Funerals in Islam (called Janazah in Arabic) follow fairly specific rites, though they are subject to regional interpretation and variation in custom. In all cases, however, sharia (Islamic religious law) calls for burial of the body, preceded by a simple ritual involving bathing and shrouding the body, followed by salah (prayer). Cremation of the body is forbidden.
Preparing the body for burial
Before the deceased can be buried, their body must be washed (“Ghusl”) and shrouded (“Kafan”). Close same-sex family members are encouraged to give Ghusl, though in the case of spousal death the husband or wife may perform the washing. The body should be washed three times. It may be washed more if it is deemed not clean enough, though the body must always be washed an odd number of times. The body is washed in the following order: upper right side, upper left side, lower right side, lower left side and women’s hair is washed and braided into three braids. Once clean and prepared, the body is covered in a white sheet.
To shroud the body, three large white sheets of material are laid on top of each other. The body is then placed on top of the sheets. Women, at this point, are to be dressed in an ankle-length sleeveless dress and head veil. If possible, the deceased’s left hand should rest on the chest and the right hand should rest on the left hand, as in a position of prayer. The sheets are then folded over the body, first the right side and then the left side, until all three sheets have wrapped the body. The shrouding is secured with ropes, one tied above the head, two tied around the body, and one tied below the feet. The body is then transported to the mosque (“masjid”) for funeral prayers, known as “Salat al-Janazah.”
As the deceased should be prepared and buried as soon as possible after death, there is no wake or viewing of the body.
The Funeral Service
Funeral prayers, called Salat al-Janazah, are performed by all members of the community. Though the prayers are recited at the mosque, they are not recited inside the mosque. Instead, they are performed in a prayer room or study room, or in the mosque’s courtyard. Those praying face the “qiblah”, towards Mecca, and form at least three lines, with the male most closely related to the person who died in the first line, followed by men, then children, then women.
After Salat al-Janazah has been recited, the body is then transported to the cemetery for burial. Traditionally, only men are allowed to be present at the burial, though in some communities all mourners, including women, will be allowed at the gravesite. The grave is dug perpendicular to the qiblah, and the body is placed in the grave on its right side, facing the qiblah. Those placing the body into the grave recite the line “Bismilllah wa ala millati rasulilllah” – which means “In the name of Allah and in the faith of the Messenger of Allah”. Once the body is in the grave, a layer of wood or stones is placed on top of the body to prevent direct contact between the body and the soil that will fill the grave. Then each mourner present will place three handfuls of soil into the grave. Once the grave has been filled, a small stone or marker may be placed at the grave so that it is recognisable. However, traditionally, it is prohibited to put a large monument on the grave or elaborately decorate the grave.
We are able to help arrange an Islamic funeral and arrange all the necessary parts for you.