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Rules Concerning the Dead

Funeral Rites in Islam

This material world is a place of trial and tribulation. In respect of life and death Allah (Ta’ala) has proclaimed:

الَّذِي خَلَقَ الْمَوْتَ وَالْحَيَاةَ لِيَبْلُوَكُمْ أَيُّكُمْ أَحْسَنُ عَمَلاً وَهُوَ الْعَزِيزُ الْغَفُورُ (الملك: 2)

(Translation of meaning) [“Who hath created life and death that He may try you, which of you is best in conduct; and He is the Mighty, the Forgiving” (Al-Mulk: 2)].

Life is an opportunity for doing good deeds and death marks an end of it.

This span of time given for good deeds is bound to expire at some point of time. Allah (Ta’ala) declares:

 وَيُؤَخِّرْكُمْ إِلَى أَجَلٍ مُسَمًّى إِنَّ أَجَلَ اللَّهِ إِذَا جَاءَ لا يُؤَخَّرُ لَوْ كُنتُمْ تَعْلَمُونَ (نوح : 4)

(Translation of meaning) [“That He may forgive you somewhat of your sins and respite you to an appointed term. Lo! The term of Allah, when it cometh, cannot be delayed, if ye but knew” (Nuh: 4)].

It is a fact that when the appointed time comes nobody can defer it. Nobody knows when death overtakes him and his life comes to an end. It is but a given fact that when the end comes nobody can delay it. This fact needs no reasoning and no proof. It is a phenomenon which occurs every day. Even the atheists do not deny it. But the moral is that if a man’s deeds are right and just death merely opens for him the door of eternal reward and bliss. But if his beliefs are foul and his deeds dirty death is just the first step towards his eternal punishment.

The Messenger of Allah (sallAllahu ‘alayhi wa sallam) has disliked that man himself wish for his death. Sometimes a man may face a situation in which he thinks that death is better for him. The Messenger of Allah (sallAllahu ‘alayhi wa sallam) declared: None of you should wish for death because of his sufferings.  Even if he is compelled by circumstances to do so he ought to pray in this way:                                          

“O my God, keep me alive so long as life is better for me and give me death when  death is better for me” (Bukhari, Muslim, Abu Dawood, Nasai and others).

Suicide is Haram (Prohibited) in Islam

It is narrated through Hadrat Thabit Bin Dhahhak (RadhiAllahu Anhu) that the Messenger of Allah (sallAllahu ‘alayhi wa sallam) pronounced that anybody who ends his life by a piece of iron [i.e., weapon] will be tortured in Hell by the very same piece (Bukhari).  Islam calls for preservation of humanity and enjoins respect for it. Just as it ordains for respect of and fair treatment to a living human being in the same way it treats him with full honour in his death. Contrary to the practice of other religions which enjoin consigning the dead body to the flames or exposing it to be consumed by birds and beasts Islam has bound the community of believers  to treat a dead body with full honour,  give it a proper ritual bath,  wrap it in a neat and clean shroud, accompany it in a funeral procession to the burial ground, place it in a deep grave amidst chanting of prayers and not to depart unless all have prayed  for Allah’s forgiveness and mercy for him.

In the following is given a brief description of Islamic rites and practices from the death of a person till his confinement in the grave:

When the end of a person comes he feels a lot of pain and hardship as he begins to feel what is in wait for him in the other world.  This condition is known as throes of death.

  1. When a person is in the throes of death he should be placed on his right side with his face in the direction of Ka’ba.
  2. A dying person should be advised to recite the kalimah shahadat [“I testify that there is no god but Allah alone and that Muhammad is His bondman and messenger”] (Most of the compilers).
  3. When death is near the holy Quran should be recited before the dying person. Some scholars say that at this time surah Yaseen should be recited. Recitation of surah Ra’d is also desirable.
  4. When soul departs the body the eyes of the dead body should be closed and if the mouth is open it should be gently and carefully tied so it is shut. Then it should be covered by a sheet.
  5. The public should be informed about the death and the time of burial so that as many people as possible could attend on time.
  6. The shrouding and burial of the dead body should be hastened but it is desirable that arrival of the concerned relatives and friends is awaited. However, unnecessary delay is undesirable.
  7. On hearing news of death of anybody one should pray for divine forgiveness for the deceased and then recite “Inna lillah-i-wa- innailaihi-ra’ji’oun” [“We belong to Allah and to Him shall we return”].
  8. If the deceased owes any debt to anybody his relatives are obliged to repay it as soon as possible. The Messenger of Allah (sallAllahu ‘alayhi wa sallam) said that the soul of a believer remains stuck with his debt until it is repaid.