Burial Rituals for the Deceased

By June 17, 2014Death

Before the person passes away

The blessed Companion Aboo Sa’eed Khudri (Radiyallahu Anhu) said: Prompt the dying among you to say (the kalimah): Laa ilaaha illallah ( I declare that) there is no god but Allah.” (Muslim)
Sahih Muslim

The blessed Companion Ma’qil Ibne Yasaar (Radiyallahu Anhu) narrates that Prophet Muhammad ﷺ (Sallallahu Alayhi Wasallam) said: “You should recite Soorah Yaaseen over the dying among you. ” )
(Musnade- Ahmed, Aboo Dawud, Ibne Majah)

In The Agony Of Death

Turn the face of the dying person towards the Qiblah. Let him or her make the following prayer: ” O Allah, forgive me and have mercy on me and have me join higher companions. ”
(Tirmidhi)

When death is approaching

Soon after the signs of death approaching become obvious, make the dying person lie on his back with the Qiblah on his right. Turn the face slightly towards the Qiblah, raise the head a little by placing a pillow or some other head-rest, in which case also, the dying person will be considered as facing the Qiblah. But leave the dying person as he is if he feels uncomfortable while being made to face the Qiblah. One should sit down close by and let someone say loudly: “Ash’hadu allaa ilaaha il’allaahu wahdahoo laa shareeka lahoo wa ash’hadu anna Muhammad ﷺan ‘abduhoo wa rasooluh.” (I bear witness that there is no god but Allah. He is One, there is no partner with Him; and I bear witness that Muhammad ﷺ (Sallallahu Alayhi Wasallam) is His Servant and His Messenger.)

Given his condition, do not ask him to recite the kalimah, for that is a time of great trial -who knows what he might say under stress.

Reciting Kalimah

After the dying person has recited the kalimah once, leave it at that. Do not try to make him say the kalimah non-stop in an effort to see that he breathes his last while reciting it. The purpose for this is simply to make sure that the last words he says should be the kalimah. It is not at all necessary that the recitation of the Kalimah continues right through the last breath. However, should he return to the mundane and ordinary concerns of life, start reciting the kalimah again. When the dying person ,taking the cue, recites it, then be silent.

When breathing slows down

When breath loses its momentum and starts heaving faster and legs sag down, unable to stay up and the nose-top turns aside and the temples collapse inwards, take these signs to be the certain knock of death. At this time, start reciting the kalimah in a raised voice.

Reciting Surah Yaseen lightens the hardship of death. Recite it sitting on the side of his head or anywhere else near the body, or ask someone else to do it.

At a time such as this, say nothing which may divert his attention to the concerns of worldly life, for this is the time to leave the mortal world and the inevitable time to be present in the majestic Court of Allah Almighty. Do say that which turns his heart away from the concerns of the mortal world and diverts it towards the thoughts of his Creator, for it is here that the well being of the dying lies. At a time like this, bringing his children and family members before him, or anyone else beloved, or to remind him of things or people in a nostalgic manner causing the dying person to be swamped in the thoughts of loves lost, is a terrible thing to do to him. It is not nice that he says farewell to his life in the world so bound by its fond memories.

The person’s last words

If, at the time of death, some unfortunate remark bordering on kufr (the denial of Faith) escapes the lips of the dying person, feel or say nothing about it. Instead, take it to be a slip of his reason under the stress of approaching death. When man loses his reason, he stands forgiven for his sayings and deeds. Keep praying that Allah Almighty forgives him.

Once the person has passed away

What to say

When death comes, all concerned should say: “Innaa lillaahi wa innaa ilayhi raaji’oon” (Surely to Allah we belong, and to Him we are to return) and make the following prayer: “O Allah ,help me in my hour of trial and replace it for me with what is better. ” (Tirmizi)

How to treat their body

When death becomes obvious and certain, take a strip of cloth, wide enough to pass under the chin, bring it on to the head, tie a knot, then close the eyes gently and pray: “I begin with the Name of Allah while being faithful to the Religion of His Messenger. O Allah, make his matter easy on him and let equally easy be what he shall face after that, and make him the blessed beholder of Thy Sighting, and make that to which he has departed better than what he has departed from.” (Durre- Mukhtaar)

Then straighten hands and feet, bring toes of the feet close together and tie them with a strip of cloth. Then, throw a sheet over the dead body and place it on a cot or a flat wooden bunk. Do not leave it lying on the ground. It is advisable to place some weight on the stomach lest it inflates. Allow no impure persons (in need of a bath, including women in conditions that exempt them from offering Salah etc.) near the dead body. (Duue-Mukhtaar) Now inform relatives and friends of the deceased so that they can all participate in his funeral prayers.

Incense

Some incense (such as oblibanum, lobaan or Frankincense), if available, may be placed near the deceased.

Appropriateness of reciting Quran

Reciting the Quran near the deceased before the washing of the body is not correct.

Funeral Arrangements

All funeral arrangements including the shrouding of the dead body have to be made very quickly. Start with locating a grave site and the preparation of the grave. Collect everything needed for the stages of washing, shrouding, funeral and burial.

If a person dies on a Friday

If a person dies on a Friday, it is better to make all arrangements and bury the deceased before the Jumu’ah congregational Salah. Holding on to the prepared body with the thought that there will be a lot of participants in the Janaazah Salah after Jumu’ah is makrooh (detested). (Shaami)

Let There Be No Wailing Over The Deceased

Once Prophet Muhammad ﷺ paid a visit to a Sahaabi who was on his deathbed. Seeing him in that condition, Prophet Muhammad ﷺ (Sallallahu Alayhi Wasallam): broke in tears. When people saw him in that state, they too started weeping. He then said to them

“Listen to me O people, and listen well. Allah Almighty certainly does not apprehend the weeping eye and the hurting heart, for a Servant of Allah has no control over these. ” Then, pointing to the tongue, he added, “But, a mistake made by this, that is, on intentional mourning and wailing, He punishes, and on reciting ‘Innaa lillaahi wa innaa ilayhi raaji’oon’ (To Allah we belong and to Him we are to return), and on raising hands of prayer and on seeking of His forgiveness, He bestows His Mercy. ”
(Bukhaari, Muslim)

Kissing The Deceased

After the deceased has been given the required ghusl (bath), it is permissible to kiss the deceased under intense desire to express love or personal devotion as it was with Prophet Muhammad ﷺ (Sallallahu Alayhi Wasallam) when he kissed Uthmaan Ibne Mazoon and wept. Very similar to this, the noble Companion Abu Bakr (Radiyallahu Anhu) kissed the forehead of Prophet Muhammad ﷺ (Sallallahu Alayhi Wasallam) after his departure from this mortal world. (Zaadul- Ma’aad)

All Funeral Arrangements Should Be Swift

Once Prophet Muhammad ﷺ came to visit Talhah Ibne Baraa when he was sick. Seeing his critical condition, he said to the people around him

“I feel that the time of his death has arrived. If it does come to pass, I should be informed and funeral arrangements be made with haste, for it is not appropriate that the dead body of a Muslim be left amidst his family members for long. ”
(Abu Dawud)

Abdullah Ibne ‘Umar (Radiyallahu Anhu) narrates that he heard Prophet Muhammad ﷺ saying, “When one among you dies, do not keep him in the house for long. Make haste in taking him to the grave and burying him. ”
(Bayhaqi, Shuiabul-Imaan)

Order of preparation for the Funeral

  1. Bathing the dead body (except in extraordinary circumstances as in battle of Uhud)
  2. Enshrouding dead body in a white cotton or linen cloth.
  3. Funeral prayer
  4. Burial of the dead body in a grave

1. Bathing the deceased

The corpse is washed (ghusl bathed), the purpose is to physically cleanse the corpse. The exact manner: the method, style and accessories used for bathing the corpse may vary by locale and temporal position. Bathing the dead body is an essential ritual of the Sunnah of the Islamic prophet Muhammad, and therefore a part of the Islamic Sharia. This should occur as soon as possible after death, preferably within hours.

Orthodox practice is to wash the body an odd number of times (at least once) with a cloth hiding its awrah (parts of the body that should be hidden according to Sharia).

The “washers” are commonly adult members of the immediate family and of the same gender as the deceased. In the case of violent death, or accident where the deceased has suffered trauma or mutilation, morgue facilities mend the body and wrap it in a shroud to minimize fluid leakage prior to surrendering it to mourners for washing.

2. Enshrouding the deceased

The corpse is typically wrapped in a simple plain cloth (the kafan). This is done to respect the dignity and privacy of the deceased. The specifics of this ritual, including the material, style, and color of the cloth, may vary across regions. However, the shroud should be simple and modest. It is for this reason that Muslims have generally preferred to use white cotton cloth to serve as the shroud. Men may use only three pieces of cloth and women five pieces of cloth. Some perfume may be applied to the cloth as well.

The deceased may be kept in this state for several hours, allowing well-wishers to pass on their respects and condolences.

3. Funeral prayer

The Muslims of the community gather to offer their collective prayers for the forgiveness of the dead. This prayer has been generally termed as the Salat al-Janazah (Janazah prayer).

The Janazah prayer is as follows:

  • Like Eid prayer, the Janazah prayer incorporates an additional (four) Takbirs, the Arabic name for the phrase Allahu Akbar, but there is no Ruku’ (bowing) and Sujud (prostrating).
  • Supplication for the deceased and mankind is recited.
  • In extraordinary circumstances, the prayer can be postponed and prayed at a later time as was done in the Battle of Uhud.[5]
  • Dogma states it is obligatory for every Muslim adult male to perform the funeral prayer upon the death of any Muslim, but the dogma embraces the practical in that it qualifies, when Janazah is performed by the few it alleviates that obligation for all.

A more detailed description is under Five Pillars > Prayers > Fard Prayers > Janazah.

Burial

Grave of a Muslim

The deceased is then taken for burial (al-Dafin). The exact manner, customs and style of the grave, the burial and so forth may vary by regional custom.

The grave should be aligned perpendicular to the Qibla (i.e. Mecca). The body is placed in the grave without a casket, lying on its right side, and facing the Qibla. Grave markers should be raised only up to a maximum of 30 centimetres (12 in) above the ground. Thus Grave markers are simple, because outwardly lavish displays are discouraged in Islam. Many times graves may even be unmarked, or marked only with a simple wreath. However, it is becoming more common for family members to erect grave monuments.

Women

In Middle Eastern cultures women are generally discouraged from participating in the funeral procession. The reason for this is that in pre-Islamic Arabia it was customary in Arabia for grieving women to wail loudly. Wealthy families often even hired ‘wailers’ to attend the funerals of their deceased relative. Wailing at funerals is not permitted according to the Sahih Bukhari.

Soil

Three fist-sized spheres of hand-packed soil (prepared beforehand by the gravediggers) are used as props, one under the head, one under the chin and one under the shoulder. The lowering of the corpse, and positioning of the soil-balls is done by the next of kin. In the case of a departed husband, the male brother or brother-in-law usually performs this task. In the case of a departed wife, the husband undertakes this (if physically able). If the husband is elderly, then the eldest male son (or son-in-law) is responsible for lowering, alignment and propping the departed.

The orthodoxy expects those present to symbolically pour three handfuls of soil into the grave while reciting a Quranic verse in Arabic meaning “We created you from it, and return you into it, and from it We will raise you a second time”.More prayers are then said, asking for forgiveness of the deceased, and reminding the dead of their profession of faith.

Fully covering

The corpse is then fully buried by the gravediggers, who may stamp or pat down the grave to shape. Commonly the eldest male will supervise. After the burial, the Muslims who have gathered to pay their respects to the dead, collectively pray for the forgiveness of the dead. This collective prayer is the last formal collective prayer for the dead. In some cultures, e.g. South East Asian Muslims, the surviving members of the deceased scatter flowers and perfumed rose water upon the grave as the last action prior to leaving the grave.

Mourning

According to orthodoxy, loved ones and relatives are to observe a 3-day mourning period. Islamic mourning is observed by increased devotion, receiving visitors and condolences, and avoiding decorative clothing and jewelry in accordance with the Qur’an. During that time, the widow is not to remarry, interact with na-mahram (with whom she can marry). (This rule is to confirm that the woman is not pregnant with the deceased’s child prior to remarrying). However in case of emergencies such as visiting a doctor because of a health emergency, the widow can interact with na-mahram.

Widows observe an extended mourning period (iddah, period of waiting), 4 months and 10 days long,

Grief at the death of a beloved person is normal, and weeping for the dead (by males or females) is perfectly acceptable in Islam.

Islam does expect expression of one’s grief to remain dignified: Islam prohibits the expression of grief by loud wailing (bewailing refers to mourning in a loud voice), shrieking, beating the chest and cheeks, tearing hair or clothes, breaking objects, scratching faces or speaking phrases that make a Muslim lose faith, although much latitude is granted in practice, as fatigue and emotion can adversely affect ones’ behaviour, and such behaviour is rarely censured.

Directives for widows

The Qur’an prohibits widows to engage themselves for four lunar months and ten days, after the death of their husbands. According to the Qur’an:

And those of you who die and leave widows behind, they should keep themselves in waiting for four months and ten days. Then when they have fulfilled their term, there is no blame on you about what they do with themselves in accordance with the norms [of society]. And Allah is well acquainted with what you do. And there is also no blame on you if you tacitly send a marriage proposal to these women or hold it in your hearts. Allah knows that you would definitely talk to them. [Do so] but do not make a secret contract. Of course you can say something in accordance with the norms [of the society]. And do not decide to marry until the law reaches its term. And know that Allah has knowledge of what is in your hearts; so be fearful of Him and know that Allah is Most forgiving and Most Forbearing.
— Quran 2:234–235

Islamic scholars consider this directive a balance between the mourning of a husband’s death and the protection of a widow from cultural or societal censure if she became interested in re-marrying after her husband’s death, often an economic necessity.[20] This provision also operates to protect the property rights of the unborn, as the duration is enough to ascertain whether a widow is pregnant or not.[21]

Husbands are recommended to make a will in favor of their wives for the provision of one year’s residence and maintenance, except if the wives themselves leave the house or take any other similar step. As stated in Qur’an:

And those of you who die and leave widows should bequeath for their widows a year’s provision and [bequeath] that [in this period] they shall not be turned out of their residences; but if they themselves leave the residence, there is no blame on you for what they do with themselves according to the norms of society. And Allah is Exalted in Power, Wise.
—Quran 2:240