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People here have a practice to give food to the poor after the death of one's relative in the hope that the dead will be rewarded for it, which is termed khatma food. My house also cooks food every Thursday, and the food is divided: a part is sent for khatma, and a part remains for my house to eat.

Question: Is it allowed to eat from the part of the food that is not for khatma but cooked at the same time?

I need an answer according to the Quran and Sunnah.

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Giving an answer about khatma food from the Qur'an and Sunnah is not going to be possible as the Prophet ﷺ and his companions did not practice khatma food.

During the battle of Mu'tah, Ja'far ibn Abi Talib (the Prophet's cousin) died. The Prophet ﷺ ordered his family (and other Muslims) to cook food for the family of Ja'far:

عَنْ عَبْدِ اَللَّهِ بْنِ جَعْفَرٍ رَضِيَ اَللَّهُ عَنْهُمَا قَالَ: { لَمَّا جَاءَ نَعْيُ جَعْفَرٍ ‏-حِينَ قُتِلَ‏- قَالَ اَلنَّبِيُّ ‏- صلى الله عليه وسلم ‏- اصْنَعُوا لِآلِ جَعْفَرٍ طَعَامًا, فَقَدْ أَتَاهُمْ مَا يَشْغَلُهُمْ

'Abdullah Ibn Ja'far (RAA) narrated: When we received the news of Ja'far's death; when he was killed (in the Battle of Mu'tah), the Prophet(ﷺ) said: "Prepare some food for the family of Ja'far, for what has befallen them is keeping them preoccupied."

—  Bulūgh al-Marām, Book 3, Hadith 62

We can deduct that the Sunnah of the Prophet ﷺ is that Muslims cook food for the family of the deceased during the mourning period, rather than the other way round.

In fact, some of the companions considered the practice of the family of the deceased cooking food for others as a form of wailing, and wailing may lead to the deceased's punishment in their grave (see Sunan an-Nasa'i 21/36). Note that this is based on athar (see Sunan Ibn Majah 1/6/1612) attributed to Jarīr ibn 'Abdullah al-Bajali, which is considered weak by some scholars due to Isma'il ibn Abi Khalid and Hushaim ibn Bashir, and considered authentic by others (e.g., Al-Albani). In spite of its weakness, there is no other proof that cooking food for others by the family of the deceased (a custom the Arabs had prior to Islam) was endorsed by the Prophet ﷺ or any of his companions.

As for the deceased, the rule is their deeds come to an end upon their death, save for three things:

  1. Recurring charity (e.g., sponsorship of knowledge seekers, drilling of a water well, establishing hospitals or schools, etc.).
  2. A knowledge that benefits the people (whether this knowledge is related to Islam or related to this world in general, e.g., medicine, physics, mathematics, etc., long as this knowledge's intention was Allah and Islam).
  3. A pious son that prays for the deceased.

Other than the three items above, nothing else benefits the deceased. This is based on a hadith narrated by Abi Huraira and attributed to the Prophet ﷺ as below:

عَنْ أَبِي هُرَيْرَةَ أَنَّ رَسُولَ اللَّهِ صلى الله عليه وسلم قَالَ:‏ إِذَا مَاتَ الإِنْسَانُ انْقَطَعَ عَنْهُ عَمَلُهُ إِلاَّ مِنْ ثَلاَثَةٍ إِلاَّ مِنْ صَدَقَةٍ جَارِيَةٍ أَوْ عِلْمٍ يُنْتَفَعُ بِهِ أَوْ وَلَدٍ صَالِحٍ يَدْعُو لَهُ

Abu Huraira (Allah be pleased with him) reported Allah's Messenger (ﷺ) as saying: "When a man dies, his acts come to an end, but three, recurring charity, or knowledge (by which people) benefit, or a pious son, who prays for him (for the deceased)."

— Sahih Muslim, Book 25, Hadith 20

Note that in the Arabic language, the use of word ella (Arabic: إلا) to mean "except" denotes exclusivity, i.e., these three acts count and nothing else counts.

According to Imam Al-Shafe'i (see Al-Um, Vol. 1, pp. 317-318), it is recommended for the neighbors of the deceased or his relatives on the day and night of the death that they cook food for the family of the deceased person. This is the same according to the Hanafi school (see 'Awn al-Ma'būd, Gloss 1/3132), but the Hanafis added that eating food cooked by the family of the deceased is makruh since cooking food is ordained for happy events and is considered an ugly innovation for sad events. The Maliki school (see Hashiyat as-Sāwi 1/561) and the Hanbali school (see Al-Mughni 3/496/387) are of the same opinion. Therefore, from a jurisprudence point of view:

  • Neighbors and relatives should cook food for the family of the deceased.
  • The family of the deceased may offer some of the food they received from others to their visitors during the period of mourning.
  • The practice of the family of the deceased cooking food for others and donating the reward to the deceased is an ugly innovation and a practice of jāhiliya (pre-Islamic practice). Note that some scholars considered this practice harām, rather than just makrūh. Moreover, this practice, whether done on the 4th, 10th, 40th day, weekly or annually, is also considered an innovation (see making food during the mourning period).
  • Reading the Qur'an collectively or in unison is something that neither the Prophet ﷺ nor his companions did. If one person recites the Qur'an, while others listen, then it is permitted (see ruling on reciting the Qur'an collectively).

As for the part of the food kept aside, albeit makruh to do so, the food is in itself halāl. It is strongly recommended that you advise those who practice this innovation to stop doing so, and you may even refuse to eat this food to discourage them from doing this innovation.

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    @Uma, may Allah reward you. I added some more information related to reciting the Qur'an and the 4th, 10th, 40th days, etc., practice. Please edit the answer with any corrections as you see fit. – III-AK-III Dec 22 '17 at 3:01

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