Death: Questions on death and burial

Q140 :What should a dying person, if in his senses, do? What should anybody attending him do? What should be done by the family of the deceased? When the death occurs, what prayer is offered? Must the deceased be buried in a specified graveyard, or could he be buried in a residential area? What are the duties of the family of the deceased before and after burial?

A140 : If death approaches and the person is able to speak, he should say the declaration that he believes in the Oneness of Allah. This is the one known as "the kalimah" in many Muslim countries. If he says it by himself, well and good. If not, then anyone who is attending him should try to get him to say it. If the dying person is unable to speak, he may make the declaration mentally. If you are attending a dying person, you must not insist on him saying the declaration, because he may be in pain or may not be in full control of his powers. Insistence may cause him to say something unbecoming. If he did it once, that is well and good. You do not try to make him say it again unless he speaks of other things. In this case, you say the declaration again to him, implying that he should say it, so that his last word be the declaration. Although some scholars are of the view that the full declaration is to be prompted to the dying person, most of them say that it is sufficient to prompt him to say: "There is no deity save Allah." It is recommended to make him lie down facing the qiblah [which should be as he is turned to his right). It is also recommended to read the surah entitled "Ya'Seen" in front of a dying person, not after his death. When the death is confirmed, his eyes should be closed and he should be covered. His family should immediately start preparing for his burial. He should be washed and wrapped before offering the special prayer for the deceased (i.e. Janazah prayer) and burying him. His debts should be paid off as soon as possible from his own property. If he dies insolvent, his debts may be paid from the zakah funds of the Muslim community. His family should show patience and pray Allah to reward him for their acceptance of His will with patience and perseverance. The Prophet recommends us to say this supplication when we suffer the death of a close relative: "To Allah we belong and to Him we return. My Lord, reward me for my tragedy and compensate me with better than I have lost." (Related by Ahmad and Muslim). It is recommended to inform the deceased's relatives and friends of his death. It is permissible to weep for his loss, without shouting or wailing. No woman may wear mourning clothes for any relative for more than three days. The only exception is her husband for whom she may be in mourning dress throughout her mourning period, which lasts four months and ten days, unless she is pregnant when it lasts until her delivery. Preparing for burial starts with washing the deceased which is a duty incumbent upon the Muslim community. If some of them fulfill it, the others are released of their duty. If none of them washes the body of a deceased Muslim, all of them incur a sin. Washing is with water. It is sufficient to wash the deceased once, but is more preferable to wash his or her body three times with soap and water. If any impurity has fallen on the body of the deceased, it should be removed first. Only those who are needed for the washing should attend and they do not publicize any secret they may find out. The deceased should be undressed but his private parts should remain covered during washing. When the washing is finished, the body is dried with a clean dress or cloth other than his wrappers. Some perfumes are used before the body is wrapped in full. It should be noted here that a fighter who is killed in battle by non-believers need not be washed. He is to be wrapped in his own clothes and buried. It is a community duty to have the deceased person wrapped in clean dresses or clothes, preferably white in color. It is recommended to have three layers for a deceased man and five for a deceased woman. Silk may not be used to wrap a deceased man with, but it is permissible as wrapper for a deceased woman. Although most scholars discourage that. Prayer for the deceased (i.e. Janazah prayer) is preferably led by his nearest relative. Prayer for the deceased consist of four glorifications of Allah, i.e. takbeer, with the imam only saying "Allahu Akbar" loudly. After the first one, the imam and everybody else, reads AL-Fatiha. After the second one, we read the greeting to the Prophet which we normally say in the second part of Tashahhud in ordinary prayers. After the third one, we offer a supplication on behalf of the deceased praying Allah to forgive him all his sins and to admit him into heaven. After the fourth, we have a general supplication for all Muslims. The deceased is then taken for burial. People should walk quietly without reading anything loudly, even though it may be from the Qur'an or glorification of Allah. The grave should be deep enough to prevent any bad smell coming out and to stop animals digging the body up. It is recommended that when the grave is filled up, it should be elevated from the ground by not more than 25 to 30 cm, so that it is known to be a grave. Elevating it higher is not permissible. It is by far preferable to bury Muslims in graveyards, although it is permissible to bury a dead person at home. Following the Prophet's Sunnah is more preferable. He ordered the burial of his companions in the graveyard known as "Al Baqee". Offering condolences to the family of the deceased is recommended. It is discouraged for the relatives of the deceased to stay at a particular place to accept condolences. These should be offered when the relatives are met. It is also recommended to visit graves and graveyards. When you arrive at the grave of a deceased relative, you stand at the head of the grave and pray for the dead person. Most scholars agree that it is also permissible for women to visit graves, but they are forbidden from wailing and crying loudly.

Our Dialogue ( Source : Arab News - Jeddah )