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Islam – Significant Practices in the Life of Adherents

Funeral Ceremony

Describe the Muslim observance of the funeral ceremony


• Rituals not described in Shari'ah law but taken mostly from Hadith.
• The last thing a person says before they die should be the Shahada.
• If they cannot say it, it should be whispered in their ear.
• Hadith: “A person whose last words are the affirmation of Kalima, there is no god save
Allah, shall enter Paradise.”
• Burial should take place within 24hr of death.
• Hadith: “the best form of respect for the dead is quick burial.”
• Immediately after death the deceased's eyes are closed and the mouth and jaws and legs are
tied gently with broad bands of cloth so they don't remain open.
• Then ritual washing, or ghusl, is performed. The body is washed carefully from the right
side to the left, paying special attention to those parts that touch the ground during prayer
(i.e. feet, knees, palms of hands, nose and forehead).
• It is washed three times (or more, so long as it's an odd number) with water and lotus leaves,
if they are available. Camphor should be used for the last wash. Tayammum, an ablution
performed with sand or dry earth, may be performed if there is no water available.
• Washing should be performed by family members or close friends of the same sex. The
exception to this is that the spouse is often allowed to perform the ritual washing as well.
• Shrouding the body, or kafan, should occur immediately after ghusl.
• Males should be wrapped in three simple, unstitched white cloths and females in five of the
same. This is in case the body releases any unclean material.
• Where possible, the deceased should be buried in their ihram clothes, used for the Hajj.
• Hadith: “wear your white garments, for they are among your best garments, and
shroud your dead in them.”
• Martyrs are an exception to these rules. They must be buried in their clothes with the blood
still present.
• Muslims say Salat al Janazah over the body. This prayer includes the affirmation 'God is
great' and includes reading the first Sura, blessing the Prophet, praying for the deceased and
the community, and then praying for peace. All but the affirmation are said silently.
• There is no bowing or prostrating during these prayers as this is reserved only for Allah.
• The prayer is lead by an imam or the deceased's father. He stands facing Mecca and the
mourners stand behind him in at least three rows. First the men, then the children, then the
women.
• In front of the imam is the body. The imam stands in line with the head if it is a male, and
the middle if it is a female. If there is more than one body, then they are placed one in front
of the other: the men nearer to the imam and the women nearer to Mecca.
• People may only take part in these prayers if they are wudu' or ritually clean.
• While the body is being escorted to the graveyard, silence is expected and neither weeping
nor wailing are permitted.
• Hadith: “the deceased suffers when someone bewails”
• It should be noted that Shi'ite Muslims to not accept this Hadith as authentic and the rule
forbidding exaggerated displays of grief only applies to Sunni Muslims.
• Cremation is forbidden as Muslims believe in a bodily resurrection.
• The body should be buried, preferably without a coffin, with the face and toes pointing in
the direction of Mecca.
• Those attending throw three handfuls of dirt onto the corpse before it is covered.
• Sunni Muslims only have earth mounted over the grave site with a sign that displays the
name, age and sex of the deceased. Shi'ite Muslims, however, embrace elaborate headstones
which they view as a sign of respect.

Demonstrate how this practice expresses the beliefs of Islam


• No references to funeral ceremonies in the Qur'an. Therefore, the beliefs have shaped the
practice.
• Beliefs about Allah, His angels, His books, His messengers, the Day of Judgement, the
purpose of life, death and the world to come are clearly expressed in the Qur'an. These
beliefs give rise to the rituals associated with the Muslim funeral ceremony.
• The Shahada is considered to be the most important of the Five Pillars and it is necessary to
remember it in death so as to correctly answer the questions that the two angels of death ask
when in the grave.
• “Who is your God?”
• “Who is your Prophet?”
• “What is your religion?”
• The soul is then taken to Barzakh until the Day of Resurrection. If the questions are
answered correctly, time will pas swiftly and be pleasant. However, if answered incorrectly,
time will pass slowly and be filled with torment.
• Facing Mecca reinforces the holiness of the Ka'ba and its role in the history of Islam. Its is
also the place of gathering for the Day of Judgement so bodies are pointed in that direction
to make it easier for them to get there.
• 36:51 “And the Horn is blown, and, from the graves they rush forth to their Lord.”
• Washing the body and the purification before prayer reminds everyone that cleanliness is
important before any encounter with Allah.
• Washing an odd number of times is a reminder that Allah is singular—an odd number—with
no equals.
• The shrouding of the body in simple white cloths emphasises that all are equal before God,
regardless of their earthly status or wealth.
• Ihram clothing from the Hajj makes the connection between the pilgrimage to Mecca and
the pilgrimage from life on Earth to life after Death.
• The reverence of the funeral procession is to show complete trust in the mercy and justice of
Allah. Too much emotion may show that one is unhappy with Allah's decision to take the
life of the deceased, thus showing a lack of trust in His will.
• Cremation is forbidden not only because of the belief in a bodily resurrection, but because
only Allah may destroy creation by fire.
• Not using a coffin avoids wastage, maintains equality and allows a faster return to the earth.
• 20:55 “We created you from it [the earth], and to it We shall restore you; and from it
We will bring you forth yet a second time.”

Analyse the significance of this practice for the individual


• Significant for the deceased individual is that they are comforted by the prayers they share
with their friends and family as they are dying, and they can feel assured that they will be
given a ceremony that will adequately prepare their body for the next life. It is also
comforting to know that other Muslims will be praying for them after they have died.
• The recitation of the Shahada prepares them to give the correct answers to the angels of
death when they meet them in the grave.
• The pointing of the body towards Mecca assists them to find their way to the gathering place
on the Day of Judgement.
• For the mourners, it reminds them that death is simple a transition from life to afterlife, and
that they themselves need not fear death.
• 21:35 “Every soul shall taste death. We will try you with a trial of evil and good. Then,
to Us you shall be returned.”
• Salat al Janazah reminds mourners to trust in Allah's mercy and forgiveness by giving him
praise. It provides solace to the mourners and reiterates the belief that the soul of the
deceased has gone on to a better place.
• Serves to strengthen the faith of those present and help them to be more determined to fully
submit to the will of Allah in their everyday lives
• Essentially, the funeral service provides an opportunity for the individual to consider the
questions of life, and it focuses them on the place of God in their own lives and the concept
of life after death.

Analyse the significance of this practice for the Muslim community


• The Islamic community is responsible for holding the funeral prayer. If someone is buried
without the prayer being performed, the whole community is held accountable.
• The funeral ceremony works to enhance and strengthen the faith of the Islamic community.
• All males must attend the funeral, and all females should come if they are available.
• The community is a vital part of Islam, and it is important for each individual that the
community is there to support each other during the mourning process.
• The funeral service contributes to Islam by having a large percentage of the religion's
following involved in the active participation within the religion. This helps to stop
members from slipping away from the faith.
• Strengthens the relationships within Muslim societies.