A Handbook of Muslim Burials

Sarwar Alam Raz

The publication of a Handbook of Muslim Burials may need some explanation. A review of the available literature on Islam in English shows a marked paucity of useful information on this important and sensitive subject. Moreover, the little information that is available is either inadequate or incomplete in its scope as well as in its presentation. Evidently, the sensitive nature of the subject and its common perception as a rather unpleasant topic has discouraged prospective writers.

This short handbook is an attempt to provide the necessary information on the preparation and burial of a deceased Muslim in a concise, easy-to-understand, yet discreet, manner. It is based on authentic and reliable sources and, therefore, should go a long way towards providing the peace of mind one needs at an especially stressful time in life.

The writer has personally encountered situations where the bereaved family was not familiar with the proper rites of the preparation and burial of a loved one, and no knowledgeable help was readily available to alleviate their worrisome situation. Even when some help was available, the family was often in the awkward position of having to decide between different opinions on matters of preparation and burial born out of the cultural environments of those offering advice.

The material in this handbook follows the dictates and the recommendations of the Shariah strictly and consequently should be very helpful in minimizing confusion and in making a rather difficult job relatively easy.

The arrangement of the material in this handbook is concise, straightforward and logical. In order to maintain continuity and improve readability its contents are divided into sections. Each section is a logical extension of the preceding section, and taken together, these sections form a whole and cover all necessary information adequately.

A glossary of the technical terms used in the text is included at the end of the handbook. These terms are used freely in the text without further explanation or elaboration. Therefore, an adequate understanding of all of these terms is essential for a fuller comprehension of the contents of this handbook.

An attempt has been made to complete the coverage of the subject by the inclusion of information on the decorum to be observed at the funeral, common mistakes made during the burial process, and other similar topics.

Relevant verses from The Holy Quran as well as Ahadith of the Holy Prophet (pbuh) have been included where considered necessary to explain, elucidate, and authenticate the text. Two sketches are provided to illustrate and clarify the text tastefully.

The sources used in the preparation of this handbook are identified in the bibliography. The author is greatly indebted to the authors of these and other books which he has freely consulted in the preparation of this work. Comments and suggestions from the readers for improvement of future revisions of the handbook would be greatly appreciated.

The writer wishes to thank Imam Moujahed M. Bakhach of the Islamic Association Of Tarrant County, Fort Worth, Texas for the technical review of the handbook and his many suggestions for its improvement. The help rendered by Syed Moazzam Farooq in the preparation of the final text is also appreciated. The writer is especially indebted to his son, Salman Sarwar Razi, for his constructive criticism and numerous suggestions to clarify and improve the overall quality of the book. Last, but not least, the writer gratefully acknowledges the unquestioning support and encouragement offered by his wife, Qaisar Razi, during the preparation of this handbook.


Fort Worth, TX, U.S.A.
March 1, 2001



a brief handbook on muslim funeral and burial rites.

Muslim Burials: Introduction


Muslims living in the West find their Islamic way of life in perpetual conflict with the prevailing societal norms. They must not only maintain their unique lifestyle in an essentially secular environment but must also preserve its integrity and purity against considerable odds. This is by no means an easy task as almost all Islamic values happen to be in direct conflict with their Western counterparts. Only an adequate knowledge of Islam, a strong desire to practice it faithfully, and a proactive and dedicated effort on the part of Muslims to pass their heritage on to the coming generations can ensure the survival of Islam in this environment.

Islam calls for a simple, and sometimes rigorous, lifestyle singularly notable by its absence in the West. Muslims are required to practice a demanding regimen of self-discipline and sacrifice, whereas the prevailing Western culture often emphasizes the importance of self over others. Islam teaches its adherents to harness their resources and energies for the betterment of the society at large, and enjoins them to lead their lives in the service of God.

Unlike many other faiths Islam does not allow for the division of one's life into the spiritual and the secular. Religion to a Muslim is an essential component of everyday life itself, so that it is impossible to just be a weekend believer. Thus, Islam declares that Allah (i.e., God) is "the only Reality" (The Quran 6:62) so that everything belongs to Him alone. Consequently, man is responsible for holding everything on earth as a trust from God to be used in the best interests of humanity under His Guidance.

Life and Death in Islam

There is a real and significant difference between Islam and other faiths in their perception of life and its various aspects. In this respect death is no exception.

In Islam life on earth with all its trials, tribulations and transitory pleasures is viewed not as an end in itself but rather as a minuscule part of a larger journey towards a higher goal. Muslims believe that man was created by the Supreme Creator, Allah, so that he may "worship" Him (The Quran 51:56).

The concept of worship itself is different in Islam from its commonly understood meaning. It does not consist merely of ritual prayers in a prescribed manner, although that is also an important part of worship in Islam. Instead, worship in Islam consists of the totality of one's attitude and way of life in the light of Divine Revelation. Man and every other creation offers obeisance to Allah in its own way,and no one can deviate from this prescribed path without causing harm and chaos in some way to the general scheme of life.

Since man is on a much higher plane of physical, emotional and intellectual consciousness than other creatures, he is entrusted with a correspondingly higher responsibility. His worship of Allah, and the obligations emanating therefrom, are a testimony to his spiritual maturity. He is also the recipient of messages through Divine Revelation and is enjoined to follow them for appropriate rewards in this world as well as in the Hereafter.

For one who submits himself totally to the will of Allah, i.e. a Muslim, death holds no fear. Indeed, it represents a portal to a life far more rewarding and generous in its gifts and riches, a life that is full of the grace and mercy of the Supreme Creator.

The Quran stresses the inevitability of death for all living things, emphasizes the fleeting nature of this world, and underlines the need for God-consciousness. This is clear from the following Quranic verses:

3:145 Nor can a soul die except by Allah's leave, the term being fixed as by writing. If any do desire a reward in this life, We shall give it to him; and if any do desire a reward in the Hereafter, We shall give it to him. And swiftly shall We reward those that (serve us with) gratitude.

3:185 Every soul shall have a taste of death: and only on the Day of Judgement shall you be paid your full recompense. Only he who is saved far from the Fire and admitted to the Garden will have attained the object (of Life): for the life of this world is but goods and chattels of deception.

6:31,32 Lost indeed are they who treat it as a falsehood that they must meet Allah,- until on a sudden the hour is on them, and they say: " Ah! woe unto us that we took no thought of it"; for they bear their burdens on their backs, and evil indeed are the burdens that they bear! What is the life of this world but play and amusement? But best is the Home in the Hereafter, for those who are righteous. Will you not then understand?

28:83 That Home of the Hereafter We shall give to those who intend not high-handedness or mischief on earth: and the End is (best) for the righteous.

Preparation for Burial

The process of the preparation of a deceased person for burial underlines the principles of simplicity, dignity and equality exemplified by the Holy Prophet (pbuh) himself. The following steps constitute this operation:

  1. Ghusl al Mayyah (i.e., washing of the body)
  2. Takfeen (i.e., wrapping of the body in a shroud)
  3. Salat ul Janazah (i.e., prayer for the deceased)
  4. Burial

The details of these steps are given in the following sections.



an introduction to the topic of death in islam.

Muslim Burials: Ghusl in Islam - Ghusl al Mayyah



This section describes the procedure for ghusl in Islam; washing a body in preparation for its burial in detail. Islam lays great emphasis on physical and spiritual cleanliness. Indeed, physical cleanliness is considered absolutely necessary for all acts of worship to be meaningful.

The concept of cleanliness is extended to the preparation of a body for burial also. Since Islam emphasizes the preservation of the dignity of the deceased person at all times, it requires that the body be washed and cleaned thoroughly and in a specific way. This ensures that all Muslims will be prepared for their last journey in an identical fashion regardless of their social or economic status.
The importance of maintaining a clean and hygienic environment at all times is exemplified by the instructions of the Holy Prophet (pbuh) to his followers in the following Hadith:

" Let whoever washes a dead person take a bath; and let whoever carries him perform Wudu." (Ahmad and Abu Daud).

Things You Need

No elaborate preparations or paraphernalia are required for the Ghusl. The few things needed are listed below. They are designed to maintain as sanitary and clean an environment as possible during the Ghusl. They are not mandatory, and things marked with an asterisk (*) would suffice in extreme circumstances

Water* (preferably warm), soap*, surgical gloves, disposable masks and shoe covers, a roll of cotton*, towels, clean cloth*, Kafan*, perfume, powdered camphor.

How to perform Ghusl

It may be mentioned that the body of a deceased person can be released only to a funeral home if the death occurs in a hospital. If the person dies at home, the relatives should call a funeral home and follow its advice in respect of reporting the death to the proper authorities as well as the transportation of the body to the funeral home for its final preparation.

The following is a step-by-step description of the procedure for Ghusl in Islam:

(1) Place the body of the deceased on a table for ease of access during washing. Funeral homes usually provide a table washed and disinfected according to industry standards and state regulations. If in doubt, wash the table thoroughly with warm water and disinfectant soap before use.

Funeral homes can provide valuable services and facilities for Ghusl and the ensuing preparation of the body such as the washing table, soap, surgical gloves, hot and cold running water etc. Local and state laws in the Western countries do not allow the handling and washing of a dead body in a place other than one licensed for this specific purpose. Check with a funeral home in your area for specific regulations.

(2) Remove the deceased person's clothes carefully and discreetly taking care to respect his or her privacy. At no time during the process should the Awrah of the deceased be exposed. Keep the Awrah covered with a cloth as the clothes are removed.

It may be mentioned that the Awrah of a male consists of the part of his body from his navel to his knees, while that of a female consists of her body from her neck down to her ankles.

(3) Press the stomach of the deceased gently and massage it downwards to evacuate the bowels before the Ghusl is started. The process may be facilitated by one person raising the body from behind to a semi-upright or reclined position as the other compresses the abdomen. Working under the cover, use a gloved hand to discreetly and carefully wash away any refuse with warm water.

(4) Change the glove. Wrap a piece of clean wet cloth around your index finger and gently wipe the teeth and the inside of the mouth of the deceased. Discard the used piece of cloth.

(5) Use small wads of cotton to plug the ears and the nose to minimize the possibility of water entering these orifices during Ghusl. A thick pad of cotton may be placed over the mouth for the same purpose. Additionally, use your free hand to shield the orifices during the Ghusl.

(6) Perform Wudu of the deceased as below:

(a) Wash the right hand and then the left hand, each three times.
(b) Washing the inside of the mouth and the nose is not necessary. Clean both from the outside only.
(c) Shielding the mouth, nose and ears with your free hand wash the face three times. Try not to let the water enter any of the orifices.
(d) Wash the right arm from the elbow down to the fingertips three times. Wash the left arm similarly.
(e) Wash the right foot from the ankle down to the toes three times. Wash the left foot similarly.

(7) Using warm water and soap, wash the body thoroughly from head to toe. Usually, three washes are sufficient to adequately cleanse the body. If necessary, wash the body again. It is the sunnah of the Holy Prophet (pbuh) to wash the body an odd number of times as is clear from the following Hadith:

Umm Atiyyah (ra)reported that the Prophet (pbuh) came in while they were washing his daughter Zaynab (ra). He instructed them:
Wash her three, five, seven or more times if you find it necessary- using water and (ground leaves of) lotus" (Bukhari and Muslim).

(8) Have one or more helpers turn the body on its left side. Using soap and warm water, wash the right half of the body thoroughly. Gently turn the body on its right side and repeat the process to clean the left side.

(9) Wash the whole body with water only. Make sure that the body is cleansed of all foreign matter including soap scum.

(10) Pat the body dry with a towel discreetly. Again, work under the covering in deference to the privacy of the deceased.

(11) Perfume or camphor may be applied to the body to add to its overall sanitary condition.

(12) Transfer the covered body carefully to an adjacent table where the Kafan has already been spread out in the prescribed manner as described in Section III.

Special Circumstances

Special circumstances may have to be addressed during the Ghusl. Common sense and decency should dictate the line of possible action in such situations. For example, inspite of all precautions body fluids may sometimes be discharged from the deceased after the Ghusl has been completed. It is then only necessary to clean the refuse with water and rinse the whole body with water three times. It is not necessary to repeat the Ghusl. If the discharge still continues small wads of cotton may be used (discreetly taped, if necessary) to stop the secretions.

Cases involving accident victims, autopsy or contagious diseases are some other examples of situations requiring special handling and precautions. A knowledgeable professional e.g., the funeral home director would normally be able to suggest prudent lines of action in such circumstances compatible with the Shariah, local laws and legitimate health concerns.



the chapter on washing a dead body in accordance with islamic guidelines from a handbook of muslim burials by sarwar alam raz.

Muslim Burials: Takfeen



The Kafans of a male and a female deceased person differ only in the number of pieces of cloth used and their arrangement around the body. Whereas a male deceased is wrapped in three pieces of cloth, a female is wrapped in five. Like everything else, this practice also follows the sunnah of the Holy Prophet (pbuh) and the manner of his own burial as is confirmed by the following Hadith:

Aishah (ra) reported: "Allah's Messenger (pbuh) was shrouded in three white cotton Yemeni sheets from Sahul (an area in Yemen). None of them was either a shirt or a turban. He was simply placed on (and wrapped in) them. (An Nasa'i and Abu Daud)


(i) The Kafan for a male shall consist of three clean (preferably white) and plane pieces of inexpensive cloth (cotton or partly synthetic) of the following approximate sizes:

Piece # 1: 96" long x 45" wide.
Piece # 2: 40" long x 45" wide.
Piece # 3: 45" long x 45" wide.
Additional Item: One 2"x36" swatch and two 2"x12" swatches of the same cloth.

(ii) The Kafan for a female shall consist of five clean (preferably white) and plane pieces of inexpensive cloth (cotton or partly synthetic) of the following approximate sizes:

Piece # 1: 84" long x 45" wide
Piece # 2: 84" long x 45" wide
Piece # 3: 64" long x 45" wide
Piece # 4: 45" long x 45" wide
Piece # 5: 45" long x 18" wide
Additional Item: One 2"x36" swatch and two 2"x12" swatches of the same cloth.


(1) The sizes given above are considered adequate for most cases. However, suitable adjustments may be made as necessary for circumstances calling for a different size.
(2) If unavoidable, it is permissible to shroud the body in a lesser number of sheets than mentioned above.

The Procedure For Takfeen

The following sketches and the accompanying brief descriptions explain the process of Takfeen:

(I) Male Deceased: (Sketch #1)
The order of the Kafan from bottom to top is as below:
(a) Piece # 1 spread out to its full extent.
(b) Piece # 2 spread out on top of Piece # 1 so as to cover the body from its navel to the ankles.
(c) Piece # 3 opened up and laid out on top of the upper half of Piece # 1 so that its top half projects beyond the top edge of Piece # 1. The slit in its middle would accommodate the head of the body as this piece is folded down and over after the body is positioned on the Kafan.

The following steps simplify the wrapping of the body:

(1) Place the washed body on the Kafan with the Awrah still covered with a towel or other suitable piece of cloth and with its head approximately centered on the head-opening in Piece # 3.
(2) Fold Piece # 3 over the head so that it passes through the opening and the body is clothed as if in a sleeveless shirt.
(3) Wrap Piece # 2 around the body as the temporary Awrah cover is discreetly removed.
(4) Fold the left half of Piece # 1 around the body to wrap it completely. Next, fold the right half over the left half.
(5) Tie the Kafan loosely above the head, at the waist and below the feet with the three swatches of cloth. These would later be undone when the body is finally placed in the grave.
The shrouded body may now be placed inside the casket.

(II) Female Deceased: (Sketch #2)
The order of the various pieces of the Kafan from bottom to top is as below:
(a) Piece # 1 spread out fully.
(b) Piece # 2 spread out fully on top of Piece # 1.
(c) Piece # 3 spread out over Piece # 2 so as to be able to cover the body from its shoulders to its ankles.
(d) Piece # 4 spread out as Piece # 3 is spread in Section III-c (I):(c) above.
(e) Piece # 5 can be held separately to be used later as a head scarf.

The following steps explain the process of wrapping the body:

(1) Place the body on the Kafan with its head approximately centered on the head-opening in Piece # 4. Keep the Awrah covered with a cloth during the process.
(2) Fold Piece # 4 over the head carefully so that it passes through the opening and the body is clothed as if in a sleeveless shirt.
(3) Fold the left half of Piece # 3 around the body while carefully removing the Awrah covering. Next, fold the right half over the left half.
(4) Wrap Piece # 5 around the head to cover the hair which may be loosely braided and positioned on either side of the head inside the head-wrap.
(5) Fold the left half of Piece # 2 around the body to wrap it completely. Next, fold the right half over the left half.
(6) Repeat step (5) with Piece # 1.
(7) Tie the Kafan loosely with the three swatches as in Section III-c (I):(5) above.

The shrouded body may now be placed inside the casket.



how to wrap the body for an islamic burial.

Muslim Burials: Namaz Janaza



Namaz Janaza is a Fard Kifayah, and its procedure and details follow the sunnah of the Holy Prophet (pbuh). It is strongly recommended that as many members of the Muslim community as possible should join the funeral procession and Namaz Janaza:
Abu Hurayrah (ra) reported that Allah's Messenger (pbuh) said:

" A Muslim has five rights upon other Muslims: responding to his Salam, answering his invitation (to food), making Tashmeet when he sneezes, visiting him when he is sick, and following his Janazah when he dies."
(Bukhari and Muslim).

The following describes this Salat briefly:

(1) There is no Azan or Iqamah for Salat ul Janazah which is offered with the participants standing and with the body of the deceased placed in front of them. There are no Rukus or Sujud to be performed in Namaz Janaza.
(2) It is preferable if those offering Salat ul Janazah form an odd number of rows with the Imam standing in the front facing the body of the deceased. He should stand in line with the head of a male deceased and with the midriff of a female deceased.
(3) In the case of multiple deceased persons, the bodies should be placed in a row with those of men nearest to the Imam.
(4) If Salat ul Janazah is being offered in the open, it is not necessary for the participants to take off their shoes so long as they are visibly clean.
(5) The deceased and those offering the Salat must be Muslims, and the body of the deceased and those offering the Salat must be in a state of ceremonial cleanliness (Wudu or Ghusl).


(i) It is not obligatory to offer Salat ul Janazah for children who die before attaining the age of puberty as is clear from the following hadith: Aishah (ra) reported : " Ibraheem (ra), the son of the Prophet (pbuh), died when he was eighteen months old, and Allah's Messenger (pbuh) did not pray (Janazah) for him." (Ahmad and Abu Daud).

However, it is permissible to offer Salat ul Janazah for a child including a miscarried fetus. A Hadith recorded by Imam Ahmad reports the Holy Prophet (pbuh) as saying that: "...As for a fetus, the (Janazah) prayer may be performed for it, and Dua would be made that its parents be granted forgiveness and mercy."

(ii) Salat ul Janazah must be offered even for a Muslim guilty of ignoring the teachings of Islam (e.g, Salat, Zakat, prohibition of alcohol and Zina etc.). However, respected leaders of the community should refrain from participating in the Salat ul Janazah as a demonstration of their disapproval of the conduct of the deceased and as an admonition to others. This is fully in accordance with the Sunnah of the Holy Prophet (pbuh).

Salat ul Janazah al Gha'ib

It is acceptable to offer Namaz Janaza for someone who may have died in a different land where Muslims may not have been able to perform the salat for the deceased for any reason. The permission is based on the fact that the Holy Prophet (pbuh) himself offered Salat ul Janazah al Gha'ib in Madinah for an-Najashi, the ruler of Abyssinia.
The famous Islamic scholar Imam Ibn ul Qayyim has commented on this issue as follows:

"It was not a part of the Prophet's (pbuh) guidance and Sunnah to pray (Janazah) for everyone who died afar. Large numbers of Muslims died afar, but he did not pray for them. On the other hand, it is authentically reported that he prayed Janazah for an-Najashi. Three opinions resulted from this:

(1) This provides a Sunnah and permission for the Muslim ummah (i.e., community) to pray for everyone who dies afar. This is the opinion of ash-Shafi'i and Ahmad.
(2) This is a special case only applicable to him (pbuh), and no one else. This is the opinion of Abu Hanifah and Malik.
(3) The correct opinion: If the Janazah prayer is not performed for a deceased in the land where he died, it is permissible to pray Salat ul Gha'ib for him, as the Prophet (pbuh) prayed for an-Najashi because the prayer was not performed for him since he died among the disbelievers. But if the prayer is performed for a deceased in the land where he died, Salat ul Gha'ib may not be performed for him, because the obligation has been met by that. The Prophet (pbuh) prayed for the absent (an-Najashi) and left it off (for all other absents); both his doing and refraining are Sunnahs (that must be followed). Allah knows best."

Procedure For Namaz Janaza

The following is a brief description of Salat ul Janazah:

(1) The Imam should raise his hands, recite the Takbeer, and then tie his hands as in all other Salats. Those offering the Salat should follow, and then recite Sana and Surat ul Fatihah silently.
(2) The Imam should say the Takbeer audibly a second time. He may or may not raise his hands while doing this. Others should follow, and then recite Ibraheemiyah silently.
(3) The Imam should recite the Takbeer a third time while others should follow. Then everyone should offer Dua al Mayyah (a prayer for Allah's mercy to be visited upon the deceased) silently.
(4) The Imam should recite Takbeer a fourth time as above. Everyone should then offer prayers for the Muslim community in general, again silently.
(5) Finally, the Imam should recite Salam as in all other prayers to complete Salat ul Janazah. Salam may be offered once to the right only, or once each to the right and then to the left as in all other prayers.

This would complete the Salat ul Janazah.


how to perform the prayer for the deceased in islam.

Muslim Burials: Tadfeen (Burial)


The funeral procession should be solemn and dignified. It is forbidden to accompany the body with music, loud recitations of The Quran or blatant demonstrations of grief. The deceased is transported to the cemetery in the hearse provided by the funeral home. It is recommended that all Muslims in the community make an effort to accompany the body to the cemetery in their own transportation.

Many Muslim communities in the West have established their own cemeteries, while others have contracted with the relevant local authorities to reserve portions of existing cemeteries for Muslim burials.

Procedure For Muslim Burial

The following is a typical procedure for a burial without a casket. Where a casket is used either because of local laws or other reasons, the concrete box (or the grave-liner) mentioned below is omitted and soil is poured directly on top of the casket:

(1) The shrouded body is picked from the casket and is then gently lowered in the grave by two or more people. It is preferable that close relatives or friends perform this last service for the deceased.
(2) The body is received by two or more persons standing strategically inside the grave and is placed on the ground by them. The face of the deceased is then turned gently towards the Qiblah. This can often be facilitated by turning the whole body slightly on its side and strategically placing lumps of clay or earth at its back.
(3) A rectangular, concrete, lid-less box (i.e., a grave-liner) provided by the cemetery is then placed inverted over the body so as to enclose it completely. This prevents the soil from being thrown directly on top of the body.
(4) Everyone present may then deposit three handfuls of soil in the grave in accordance with the Sunnah of the Holy Prophet (pbuh) as well as in recognition of their own mortality and of the fact that they too will eventually need similar services from the community:
Abu Hurayrah (ra) reported:
" Allah's Messenger (pbuh) once prayed over a Janazah, and then (after burial) he went toward the dead person and threw three handfuls (of soil) on the side of his head." (See Note #2 below). (Ibn Majah)
It may be mentioned that there is no authentic Hadith of the Holy Prophet (pbuh) requiring the recital of a specific Quranic verse with each handful of soil.
(5) Soil is now poured into the grave to fill it completely. No flowers, wreaths, or similar offerings are placed on the grave.
It is acceptable for the top of the grave to be raised slightly above the ground. A headstone or a suitable simple marker may also be placed on the grave for purposes of identification.


(i) The body of a female should be handled only by those who are her Mahram so that her privacy is respected at all times. If no Mahram is present at the funeral, this service can be performed by close relatives or others with due regard to the deceased person's privacy and the sensitivity of the occasion.
(ii) The person mentioned in this Hadith was buried in a Lahd type grave so that the handfuls of soil could be thrown towards the head of the body. A Shaqq type grave is in common use in the West so that the handfuls of soil can be thrown directly on the casket or the concrete grave-liner.




how to bury the deceased in the islamic tradition.

Muslim Burials: Miscellaneous Guidelines

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)



some guidelines for burying the dead in the islamic tradition.

Muslim Burials: Common Practies Not Sanctioned By The Sunnah

Funeral practices in various countries often reflect the influence of local traditions and other religions. Muslims are required to confine all related rituals within the bounds prescribed by The Quran and the Sunnah of the Holy Prophet (pbuh).

Innovations in religion that have no sanction from The Quran or the Sunnah of the Holy Prophet (pbuh) should be scrupulously avoided as is clear from the following Hadith:

"...Beware of invented matters, for every invented matter is an innovation (i.e., Bida'h), and every innovation is a going astray, and every going astray is in Hell-fire." (Abu Daud and at-Tirmidhi).

A Bida'h can be any of the following:

  1. A statement, act or belief in conflict with a Sunnah
  2. An act prohibited by the Holy Prophet (pbuh)
  3. A practice of the non-Muslims that has become associated with Islamic worship
  4. An act of worship supported by only a very weak or fabricated Hadith.

The following are some of the common rituals practiced by Muslims in various cultures that have no sanction from the Shariah and are therefore prohibited. For a more comprehensive list authoritative books listed in the bibliography may be consulted:

  1. To have special prayer meetings or meals on the third, tenth, fortieth or any other specific day after death for the deceased.
  2. To incorporate in one's Will and Last Testament provisions for special prayers, meals, or other charitable deeds to be performed on specific days after one's death.
  3. To perform special prayers or charitable deeds during Ramadan, Shaban or any other month for the deceased.
  4. To place flowers, incense, perfume or any other similar offering on the grave.
  5. To seek the intercession of so-called holy men, saints, or the prophets with Allah on behalf of the deceased.
  6. To transport the deceased's body from one town to another for the specific purpose of burying it next to a holy man, or a relative.
  7. To recite The Quran or call Iqamah or Azan at the grave at any time during or after the burial.
  8. To recite a specific Quranic verse e.g., "minha khalaqnakum wa feeha nueedukum wa minha nukhrijukum taratan ukhra" (From the (earth) did we create you, and into it shall we return you, and from it shall we bring you out once again): (The Quran 20:55), while throwing handfuls of soil in the grave.
  9. To write or print inscriptions of any kind on the Kafan.
  10. To place anything including pieces of paper with verses from The Quran with the body in the grave.
  11. To recite Surah Yaseen or any other surah from The Quran loudly during the Ghusl, Takfeen or the burial.
  12. To visit the grave of a deceased person on a specific day or occasion.
  13. To perform Wudu or take a shower before visiting a grave.
  14. To believe that pious or so-called holy people can intercede with Allah on our behalf for His Grace and Mercy.
  15. To refrain from food and drinks until after a burial.
  16. To place The Quran on the chest of the deceased or near him.
  17. To wear specific type of clothes in mourning.
  18. To clip the nails or to shave the armpits or the pubic hair of the deceased.


some common practices amongst muslims relating to funerals that are not in line with islamic tradition.

Muslim Burials: Glossary

The following Arabic terms are used in this handbook for reasons of brevity and conciseness.

Awrah: The private parts of an individual

Azan: The call to Salat

Bida'h: An innovation in religion

Dua: Prayer or supplication

Dua al Mayyah: Ceremonial prayer for the deceased

O Allah! Forgive our living and our dead, those of us who are present and those who are absent, our young and our old, our males and our females. O Allah! Whoever you keep alive, keep him alive upon Islam, and whoever you take away, take him away in a state of Iman. Allah is Great.

Fard Kifayah: A religious obligation which, if performed by a few Muslims, absolves the rest of the community from this responsibility. If no one discharges the obligation, then the entire Muslim community is considered jointly accountable in the eyes of Allah.

Ghusl al Mayyah (Ghusl, for short): Washing or bathing of a body.

Hadith (pl: Ahadith): A tradition or a saying of the Holy Prophet (pbuh).

Ibraheemiyah: The following invocation recited after certain Sujud in Salat:

Allahumma salli ala Muhammadin wa-ala ali Muhammadin kama sallayta ala Ibraheema wa-ala ali Ibraheema, innaka hameedun majeed. Allahumma barik ala Muhammadin wa-ala ali Muhammadin kama barakta ala Ibraheema wa-ala ali Ibraheema, innaka hameedun majeed.

O Allah! bless Muhammad and the family of Muhammad, as You have blessed Ibraheem and the family of Ibraheem; verily, You are Praiseworthy and Honorable. O Allah! bestow Your grace upon muhammad and the family of Muhammad, as You bestowed your grace on Ibraheem and the family of Ibraheem; verily You are Praiseworthy and Honorable.

Imam: One who leads a prayer

Iqamah: The call immediately preceding a congregational Salat

Janazah: A deceased or a dead body. Also sometimes used for Salat ul Janazah

Kafan: Shroud for the dead burial

Lahd: The hollow made in the wall of a grave on the Qiblah side in which the body is placed

Mahram: A person to whom marriage is expressly prohibited by the Shariah

pbuh: Acronym for "peace be upon him", traditionally affixed with the name of the Holy Prophet (pbuh)

Qiblah: The direction of prayers in Islam

ra: Acronym for "radi Allahu anhum" (Allah be pleased with him) or "radi Allahu anha" (Allah be pleased with her).

Ramadan: The ninth month of the Islamic calendar in which Muslims are required to fast from dawn to dusk

Ruku: The act of bowing in Salat

Sajdah (pl: Sujud): The act of prostration during Salat

Salam: The invocation "Assalam o Alekum wa rahmat Allahu wa barakatuhu" (Peace be on you, and Allah's mercy and His blessings) recited at the termination of Salat

Salat: Individual or congregational prayers

Salat ul Janazah: Salat offered for a deceased before burial

Salat ul Janazah al Gha'ib: Salat ul Janazah in absentia i.e., for a Muslim who dies in an other land

Sana: The following invocation recited at the beginning of a Salat:

Subhana kallahumma wa bi hamdika wa tabarakasmuka wa ta'ala jadduka wa la ilaha ghairuka.

Glory and praise be to You, O Allah! Blessed be Your name, exalted be Your splendor, and there is no deity except You.

Shaban: The eighth month of the Islamic calendar

Shaqq: The usual grave consisting of a rectangular hole in the ground

Shariah: Islamic Code of Law based on The Quran and the Sunnah of the Holy Prophet (pbuh).

Sunnah: A saying or an act of the Holy Prophet (pbuh)

Surat ul Fatihah: the opening chapter of The Quran

In the name of Allah, Most Gracious, Most Merciful: Praise be to Allah, the Cherisher and Sustainer of the Worlds; Most Gracious, Most Merciful, Master of the Day of Judgement. Thee do we worship, and thine aid do we seek. Show us the straight way, the way of those on whom Thou hast bestowed Thy Grace, those whose (portion) is not wrath, and who go not astray.

Surah Yaseen: The thirty sixth chapter of The Quran

Takbeer: The invocation "Allah o Akbar" (i.e., Allah is Great)

Takfeen: The process of wrapping the body in Kafan

Tashmeet: To say "Yarhamuk Allah" (i.e., may Allah have mercy on you)

Wudu: Ceremonial ablution for Salat

Zakat: A portion of property bestowed in charity or alms as a sanctification of the remainder. It is one of the five pillars of Islam

Zina: Adultery and fornication





a glossary of arabic terms relating to islamic funerals.