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Muslim Funeral & Azaa’ Traditions
The Islamic faith have a unique set of beliefs towards death and dying. This can be seen in their practices and
attitudes towards funerals.
Muslim Daily Prayer
The whole community participates in a Muslim funeral. It’s not unusual for someone to attend the funeral of someone
they don’t know well.
It’s comprised of prayers, rituals, and rites. Prayers are recited outside the mosque, normally in the courtyard.
What Muslims do when someone dies?
When a Muslim’s death is imminent, the whole family and closest friends are there. They believe that the dying see
things that the living cannot.
They go through an agonizing period called a death struggle, which is filled with unimaginable agonies.
Friends and family gather around and offer the dying person courage, to help them endure the agonies.
They chant and encourage the dying person to say “Shahada” meaning that Allah is the only God.
The goal is that the person says those words at the exact time of death.
Just after the death
The eyes and mouth of the deceased are closed, the body is covered with a sheet. Their head is positioned to face
Family and friends ask Allah to forgive the sins of the departed, which is referred to as “dua”.
Holy Site of Mecca
Preparing the body
It’s crucial that the body is completely clean. It must be cleansed at least three times, either by the spouse or a
same sex family member.
If it’s still not clean after three times, it is washed as many times as necessary. However, it must be an odd
number of times.
There is a particular order in which the body is cleansed. It begins with the upper right side, then the upper left
side, lower right side, and ending with the lower left side
A woman’s hair is cleansed and put into three braids.
Shrouding the body
Body Wrapped in Shroud
Shrouding is completed using three white sheets. They are first spread out and stacked one upon the other. Then
the body is placed on top of them.
The left hand of the deceased is placed on the chest. The right hand is then placed on top of the left.
The sheets are brought over the body one at a time. First the right side, then the left, until they are all wrapped
around the body.
A rope is tied at the top of the head and another below the feet. One or two ropes are tied around the middle of the
What is a Muslim funeral like?
Bodies are Placed in Front of Iman
Men and women typically sit separately. Traditionally the women sit at the back.
An Imam or the oldest male family member stands at the front facing Mecca, and the body is placed in front of him.
With his back to the mourners, he presents the funeral prayer.
A Muslim funeral is very quiet. There should be no talking to one another. Even the prayers are mainly said silently
with only parts of them spoken aloud.
It would be unusual for music to be played.
Crying for the dead is perfectly fine and expected. However, loud weeping and wailing is not looked upon well.
After the prayers, the deceased is taken to the burial location, usually carried by male family members.
What do Muslims wear to funerals?
Muslims generally wear white. They believe that white is associated with humility and wholesomeness.
However, it’s also appropriate to wear drab and dark colors that fit the somber occasion, such as black, brown, and
Men should wear plain pants that do not show any skin. The shirt covers everything up to the neck. Nothing should
Proper Funeral Attire for Muslim Women
A woman’s clothing should cover everything but their face and hands.
Skirts should go down to the ankles and long sleeve blouses should cover the arms and preferably come up to the
It’s best not to use makeup at all.
It’s a good idea to bring a headscarf to cover your hair and neck.
If in doubt, call ahead and ask about the appropriate attire.
When attending a Muslim funeral, the main thing to keep in mind is dress modestly. Wear clothing that will make you
blend in and do not draw attention to you.
Stay away from bright colors or flashy jewelry. Be prepared to take off your shoes.
How long is the funeral?
The actual funeral service is typically brief. It’s mainly comprised of saying the funeral prayers. There is no
This part of the service will likely last less than an hour.
However, they believe the funeral begins before the person dies and ends after the burial.
Iman Offering Funeral Prayer
Family and friends usually say the funeral prayer to themselves, led by the Iman. They form three or more lines.
The first in line is the most closely related male, who is followed by the other men.
After that, follows the children and then the women. The Iman, who delivers the prayer, faces toward Mecca, with his
back to the others and the body is placed in front of him.
Muslim Burial Practices
Islamic Cemetery Modest Markers
Muslims believe that at death, they are buried and remain in their grave until the day of judgement.
Good Muslims will go to paradise and experience peace. Those who have led a sinful life are destined for hell and
will begin their suffering.
Islamic Burial Requirements
Preparations for the funeral should begin immediately, because the deceased must be buried as soon as possible.
It’s typically no longer than two days but is frequently within one day.
For that reason, there is also no preliminary viewing, ceremony, or eulogy. Embalming is not performed and there is
no autopsy, unless required by law.
Also, transporting the body to another country is rare. They are typically buried in the place where they die.
The Burial Procedure
Family Places Body in Grave
After the funeral, the casket is taken to the burial site by four family men. The grave is dug parallel to Mecca.
The body is placed lying on their right side, also toward Mecca.
In some areas, everyone can be present at the burial. However, traditionally women are not allowed to attend.
The mourners who are present throw three handfuls of dirt onto the casket.
They say, “We created you from it, and return you into it, and from it we raise you a second time.”
At that time, family members lower the casket, and the grave is filled. A small, modest marker is allowed.
Can Muslims Be Cremated?
Cremation is forbidden in the Islamic religion. It is considered disrespectful to the dead. A Muslim should not burn
anyone, witness a cremation, or approve of it in any way.
The only exception is if the person died due to a contagious disease.
Even then, the potential for the disease to spread must be proven and permission received from the authorities.
Mourning Period & Grieving Process
shared with her husband. In addition, she must wear modest clothing and no jewelry.She is not allowed to remarry
time.FamilyThe mourning period is also three days. They share and express emotions for the
departed while they prepare for the funeral and welcome visitors into the home.Distant relatives bring prepared
meals to the immediate family.
Islamic Funeral Homes
It’s not typical for a Muslim family to use a funeral home in their homeland. However, for Muslims living in
western countries such as the US, it is sometimes necessary.
More Islamic funeral homes and cemeteries are opening, which have been difficult to find in many areas. Finding
an Iman has proven to be hard as well.
These funeral homes understand the need for a quick burial, without embalming. They are also culturally
sensitive to Islamic customs and beliefs.
Most Muslim funeral homes wash the body and wrap it in a shroud. They transport the body to the place where the
funeral will take place and then to the burial site.