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Home Practices Janazza (Funeral rites)

Janazah (funeral rites)

Burial rituals should normally take place as soon as possible and include:


  • Bathing the dead body, except in extraordinary circumstances.
  • Enshrouding dead body in a white cotton or linen cloth.
  • Funeral prayer.
  • Burial of the dead body in a grave.
  • Positioning the deceased so that the head is faced towards the qibla


Bathing the Deceased

The corpse is washed (ghusl bathed), the purpose is to physically cleanse the corpse. The method, style and accessories used for bathing the corpse may vary from one place to another. However the deceased is bathed, it is an essential ritual of the Sunnah of the Prophet Muhammad,[6] and therefore a part of the Islamic Sharia. Ideally, this occurs as soon as possible, within hours of the actual death.

The orthodox practice is to wash the body while a cloth is put on top of it. The water is then poured over the body with the cloth on the body. The genitals should be covered at all times.

The "washers" are commonly the same gender as the deceased and immediate family members. In the case of violent death, or accident where the deceased has suffered trauma or mutilation, morgue facilities accommodate this practice and mend or pack the body in a shroud (so there is minimal blood or fluid leakage (which would distress the mourners)) prior to the body of the departed being surrendered to the mourners.

Enshrouding the Deceased

The corpse should be respectfully wrapped (takfeen) in a simple plain cloth (the kafan). The corpse is wrapped so as to observe and respect the dignity and privacy of the deceased at all times. The exact style of wrapping the kafan (tafkeen) and material or colour of the cloth used for the kafan may vary from place to place and from time to time. However, the shroud should be simple and modest, rather than gaudy or flashy. It is for this reason that Muslims have generally preferred to use white cotton cloth for the kafan. It is allowed to put some perfume on the cloth.

The deceased may be required to lie in state for several hours for the burial day, for well-wishers to pass on their respects and condolences.

Funeral prayer

The Muslims of the community gather to offer their collective prayers for the forgiveness of the dead. This prayer is called the Salat al-Janazah (Janazah prayer).

The Janazah prayer is as follows:

Like Eid prayer, the Janazah prayer incorporates an additional (four[8]) Takbirs, the Arabic name for the phrase 'Allahu Akbar', but there is no Ruku' (bowing) or Sujud (prostrating).

Supplication for the deceased and mankind is recited.

In extraordinary circumstances, the prayer can be postponed and prayed at a later time.

Dogma states it is obligatory for every Muslim adult male to perform the funeral prayer upon the death of any Muslim, but it is also stated that when Janazah is performed by the few it alleviates that obligation for all.

Indonesian culture allows women to be present and take part in the Janazah although it can be a [[cultural] faux pas if there are more women than men.


The deceased is then taken for burial (al-Dafin).

The exact manner, customs and style of the grave, the burial and so forth may vary by regional custom.

The Islamic directive is simply that a respectful burial in the ground be observed.

Ideally, the grave itself should be aligned perpendicular to the Qibla (i.e. towards Mecca). The body is placed directly into the open grave without a casket.

The body is laid such that the head is facing the Qibla.

Three fist-sized spheres of packed soil (prepared beforehand by the gravediggers) are used as props,


  1. one under the head,
  2. one under the chin and
  3. one under the shoulder.


The lowering of the corpse, and positioning of the soil balls is done by the next of kin.

In the case of a departed husband, the male brother or brother-in-law usually performs this task.

In the case of a departed wife, the husband undertakes this (if physically able). If the husband is elderly, then the eldest male son (or son-in-law) is responsible for lowering, alignment and propping the departed.

The orthodoxy expects those present to symbolically pour three handfuls of soil into the grave while reciting "We created you from it, and return you into it, and from it we will raise you a second time".

More prayers are then said, asking for forgiveness of the deceased, and reminding the dead of his or her profession of faith.


According to orthodoxy, loved ones and relatives are to observe a 3-day mourning period. Islamic mourning is observed by increased devotion, receiving visitors and condolences, and avoiding decorative clothing and jewelry.

Grief at the death of a beloved person is normal, and weeping for the dead (by males or females) is perfectly acceptable in Islam.

Islam does expect the expression of grief to remain dignified: Islam prohibits loud wailing, shrieking, beating the chest and cheeks, tearing hair or clothes, breaking objects, scratching faces or speaking phrases that make a Muslim lose faith, although much latitude is granted in practice as fatigue and emotion can adversely effect behaviour, and such behaviour is rarely censured.

Advice for Widows

Widows observe an extended mourning period (iddah, period of waiting), 4 months and 10 days long, in accordance with the Qur'an. During that time, the widow is not to remarry or interact with non-mahram (with whom she can marry). However, in an emergency (such as visiting a doctor for a health emergency) she can interact with non-mahram.

The Qur'an prohibits widows from becoming engaged for four lunar months and ten days. According to the Qur'an:

“ And those of you who die and leave widows behind, they should keep themselves in waiting for four months and ten days. Then when they have fulfilled their term, there is no blame on you about what they do with themselves in accordance with the norms [of society]. And Allah is well acquainted with what you do. And there is also no blame on you if you tacitly send a marriage proposal to these women or hold it in your hearts. Allah knows that you would definitely talk to them. [Do so] but do not make a secret contract. Of course you can say something in accordance with the norms [of the society]. And do not decide to marry until the law reaches its term. And know that Allah has knowledge of what is in your hearts; so be fearful of Him and know that Allah is Most forgiving and Most Forbearing."

— Qur'an 2:234–235

Islamic scholars consider this directive balances the widow's need to mourn her husband's death and protects her from cultural or societal censure if she wishes to re-marry - often a sad economic necessity. This provision also protects the property rights of the unborn, as the duration reveals whether the woman is pregnant or not.

Husbands are recommended to make a will in favor of their wives for the provision of one year’s residence and maintenance, except if the wives themselves leave the house or take any other similar step. As stated in Qur'an:

"And those of you who die and leave widows should bequeath for their widows a year’s provision and [bequeath] that [in this period] they shall not be turned out of their residences; but if they themselves leave the residence, there is no blame on you for what they do with themselves according to the norms of society. And Allah is Exalted in Power, Wise."

—Qur'an 2:240

Some cultural observations and differences

In Middle East

cultures women are generally discouraged from participating in the funeral procession, in case her emotions cause her to make a scene in the presence of other men, which is not allowed in Islam.

In Indonesia

The most populous Muslim nation, such Arabic cultural norms are completely incompatible and simply insulting to the Javanese ethnic majority. Women are encouraged as part of the natural mourning process to openly mourn the dead alongside the males. Javanese culture has a very deeply entrenched respect for the matriarch. This predates the Arab or Indian outsiders who brought Islam. In Javanese culture, to disobey one's hereditary customs and culture, especially in favour of the kasar (vulgar) foreigner is an insult to the dead and one's ancestors. In densely packed urban centres not all urban gravesites face Mecca, so facing East will suffice. Again in Indonesia, all mourners, be they Christians, Hindus, Buddhists, are welcome to join prayers according to their beliefs alongside the Muslim mourners. In many families, there are multiple faiths, and this is of no consequence to Indonesians: the intent of the prayer is viewed as having far greater value than the words, custom or manner.

In the cemetery the majority of Javanese leave the dirt-sprinkling to the immediate family of the deceased, but all mourners and well-wishers, be they Christians, Hindus, Buddhists, are welcome to take turns sprinkling departed's shroud in frangipani and jasmine buds. The corpse is then fully buried by the gravediggers, who may stamp or pat down the grave to shape. Commonly the eldest male will supervise. After the burial, the Muslims who have gathered to pay their respects, collectively pray for the forgiveness of the dead. This collective prayer is the last formal collective prayer for the dead.

The Javanese majority of Indonesia hold a small remembrance ceremony on the following days after the death: the fourth, the fortieth, the one hundred days, the anniversary of, and one-thousandth (1000 days after death), followed by an optional annual remembrance.


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Lady Lucie Duff Gordon (1821-1869) lived in Luxor, Egypt from 1862 in the hope that the consumption she was suffering from would improve. She learnt Arabic, and often visited and prayed at the tomb of Sufi Sheikh Yusuf abu’l-Hajjaj.

Letter to her husband, Sir Alexander Duff Gordon, from Cairo 16th October 1866:

'My Reis spoke such a pretty parable the other day that I must needs write it. A Coptic Reis stole some of my wood, which we got back by force and there was some reviling of the Nazarenes in consequence from Hoseyn and Ali; but Reis Mohammed said:

“Not so; Girgis is a thief, it is true, but many Christians are honest; and behold, all the people in the world are like soldiers, some wear red and some blue; some serve on foot, others on horseback, and some in ships; but all serve one Sultan, and each fights in the regiment in which the Sultan has placed him, and he does what does his duty best is the best man, be his coat red or blue or black.”

I said, `Excellent words, oh Reis, and fit to be spoken from the best of pulpits.' It is surprising what happy sayings the people here hit upon; they cultivate talk for want of reading, and the consequence is great facility narration and illustration. Everybody enforces his ideas, like Christ, in parables.'