I know that it is unlawful to proclaim a person’s death. Does sending SMS messages or Internet postings informing people of someone’s death fall under this prohibition?
Sheikh `Abd al-Rahmân al-Barrâk
The issue under discussion is the public notification of a person’s death. It has been authentically related from the Prophet (peace be upon him) that he prohibited this practice. At the same time, it has been authentically related that he publicly announced the death of the Negus of Ethiopia and then offered a funeral prayer for him.
By looking at these hadîth together, scholars have derived the understanding that the prophet (peace be upon him) forbade proclamation of death that was the custom of the pre-Islamic Arabs. They used to dispatch a crier to go about among the kinfolk of the deceased and proclaim his death in a boastful, way, extolling the deceased and glorifying him.
As for merely informing people that someone has died in order that they can carry out their duties and engage in other beneficial deeds, like attending the funeral prayer, and offering help and sympathy to his family, there is nothing wrong with this. The ruling on proclaiming a person’s death really depends on the intention behind it.
We have a good example of a permissible proclamation of death is the story of the woman who used to keep the mosque clean during the time of the Prophet (peace be upon him). She had died and had already been buried when the Prophet (peace be upon him) found out about her death. The Prophet (peace be upon him) only found out about her death when he enquired after her and his Companions told him that she had died. He said: “Couldn’t you have notified me? Show me her grave.” They brought him to her grave whereupon he offered a funeral prayer for her. He then said: “Indeed these graves are filled up and dark upon their inhabitants. Allah illuminates the graves for them on account of my prayers for them.” [Sahîh al-Bukhârî (458) and Sahîh Muslim (956)]
Today, there are practices that resemble the unlawful proclamations of the times of ignorance before Islam. These practices include broadcasting the accomplishments of the deceased on the television, the radio, the papers, and even on the pulpit in the mosque. This entails many things that are prohibited and censured in Islamic Law, like boasting and exaggerating the importance of people. The deceased might very well have been a sinner. Often, much of what is said about the deceased are lies, by which the family of the deceased seeks to deceive others and afford themselves a chance to put on airs of superiority. Large sums of money are sometimes spent on broadcasting these proclamations that extol the real or contrived virtues of the deceased.
All of this is diametrically opposed to the practice of our pious predecessors, the Companions, The Successors, and those who followed them. These practices are alien to the manner in which they conducted themselves.
The best and most beneficial thing that a person can do for those who have died is to offer supplications to Allah on their behalf. Also, he should benefit them by participating in their funeral prayers, paying off their debts, fulfilling their bequests, and showing good treatment to the families that they leave behind. This good treatment includes enjoining upon the children of the deceased their duty to their parents as well as enjoining them to right conduct, to ensure that the deceased will have left behind in those children a righteous progeny who will be an extension of the deceased’s own virtues.
The Prophet (peace be upon him) said: “When a descendant of Adam dies, his deeds come to an end with the exception of three: knowledge from which others continue to derive benefit, a pious child who supplicates on his behalf, and charity that continues to bestow its benefits.” [Sahîh Muslim (8631)]
And Allah knows best.
Source: Islam Today
-- Al Arabiya Digital