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In the Name of Allāh ﷻ, the Most Gra­cious, the Most Mer­ci­ful

 

Islamic (Muslim) funerals

 

This short explanation will try to give you some basic information of the beliefs and traditions which occur in an Islamic funeral and what to will explain what happens at Muslim funeral and what to expect at an Islamic burial.

Introduction

 

Muslim law and tradition have endowed a Muslim's funeral with profound religious significance and it should, in every respect , express the dignity, sanctity and modesty of a solemn religious service.

The five stages that follow the death of a Muslim are:

  1. The final bathing (ghusl) of the deceased - tajheez.

  2. The shrouding (kafan) of the deceased - takfeen.

  3. The funeral prayers - janazah salah.

  4. The funeral procession - carrying the bier to the grave.

  5. The burial of the deceased - tadfeen.

It is very important to complete the above stages as quickly as possible, for Rasulullah (saw) has emphasised:

"Make haste at a funeral; if the dead person was good, it is a good state to which you are sending him on; but if he was otherwise it is an evil of which you are ridding yourselves."

 

Islamic beliefs about death

 

A Muslim funeral is known as a “Janazah” and is recommended to be performed as soon as possible after the deceased’s passing. There are obvious and acceptable exceptions such as delays with the coroner’s service, cemetery availability and delays in the hospital releasing the body. Islam asks all Muslims to adhere to the law of the land and so one should not get distressed if there is a delay due to such procedural issues.

Muslims believe that the present life is a trial in preparation for the eternal life to come. According to the Quran, Paradise will be granted to those whose good deeds in life outweigh the bad. 

What to do after a death in the UK

 

What happens, and things you might need to think about, after someone dies.

 

Registering the death

 

The registration of the death is the formal record of the death. It is done by the Registrar of Births, Deaths and Marriages and you will find the address of the nearest register office in the telephone directory.

When someone dies at home, the death should be registered at the register office for the district where they lived. If the death took place in hospital or in a nursing home it must be registered at the register office for the district in which the hospital or home is situated. In England and Wales, if it is convenient, you can go to a different office to register the death and the details will be passed on to the correct office.

A death should be registered within five days but registration can be delayed for another nine days if the registrar is told that a medical certificate has been issued. If the death has been reported to the coroner you cannot register it until the coroner's investigations are finished.

It is a criminal offence not to register a death.

The death should be registered by one of the following (in order of priority):

  • a relative who was present at the death

  • a relative present during the person's last illness

  • a relative living in the district where the death took place

  • anyone else present at the death

  • an owner or occupier of the building where the death took place and who was aware of the death

  • the person arranging the funeral (but not the funeral director).

You cannot delegate responsibility for registering the death to anyone else.

You must take with you the medical certificate of death, since the death cannot be registered until the registrar has seen this. If possible, you should also take the person's NHS medical card and birth and marriage certificates. The registrar will want from you the following information:-

  • date and place of death

  • the full name of the person (including maiden name) and their last address

  • the person's date and place of birth

  • the person's job

  • the full name, date of birth and job of a living or dead spouse or civil partner 

  • if the person was still married, the date of birth of their husband or wife

  • whether the person was receiving a pension or other social security benefits.

 

Forms you'll be given

 

After you've registered the death, the registrar will give you a Green certificate which allows a burial to go ahead. There’s no charge for the certificate. You should give this to the funeral director.

The registrar will also give you a form to send to the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP). This allows them to inform

The relevant authorities in order to deal with the person's pension, benefits passport and driving licence,

 

Death certificate

 

The death certificate is a copy of the entry made by the registrar in the death register. This certificate is needed to deal with money or property left by the person who has died, including dealing with the will. You may need several copies of the certificate, for which there will be a charge.

You can get copies of a death certificate from the General Register Office. Its contact details are on the GOV.UK website at www.gov.uk.

 

When a coroner is needed

 

Anyone who is unhappy about the cause of a death can inform a coroner about it, but in most cases a death will be reported to a coroner by a doctor or the police.

A coroner is a doctor or lawyer appointed by a local authority to investigate certain deaths. In Northern Ireland, the Lord Chancellor appoints a coroner. They're completely independent of the authority and has a separate office and staff. You will find the address of your local coroner's office in the telephone directory.

A coroner can investigate a death if the body is in their district, even though the death took place somewhere else, for example, abroad.

A death must always be reported to a coroner in the following situations:

  • the person's doctor had not seen them in the 14 days before they died or immediately afterwards (28 days in Northern Ireland)

  • a doctor had not looked after, seen or treated the person during their last illness (in other words, death was sudden)

  • the cause of death is unknown or uncertain

  • the death was violent or unnatural (for example, suicide, accident or drug or alcohol overdose)

  • the death was in any way suspicious

  • the death took place during surgery or recovery from an anaesthetic

  • the death took place in prison or police custody

  • the death was caused by an industrial disease.

In some cases the coroner will need to order a post-mortem, in which case the body will be taken to hospital for this to be carried out. You DO NOT have the right to object to a post-mortem ordered by the coroner, but should tell the coroner if you have religious or other strong objections. In cases where a death is reported to a coroner because the person had not seen a doctor in the previous 14 days (28 in Northern Ireland) the coroner will consult with the person's GP and will usually not need to order a post-mortem.

For more information about post-mortems and your rights to know what happens with organs and tissue, go to the Human Tissue Authority website at www.hta.gov.uk.

A death reported to a coroner cannot be registered until the coroner's investigations are complete and a certificate has been issued allowing registration to take place. This means that the funeral will usually also be delayed. Where a post-mortem has taken place the coroner must give permission for cremation.

 

What is the law and what are the options for Mus­lims regard­ing post-mortem?

.

 

What is a post-mortem?

 

A post-mortem, also known as an autop­sy is an exam­i­na­tion of the (dead) body car­ried out to deter­mine the cause of death. Post-mortems are car­ried out by pathol­o­gists (doc­tors who spe­cialise in under­stand­ing the nature and caus­es of dis­ease). Pathol­o­gists work to the stan­dard set forth by the Roy­al Col­lege of Pathol­o­gists and the Human Tis­sue Author­i­ty (HTA). The objec­tive of a post-mortem is to try to under­stand how, when and why some­one has died or to obtain a bet­ter under­stand­ing of how dis­eases spread.

A post-mortem is usu­al­ly car­ried out as soon as pos­si­ble, usu­al­ly with­in two to three work­ing days of a death.

 

Why and who orders post-mortem?

 

A post-mortem exam­i­na­tion will be car­ried out if it’s been request­ed by:

  1. a coro­ner – because the cause of death is unknown, or fol­low­ing a sud­den, vio­lent or unex­pect­ed death. A coro­ner is a judi­cial offi­cer respon­si­ble for inves­ti­gat­ing deaths in cer­tain sit­u­a­tions. Coro­ners are usu­al­ly lawyers or doc­tors with a min­i­mum of 5 years’ expe­ri­ence. In most cas­es, a doc­tor or the police refer a death to the coro­ner.

  2. a hos­pi­tal doc­tor – to find out more about an ill­ness or the cause of death, or to fur­ther med­ical research and under­stand­ing. Post-mortems are some­times request­ed by hos­pi­tal doc­tors to pro­vide more infor­ma­tion about an ill­ness or the cause of death, or to fur­ther med­ical research

What happens in an (invasive) post-mortem?

 

The post-mortem takes place in an exam­i­na­tion room that looks sim­i­lar to an oper­at­ing the­atre. The exam­i­na­tion room will be licensed and inspect­ed by the Human Tis­sue Author­i­ty (HTA). Dur­ing the pro­ce­dure, the deceased per­son­’s body is opened and the organs removed for exam­i­na­tion. A diag­no­sis can some­times be made by look­ing at the organs. Some organs need to be exam­ined in close detail dur­ing a post-mortem. These inves­ti­ga­tions can take sev­er­al weeks to com­plete. The pathol­o­gist will return the organs to the body after the post-mortem has been com­plet­ed.

 

Can a post-mortem be denied?

 

The deter­mi­na­tion of the cause of death is a legal require­ment. There­fore, the coro­ner is required by law to car­ry out a post-mortem when a death is sus­pi­cious, sud­den unex­pect­ed or unnat­ur­al. The fam­i­ly of the deceased will not be asked for con­sent and have no legal stand­ing to deny a post-mortem ordered by a coro­ner.

Post-mortem not request­ed by the coro­ner in most cas­es require con­sent and can­not be car­ried­out with­out con­sent. The next of kin of the deceased may have the right to deny con­sent for a post-mortem if the post-mortem has been request­ed by the hos­pi­tal unless the deceased had himself/ her­self giv­en con­sent.

Our advice is for fam­i­lies to check with the rel­e­vant (local) author­i­ties about their legal rights regard­ing the post-mortem of their loved ones. We also advise indi­vid­u­als to state in their Will whether or not they would not like a post-mortem to be car­ried out on their body, and, that if it is legal­ly required a non-inva­sive post-mortem such as a MRI scan or dig­i­tal scan be per­formed.

 

What are our legal options for post-mortem?

 

The estab­lished posi­tion in nor­ma­tive Islam is that the human body is sacred and cut­ting it is con­trary to its sanc­ti­ty. We advise that the fam­i­ly mem­bers should inform the coro­ner of the sen­si­tiv­i­ty of the issue from an Islam­ic per­spec­tive as ear­ly as pos­si­ble.

In the High court rul­ing 2015 (Charles Abe Rot­sztein vs Her Majesty’s Senior Coro­ner for Inner North Lon­don) Judge Mit­ting stat­ed where there is an estab­lished reli­gious tenet that inva­sive autop­sy is to be avoid­ed then a non-inva­sive autop­sy should be car­ried out as long as there is a real­is­tic pos­si­bil­i­ty that non-inva­sive autop­sy would lead to estab­lish­ing a cause of death.

Alt

Alternative: Non-invasive or post-mortem or Digital Autopsy?

 

Dig­i­tal Autop­sy explains the pro­ce­dure for the (non-inva­sive) post-mortem exam­i­na­tion as fol­lows:

Unlike a tra­di­tion­al autop­sy, which involves dis­sect­ing the body, a Dig­i­tal Autop­sy poten­tial­ly elim­i­nates the need for the scalpel. Instead the process is car­ried out on a com­put­er, in two stages:

  1. First the body is scanned using a CT scan­ner, which takes less than ten min­utes.

  2. The data from the scan is then processed to cre­ate a detailed 3D whole body recon­struc­tion of the body. Spe­cial­ly trained radi­ol­o­gists and pathol­o­gists can then exam­ine the visu­al to look for clues as to the cause of death.

 

Who pays for non-invasive or post-mortem or Digital Autopsy?

In Britain, the fam­i­lies will have to bear the costs of a dig­i­tal autop­sy.

 

Muslim funeral rituals

 

Muslim funeral rituals are present throughout the burial process, from death to mourning. Usually these are consistent for the majority of Muslim funerals but may vary slightly due to family wishes and circumstance. These include the preparation of the body, funeral prayers and the post funeral reception.

 

What happens before a Muslim funeral service?

 

According to Islamic law, the deceased should be buried as soon as possible.

Prior to a Muslim funeral, the body of the deceased must be washed (Ghusl) three times and shrouded (Kafan). Same-sex family members usually give Ghusl. However, some Muslim communities will allow the husband or wife of the deceased to take part in the preparations.

Once cleaned and prepared, the deceased is covered in a white sheet and is laid upon three large white sheets of material.

Before being transported to the mosque, the deceased is wrapped in the sheets and secured with ropes; one tied above the head, two tied around the body, and one tied below the feet.

 

How long is does a Muslim funeral service last?

 

Due to the necessity of a quick burial, the lead up to a Muslim funeral is short. The ceremony itself will last from half an hour to an hour, consisting of prayers, chants and Muslim funeral rituals.

 

What happens at a Muslim funeral service?

 

What happens at a Muslim funeral service is usually ruled by traditions of the Islamic faith. Family and friends of the deceased will gather in the prayer room, study room or courtyard of the mosque to perform Salat al-Janazah (funeral prayers). Every male must participate in the Salat-al-Janazah, but women may only participate if they are willing to do so. The final prayer is offered from the family and community to ask for forgiveness of the deceased.

The funeral service is led by an Imam (Islamic leader) and includes readings from the Quran. If you are of a different faith, you are encouraged to quietly listen to the readings and prayers.

 

Following on from a Muslim funeral service, the deceased is taken to the cemetery for burial. Traditionally, only men are allowed to attend the burial, though some Muslim communities may allow women to attend.

The grave should be at right angles to the direction of Mecca, with the deceased placed on their right side facing the Islamic holy city. Wood and stones should be placed on top of the body to prevent direct contact between the person and the soil. All mourners will pour handfuls of earth on top of the grave, before it is filled in.

 

What happens after a Muslim funeral service?

 

Like the ceremony itself, what happens after a Muslim funeral service is dictated by the Islamic faith, and the family's wishes. After a Muslim funeral service and burial, family will typically gather in their home and receive guests. During the first three days of mourning, the community usually provides food for the family. Mourning typically lasts for 40 days but can vary depending on the family.

A Muslim widow is allowed 4 months and 10 days of mourning, during which she is not permitted to re-marry or interact with other men. This tradition is to rule out whether she is pregnant, as well as give her time to come to terms with the loss.

 

Other Muslim funeral traditions

 

Some other Muslim funeral service traditions may include the following:

  • Attendance from the entire community

  • No photography or video recordings

  • No loud emotional expressions or sacrilegious speeches