Muslims view death as a transition from one state of being to another, not as an end. Funerals in Islam are made up of rituals and practices that are prescribed by Islamic laws. A key principle during Islamic funerals is the avoidance of extravagant gestures and overspending. Also, the body must be buried as soon as possible after death. So, in Islam, the death of a person is immediately announced to all friends and relatives and preparation for interment begins.
PREPARING THE BODY
There are two main things that are done to prepare the body before burial; the body is washed (known as “Ghusl”) and then shrouded (known as “Kafan”).The ghusl is usually given by immediate same-sex family members. However, in the case of spousal death, the spouse may perform the washing. The body is washed three times. If, after the third wash, the body is not entirely clean, it may be washed some more. Though, ultimately the body should 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. Women’s hair should be washed and braided into three braids. Once clean and prepared, the body is covered in a white sheet.
Three large white sheets of inexpensive should be fabric aid on top of each other during the shrouding. The use of low-cost fabric is in keeping with the need to avoid extravagant gestures. The body should be placed on top of the sheets. Women should, at this point, 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 should then be folded over the body, first the right side and then the left side until all three sheets have wrapped the body. The shrouding should be secured with ropes, one tied above the head, two tied around the body, and one tied below the feet. The body should then be transported to the mosque (“masjid”) for funeral prayers, known as “Salat al-Janazah.”
THE FUNERAL PRAYERS
Salāt al-Janāzah is the Islamic funeral prayer; it is a vital part of the Islamic funeral ritual. The prayer is performed in congregation to seek pardon for the deceased and all dead Muslims. The Salat al-Janazah is a collective obligation upon Muslims. The salat is led by an imam and is usually said outside a mosque with all participants facing the “qiblah”— toward Mecca.
After Salat al-Janazah has been recited, the body is taken to the cemetery for burial. The grave should be dug perpendicular to the qiblah, and the body should be placed in the grave on its right side, facing the qiblah. Prayers are said while the body is being lowered into the grave. Once the body is in the grave, a layer of wood or stones should be 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 may 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 recognizable.
In Islam, it is acceptable to express grief over death. Crying and weeping at the time of death, at the funeral, and at the burial are all acceptable forms of expression. However, wailing, screaming, cursing and any excessive behaviours are looked down on. Even in such periods of pain, believers are expected to maintain their faith in Allah by comporting themselves and having faith in Him.