How can the prayer and fasting debt of a deceased Muslim be paid?

Such worships as fasting and the prayer are personal obligations that must be performed by every Muslim. For this reason, every Muslim can only pay this debt by performing the prayer himself and by fasting in the Ramadan himself. While he is alive, these worships cannot be performed by his relatives or by any other people in his stead. The situation is also the same after he is dead.

In one of his hadiths, Prophet Muhammad, peace, and blessings be upon him, expresses this matter as follows:
No one can fast in some others stead, nor perform the prayer in any others stead; however, one can give others meals in his name. (1)

The issue of giving others meals, as is stated in the 184th verse of Al-Baqarah Surah and in some hadiths, is giving foods to a poor person so that his hunger is satisfied; for each day of fasting that is not performed, one such person is given foods.

In a hadith narrated by Ibn-i Omar, Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him, says:
If a Muslim dies with a debt of a months fasting, let his relatives give foods so that the hunger of a poor person is satisfied each day. (2)

In another hadith narrated by Ibn-i Abbas, the Messenger of God says:
If someone gets ill in Ramadan and then dies not having fasted, in his name foods are given to other people, fasting in his stead is not done. But if his relative vows to do so, he fasts in his stead. (3)

These hadiths state that the heirs of the ones who could not fast while alive can give recompense for each fasting out of the deceaseds property. The person requests this in his will from his heirs. As this is a form of worship, it must be carried out only if the person states it in his will. If he did not state it, the heirs are not obliged to give recompense in his name. However, if they give recompense of their own accord, this is permissible and the merit and reward of it reach the person. This is optional, and counted as a gift to the person from his relatives. (4)

Recompense is allotted each for the obligatory fasting such as that in Ramadan and for the incumbent fasting such as that he vowed to fast but could not and that he began to fast as a supererogatory worship but could not complete and afterwards failed to re-fast. As is stated above, recompense is giving foods to a poor person so that his hunger is satisfied for one day or giving the price of it to the person. And this is the amount of the fitra-alms that we give in Ramadan. The scholars of the sects Hanafi, Shafi, and Maliki think in this way. As fasting is a personal worship, it would not be permissible for some other to fast in ones stead. The scholars of the three sects base their ijtihads-deriving interpretations in secondary matters based on the Quran and the Sunnat-on the hadiths we quoted above.

The scholars of the sect of Hanbeli, first of all Ahmad bin Hanbel, some tabiin-the believers who saw a believer who had seen the Prophet- and some Companions mention this hadith which passes in such hadith books as Bukhari and Muslim:
A companion came before the Prophet and said:
— O Gods Messenger! My mother died, she has the debt of one months fasting. Can I fast in her stead? Gods Messenger asked, If your mother had had debt, would you pay it back? The companion answered: — Yes. Thereupon the Prophet said, God is more worthy of being paid back. (5)

However, in this matter, it would be more appropriate to act according to the ijtihad of the majority of the scholars of the sects in which there are also the scholars of the sect Hanafi. While verses from the Quran and hadiths are given as evidence to prove that recompense is permissible for fasting, by way of comparison, it is seen as permissible by some Hanafi scholars to pay recompense for each prayer that could not be performed. In other words, if the deceased had requested in his will from his heirs to pay recompense out of his property for the prayers he could not perform, they carry out this wish. They give a recompense for each prayer. (6)

1. Nesei
2. et-Tac, 2:78
3. The same work
4. el-Ihtiyar, 1:135
5. et-Tac, 2:78
6. Nimet-i İslam, p. 964

Mehmed Paksu, The Questions Brought About By the Modern Age

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