How does a Muslim Funeral work?
In Islam, there are two primary sects within the religion that deal with a number of different religious issues; these are called Shi’a and Sunni.
However, when it comes to services such as the funeral, both Muslim sects share common believes about life and death. In Islam, it is believed that the good deeds one does in their life time will yield their entry into Paradise (Heaven) on the Day of Judgement (The Last Day) when the world will be destroyed.
It is believed that until the Day of Judgement, the dead remain dead in their tombs, and will rise up to Paradise or down to Hell on the Last Day. This is as opposed to a religion like Christianity in which it is believed that life on earth ceasing to exist at death and the assentation to Heaven or dissention to Hell is immediate.
Time of Death
It is the case that in Islam, when a person is approaching death, family and very close loved ones should be present. They are encouraged by the scriptures to offer the person who is dying comfort, hope and kindness. They say the “shahada” in the presence of the dying person, a prayer which confirms that there is no God but Allah.
Once death has occurred, that present people will recite “Inna lillahi wa inna ilayhi raji’un” (“Verily we belong to Allah, and truly to Him shall we return”). They then close the eyes of the deceased and lower the jaw, and cover the body with a clean sheet. They will also usually make a “dua” to Allah which asks that he forgives the sins of the deceased.
The order of the service
Salat al-Janazah (funeral prayers) are performed by all members of the community present. The prayers should be recited at the Mosque; however, they are not to be recited inside the mosque. Instead, the prayers should be performed in a separate prayer room or study room, or in the mosque’s courtyard.
Those who are partaking in prayer are required to face the “qiblah”—which represents what is toward Mecca. They must also form at least three lines, with the male most closely related to the person who died in the first line, followed by men, then the children present, then the women present.
Following the reciting of the Salat al-Janazah, the body will be transported to the cemetery for burial. It is tradition that only men should be present at the burial, though it is common in some communities for both men and women to be permitted to stand at the grave side.
According to the law of Islam (Shariah Law), the body is to be buried as soon as possible after death. This means that the planning and preparation for the funera
l begin immediately. The aim to usually to bury the body during the first 24 hours after the time of death, however in the modern world, this is not always realistic as people may have to travel to get to the funeral.
The local Islamic community should be contacted as soon as possible after death, and they will aid in making arrangements for the funeral service and the buria
l and assist the family of the deceased in identifying an appropriate funeral home.
It is against Shariah Law for the body to undergo cremation. It is considered to be an unclean practice and a “haram” (sin). Since burial is the only method of dealing with the body mentioned in the Quran, Muslims take this as the only method that would please Allah as he knows all that is good and bad for us. The body is to be treated with the utmost respect in life and in death, and burning the dead is considered a form of mutilation and a mistreatment of the body Allah has blessed us with.
When buried the body should be placed on its right side so to face (mecca) and the grave is dug perpendicular to the qiblah. When placing the body into the grave those present will recite “Bismilllah wa ala millati rasulilllah” (“In the name of Allah and in the faith of the Messenger of Allah”).
Once placed in the grave, a layer of wood or stones will be placed on top of the body to prevent any direct contact between the body and the soil that is used to fill the grave. It is tradition for each mourner to place 3 handfuls of soil on top of the grave. When the grave has been filled with earth, a small marker or stone will be placed on top of the grave so to identify who it belongs to. However, it is typically prohibited to erect a large monument on the grave or decorate the grave – this is because every Muslim is equal in death, so it believed.
In Islam, it is believed that seeing the body of one who has died is an important part of the healing process. Seeing the body acts as a reminder that death comes to all, but it is not to be feared for believers of Allah.
Widows are expected to observe a longer mourning period, typically of four months and ten days. During the mourning period for widows, they are prohibited from interacting with any men who they could potentially marry, so this does not apply to family members that are male. However, this rule can be overlooked in the case of an emergency such as when the women needs to see a doctor and he happens to be a man.
It is accepted in Islam to express your grief over a death. Crying and weeping at the time of the death and at the funeral service and burial are accepted forms of expression of grief. However, shrieking and waling are not considered tasteful. Tearing of clothing and breaking of objects and expressing a lack of faith in Allah in the light of a death are prohibited. In other faiths, such as Judaism, it is customary to tear your clothing to express grief.