Can prayer be performed on behalf of a dead person who did not pray?
Fatwa No: 8041

Question

We have lost a loved one in death and we know that he did not perform the prayers. Can his family perform prayer on his behalf and can they perform each obligatory prayer once for themselves and another for him?

Answer

All perfect praise be to Allaah, The Lord of the Worlds. I testify that there is none worthy of worship except Allaah, and that Muhammad, sallallaahu ‘alayhi wa sallam, is His slave and Messenger.

With regards to a Muslim who does not pray, if he rejects the obligation of prayer and does not acknowledge it at all, he is considered a disbeliever. Muslim jurists have unanimously agreed that he who does not pray and rejects the obligation of prayer is considered an apostate. If he does not pray because of laziness or laxness, while accepting and acknowledging its obligation, Muslim jurists differed in this regard.

Abu Haneefah  may  Allaah  have  mercy  upon  him believed that he is not considered a disbeliever but should be imprisoned until he prays. Imaam Maalik and As-Shaafi‘i  may  Allaah  have  mercy  upon  them believed that he is not considered a disbeliever but should be killed (i.e. the due corporal punishment prescribed for abandoning prayer).

The famous opinion of Imaam Ahmad  may  Allaah  have  mercy  upon  him is that one who does not pray is considered a disbeliever and should be killed for his apostasy.

However, we do not know of any scholars who approved of performing prayer on behalf of a person who does not pray since, in principle, no one should perform prayer on behalf of another person. Imaam Al-Qurtubi  may  Allaah  have  mercy  upon  him commented on the verse that reads (what means): {And that there is not for man except that [good] for which he strives.}[Quran 53:39] He said that "Muslim scholars have unanimously agreed that no one can perform prayer on behalf of another person."

Allaah Knows best.

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