The process and significance of death rituals in Islam. In Islam, death rituals are a step by step process.
Bismillāhir Rahmānir Rahīm, As-salāmu ʿAlaykum wa rahmatullāhi wa barakātuh. Peace be upon you brothers and sisters.
Welcome back to the Muslim Converts Channel! Just like drinking water, death and burial rituals are universal in all cultures. Islam’s death and burial rituals are some of the most complex in the world.
In this lesson, we’re going to take a look at some of them.
Before we begin though, please note we will be giving you a general outline of death and burial rituals in Islam. Given the scope and time limit of this lesson, it is not possible to cover every aspect or every detail. For more information, please contact your Marja’s office.
BODY OF TEXT
According to Islamic belief, when a person dies, he or she immediately begins life in the afterlife. In Islam, the afterlife begins in the grave itself. Everything turns dark, but then the angels Munkir and Nakir show up and question the person about their life and deeds. According to the Prophet Muhammad (s), this process is an excruciating one.
When the questioning is done, for most people, everything turns blank until the person is woken up again when the Day of Resurrection begins. Only two types of people do not see their existence go blank during this period, the really evil people and the really good people.
The really evil people begin their punishment in the world of barzakh or purgatory. The really good people who led morally good lives and were faithful to God live in bliss. In the next work, they live in a heavenly purgatory before the real heaven.
While these are happening, we who are alive have responsibilities for the dead. Immediately after a person dies, these rituals must begin without delay. Here we will outline some of the key funeral rituals and practices of Islam.
Death and funeral rituals are obligatory on the community. Only when the obligation is fulfilled by some people is the rest of the community relieved of the obligation.
Ghusl al-Mayyit (Washing of the Dead Body)
The first step in Muslim funerals is to wash the dead body. This ritual washing is called ghusl al-mayyit or the washing of a dead body. The body is to be washed of all ritually impure entities, such as urine, stool and blood. When washing the body, a person must make the intention (niyyah) of washing the body. While the body is being washed, the private parts should be covered with a cloth.
The body should be washed by a person of the same gender. If such a person cannot be found, then a family member who is mahram should do the washing. Again, the body should be covered with a cloth while this happens.
One is not allowed to be paid for the ritual washing. If one is paid, the ghusl is void.
For more specific details on what to say and what water to use, please see our further reading list.
Once the washing is done, the body should be dried.
Tahnit (Applying Camphor to the Body)
When the washing is complete and the body is dried, the other step is to apply camphor to the seven parts of the body which touch the ground when a person prostrates in prayer. These are the forehead, the palms of hands, the knees, and the toes. They can also be applied to the nose and chest. The process of applying camphor to the dead body is called tahnit (pronounced tahnīt).
Like the ghusl, the process of tahnit also requires a niyyah.
The third step is to shroud and wrap the body with three pieces of clothing. These pieces of clothing are:
- Loin cloth (which is like an apron): covers the front and back part of the body from the navel to the ankles.
- Long shirt: this is a big shirt that covers the shoulders up until the knees. It’s preferable that it goes up to the ankles.
- Large cloth: this is a large cloth that covers the entire body and should overlap at the front. The bottom parts can be tied with a string.
There are some other recommended clothes that one can add in addition to these three, please see what your Marja says on the subject.
It is recommended that the cloths be white and the body facing the Qibla while shrouding. It is also recommended that one recites verses of the Qur’an while shrouding the body.
Salat al-Mayyit (Prayer for the Dead)
The prayer for the dead (salat al-mayyit) is the fourth obligatory step of the funeral process. The prayer is usually done in congregation. What is different about this ritual prayer is that there are no rukus (bowing) or sujud (prostration).
On how to perform the salat al-mayyit, please refer to the “further reading list” of this lesson.
The final physical process of the body is to be buried. The body must be buried in a Muslim graveyard or a graveyard where a part of it has been reserved for Muslims only. If this is not possible, then the body is to be shipped to a Muslim country and be buried there. If this is not possible for some reasons, then the body can be buried in the graveyard of the Ahl al-Kitab, that is, Jews, Christians or Zoroastrians.
During the burial, among other steps, the body must be placed on its right side facing the Qibla. This part is obligatory. Some of the kafan should also be untightened and have some earth put under the cheek of the dead. A pillow made of earth is to be made so that the head may rest on it.
Ghusl For Having Touched a Dead Body and Salat al-Wahsha
Touching a dead body where the body has gone cold makes one ritually impure. As a result, one must make ghusl if one is to pray afterwards.
In order to help the souls of those who have died, especially on the first night which is the hardest for the soul, one should do a two rakat prayer for the departed soul on the first night of the funeral between Maghrib and Isha prayers. In Islam, this is called salat al-wahsha.
Until Next Time, Thank you for watching. As-salāmu ʿAlaykum wa rahmatullāhi wa barakātuh
prayer for the dead
ritual washing of the dead
a two rakat prayer for the departed soul on the first night of the funeral between Maghrib and Isha prayers.
applying camphor on the seven areas of the body that touches the ground during prayers
Munkir and Nakir
the two angels that interrogate you in the grave
What is salat al-mayyit?
Prayer for the dead in Islamic funeral laws
What is ghusl al-mayyit?
Ritual washing of the dead in Islamic funeral laws
Do Muslims need to be put in a coffin during burial?
No, only a shroud is needed
Are people’s souls conscious in the grave after they die?
What happens in the grave once you die?
You are interrogated by the angels Munkir and Nakir concerning the kind of life you lived while you were alive on earth.
death in islam
death rituals in islam
prayer for the dead
washing of the dead body
munkir and nakir