Mourning, wearing black and holding ceremonies commemorating the 40th day and annual anniversaries of the death of an individual
What is the ruling on the following:
- Mourning for a deceased person;
- wearing black for over a year;
- holding ceremonies commemorating the 40th and annual anniversaries of the death of an individual;
- completing the [recitation] of the Quran by inviting each guest to read a part and dedicating its reward to the deceased.
A widow's mourning period
God the Almighty legislated that a widow must mourn her husband as an expression of loyalty and in recognition of his right upon her. Due to the significance of the marriage bond, a widowed wife may not adorn herself, wear perfume and colorful clothes or leave the marital house after her husband's death.
In the early days of Islam, the wife mourned her husband for an entire year as a sign of sorrow and grief over his death. God the Almighty then reduced this period to four months and ten days.
He says: "And those who are taken in death among you and leave wives behind—they, [the wives, shall] wait four months and ten [days]. And when they have fulfilled their term, then there is no blame upon you for what they do with themselves in an acceptable manner. And Allah is [fully] acquainted with what you do" (Quran 2: 234).
In a hadith narrated by Umm Habiba, the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) said: "It is unlawful for a woman who believes in God and the Last Day to mourn anyone beyond three days except her husband for whom she is to mourn four months and ten days" (Bukhari).
According to the above hadith, it is not permissible for anyone other than the wife to mourn the deceased beyond three days.
It is impermissible to hold ceremonies commemorating the 40th and annual anniversaries of the death of an individual that do not differ from the ceremonies held on the day of the death of the deceased. These ceremonies are usually announced in newspapers; pavilions are erected for the occasion to receive those who wish to offer their condolences. Similar condolences gatherings are held for women during the day, during which they wail, renew sorrows and offer their condolences once again.
The prohibition of such gatherings is based on the fact that they renew sorrow and because the bereaved are put to unnecessary expenses which they may not be able to afford.
There is a scholarly consensus that the mourning period is three days and that it is disliked to offer condolences beyond that time. Scholars based their opinion on the above hadith narrated by Umm Habiba (may God be pleased with her).
Reciting the Quran
It is both lawful and recommended to recite the Quran and intend that its reward go to the deceased. Al-Sheikh al-Othmani mentions the consensus of the scholars in his book Rahmat Al-Umma fi Ikhtilaf al-A`ima: "Scholars unanimously agree that such acts as seeking forgiveness, making supplications, giving alms, making pilgrimage and freeing slaves benefit the deceased and their rewards reach them. [Likewise], reciting the Quran by their graveside is recommended."
Based on this, scholars maintain the permissibility of making pilgrimage on behalf of the deceased and donating its reward to them. This is because pilgrimage includes prayers during which the Fatiha and other chapters are recited and what reaches [the deceased] in whole reaches them in part. Therefore, the reward for reciting the Quran reaches the deceased by the will of God, especially if the reciter supplicates God to reward the deceased similarly. This should not be a matter of dispute.
God the Majestic knows best.