A few general guidelines for burial are given below. Most of these are based on common sense. They are included here for completeness:
(1) A man's body should be washed by men and a woman's body by women for obvious reasons.
(2) A child's body may be washed by men or women. It is preferable that men wash the body of a boy and women that of a girl.
(3) Bodies of children above the age of puberty should be washed by older members of the same sex as the deceased.
(4) A man may wash the body of his deceased wife, and a woman may also wash the body of her deceased husband. However, no other helpers should be present during such a Ghusl. Because of the obvious emotional implications of this situation it is highly desirable that other appropriate relatives or friends perform this service.
(5) Ghusl al Mayyah should be performed by a person who is well-versed in the proper procedure. This would save time and effort, avoid confusion, and would also provide the required peace of mind for the bereaved family.
(6) A surviving spouse may not wash the body of his or her divorced spouse since divorce abrogates their previous sacred and intimate relationship.
(7) If the deceased has passed away while still in debt, the heirs should try to pay the debts off as expeditiously and amicably as possible, preferably before the burial. If this is not feasible for some reason, suitable and mutually agreeable payment arrangements should be made with the creditors.
(8) Unnecessary funeral expenses, e.g. those dictated by a desire to "show off" or in response to local or communal customs, should be strictly avoided. Such expenses do not benefit the deceased. Quite the contrary, they may cause financial hardship and embarrassment to the bereaved family. More importantly, they are against the specific instructions of the Holy Prophet (pbuh) who directed that Muslim burials should be simple and inexpensive.
Jabir (ra) reported: "Allah's Messenger (pbuh) prohibited plastering a grave (with chalk), sitting on it, building over it, adding to its height, or writing on it." (Muslim, Abu Daud, An Nasa'i)
(9) The body should preferably be placed directly on the ground in the grave. If that is not possible because of water-logged ground, other similar circumstances, or the local laws, an inexpensive and simple wooden casket may be used. Do not use an expensive casket with extravagant accessories such as inner lining, pillows, etc.
Authorities in some areas allow the use of a reusable, stainless steel casket to transport the body to the cemetery and to then place it directly on the ground in the grave. The steel casket can thereafter be washed and sanitized properly for future use. The local funeral home director can advise you on the matter including the proper way to clean the casket.
(10) If a wooden casket is used, it is not necessary to break it or destroy it before the grave is filled.
(11) The expenses of the funeral and the ensuing burial should be borne by the immediate survivors of the deceased, and should be paid out of the assets of the deceased. In the absence of such survivors, the closest relatives present at the funeral should bear the expenses. If this is not an option then one or more members of the local Muslim community may assume this responsibility.
(12) Women are discouraged from accompanying the funeral procession to the cemetery in deference to their emotional nature. This is designed to preclude the possibility of an uncontrollable outburst of mourning on their part. It is expressly prohibited by the Holy Prophet (pbuh) to indulge in demonstrative or loud expressions of sorrow and grief to express distress at any time during the funeral or the burial as described in the following Hadith :
Abu Hurayrah (ra) reported that Allah's Messenger (pbuh) said: "Two of the people's practices are acts of disbelief: dishonoring the kinship relations, and wailing over the dead." (Muslim, al Bayhaqi)
(13) The Ghusl as well as the burial should not be delayed unnecessarily. If the local and state laws so allow, the body should not be embalmed and should be buried as promptly as possible. If embalming is unavoidable, the minimum procedure required by the relevant laws should be performed. Your funeral home director should be able to advise you on the applicable requirements.
(14) Funeral expenses should be kept to a minimum. The following is a list of common expenses incurred in a burial. The dollar amounts shown are only a rough estimate and are meant as a guideline. Actual expenses will vary from place to place:
Reusable Stainless Steel Casket (typically provided by the local Mosque) $ 2500
Kafan $ 30.00
Police Escort $ 200.00
Burial Plot $ 500.00
Granite Head Stone (18" x 24") $ 300.00
Miscellaneous Supplies (Soap, Apron, Surgical Gloves, Disposable Shoe-covers and Masks etc.) $ 20.00
Transportation of the body to the funeral home $ 200.00
Grave Digging $ 300.00
Use of funeral home facilities $ 500.00
Death Certificate $ 25.00
Concrete Box (i.e., Grave Liner) $ 200.00
Wooden Casket : Price varies widely. Check with the local funeral home.
Note: Charges for embalming and refrigeration are not reflected above. If embalming is required by local laws, your funeral home director should be able to provide you with all necessary information.
(15) To offer condolences to the bereaved family is a Sunnah. It is also recommended to offer prayers for the deceased at the time of condolence and to provide food for the bereaved family for three days after the funeral. The following Ahadith are illustrative of the practice of the Holy Prophet (pbuh):
(i) Abdullah bin Jafar (ra) reported that the Prophet (pbuh) allowed the family of Jafar three days (for mourning), then came to them and said: "Do not weep over my brother after this day." (Abu Daud, An Nasa'i)
(ii) When Allah's Messenger (pbuh) learnt about the death of Jafar (ra), he commanded: "Make food for Jafar's family, because a matter has occurred diverting them (from normal life)." (Abu Daud and at-Tirmizi)