Islamic Funeral Guide
Islamic Funeral Etiquette, Traditions, Rites and More
The Islamic religion views death as a transition to another state of existence called the afterlife. Where you go in the afterlife depends on how well you followed Islamic religious codes during your life. Muslims, practitioners of the Islamic faith, believe that if you lived a good life, you will go to Paradise after you die. If not, you will be separated from all that is good in the world.
Therefore, Islamic funerals serve not only to comfort the grieving, but also to pray to Allah, the Islamic word for God, to have mercy on the deceased.
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What is an Islamic Funeral?
An Islamic funeral is considered a community event. Muslims believe a funeral to be a very spiritual occasion. Everyone in attendance participates in group prayers, in which mourners pray that Allah will have mercy on not only the deceased but also on all deceased Muslims.
Islamic funerals are to help mourners cope with their grief, but are also meant to offer hope for a good afterlife for the deceased. The service lasts 30 to 60 minutes.
Islamic Funeral Rites and Traditions
One very important funeral rite in the Islamic faith is that burial take place as quickly as possible after death. For this reason, there is no viewing, wake, or visitation. Immediately after death, the body is washed and covered with a sheet by family members. The hands are placed as if in prayer. Then the body is transported to the location of the funeral, a mosque. There is rarely an open casket at an Islamic funeral.
The funeral is typically held outside the mosque, in a location such as a prayer room, community square, or courtyard, where members of the community may gather. The body and all attendees are all turned to face Mecca, which is the holy center of Islam. Funeral prayers are led by the Imam, the holy leader. Attendees form at least three lines: men, then children, and women in the back. After prayers, the body is taken to the burial site in a silent procession. Some Muslim communities allow women and children to attend the burial, but traditionally it's just men. Another important Islamic burial rite is to have each person at the burial throw three handfuls of dirt into the grave.
Since Muslims believe there will be a physical resurrection of the body on Judgement Day, the faith prohibits cremation. Similarly, autopsies are strongly discouraged, since they delay burial and are considered a desecration of the body. Also, Muslims prefer not to move the body away from the site of death, making an autopsy even more unsettling for them. Embalming, considered yet another desecration of the body, is performed only if required by law.
Finally, tradition dictates that flowers are to be sent to the family's home after the burial of the deceased. There is a 40-day mourning period, during which time not only flowers but also food is appreciated.
Islamic Funeral Etiquette
Mourners at an Islamic funeral may express grief, but only within certain standards of decorum. Loud wailing, for example, is not permitted. Neither are other outward signs of extreme emotion, such as ripping of clothes, thrashing about, sacrilegious speech, and self-injury. Crying is permitted.
Traditional Muslim funeral etiquette forbids mourners from taking pictures or in any other way recording any part of the funeral prayer service.
After the prayer service and the burial, mourners may gather at the home of the immediate family. This is when it is appropriate to express your condolences to the family and support them in their grief. Plan to stay the entire day. Traditionally, a meal is served. Socializing is believed to help the family cope with their loss.
During the first three days of the 40-day period of mourning, community members should bring food to the family. Many modern Muslim communities observe a shortened mourning period.
Widows will customarily observe an even longer time of mourning. Whatever the time frame, it's important that the community visits and offers to help in any way they can.
Islamic Funeral FAQ
What is the Islamic burial time limit?
Burial should take place as soon as possible. It's typical to bury someone of the Islamic faith within three days, although most strive for within 24 hours. read more
Why are Islamic funerals attended by the whole community?
Muslims believe that the death of a fellow Muslim is a loss for the entire community. They also believe a funeral to be a very spiritual event. read more
Do Muslim women attend Islamic funerals?
Traditionally, they do not. However, modern communities do allow women at the funeral prayer service. read more
What is the dress code for an Islamic funeral?
For both men and women, dress should be modest. Men should wear a shirt and trousers. Women must wear a headscarf, plus an ankle-length skirt and a shirt... read more
Are non-Muslims allowed at Islamic funerals?
Yes, it is common for non-Muslims to attend Islamic funerals. read more