The Pakistani community in the UK uphold the tradition of Khatam – is it just a made up tradition or is there religious evidence to support any of the following: a) Khatam held 10 and 40 days after a death b) Khatam done every Thursday c) Khatam done every year on the date someone passed away. Also, should those holding Khatam serve food to attendees or just give the money as charity? If its okay, usually an extravagant feast is served, should it be simple? And should the food be for guests or the poor?
All praises belong to Allāh, the Creator Most Sublime Who is Uncreated, the One without equal, the One who created death and life that He may test who is best in doing good deeds, peace and blessings be upon all Messengers of Allāh, specifically the final Prophet, Our Master, Muhammad Mustafa ﷺ, upon his purified family, his esteemed companions, and whomsoever follows in his blessed footsteps until the last day.
When the family of the deceased arrange a gathering of remembrance that is free from prohibited acts and innovations, with the intention of charity for the deceased, this is not only permissible, but further, a source of reward for the dead and great comfort for the bereaved.
When such a gathering is arranged on the third day it is referred to as “the third”, when it is arranged on the tenth day is referred to as “the tenth”, when it is arranged on the fortieth day it is named “the fortieth” and similarly, when it is arranged annually it is referred to as “the annual”. Such names are attributed by the people and are not established within the shari’ah nor prohibited by it.
If such gatherings are arranged with sincere intentions then it is permissible. Charity as a means of reward for the deceased cannot be contested as it is established from many sound traditions. The disagreement is with regards to specifying days and singling them for gatherings. If these days are not perceived as necessary but rather arranged for the convenience of people whereby more people can attend and supplicate to Allāh and engage in worship then it is permissible.
To understand this argument better we can use the example of fixating the congregation of prayers at a specified time which is an action done within almost every masjid of the world. There is no evidence that the Prophet of Allāh ﷺ fixed the congregation prayer to a specific time, but ‘jama’at times’ are found within every masjid of every school of every sect. Fajr jama’at is established at this time through to ‘Ishā jama’at is established at this time. There is no evidence for this within the shari’ah nor is there any evidence against it. Those responsible for the various masājid fixate these times for the convenience of the people, for if the time varied for every prayer each day without prior notification the size of the congregation would be significantly less.
So understand, just as we establish jama’at times for the comfort and ease of people, without anyone questioning the legitimacy of such a practice, similarly to arrange gatherings as an act of charity for the deceased on specified days for the comfort and ease of people is permissible.
As for the food presented in such gatherings, the best practice is to feed the poor. To prepare lavish food and selectively invite rich people, which has become the norm, is a loathly practice albeit not impermissible. The best practice is to have an absolute open invitation prioritising feeding the poor with what would normally be served free from extravagance and waste.
And Allāh knows best
Answered by Ustadh Asid Shafait
Checked by Shaykh Naveed Jameel