‘O Messenger of Allah, my mother has died. Should I give charity on her behalf?’ He said, ‘Yes.’ I asked, ‘What kind of charity is best?’ He said, ‘Providing water.’” [an-Nisaa’i]
Other deeds that may also benefit the deceased are Hajj and ‘Umrah on their behalf after the living person has first performed Hajj and ‘Umrah on his or her own behalf.
‘Abdullaah ibn Buraydah reported that his father radhiAllahu ‘anhu said, “While I was sitting with the Messenger of Allah salAllahu ‘alayhi wa sallam, a woman came to him and said: ‘I gave my mother a slave-woman in charity, and now my mother has died.’ He said: ‘You have got your reward, and your right of inheritance has brought your gift back to you.’ She said, ‘O Messenger of Allah, she still had one month to fast – can I fast it on her behalf?’ He said, ‘Fast it on her behalf.’ She said, ‘She never went to Hajj – can I perform Hajj on her behalf?’ He said, ‘Perform Hajj on her behalf.’” [Muslim # 1149]
This shows that it is also permissible to fast on behalf of the deceased.
Another thing that may benefit the deceased is to fulfill their nadhr (vow), because Ibn ‘Abbas radhiAllahu ‘anhu reported that a woman came to the Prophet salAllahu ‘alayhi wa sallam and said, “My mother made a vow to perform Hajj but she died before she could do it. Can I perform Hajj on her behalf?” He said, “Yes, perform Hajj on her behalf. Don’t you think that if your mother owed a debt you would pay it off?” She said, “Yes.” He said, “Then pay off what is owed to Allah, for Allah is more deserving of having vows fulfilled.” [Bukhari, al-Fath, 7315]
Another thing that may benefit the deceased is if his relative devotes a share to him of a sacrifice he offers. When the Prophet salAllahu ‘alayhi wa sallam offered a sacrifice, he said, “In the name of Allah, O Allah, on behalf of Muhammad and the family of Muhammad.” [Muslim, no. 1967] – and the family of Muhammad included both the living and the dead.
You should also know that keeping yourself busy with praying for your father is more important and better for you, and more beneficial to the deceased, than thinking about whether he can hear your voice. So try to do whatever will be of benefit both to him and you. You and your family should avoid forbidden innovations (bid’ah) such as marking the fortieth day after death, or the passing of one year since the death, or gatherings for reciting al-Fatihah (the first Surah of the Qur’an), doing forbidden acts at graves, and so on, deeds which are done by those who are ignorant and are imitated by others.
I ask Allah to forgive your father and have mercy on him and on all the deceased Muslims, for He is the Forgiving, Most Merciful.
Sheikh Muhammed Salih Al-Munajjid