why is it advised that muslims should be buried quickly?
what are the procedures for an islamic burial?
I frequently hear people saying these:-
-when someone’s bathing the body they have to be gentle cuz they can feel and hear?
-someone knows 40 days before they are going to die?
are they true?
1) Being buried quickly, is in accordance to the teachings of the Holy Prophet (SAS).
In this regard, it is mentioned that when Talha bin Bara (RA) was nearing his death, the Prophet (SAS) said to those around him, ‘I feel the time of his death has come. If he dies, then I should be informed and funeral arrangements should be made quickly for it is not appropriate that the dead body of a Muslim be left to stay amongst his family members for long’. (Abu Dawood). It is also narrated by Abdullah bin Umar (RA) that the Prophet (SAS) said, ‘When one of your men dies, do not keep him in the house for long. Make haste in taking him to the grave and burying him’. (Baihaqi).
Based on these traditions, as well as others, Muslims are advised to bury their deceased ones quickly.
2) The Procedures for an Islamic burial are as follows:-
(i) The deceased must be given a bath as prescribed in the Shariah of Islam. Males must be given a bath by males, and females by females. Those bathing the deceased must know the necessary rules regarding it.
(ii) After the bath, the deceased should be shrouded. A male would be shrouded in three pieces of cloth, and a female in five pieces.
(iii) The Janaza cot (the bier/ the deceased body) will then be raised and carried to the place where the Janaza Salaah (funeral prayer) will take place.
In carrying the body, if the deceased is an infant or a little older, people should carry the body hand to hand. If the deceased is an adult (man or woman), then the body will be carried in a manner that the four legs of the box (carrying the body) are lifted by four different men and placed on their shoulders. The side that holds the head stays in front.
(iv) Upon reaching the place for Janaza, the funeral prayer should be offered upon the deceased.
In performing the Janaazah Salaah, it is essential that the body of the deceased is present. It will be placed in from of the Imam who leads the prayer. The Imam will stand in line with the chest of the deceased and then begin the Salaah after the lines are properly formed.
It is desirable that those present in the Janaza prayer be made to stand in three rows, so much so, that one man out of a total of seven men present, should be made the Imam. The other six will form three lines in a way that three of them stand in the first row, two in the second row, and one in the third row.
Those wishing to perform the funeral prayer with their shoes must ensure that the place where they are standing and the shoes they are wearing should both be clean, otherwise their Salaah will not be valid.
(v) After the Janaazah Salaah, the body should be taken to the cemetery (without delay) for burial. The body should be carried in the same manner as described above. It is also permissible to carry the body via a transport. However, if the cemetery is at a close distance, then walking with the body and placing it on the shoulders (to carry it) is preferable and it is the best.
With respect to the grave into which the body must be placed, it should be dug measuring at least half the height of the deceased. If it is deeper to the full height of the person, then it will be much better. However, it should not go much deeper than the height. With respect to its length, the grave should match the measurement of the height of the body. The width of the grave will be equal to half of the height of the body.
With respect to the manner in which the grave should be dug, there are two ways. These are:-
a) The lateral grave which is known as ‘lahd’ in Arabic. This is a way in which the grave is dug up all the way down to the desired surface, and on the wall (of the grave) on the side of the Qibla a niche is made. This is a recess or hollow space to place the body of the deceased.
b) The medial grave which is known as ’shaqq’ in Arabic. This is a type of grave in which it will be dug up to the depth of about one foot (downwards), then going deeper from the center, a hole is dug out, the length of which is equal to the height of the deceased and its depth is equal to half his height or full height. The width of this box-like hollow should be equal to half the height of the deceased.
Of the two types, the lateral grave is better than the medial one for burial of Muslims. However, if the earth crust is very soft and there is a possibility that the grave could cave-in, then the lateral (niche type) grave should not be dug. If it is not possible or it is difficult to dig out a niche type grave due to the soft nature of the earth, or it is a flood ridden area, then it will be permissible to place the deceased in a box (coffin) and bury the body in that manner. In this case, it is recommended that some earth be placed on the floor of the box.
With respect to the medial (shaqq or box type) grave, it is allowed/ permissible to place wood planks or cement slabs with the body resting underneath.
In completing the grave after burial, it should not be raised high (of the level of the ground). The Prophet (SAS) never raised a grave high. He would not build it ‘firmly’ with bricks or stones or similar materials, nor would he coat it or plaster it with mortar. He would also not mount any structure, dome or cupola over the grave. All these are innovations and hence, reprehensible.
With respect to being gentle with the body while giving it a bath, this is on account of the fact that the shariah has mandated that the deceased body be treated with respect and due care. In this regard the great companion Abdullah bin Masood (R.A.) has said, ‘causing harm to a person after his death is the same as causing harm to him while alive’. (Ibn Abi Shaiba).
Aisha (R.A.) has narrated that the Prophet (SAS) said, ‘Breaking the bone of a deceased person is the same as breaking his bone when he is alive’. (Malik, Abu Dawood, Ibn Majah). The scholars have explained that it means the sin of breaking the bone of a deceased person is the same as breaking the bone of a living person.
While commenting on the above Hadith, Allama Teebi (AR) has stated, ‘The hadith indicates to the fact that the deceased person feels the pain’. (Mirqaat, Commentary of Mishkat Vol.4, Pg. 170).
With regards to a person knowing that he is going to die 40 days before, we have no knowledge of this.
And Allah knows best,
Mufti Waseem Khan