There is a hadith from Abu Hurayrah (R) saying that the “Prophet (S) saying only three acts benefit a deceased when he dies. Those being knowledge he gave, charity he spent, or the prayers of a pious son.” I also read a hadith where Abu Hurayrah (R) prayed for a dweller of the grave by asking Allah to increase the good of a believer if he did good, and to forgive his bad if he did bad. How do we reconcile these two hadith of the Prophet (S)? Especially because some Muslims use the first hadith to ban acts on behalf of the deceased.
The Prophet himself prayed for the deceased and declared that his prayer benefited them, as in the hadith of the mosque-sweeper in Sahih Muslim.
The majority of Ahl al-Sunna consider that the Prophet’s hadith “three things remain” is not absolute. There are so many hadiths drawing lists in similar terms, such as : “Seven people will be shaded on the day of Resurrection”, and “three things of your world have been made beloved to me”, and “women are betrothed for four reasons”, and “a woman enters Paradise for three reasons”, and “the earth is cursed except for four things”, and so on and so forth. These do not have an absolute, exclusive value, but a general value. The sense is: Three MAIN acts continue to be fresh and current after one’s book is closed, and Allah knows best.
Hajj Gibril Haddad