Many people take sacrifices with them as offerings of thanks and appreciation to the grave of the pious, friends of Allah. Is this permissible?
- Making sacrifices and vows to the pious and the righteous
When a person makes a sacrifice or vow to the pious or the righteous, he is in fact dedicating the reward of these acts to them, whether or not he explicitly states this by saying: “This is for so-and-so” or “I dedicate the reward to so-and-so” or “I slaughtered this [animal] and make this vow for so-and-so”. The above statements do not denote directing these acts to other than Allah. This is similar to a person who gives out in charity and says, “I give out this charity for the sake of Allah and dedicate its reward to so-and-so.” Sa’d ibn ‘Ibadah, may Allah be pleased with him, said: “O Messenger of Allah! Umm Sa’d passed away. Which form of sadaqah is best?” The Prophet replied, “Water.” So he dug a well and said, “This is for Umm Sa’d” [Reported by Abu Dawud, al-Nisa`i and Ahmed].
Based on this, a vow or a sacrifice made to a pious or a righteous person in this sense is valid and does not constitute shirk [associating partners to Allah] as some allege. Nor is it inconsistent with Tawheed [Oneness of Allah] and sincerity in worshipping Allah Almighty, since the person making the sacrifice or vow only intends to dedicate their reward to the deceased. It is an act of worship dedicated to Allah and its reward donated to the deceased.
Kinds of Vows
At this point, it is worthy to note that there are two kinds of vows: Conditional and unconditional.
The conditional vow: Scholars maintain that this kind of vow is disliked due to the words of ‘Umar, may Allah be pleased with him, who said: “The Prophet [pbuh] forbade making vows and said, ‘It [the vow] will not avert anything but will only force the miser to give up something” [Muslim and Bukhari]. It is better for a Muslim to draw close to Allah through his pious deeds and obedience without attaching a condition to his vow.
Unconditional Vows: Vows to do an act of worship are of two kinds. They include acts which are similar in kind to an obligatory act of worship such as prayers, fasts, Hajj and so forth and they must be fulfilled according to the opinion of the majority of scholars. The other type includes acts which are not similar in kind to obligatory acts of worship, yet are meritorious. These include building mosques, joining a funeral procession, Tashmeet [asking Allah to have mercy on the person who sneezes] and so forth. These are necessary to fulfill according to the majority of scholars except for the Hanafis.
It is claimed that a vow made to a deceased is invalid due to the impossibility of him receiving the object of the vow. This is false since the intention of the person making the vow is to direct it to Allah and dedicate its reward to the deceased.
Allah Almighty knows best.
Dar al-Fatwa al-Misriyya