Can we offer our condolences to non-Muslims if there is a death among them?
Alhamdulillah, praise and thanks to Allah for the many countless blessings He has blessed us all with. Blessings and salutations to the Prophet Muhammad PBUH, his wives, his family, companions and all those that follow his teachings to the day of judgement.
Discussion of Issue
Scholars ruled it permissible to offer our condolences to non-Muslims when disaster falls upon them, whether it is a death of family members or others, however, they must be among the zimmi non-Muslims and not harbi non-Muslims. This is the opinion of al-Imam al-Syafi’e (w.204H) and al-Imam Abu Hanifah (w.150H). (See al-Majmu’ Syarh al-Muhazzab, 5/275 and Hasyiah Ibn ‘Abidin, 3/140)
Al-Imam al-Nawawi (w.676H) Rahimahullah said: “It is permissible for a Muslim to offer his condolences to a non-Muslim (zimmi) and for a Muslim who has family members who are non-Muslims…” (See Raudhah al-Talibin, 2/145)
Al-Imam Ibn Qudamah al-Maqdisi (w.610H) states the opinion of al-Imam Ahmad bin Hanbal (w.241H) in his book al-Mughni; there are two opinions regarding this issue:
- First: It is unnecessary to visit or offer condolences to them. This is referring to a hadith:
لاَ تَبْدَءُوهُمْ بِالسَّلاَمِ...
“Do not salute them (Jews and Christians) first,”
Sunan Abu Daud (5205)
If even salutation is prohibited towards the non-Muslims, surely offering condolences is prohibited. (See al-Mughni. Maktabah al-Qaherah, 2/406)
- Second: Visiting them is encouraged. This is according to the hadith:
كَانَ غُلاَمٌ يَهُودِيٌّ يَخْدُمُ النَّبِيَّ صلى الله عليه وسلم فَمَرِضَ، فَأَتَاهُ النَّبِيُّ صلى الله عليه وسلم يَعُودُهُ، فَقَعَدَ عِنْدَ رَأْسِهِ فَقَالَ لَهُ " أَسْلِمْ ". فَنَظَرَ إِلَى أَبِيهِ وَهْوَ عِنْدَهُ فَقَالَ لَهُ أَطِعْ أَبَا الْقَاسِمِ صلى الله عليه وسلم. فَأَسْلَمَ، فَخَرَجَ النَّبِيُّ صلى الله عليه وسلم وَهْوَ يَقُولُ " الْحَمْدُ لِلَّهِ الَّذِي أَنْقَذَهُ مِنَ النَّارِ".
“A young Jewish boy used to serve the Prophet (ﷺ) and he became sick. So, the Prophet (ﷺ) went to visit him. He sat near his head and asked him to embrace Islam. The boy looked at his father, who was sitting there; the latter told him to obey Abul-Qasim and the boy embraced Islam. The Prophet (ﷺ) came out saying: "Praises be to Allah Who saved the boy from the Hell-fire."
Sahih al-Bukhari (1356)
According to the above hadith, it is permissible for Muslims to visit sick non-Muslims and to offer our condolences to them. (See al-Mughni. Maktabah al-Qaherah, 2/406)
Offering Condolences to the Non-Muslims
According to fiqh books, such as al-Hawi al-Kabir, al-Majmu’, al-Mughni, among the condolences that we can offer are:
- أَخْلَفَ اللَّهُ عَلَيْك، وَلَا نَقَصَ عَدَدَك : “May Allah SWT replace something better for you and not decrease anything from you.”
- أَعْطَاك اللَّهُ عَلَى مُصِيبَتِك أَفْضَلَ مَا أَعْطَى أَحَدًا مِنْ أَهْلِ دِينِك : “May Allah SWT reward you for the disaster that befalls you that is not given to anyone from among you.”
While other words of comfort that is appropriate as condolences is permissible, there are a few conditions that one must follow when offering condolences. We will share the conditions of offering condolences in the conclusion section below.
The majority of Islamic scholars ruled it permissible for Muslims to visit and offer condolences to non-Muslims. Furthermore, in certain situations, it is encouraged to visit them if there is an opportunity of maslahah for inviting them to embrace Islam and showcasing the true teachings of Islam.
However, there are several conditions of offering condolences to non-Muslims as listed below:
- There should not be any elements of religious belief (I’tiqadiyyah). The same applies to any acts that shows the eminence of their religion.
- Condolences must not be in the form of asking for forgiveness for the deceased. There is a clear prohibition for it in the Quran:
مَا كَانَ لِلنَّبِيِّ وَٱلَّذِينَ ءَامَنُوٓاْ أَن يَسۡتَغۡفِرُواْ لِلۡمُشۡرِكِينَ وَلَوۡ كَانُوٓاْ أُوْلِي قُرۡبَىٰ مِنۢ بَعۡدِ مَا تَبَيَّنَ لَهُمۡ أَنَّهُمۡ أَصۡحَٰبُ ٱلۡجَحِيمِ
“It is not for the Prophet and those who have believed to ask forgiveness for the polytheists, even if they were relatives, after it has become clear to them that they are companions of Hellfire.”
Surah al-Taubah (113)
Thus, comfort them with words of patience and remind them about the reality of life, where everything will eventually end and others.
- Show sympathy and empathy with good character, setting an example for them.
May this explanation give us understanding in practising our religion and applying it in our daily lives when a death occurs in our community.