What to Expect When Attending a Muslim Funeral

What to Expect When Attending a Muslim Funeral

Are you attending a Muslim funeral and want to know the basics of the traditions and etiquette that is typically observed so you can properly show your support? Perhaps, you would like to pay your due respects to a Muslim friend but are worried about abiding by a specific tradition or confused about simply what kind of attire to wear to the funeral. 

In this guide, we will explore Muslim funeral proceedings as well as the traditions and etiquette they follow to give you a better idea of what to expect at a Muslism funeral service. 

What is a Muslim Funeral?

A Muslim funeral is a religious ceremony held for a deceased person of the Muslim faith. Muslim funerals usually involve subdued proceedings and follow a very strict set of funeral customs and rites. During the service, Muslims read from the Holy Quran, send blessings to the Prophet Muhammad (Peace be upon him), and pray for the deceased’s forgiveness. Non-Muslims are also welcome to take part in these activities at the service as well. 

What are Muslims’ beliefs about death?

Much like other Abrahamic religions, the Islamic faith has a strong belief in the afterlife. Muslims believe that their actions in this life will determine their fate in the afterlife. If they have performed good deeds, they will be rewarded with entry into Heaven, and if they perform evil deeds in their lifetime, they will be subject to an eternity in Hell in a decision that is made on the Day of Judgement. It is believed that the deceased’s body stays in the grave until the Day of Judgement, while their soul is freed at the moment of death to return to the skies. 

What are Muslim funeral traditions?

Muslim funerals are usually held in mosques. However, they may also be held at the deceased’s house. The ceremony is not entirely led by one person. The funeral prayer is the only rite led by a man, usually a Molvi. The body is washed immediately after death, usually at the graveside or in a mosque. Relatives are allowed to offer their personal condolences to the deceased. Later, the funeral prayer is performed and the body is buried. There may be slight variations within different sects of the Muslim religion, but this guide provides the general overview of Muslim funerals. 

What are the preparations made for a Muslim funeral service?

Islamic law has very strict rules on how Muslim funeral arrangements are to be made. The family members begin making arrangements immediately following the death. Depending on which country the service is being held in, family members either arrange everything themselves or receive help from a local Islamic organization.

Immediately after a Muslim person’s passing, their eyes and mouth are manually closed if they are still open and the body is covered with a white sheet. For the ghusl (bath), the body is washed three times as per the rulings.

As Muslims believe in the physical resurrection of the body after death, the religion typically looks down upon and prohibits cremation as a method of memorializing the body. While organ donation is generally accepted, autopsies are usually also forbidden in Muslim communities.

What happens at a Muslim funeral?

Muslim funerals last around 30 to 60 minutes. Mourners congregate at a mosque to offer the funeral prayer, known as Salat al-Janazah, with the dead body present before them. The funeral prayer seeks pardon for the deceased as well as all dead Muslims. Then the body is transferred to a chosen burial site. 

According to Islamic rulings, the grave should be perpendicular to the holy city of Mecca so the deceased’s right side faces it. 

After the body has been lowered into the burial site, each mourner places three handfuls of soil into the grave. Larger stones are not allowed so various small stone markings are kept to identify the grave This gesture is symbolic of all Muslims’ equality in the afterlife regardless of their status, race, gender, or ethnicity they had while in their lifetime.   

What happens after a Muslim funeral?

After the funeral, the family and close relatives gather at their homes to receive the mourners. Together, they read the Quran for the deceased and supplicate to God by making dua to ask for his forgiveness. To show their support to the grieving family, many mourners typically bring food to the deceased’s family’s home throughout the first three days after the funeral. 

Typically, the mourning period lasts for about 40 days but it depends on the family and sect. Traditionally, the mourning period for a widow is longer; four months and ten days. Every anniversary, the family and relatives come together to pray for the deceased. This continues for several years. 

What kind of etiquette is typically followed at a Muslim Funeral? 

Traditionally, only men attend Muslim funerals. However, a lot of Muslim communities do permit women to be in attendance as well. 

In terms o dress code, there is no specific color that must be worn at Muslim funerals. Regardless of their gender, attendees must dress modestly. Men usually wear a loose shirt and trousers or their traditional dressings with a cap to wear during the prayer. Muslim women generally cover their hair with a piece of cloth, commonly known as hijab. At Muslim funerals, all attending women are expected to wear the hijab along with a long-sleeved top and ankle-length skirts. 

Shoes are removed when entering a mosque or the deceased’s house in respect for the deceased and the prayers taking place to ask God to bless the deceased with His mercy.

Should gifts be sent to the grieving Muslim family?

Views towards sending gifts to a grieving family vary between different Muslim sects and families. While immediate family members do normally take flowers to be placed on the grave, most Muslim families prefer guests to make donations in the name of the deceased over receiving flowers. Besides this, gifts are typically not appreciated as the families value moral  support, sympathies and condolences instead. However, if you believe that the family is financially struggling after the death, you can ask the family members in private if they would be open to receiving monetary help. 

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