O level Notes : FRS - Islam or Islamic Religion Death ritual

Death among the Muslims is the end of life on earth but not the end of a person’s existence. When a person dies certain rituals are to be followed showing that they believe in life after death and judgement day.

Death ritual

Death among the Muslims is the end of life on earth but not the end of a person’s existence. When a person dies certain rituals are to be followed showing that they believe in life after death and judgement day. The body has to be buried as soon as possible. When a person is dying, if he or she is able to, he or she should proclaim the Shahadah. The rituals include;

(i) Mourning

 

A three-day mourning  period  is observed  but  for a woman who has lost a husband, she will have a special  mourning  called  the Iddah which  lasts for four months and ten days. Weeping  is acceptable, but  the Islamic  faith discourages  loud  crying  and acting out during the mourning period. It is believed that the person’s spirit can hear these cries and they cause the spirit to anguish.

(ii) Washing of the body of dead

 

The dead body  is bathed by relatives of the same gender  as the deceased  is bathed  three times to seven  times  until  the  body  is clean. The  body  is placed on a table and after saying, “In the name of Allah,” the washers will use cloths to clean the body from top to bottom and left to right till the body is clean.

(iii) Shrouding the body (Kaffin)

 

Shrouding  for a male and female Muslim has different rules. When wrapping a male Muslim corpse, three sheets and four ropes are used. After placing the man’s hands on his chest, right hand on top of left hand, each sheet is wrapped on the right side over the body. Two ropes are tied just above the head and just below the feet and the other two ropes are to secure the sheets around the body.

For women, the wrappings  are much more intricate. The corpse wears a loose-fitting, sleeveless dress, a head veil and a loin cloth. Just like a male Muslim corpse, three sheets and four ropes are used. Each sheet is wrapped right side first over the body. Two ropes are tied just above the head and just below the feet and the other two ropes are to secure the sheets around the body.

 

(iv) Funeral prayer

 

Soon after shrouding is done, a prayer should be done. The body is taken to an outdoor location sometimes near the mosque where Muslims will stand and offer prayers for the forgiveness of the deceased that the deceased may find peace and happiness in the world to come.

 

(v) The funeral

 

Funeral attendees stand in three horizontal lines facing Mecca outside the mosque; men in the front row, children in the second row and women in the third row. Silently, they recite the Fatihah, the first section of the Quran asking for Allah’s mercy and guidance. Four more prayers are done and before each prayer they say “Allahu Akbar” which means “Allah is good.” The four prayers are Tahahood, a prayer to the prophet Muhammad, and the three personal prayers for the deceased. For a child’s funeral, the third personal prayer is often for the child’s parents.

 

(vi) Transporting the body

 

Traditionally, several men carry the body to the cemetery on foot. A procession follows and no discussion, photos or videos at the time of burial are allowed but only prayers for the soul of the departed. There should also be no incense or candles in the funeral procession.

 

(vii) Burial

 

A Muslim body should be buried in a Muslim cemetery,  and no women  or children  are allowed at the  grave  site during  the  burial. Mourners are required to perform ablutions before the procession begins  if prayers are to be said on the grave  site. The body is taken out of the coffin and laid on its side with three moulds of soil under the head, the chin and the shoulder. The head faces towards Mecca, the holy city as an imitation of the direction of prayer. The deceased is buried in a deep grave to avoid any bad smell coming out and to stop animals from digging.

 

(viii) After the funeral

 

Muslims ritually wash themselves after the funeral is over to purify themselves. Bitter coffee is the traditional Islamic mourning drink which is served to mourners who have come to pay their respects to the dead. It’s traditional to reach out to the mourning family with food after the funeral so that they do not have to worry about cooking as they cope with the loss of a loved one.

Importance of the death ritual

  • Death rituals give unity to the family and community as they mourn.
  • Offering prayers for the forgiveness of the deceased and that they may find peace and happiness in the world to come.
  • To prepare the deceased for the judgement day.
  • Saying the declaration of faith just before death enables the dying person to go to Jannah (garden of the righteous) after death.
  • They are done to prepare the body for the funeral.
  • To see to it that the body is buried facing the city of Mecca.
  • To show that there is life after death.
  • The washing done on the corpse before burial is to purify the body of any sins.
  • The wrapping is to be done rightly so that the deceased looks presentable to the angels that escort him or her to heaven.
  • For a child’s funeral a third personal prayer is done for the parents.
  • Washing done after the funeral is to purify them.
  • To mark the end of a period of mourning.