Salat al-Janaza `ala al-Gha’ibin

(FUNERAL PRAYER IN ABSENTIA)

Is it permissible or not to perform the funeral prayer for all absent Muslims indiscriminately?

What about Albani’s statement: “It [funeral prayer over every Muslim in absentia] is among the innovations in religion of which none doubts among those who know the Sunna of the Prophet e and the school (madhhab) of the Salaf”?[1]

What is the position of the scholars of Ahl al-Sunna on this issue?

SALAT AL-JANAZA `ALA AL-GHA’IBIN IS PERMITTED FOR ONE AND ALL

It would be enough for one to know that the Salaf had more than a single madhhab to realize the strangeness of Albani’s opinion cited above. It is known that al-Shafi`i and Ahmad – who were of the Salaf – and their schools permitted the funeral prayer in absentia for one and all indiscriminately. The above fatwa is all the more peculiar in light of the fact that it concludes a section of the book which begins with the author’s own declaration that “The janaza prayer is lawful over… those who died in a country which have no one to pray over them in their presence: over such, a group [sic] of the Muslims pray in absentia (Salat al-gha’ib), because of the Prophet’s prayer over the Negus (al-Najashi).”[2] He then reduces this general permission of his to a selective one whereby the prayer in absentia may be offered for some but not all. What is his proof for this?

a) First he quotes Ibn al-Qayyim’s words whereby: “It was not part of the Prophet’s guidance or his Sunna to pray on every single dead in absentia, for a great deal of the Muslims died in absentia and he did not pray over them, and it is true that he prayed the funeral prayer over the Negus.”[3]

b) Then he avers that “when the rightly-guided caliphs and other caliphs died, none of the Muslims prayed the funeral prayer in absentia over them, and if they had, the reports about it would have been transmitted from them from every side.”

Neither statement constitutes proof that the janaza in absentia for all Muslims indiscriminately “is among the innovations in religion of which none doubt among those who know the Sunna of the Prophet e and the school (madhhab) of the Salaf.” For Ibn al-Qayyim’s own school contradicts him since Ibn Qudama in the Mughni `ala mukhtasar al-Khiraqi explicitly precluded any condition to the funeral prayer in absentia: it is permissible indiscriminately of number, social status, or whether the absent ones died in a Muslim environment or not.[4] The same universality is stated by Ibn al-Jawzi before him in his book of comparative fiqh entitled al-Tahqiq fi ahadith al-khilaf in the section entitled: “The funeral prayer in absentia may be performed with the proper intention, contrary to (the opinions of) Abu Hanifa and Malik.”[5] Fiqh al-Sunna does not say otherwise.[6] Nor does the rightly-guided caliphs’ omission of something, even less that of the Caliphs who succeeded them, constitute proof that it is against the Sunna, especially when there is plain evidence to the contrary from the Prophet e himself, even on a single occasion, provided the Sunna instituted by him has not been abrogated, which it has not. At most the two purported proofs suggest that it is not obligatory to pray the janaza in absentia for every Muslim.

PERMISSIBILITY OF SALAT AL-JANAZA `ALA AL-GHA’IBIN: IMAM NAWAWI

The permissibility of performing the funeral prayer in absentia – i.e. for Muslims who died elsewhere in the world – rests on the following hadiths narrated by Muslim in his Sahih (Kitab al-jana’iz, ch. 22: “On Saying Allahu akbar Over the Remains”). They are cited with excerpts from Nawawi’s Commentary on them:

1. Abu Hurayra narrated that the Prophet e announced to the people the death of the Negus (al-Najashi) on the same day that he died, then he came outside with them to the (open air) place of prayer and said “Allah is greatest!” four times.

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