FAQ About Death

The following is a series of Q&A which was done by Jaffari News of ISIJ of Toronto, Canada with Sayyid Muhammad Rizvi.

In a muslim funeral,there is no concept of four individuals or family members carrying the casket at the corners. People line up on two sides and the casket is moved on the shoulders of the people on both sides.

I have observed sometimes that a family member carries the casket on the back of his shoulders right in the front. There is no recommendation for such a thing, rather it hinders the people who have lined up on both sides to carry the coffin.

The way it is normally done in the east is that when the body is placed inside the grave without a coffin, it is customary based on religious recommendation to make a sort of pillow of earth for the head of the deceased.

In Canada, depending on civil/provincial regulations, we can’t bury a body without a coffin. In such places, people place some earth inside the coffin and underneath the cheek as a way of fulfilling the religious recommendation mentioned above.

One of the last rights of a person on a fellow mu’min is the tradition of burial;and this is symbolized by a person putting a handful of earth inside the grave. There are hadith, which say that it is better to do that by using the back of the hand.

However, for the closest family members–the blood relatives–it is not recommended – this would save him from further emotional distress.

In muslim countries, the graves are dug in such a way that right at the bottom there are two levels: one is the actual grave (lahad) and one is a raised platform on which those who will place the body will stand. This makes it easy for the person to hold the shoulders of the deceased diagonally and there is no issue of dropping the body or being disrespectful.

Here in Canada,the graves are not dug that way. And so normally the coffin is placed on the ground besides the grave or on the straps over the grave, then a person sits besides the coffin to hold the shoulders of the deceased and the talqin is recited. I don’t see any risk of dropping the body or being disrespectful.

It is recommended for the person to face the qibla to put water on the grave starting with the head and then going around edges and back to the head – if water remains, then it is to be put in the center of the grave. What is recommended is to do it once, and it is not necessary that all the children or relatives of the deceased do that. Just one person would be sufficient to fulfill that mustahab act.

Why is it recommended? I haven’t seen any explanation in the hadith; probably, it helps in the settling down of the earth that has been put back onto the grave.

There is no such recommendation. This is only when the body is still inside the room – it should not be left dark.
The custom of 40th among the Shi’as for their marhumeen is based on the recommendation, which is there for the ziyarat of Imam Husayan (a.s)on the day of Arba’in. There is no special recommendation for others. However,there is no harm in doing it; actually,it gives kind of a closure to the grieving process for the and an opportunity for others to pay condolence if they were not able to attend the funeral.
As written in the previous answer, there are no special a’mal for the 40th night or day after the passing of a person.
The situation of the barzakh (between death and the day of resurrection)is very complex; there is no simple answer to such questions. What I can briefly say is the situation of the souls depends on their levels. If two individual are in the same category or on the same status, they might be able to communicate.
Again it depends on their status: souls of same believers will be able to visit their family once a week; some will be able to visit once every two weeks, etc.
Such things could be possible; but it is very rare. And if it happens, it is about their own situations and not about those who are alive. The living people can do things to improve the situations of the dead by giving in charity on their behalf or fulfilling their missed obligations. But the dead cannot do anything about the living.
There is no problem for a pregnant woman or a woman who is in her periods to visit the cemetery. What is makruh is that a najis person-man or woman-should not be in the room where the body has been placed.
Visiting the cemetery is recommended for two purposes:
-For increasing the thawab of those who are buried there when visitors recite fateha.
-For making the visitors realize the eventuality of death and prepare themselves for the journey to the hereafter.

Keeping that purpose in mind, we should not be joking and laughing in the cemetery.

The person does not feel any physical pain as such, since the body is no longer alive. It is the soul that feels pain if the body is handled disrespectfully. This \”pain\” can be described as the way one feels when one sees one’s child being hurt by someone else. Therefore, it is very important to handle the body with great respect after death.
You can donate some of your organs (whether minor or major)after death, provided you have expressed your intention clearly in your will. Skin grafting and donating blood would be considered donation of a minor organ whilst kidneys would be classified as a major organ.
The term ‘respect’ comes into play again. The body should not be kept in the mortuary unnecessarily. If a post mortem is absolutely necessary, then it may be performed.
Soon after a person dies,all believers are either required or strongly urged to do the following:

-close the eyelids of the dead person.
-close the mouth of the dead person.
-Tie the two jaws so that the mouth does not open.
-straighten his/her arms and place them on the two sides of his body.
-straighten his/her legs.
-cover the dead body.
-switch on the light in the room where the dead body is kept.
-Arrange the funeral as soon as possible.
-Inform the mu’umeen to attend the funeral.

The same rules that apply during ‘life’ also apply in ‘death’. Only the face should be kept open, therefore if a na-mahram views the body, he or she should do so without any bad intentions.
The funeral should be arranged as soon as possible. However it is a matter of personal choice whether the body should be brought back to the country of residence, so that the next of kin may attend the funeral. If the deceased has specified the place of burial in his or her ‘Wasiat’, then this should take precedence over personal preferences. With regard to burials being delayed over the weekend due to the cemetery being closed, unfortunately, there is no other option until we have alternative arrangements.
At the time of death it is recommended to say by yourself or repeat after someone else,the declaration of faith and statement of Faraj.

The declaration of faith is that in which you confirm your belief in Allah(SWT), Prophet Muhammed (s.a.w), the twelve Imams(a.s), the holy Qur’an and the day of judgement. The translation of the dua is as follows:

I have accepted Allah (SWT)as the lord, Muhammad(s.a.w)as the Prophet, Islam as the Religion, the Quran as the book of God, the Kabah as the Qiblah.

And I accept ‘Ali as the waliu of Allah and my Iman; and Hasan, Husayan, Ali ibn Husayn, Muhammad ibn Ali, Ja’far ibn Muhammad, Musa ibn Ja’far, Ali ibn Musa, Muhammad ibn Ali, Hasan Ibn Ali and al-hujjat ibn al-Hasan(a.s) as Imams, leaders and guides – I declare my disassociation with their enemies.

And I believe that surely the hour of Doom will come in which there is no doubt,and that Allah (SWT) will resurrect all those who are in their graves. And I believe that the reckoning of our deeds is the truth; the Paradise is the truth; and that the Hell is the truth.

The translation of the statement of Faraj is as follows:

There is no God but Allah, the Gentle, the kind; There is no God but Allah, the High, the Great. All praise be to Allah, the lord of the seven heavens and the Lord of the seven earths, and whatever is in them and whatever is above them and whatever is below them; And he is the lord of the Great Throne. And all praise be to Allah, the lord of the universe.

It is also recommended to recite two surahs, Yasin and as-Safat near the dying person, this will relieve the pangs of death.

There are no specific duas, but it is desirable (Mustahab) to pray Salatul Walidayn, a two rakat salat, between maghrib and Isha prayers, in order to offer it as a gift (hadiyya) to parents. Continuous recitation of the Holy Qur’an is also advisable.
The Holy Quran can be recited at all times and there are no specific rules governing the forty day period. Distributing duas (wakf for the marhum), offering Sadka, donating towards a hospital or school, feeding our mumineen in memory of the deceased, etc. are other charitable methods that provide spiritual benefit to the marhum.
Yes the rules governing this are that women should not wear any bright clothes(attraction) nor should they go out for social purposes during this period. Working outside home to earn a living is permissible.