For Muslims, death is only a passage into a new life in the hereafter. Following Islamic religious laws during life is crucial to determining your destination in the afterlife. According to Muslims, if you were virtuous in this life, you would be rewarded with a place in Paradise in the hereafter. And if you don’t, you’ll be cut off from all that’s wonderful in the world.
As a result, the purpose of an Islamic funeral is twofold: to console the bereaved and to implore Allah to have mercy on the dead. This article will further dive into the rituals that are practiced at Muslim funerals before and at the time of death, along with what a typical ceremony is like preceding and succeeding the funeral prayers:
What Do Muslims Do When Someone Dies?
In accordance with Islamic law (“shariah”), there are several etiquettes and traditions that need to be followed when someone dies or is nearing death.
The Nearness of Death
Family and close friends are required to be there when a Muslim is near death. Hope should be offered, and the dying individual should be encouraged to repeat the “shahada,” or affirmation that there is no God but Allah.
The phrase “Inna lillahi wa inna ilayhi raji’un” (“Verily we belong to Allah, and truly to Him shall we return”) should be recited as soon as death has occurred.
The eyes and lower jaw of the deceased person should be covered with a clean cloth, and a covering should be placed over the corpse. They should also make “dua,” which is similar to a prayer, asking Allah to pardon the sins of the person who has passed away.
After the Death Has Occurred
The corpse should be buried as soon as feasible from the moment of death. This mandates that planning and preparations for the burial should commence as soon as possible.
The family should contact a local Islamic community group so that they may begin helping plan the funeral and burial, advising them on how to choose a suitable funeral home, and coordinating with them.
Cleansing the Body
Both Ghusl and Kafan, the act of washing and wrapping the dead, are required before burial. Ghusl should be performed by a close relative of the same sex, albeit in the case of a spouse’s death, the husband or wife may bathe.
It’s recommended to wash the body three times. If the body still isn’t clean after three washes, you can go ahead and do more, but try to keep the total number of washes to an odd number.
The upper-right side of the body should be cleaned first, followed by the upper-left, then the lower-right, and finally the lower-left side. It is recommended that women have their hair cleaned and then braided into three separate braids.
Shrouding the Body
A white sheet should be placed over the corpse once it has been cleaned and readied. Three large, white sheets should be layered on top of each other to cover the body. It is customary to put the body on top of the bedsheets.
At this point, women should be wearing dresses that reach their ankles, do not have sleeves, and cover their heads with veils. The deceased should be positioned with their left hand on their chest and their right hand on their left, as if praying.
Once all three sheets are wrapped around the body, the sheets should be folded over the body, starting with the right side and working to the left. One rope should be knotted above the head, two around the torso, and one below the feet to keep the shroud in place.
The Funeral Prayers
Those in attendance are obligated to pray the Salat al-Janazah (funeral prayer). When praying at a mosque, it is preferable to do so in a separate prayer room or study room, or in the mosque’s courtyard, rather than in the mosque itself.
A minimum of three lines should be formed, with the male most directly connected to the deceased in the front, followed by males, then children, then women, all facing the “qiblah,” or direction of Mecca.
Extra (four) takbirs are added to the prayer, but the ruku and sujud are not performed. With the exception of a few segments, the majority of the words are spoken silently. Following the completion of the Salat-ul-Janazah, the deceased’s body should be taken to the cemetery to be laid to rest.
Proceeding with the Burial
Although traditionally, only males are permitted at the cemetery, several communities now welcome all mourners, including women. It is recommended that the cemetery be excavated at a right angle to the qiblah and that the deceased be buried on their right side so that they may face the direction of qiblah.
“Bismilllah wa ala millati rasulilllah” (“In the name of Allah and in the faith of the Messenger of Allah”) should be recited by those burying the deceased.
After the body has been placed in the grave, it should be blanketed with a covering of wood or stones to keep it from coming into direct contact with the dirt that will be used to fill the grave. All of the mourners who are present will put three handfuls of dirt into the grave.
As soon as the ground is leveled over the grave, a tiny stone or sign might be set there for posterity. However, it is considered disrespectful to create a huge monument or otherwise embellish a gravesite.
Reception Following the Funeral
The immediate family will get together to mourn and greet guests after the burial. In the early stages of the grieving phase, it is common practice for members of the community to bring meals to the family (usually three days). The standard duration of grieving is 40 days, however, this may be shortened based on the family’s religious beliefs.
The Mourning Period & Grieving Process
Anguish over death is a normal human emotion, and Muslims are allowed to show it. Tears and sobbing are appropriate responses to death, at the time of death, the funeral and burial.
However, demonstrating a lack of confidence in Allah, shouting, shredding garments or smashing items, or uttering curses, are all forbidden.
According to Islamic custom, attendees of a funeral should also not take photos or make any other recordings during the funeral prayer ceremony.
The phase of grief also starts immediately after the passing of the loved one. The period of time differs for each individual based on their connection to the person who passed away.
Mourning for widows is customarily lengthier, lasting four months and ten days (“iddah”). During this period, widows are forbidden from having any contact with males outside of their immediate family (termed “na-mahram”). On the other hand, in times of crisis, such as when the widow needs to go to the hospital, this guideline may be disregarded.
The mourning period for the widower, on the other hand, is shorter and lasts for three days, although some Islamic scholars may dispute this claim, stating that the widower is not required to have a formal mourning period or “iddah”, and may even plan to remarry.
The period of mourning is likewise three days. As they get ready for the funeral and invite guests into their house, they talk about their feelings for the deceased and show their sympathy to one another. Some extended family members travel long distances to provide the immediate family with home-cooked meals.
How Do Muslims Dress at Funerals?
In general, a Muslim’s attire is white. To them, white symbolizes purity and modesty. Black, brown, and gray are acceptable as well because of the solemnity of the event.
Plain, skin-covering pants are appropriate for men to wear. Everything below the neck should be hidden by the shirt. To put it simply, nothing should fit snugly.
Dressing modestly means hiding everything but your face and hands. At the very least, the skirt’s length should reach the ankles, and long-sleeved tops should cover the shoulders and the neck. Bringing a headscarf to hide your hair and neck is recommended.
The safest bet is to go makeup-free. Avoid standing out with flashy accessories or lip color if you must.
Dressing respectfully is of utmost importance if you are attending a Muslim funeral. Put on clothes that won’t make you stand out too much from the crowd. You should avoid wearing anything too dazzling, such as a lot of color or jewelry. You’ll also need to remove your shoes before entering.
Other Rulings about Funerals
As a result of the Muslim faith’s central tenet that there will be a literal resurrection of the body on the Day of Judgment, certain behaviors may be strictly forbidden.
The Qur’anic verse “Whosoever saves the life of one person it would be as if he saved the life of all mankind” indicates that organ donation is permissible for Muslims.
Always check with an imam (religious leader) or Muslim funeral director if you have any doubts about whether organs can be donated.
Autopsies are considered a kind of body mutilation and hence forbidden in Islam. Families typically object to having routine autopsies performed.
No cosmetic procedures or embalming are allowed. There is no way to move the body from one country to another because embalming is forbidden, and the burial must take place quickly.
In Islam, the practice of cremation is outlawed since it is seen as a disrespect of the dead and hence a violation of Islamic law (known as ‘haram’).
Burial at Sea
Unless there are exceptional circumstances, it is usually forbidden to bury a person at sea. One such scenario is when a person dies at sea, and the body cannot be returned to land due to the great distance involved.
God endows each individual with inherent worth and respect in Islam; individuals are described in the Qur’an as God’s “vicegerents” on Earth. Islam recognizes the inherent worth of human beings both before and after birth.
The human body, made flawless by God, deserves to be treated with honor and reverence at all times, and these rulings above were enacted to ensure that the deceased be treated with the utmost respect.