Regardless of your religious beliefs, it is painful to deal with the death of a friend or family member. Islam is no different from other religions in having customs and burial procedures for dealing with death.
Islamic rituals and guidelines for Muslims who are close to a person who is dying include offering encouraging words, making sure the individual feels safe and is never alone, and gently encouraging the person to embrace Allah and recite the Shahaadah (a declaration of faith).
Muslims have the concepts of Jannah and Jahannam, which are analogous to heaven and hell. Many Muslims think that by embracing Islam and reciting the Shahaadah right before passing away, the person will go to Jannah after death.
Since Pakistan is a Muslim country, burial rituals and customs are followed according to the teachings of Islam. So, what are the Pakistani Muslim traditions for a funeral and burial? The rituals begin just after death, and we’ll discuss them in a chronological order.
When a Muslim dies, it is a tradition to bind the jaw, shut the eyes, and cover the body with a clean sheet. Additionally, it’s important to get the body ready for the funeral as soon as possible. The funeral should ideally take place within 24 hours or before the next sunset.
While some Muslims hold the tradition of placing a copy of the Quran beneath the deceased person’s head and making sure that the body faces Mecca, these traditions are debatable. There is no precedence for performing these things, according to some scholars.
There are rules for mourning the deceased, including specific guidelines for widows, as we’ll see in the section that follows.
There are rules on how to conduct hidaad, or mourning, for a close relative, which should last no more than three days. Although crying is permitted, the Islamic faith forbids acting out or crying aloud during the period of mourning. According to conservative Muslims, the deceased’s soul can hear these cries and may get distressed.
Widows of the deceased husband observe a special mourning period which is called “iddah” or “iddat. The ‘Iddah lasts for four months and ten days. The woman can only leave the house for work and errands during that period, and no perfume nor jewelry is permitted. She can go see friends and relatives, but she has to stay at home and isn’t allowed to leave during the ‘Iddah. She is required to sleep at home and cannot remarry any man until the period of iddah is over.
Muslims perform a ritual washing on the body before the funeral to prepare it.
3. Washing of the dead
The deceased’s family observes customary Islamic washing ceremonies before the funeral. The individuals who wash the body must be Muslims and of the same sex as the deceased. Children or spouses are the sole exceptions.
The washing requires following extremely strict guidelines. The washers start by placing the body on a high table and saying, “In the name of Allah.” They then carefully scrub the body from top to bottom and from left to right using cloths until it is clean.
The deceased must first be thoroughly cleaned and dried before the body can be covered.
4. Shrouding the body
There are different ways to cover male and female bodies. Three white sheets and four ropes are used to wrap a male Muslim corpse. You place the man’s hands on his chest, right hand on top of left, and then you wrap each sheet around the body, right side first. Wrap two ropes slightly above the head and just below the feet, then use the other two ropes to tie the sheets around the body to complete the shrouding.
The wrappings are considerably more complicated for women. The body is dressed in a wide, sleeveless frock, a head covering, and a loincloth. It’s all covered in the same sheets and ropes that would be used to shroud a male corpse.
It’s important to start the funeral as soon as the shrouding is finished since Muslim tradition emphasizes that a person should be buried as soon as possible after they pass away.
5. Funeral Prayer (Namaz-e-Janazah)
The Salatul Janazah ritual is also open to Muslims who are not connected to the deceased or their family.
No matter how old the deceased was when he or she passed away, it is obligatory to offer prayers over a Muslim body before burial. The shrouding of the body should be followed immediately by prayer. The prayer should take place around nightfall or sunset, if possible unless the body is decomposing and needs to be buried right away. It often takes place outside the mosque and its prayer room.
Muslims gather to silently pray that Allah would have mercy on this person and all other Muslims who have passed away. The prayer simply has two parts that are recited aloud.
6. The Funeral
Men are in the front row, children are in the second row, and women are in the third row as funeral guests stand in three horizontal lines facing Mecca. If possible, this is done outside of the mosque, much like the silent prayer, and the full prayer service is performed while standing. Before quietly reciting the Fatihah, the first chapter of the Quran, participants silently make sincere intentions for the burial ritual. This seven-verse prayer begs Allah for wisdom and kindness.
In a traditional Muslim burial ritual, there are four further prayers after the quiet Fatihah. The next four prayers are followed by the attendees saying “Allahu Akbar,” which translates to “God is good.”
The Tahahood, a prayer to the prophet Muhammad, and three personal prayers for the deceased make up the four prayers. The third personal prayer is frequently for the child’s parents when a child is buried. After that, it’s time to carry the body to the cemetery for burial after the funeral.
7. Transporting the Body
Traditionally, the body is carried to the cemetery on foot by several men, with mourners trailing behind. However, a car is used if the cemetery is farther from the house.
The mourners carry the deceased’s body to the cemetery on their shoulders in a wooden or metal bed. Words of “shahadah” are expressed aloud during this journey. The funeral procession should be silent. No loud sobbing, singing, or reading of the Qur’an is permitted. Moreover, candles and incense should not be used during the funeral procession.
It is customary to bury a Muslim where he or she passed away because of the rules about a quick burial. That implies that a Muslim who passes away abroad or in a remote area should be buried there and not transported back home for burial. But in some cases, the body is transported back to Pakistan so that the family members can bury their loved ones in their local cemetery.
8. Burial Traditions
A Muslim body is usually placed to rest at a Muslim cemetery, and women and children are not permitted at the grave site during the burial.
It is considered desecration to cremate a Muslim corpse; the body should be buried in a grave deep enough to contain the smell while it decomposes and to prevent animals from digging it up. Ideally, the body is not placed inside of a casket and is buried on its right side with its back to Mecca. Muslims may cover the grave with bricks or stones if the cemetery is situated in an area where there is a lot of wildlife to prevent the animals from disturbing the dead.
9. Marking and Visiting the Grave
Muslim cemeteries don’t have fancy grave markers since they emphasize simplicity and respect. However, a modest monument or tombstone is acceptable. It is customary to leave nothing for the departed on or near the cemetery, including candles, cut flowers, or other tributes.
Women’s right to pay respects to a loved one’s grave is a subject of significant discussion. Some Muslims believe this is against the law, but others believe it is OK to go to graves on occasion to pay respects and reflect on death.
Even the Muslim tradition has guidelines for comforting grieving friends and relatives, however, these are less strict than some of the other funeral customs.
10. Consoling Family and Friends
The Muslim community places a high value on comforting mourning friends and relatives, yet there aren’t many strict regulations dictating how to do it. It is traditional to provide sympathy and food for three days following the funeral to the grieving family. It is also customary to bring fruits and distribute them among the attendees.
Offering support and condolences to the grieving family is seen as an essential part of coping with loss in many other cultures as well. After a Muslim funeral, it’s also customary to provide food to the grieving family so they won’t have to bother about cooking as they cope with the death of a loved one.