Reader Questions: Mourning and Funerals

Reader Questions: Mourning and Funerals May 24, 2013

This morning I received this question.  I have not yet experienced an Islamic Funeral Service, so I open this question to you.

 I am a preschool teacher in the Midwest.  I have been a Lutheran all my life, and almost all of my friends are either Christian or Jewish.  Many of the students in my preschool come from Somalia, so I do what I can in my free time to learn more about Somalia specifically, and Islam in general.  That’s what brought me to your blog.

Our community was deeply saddened yesterday when the local elementary school’s field trip lead to a freak accident, resulting in the deaths of two students.  The names of the students were released today by their families, and they were both Muslims.  A memorial has been growing outside the school with flowers, stuffed animals and balloons.

I was wondering if there is anything special in how Muslims traditionally mourn.  I remember when Paul Wellstone died, I learned that for Jews it’s somewhat insulting to bring flowers to a memorial, instead they prefer donations for food shelves.


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  • May God grant these two children Heaven. To God do we belong and to Him we shall return.

    Great question!

    Muslims are not supposed to have a lot of fanfare when someone dies, as modesty is one of the greatest values in our religion. It is much more simple than that, and it is to be remembered that we all belong to Allah. Not this earth. Balloons, flowers, these are earthly things that you can’t take with you when you go.

    However, I am sure that the intentions of the people bringing these gifts are pure and therefore I wouldn’t expect the families to have much of an issue with it.

    God knows Best.

    Hannah

  • May God grant these two children Heaven. To God do we belong and to Him we shall return.

    Great question!

    Muslims are not supposed to have a lot of fanfare when someone dies, as modesty is one of the greatest values in our religion. It is much more simple than that, and it is to be remembered that we all belong to Allah. Not this earth. Balloons, flowers, these are earthly things that you can’t take with you when you go.

    However, I am sure that the intentions of the people bringing these gifts are pure and therefore I wouldn’t expect the families to have much of an issue with it.

    God knows Best.

    Hannah

  • Jana

    There are three days of mourning. I have only been to a funeral once, so I’ll explain what happened at this funeral. The day the person died, she was buried by her relatives. Later in the day all the relatives came over to pay their respects to the remaining children of the deceased (her husband had already passed away many years ago). Food was brought in to the home of one of the relatives and everyone was invited for lunch. On the second and third day of mourning a small hall was rented out. and people came to once again pay their respects to the family of the woman (in general this is where friends or relatives through marriage would come and pay their respects). People read verses from the Quran and are served tea in between people coming and going.

    I would imagine that flowers would not be insulting, there is nothing in Islam that says that you can’t give flowers….or anything else for that matter. The only thing you aren’t supposed to do when someone dies is to wail, scream and pull out your hair.

  • Jana

    There are three days of mourning. I have only been to a funeral once, so I’ll explain what happened at this funeral. The day the person died, she was buried by her relatives. Later in the day all the relatives came over to pay their respects to the remaining children of the deceased (her husband had already passed away many years ago). Food was brought in to the home of one of the relatives and everyone was invited for lunch. On the second and third day of mourning a small hall was rented out. and people came to once again pay their respects to the family of the woman (in general this is where friends or relatives through marriage would come and pay their respects). People read verses from the Quran and are served tea in between people coming and going.

    I would imagine that flowers would not be insulting, there is nothing in Islam that says that you can’t give flowers….or anything else for that matter. The only thing you aren’t supposed to do when someone dies is to wail, scream and pull out your hair.

  • JJ

    Salaam! What a horrible tragedy. The loss of a child always chills me to the core, because I cannot imagine any greater pain in this life.
    What I know about Muslim funerals in general, is that the bodies are buried as soon as humanly possible, there is no “showing”. The body will be taken to a local mosque ( if it has the facilities to prepare the body) or funeral home that already has agreement to be used for the way muslims prepare bodies for burial. The body will be washed, if its a male, it will be washed my a team of males, if it is a female, then it will be washed by females. Washing completely from head to toe, and sprinkled with musk before being shrouded. The shrouds are ofter prepared ahead of time, I believe its about 5 sheets of plain unsewn , undecorated white muslin cloth.the body is shrouded, and the last sheet covers the body and the head, right before covering the head, immediate family is allowed to come in see the deceased for the last time. the body (typically inside of a coffin) will be at the mosque for the funeral prayer, and then to the cemetery for burial. Everyone who is able should go to the cemetery. Some cultures do not allow women to go, but Islamically women are allowed. Anyone who is able to control their grief is allowed. You may weep, but uncontrollable wailing is not acceptable behavior. Traditionally you have 3 days to pay condolence visits. The family of the deceased may set up times when visitors may come to pay respects, or some homes are simply ready to receive condolences any time for that period. The visit should be brief, you should really only stay 5 to 10 minutes, paying respects, and then on your way. Often coffee and dates are offered to the visitors. Sometimes there will be a large community meal after a funeral, but this varies from region to region. You have 3 days from the time the person has passed away to pay respects, and after the 3rd day, you are not really supposed to mention it. You may speak of the person who has passed on, but you are not supposed to constantly drag out the sorrow. Sending a food, is common, offering other assistance is also common and sometimes necessary and welcomed, sending a card or flowers, as we do in the US,is something different, but should not be seen as insulting or offensive.
    This is all to the best of my knowledge.
    Peace and blessings.

  • What is really important in and during funerals is not to wail loudly,to cry is okay but remember to Muslims they inshallah (God willing) will go to heaven. inshallah they will reach their goal.So although the Muslim will miss their loved one they aren’t usually distraught.It is frowned upon in seventy percent of funerals for a woman to go because she gets emotions that cannot be controlled.This is their thinking.