Islamic practises - Death and
This information should only be used as a guide as
there may be sigificant variations in practice. Whenever possible, instruction should be
sought from the patient, family or religious leader about appropriate practice and
Prior to death
the family or close friend should be told
ask if an Imam can come with them, so they will know
what to expect and are able to take steps to prepare the dying person.
when death approaches most Muslims consider it
important to sit up and face towards Mecca.
many people (family, friends and neighbours) will
assemble by the bedside of the dying patient
it is customary not to leave the dying alone
those at the bedside moisten the mouth and will
repeat the words over the dying patient who, if unable to speak, will lift an index finger
many people come to forgive the dying for their sins
and in return want to be given forgiveness.
spiritual and financial accounts are balanced before
the body will always be viewed at a later stage
life after death will continue in a form that makes
the preservation of the body essential
the body is laid on a flat board, feet together,
arms to the side, eyes closed and chin wrapped in a cloth to prevent the mouth opening. If
no Muslims are present this should be done by healthcare staff
when laying out the dead, straighten the arms and
hands along the sides. otherwise shrouding will be impossible when the body stiffens
the body is washed in a special way by the family or
by specialized washers of the same sex as the deceased.
the body should not be washed by non-Muslims.
it is then shrouded in white linen made without
respect for the dead it is very important
staff (even those not directly involved) should be
subdued and respectful.
some sects lament loudly, scratch their faces and
cry a long dirge for the dead
others attempt to accept and contain grief, while
reciting from the Koran.
those from Mediterranean countries often express
emotion in couplets of song which aim to make others cry.
women usually mourn more vocally than men
North African women mourn in white, Middle Eastern
in black and Turkish in subdued colours.
young women mourn for three months, older women for
on the third, seventh and fortieth days after death
men gather at the mosque and women prepare sugary dishes for visitors who pray together
for the dead. The story of the prophet's birth is read aloud and tears are shed.
children are not permitted to attend these rituals,
are discouraged from asking questions and expected to forget the death as soon as
the dead must be buried as soon as possible, and
preferably within twenty-four hours.
Shortly before burial, a short ritual enables
friends and family to say farewell, pray for the deceased and join in ceremonial forgiving
of sin. This can be held anywhere. The cloth covering the face is folded aside.
Among those sects that permit it, emotional
expression peaks at this time. In this case people may crowd the body to touch and kiss
the face before burial. In other sects the men must contain emotions while wrapping and
burying the body without touching it directly. Women are permitted to shed discreet tears.
The burial is done only by men, who lay out the body
with eyes towards Mecca and head covered with a board. They then leave and the Imam
remains to pray, while the soul of the dead person is answering five questions.
The dead are believed to remain in the grave to
await the judgement on their fate but their state of bodily and mental peace will be
affected by their sins. The good have a view of paradise and remain bodily and sensorily
graves remain the secret source from which social
life and collective memory take their point of departure.
most Muslims who die overseas want their body
returned to their 'home'. In doing so they leave their family 'in exile'. As a
consequence, those left behind feel all the more foreign, bound only by their religion,
which may therefore take on particular importance