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> Janaza Salah -- The Muslim Funeral Service by
Nasir Ahmad Sahib
Books Section > Janaza Salah -- The Muslim Funeral Service by Nasir Ahmad Sahib
The opening chapter of the Qur'an, entitled the Fatihah, is not only looked upon as the quintessence of the Book, but it is actually the chapter which plays the greatest part in creating a true Muslim mentality, for a Muslim must recite it in the five prayers, over thirty times daily. In this chapter, Allah is spoken of as the Master of the Day of Requital, and thus the idea that every deed must be requited is brought before the mind of the Muslim continually. This constant repetition of the idea of a requital of deeds undoubtedly impresses on the mind the reality of a future life, when every deed shall find its full reward. The reason for attaching so much importance to a life after death is clear. The greater the faith in the good or bad consequences of a deed, the greater is the incentive which urges a man to, or restrains him from that deed. Therefore this belief is both the greatest impetus towards good and noble, and the greatest restraint upon evil or irresponsible deeds.
But before the washing is started and the clothes of the deceased are removed, the private parts are covered with a piece of cloth wide enough to cover the body from navel to knees. This is kept until the washing is complete.
Wudzu or ablution of the dead body is performed in the following manner:
1. The private parts are thoroughly washed.
After ablution, the whole body is thoroughly washed, preferably three times. In a funeral home where proper arrangements for pouring water through a rubber tube is available, washing three times is not necessary. Then the whole body is dried, preferably with a new towel.
Then the body is shrouded in an unsewn shirt. This is a sheet with a round opening in the centre for the head to pass through and it covers the body from the front to the back up to the knees. To further facilitate the putting on of the open shirt, cuts are made over the shoulders, in case of a male, and a cut in the middle-front over the bosom, in case of a female. Then the body is wrapped in a big sheet long enough to cover the body from the top of the head down to the end of the feet, with the face remaining uncovered. Finally, the body is wrapped in a second big sheet, longer than the first one, and the two ends are tied above the head and below the feet. In case the body is placed in a coffin, the tying of the two ends is dispensed with.
To further explain the above, we deal with each piece of cloth separately.
For a male, three pieces of white cotton are used. Two pieces should be approximately eight feet long and five and a half feet wide.
1. One piece is to form an unsewn shirt with a cut at the centre to facilitate the passing through of the head. This piece should be big enough to cover front, back and up to the knees.
For a female, five pieces of white cotton are used, two approximately eight feet long and five and a half feet wide. Similar wrappings are done as the above three with two additional pieces.
1. One piece is wrapped around the waist, or a loose pajama is made.
If she has long hair, then after combing it properly, it is placed in the front over the bosom.
After the Janaza prayer, it is customary for people attending the funeral service to see the face of the dead body, and at that time the outer sheet is removed to show the face. But in a sealed coffin provided with a glass through which people can see the face, the outer sheet need not be wrapped so as to cover the face.
It is customary for camphor and sandalwood, which are both disinfectants and provide sweet smells, to be rubbed over the body. But modern perfumes can also be used instead.
In the case of martyrs, or persons slain in a battle, the washing and wrapping in white cloth is dispensed with.
The dead body is then placed on a bier or in a coffin, and carried on the shoulders of the bearers to its last resting place as a mark of respect, though the carrying of the body by any other means is not prohibited.
The Holy Prophet (pbuh) stood up when he saw the bier of a Jew pass by. This he did to show respect to the dead, and then enjoined his followers to stand up as a mark of respect when a bier passed by, whether it was that of a Muslim or a non-Muslim.
Following the dead body to the grave and taking part in the Divine service held over it is regarded as a duty which a Muslim owes to a Muslim, and so also is the visiting of the sick. Technically, taking part in Divine service is called farz-e-kifaya, which means that it is sufficient that some Muslims should take part in it. Women are not prohibited from attending the Divine service or from following the bier. The service may be held anywhere - in a mosque or in an open space or in a graveyard if sufficient space is available or even in a funeral home where halls for this purpose are available.
The prayer is offered only in a standing posture. The service starts with the takbir (saying Allahu Akbar - Allah is the Greatest) at the pronouncement of which hands are raised to the ears and placed in the same position as in prayer. There are four takbirs in all, the final takbir being followed by a salaam as in the ordinary prayer.
Sub-haa-na-kal laa-hum-ma wa bi-ham-di-ka wa ta-ba-ra-kas mu-ka wa ta-`aa-la jad-du ka wa laa i-laa-ha ghay-ruk.
A-`oo-zu bil-laa-hi mi-nash shay-taa-nir ra-jeem.
Al-laa-hum-ma sal-Ii `a-laa Mu-ham-ma-din wa `a-laa aa-li Mu-ham-ma-din ka-maa sallay-ta `a-laa Ib-raa-hee-ma wa-`a-laa aa-li Ib-raa-hee-ma, in-na-ka ha-mee-dum ma-jeed.
The following two prayers are the most well-known:
Al-laa-hum-magh-fir li-hay-yi-naa wa may-yiti-naa wa shaa-hi-di-naa wa ghaa-i-bi-naa wa sa-ghee-ri-naa wa ka-bee-ri-naa wa zaka-ri-naa wa un-saa-naa, al-laa-hum-ma man ah- yay-ta-hoo min-naa fa-ah yi-hee `a-lal islaam, wa man ta-waf-fay-ta-hoo min-naa fa-ta-waf-fa-hoo `a-lal ee-maan. al-laa-hum-ma laa tah-rim-naa aj-ra-hoo wa laa taf-ti-naa ba `-da-hoo.
Another prayer runs thus:
Al-laa-hum-magh-fir la-hoo war-ham-hu wa `aa fi-hee wa`-fu `an-hu wa ak-rim nuzu-la-hoo wa was-si` mad-kha-la-hoo wa agh-sil-hu bil-maa-i was-sal-ji wal-ba-ra-di wa naq-qi-hee mi-nal kha-taayaa ka-maa naq-qay-tas saw-bal ab-ya-da mi-nad- da-na-si.
Al-laa-hum-maj- `al-hu la-naa fa-ra-tan-w waj- `al-hu la-naa zukh-ran-w waj- `al-hu lanaa shaa--fi- `an-w wa mu-shaf-fa- `aa.
Except for the takbirs and the salaam, the entire service is performed silently. The hands are raised to the ears when the first takbir is said but not when the other three takbirs are pronounced.
The latecomer can join the prayer at any stage by saying Allahu Akbar but preferably not later than the announcement of the third takbir when the main prayer for the dead is being offered.
As-sa-laa-mu `a-lai-kum wa rah-ma-tul-laah.
These words are uttered and the face is turned to the right. At the second utterance the face is turned to the left.
When the service is finished, the bier is taken to the grave and buried. The grave is dug in such a manner that the dead body may be laid in it facing Makkah. It is generally between four and six feet deep, and an oblong excavation is made on one side, wherein the dead body is to be placed. This is called the lahd. The dead body is made to rest in the lahd facing the qiblah. If the dead body is contained in a coffin, the lahd may be dispensed with. If the grave is north-south the dead body is laid in the same direction, head facing towards the west.
Bis-mil laa-hi wa bil-laa-hi wa `a-laa sun-na ti ra-soo-lil-laah.
The grave is then filled and a prayer is again offered for the dead one. The people then depart.
When visiting a cemetery, the following prayer is recommended:
As-sa-laa-mu `a-lai-kum ah-lad di-yaa-ri mi-nal mu'-mi-nee-na wal-mus-li-mee-na wa innaa in-shaa-al laa-hu bi-kum la-laa-hi-qoon. Nas-a-lul laa-ha la-naa wa la-ku-mul `aa fiyah.
Numerous innovations have developed regarding what should be done to benefit the dead. There are traditions speaking of the Qur'an being read to the dying person, but there is no mention at all of its being read over the dead body or over the grave. However, it is reported that the Holy Prophet, peace and blessings of Allah be upon him, prayed for dead when visiting their graves.
The serving of food to visitors on the third or tenth or fortieth day after death is also an innovation. There is no mention of it in any tradition. It is, however, recommended that food should be prepared and sent to the family of the deceased by others. Mourning may be observed for three days at the most and people should visit the house of the deceased to offer their condolences. After three days all members of the family may attend to their work in the normal manner. Alms may, however, be given on behalf of the deceased, and doing deeds of charity is the only thing allowed.