Question: The people have started taking liberties in the affair of condolences. So when a person dies, the people gather and food is prepared for them, and sacrifices are made. And when we say something to them, they respond: “The people are visiting us, are we not to feed them?” And when we caution them against sitting to receive condolences, they respond, “Where are we to host the people?”
The great scholar, the jurist, Ibn Uthaimīn (may Allah shower him with mercy) answered: “The condolence is not a well-wishing like a person who hosts the well-wishers. The purpose behind the condolence is that when we see a person who has been affected by a calamity that we speak to him to lessen his affliction or to console. That is the purpose of the condolence. So we say as the Prophet (ﷺ) said to one of his daughters: “Be patient for indeed to Allah belongs what He takes and to Him belongs whatever He gives, and everything with Him has a determined time.” (Sahīh Muslim 923) There is no need to gather at a house because the gathering in a house opposes what the Righteous Predecessors (the early generations) were upon, such that they would say, “We [the Companions] would consider gathering to visit the house of the deceased and making food after their burial, both to be from wailing over them.” (Ahmad, 6905 and Ibn Mājah 1/490). And wailing is from the major sins, and the Prophet (ﷺ) invoked the curse of Allah upon the woman who wails and the women who listen to her. (Abu Dawūd, 3128). However, when we hear that a person has been affected by the death of a relative or a friend etc, then we should be eager to reach them, and say, “Be patient and anticipate the reward of Allah.” As for just gathering the people together upon the death of a relative, and some may even light candles, and get chairs ready and then reciters appear and so on, then this is not permitted. The Muslims used not to do this until only recently – instead when a person died and people had finished from the burial (or janāzah) and they would see there one who was affected by a bereavement, they would console him (or her) and then return back to their families. Also if one was to meet a person for example in the marketplace, or the Mosque, they would offer condolences. But as for gatherings for that purpose, then no doubt, it is an innovation (a bid’ah), an affair that is forbidden. And this is especially so when it is accompanied by lamenting and wailing – wherein women gather together and say, “By Allah, he was like this and like that, he was the father of these children! He was the head of this household. To who now is this family, and to whom is this house?” and so on! This is forbidden lamenting. Upon the students of knowledge is to make the people aware before the floodgates are breached.” (Source: Fatāwā fī Ahkām Al-Janā’iz, page 278-279)
The Imam of Hadeeth and Sunnah, Shaikh Al-Albānī (may Allah shower him with mercy) stated: It is necessary to avoid two matters:
- Gathering to receive condolences in a specified location such as a house, or the cemetery or a masjid.
- Preparation of food by the household of the family for those coming to give condolences.
This is due to the hadeeth of Jarīr Ibn Abdillāh Al-Bajali (radiyallāhu ‘anhu) who said, “We [the Companions] would consider gathering to visit the house of the deceased and making food after their burial, both to be from wailing over them.” (Ahmad, 6905 and Ibn Mājah 1/490 – its chain of narration is authentic upon the conditions of Bukhāri and Muslim; authenticated by An-Nawawi 5/320) Ahmad Al-Wāsitī in Tārīkh Wāsit (p.108) reported it as the saying of ‘Umar Ibn Al-Khattāb (radiyallāhu ‘anhu).
An-Nawawi said: “Imām Ash-Shāfi’ī and his students held such gatherings to be disliked (forbidden). Meaning: the gathering of the family of the deceased at a house and sitting for condolences and then people come to them for that purpose. Rather they should continue their lives as normal and whenever they happen to meet, they would console them. There is no difference between men and women in the dislike (forbiddance) of gathering for it.” (Al-Majmū 5/306)
Imām Ash-Shāfi’ī (d.204H) said in Al-Umm (1/248): “I hold the Mātam (gathering for mourning and lamenting) to be disliked (forbidden), even if they do not cry, for it is a revival of grief, and is a burden on provisions, alongside conflicting with what has been stated in the narration.” It is as if he is referring to the hadeeth of Jarīr Ibn Abdillāh.
Ibn Al-Humām likewise declared the practice of hosting people after a burial at the home of the deceased and making food to be something hated and he said, “It is an ugly innovation (bid’ah).” (See Sharhul-Hidāyah 2/565)
From the deplorable innovations is to remove furnishings from the home of the family of the deceased in order to make space for the people to gather for mourning and receive condolences, and to remain in that state for seven (or three) days – and then to return back the furnishings. (See also Al-Madkhal 3/279-280)
(See Ahkām al-Janā’iz of Al-Albānī, pp. 210, 211, 320)
The term mātam is commonly used by huge numbers of people of the Sufi persuasion who regard this gathering to be a part of their tradition even though there is no proof for it and even though it contradicts the narrations.