Religious Studies

Islam: death rites

The ways in which religious people deal with death and the funeral rites they carry out are usually very closely linked with their beliefs about life after death.

Funeral rites

Funeral rites are very important for two reasons:

  • They show respect for the dead and, in some religions, include various ceremonies which people believe are necessary to ensure that people go on to whatever their next life will be.
  • Perhaps more importantly, they give the relatives and friends of the deceased time to mourn and show their grief in a certain way. People often say that showing their grief formally helps them to get over their loss.

Muslim funeral rites

When a Muslim is dying, they try to say the last words (pbuh - Peace be upon him) of the prophet of Allah [Allah: The Islamic name for God in the Arabic language ], Muhammad: "Allah, help me through the hardship and agony of death." Other people will say: "To Allah we belong and to Allah we return."

Muslims try to bury the deceased as fast as possible and certainly within three days. The deceased’s body is washed and wrapped in a white cloth. Muslims prefer not to use a coffin but in some countries, such as the United Kingdom, this is not allowed. Bodies are buried facing Makkah (the Muslim holy city in Saudi Arabia, where Muhammad is believed to have been born).

Cremation or burial?

Muslims believe that there will be a physical resurrection on the Day of Judgement (yawm ad-din [Yawm ad-din: The Day of Judgement. Also, The Last Hour and The Day of Resurrection. ]), so they disapprove of cremation [Cremation: Reducing a corpse by burning. ]. Allah will put people’s bodies back together again:

Does man imagine that We shall not assemble his bones? Indeed, We have the power to restore his very finger tips.

Surah 75:3-4

While people are standing by the grave the first Surah (a division of the Qur'an, like a chapter) of the Qur’an [Qur'an: That which is read or recited. The Divine Book revealed to the Prophet Muhammad. Allah's final revelation to humankind. ] is read:

In the name of Allah, Most Gracious, Ever Merciful. All types of perfect praise belong to Allah alone, the Lord of all the worlds, Most Gracious, Ever Merciful, Master of the Day of Judgement. Thee alone do we worship and Thee alone do we implore for help. Guide us along the straight path - the path of those on whom Thou hast bestowed Thy favours, those who have not incurred Thy displeasure, and those who have not gone astray.

Surah 1

Then, once the body is in the ground, people say:

From the earth have We created you, and into it We shall cause you to return and from it shall We bring you forth once more.

Surah 20:55

Graves are raised above ground level so that the place of burial is clearly marked, and so that people do not walk on them by accident. Large tombstones and decorations are not usually found, but they are not forbidden.

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