1) The body is placed parallel to the grave and then lowered in so the person standing in the grave receiving the body will be facing the qiblah.
2) The body is placed at the foot of the grave and then lowered into the grave head first.
The Prophet (Peace and Salutations upon him) said as narrated by Abu Bakr:“No Prophet was ever buried except in the place where he died” [Authenticated by Albani].
«ما مات نبي إلا دفن حيث يقبض» صححه الألباني
It is reported that when placing the deceased in the grave the person should say: “In the name of Allaah and upon the Sunnah of the Messenger of Allaah.” [Reported By Abu-Dawud and authenticated by Al-Albani].
The lahd is a niche that is dug at the bottom of the grave in which the deceased is placed on his right side facing the qiblah. Sa’d ibn Abi Waqqaas said, during the illness in which he died:“Make a lahd (niche) for me, and set up bricks over me, as was done for the Prophet (Peace and Salutations upon him).” [Saheeh Muslim, hadeeth 966].
Ibn Qudaamah (may Allaah have mercy on him) also said: in al-Mughni (2/188):
The Sunnah is to make a lahd in the grave, as was done with the grave of the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him).
It is a good practise to place something to support the head of the deceased out of gentless and care for the body of the deceased.
In areas where the soil is very sandy and digging a lahd is not possible because the niche would collapse in on itself a shaqq can be used. The shaqq is a trench that is dug in the middle of the grave to suit the size of the deceased, and its sides are built with bricks so that it will not collapse on the deceased. Again the deceased is placed in it on his right side facing the qiblah, then this trench is covered with stones or the like, and the ceiling is raised a little so that it will not touch the deceased, then the soil for the grave is filled in.
However the Prophet (Peace and Salutations upon him) has clearly stated that the lahd should be the normal practise of Muslims:“The lahd is for us and the shaqq is for others” [Reported by Abu Dawud, An-Nisai, At-Tirmidhi, and authenticated by Al-Albani].
The scholars are unanimously agreed that burial in the lahd and burial in the shaqq are both permissible, but if the ground is stable and the soil will not collapse then the lahd is preferable, but if it is unstable and will collapse, then the shaqq is preferable.[Al-Majmoo (2/252)].
The Companions were utterly distraught over the death of the Prophet (Peace and Salutations upon him). Aisha in her grief exclaimed to the Companions:
“Did you feel satisfied that you place soil on the body of the Prophet (Peace and Salutations upon him?” [Reported by Bukhari].
“Should I not instruct you to do as the Messenger (Sallallahu Alaihi wa Sallam) instructed me? Do not leave a statue standing without removing it. Do not leave a grave raised without leveling it.” [Reported by Muslim].
The Prophet (Peace and Salutations upon him) and the Companions buried Uthman ibn Mathoon and the Prophet (Peace and Salutations upon him) asked for a stone to be put at the head to distinguish the grave. This is to ensure that people show due respect by not stepping over the grave and so that people can also visit the grave and know its location. Similarly a piece of wood can be used to distinguish the grave. The narration only mentions actually placing one stone at the head, however some scholars recommend using two stones to mark the head and foot of the grave.
However with regards to writing at the grave, as is practised with modern day tomb stones, in every mathab there is a difference of opinion with some scholars permitting it and others prohibiting it. None of the scholars obligated it.
Jabir narrates that the Prophet (Peace and Salutations upon him):“Forbade to plaster the grave, to build over it, to sit on, or to write on it.” [Reported by Ibn Al Molaqen, Authentic or good based on his condition that he stated in the introduction].
Some of the scholars said to distinguish one grave from another it may be permissible to write the bare minimum ie the name. Verses of the Quran, supplications, poetry and other forms of writing should not be used. Difference of opinion does exist in the issue of writing at the graves with some scholars arguing that the habit of most of the Muslims throughout the generations has been to identify the graves with writing. These scholars consider this to be an Ijma amali (virtual consensus due to the widespread practise). However Imam Ath-Thahabi said no writing should take place because none of the graves of the Companions have writing upon them. He argued that some of the Tabiee may have introduced the practise of writing at the graves unaware of its prohibition.
Note that sometimes a matter, such as writing at the graves, maybe considered permissible by some scholars and prohibited by others yet some students of knowledge insist on it as if it were obligatory. This reflects a trait of arrogance and sectarianism. Using the issue of writing at the graves as an example, even if a single Companion or Tabiee practised it, they may have done so being unware of the sunnah. Similarly many of the Orientalist attack the fact that Ibn Masood was reported to have his own Mushaf taught to him by the Prophet (Peace and Salutations upon him). This mushaf is reported to have some variations to the standard Mushaf collected and standardised across the Muslim world by Uthman Ibn Affan. While it may be true that Ibn Masood insisted on using the Mushaf taught to him by the the Prophet (Peace and Salutations upon him), none of the students of Ibn Masood insisted on using this Mushaf. In fact they all followed the same Mushaf used by the general Muslims. Hence if you are sincere in following the truth, follow the practise of the Companions, Tabiee and Atba at-Tabiee (Successors to the Succesors of the Companions) as a whole, not just individuals who may have practised something in isolation to the rest of the scholars.
There is an interesting question which arises on whether it is permissible to place branches or leaves on graves beleiving this will reduce the punishment of the grave. Abdullah ibn Abbas narrates:
The Messenger of Allah (Allah bless him & give him peace) once passed by two graves and said: “They (in the grave) are being punished not for a great thing to avoid” Then he added: “Yes, (they are being punished for a great sin), for one of them used to go about with calumnies (Slander) while the other never saved himself from the splashes of urine” Ibn Abbas said: “Then he (Sallallahu Alayhi Wasallam) took a green leaf and split it into two pieces, then placed one piece on each of the two graves and said: “Their punishment may decrease until these two pieces become dry [Reported in Saheeh al-Bukhari].
Firstly this hadith is one of the many miracles of the Prophet (Peace and Salutations upon him) as he knew what was occuring under the earth in the barzakh, which is another dimension. Also while the Prophet (Peace and Salutations upon him) is clearly warning us against being careless when relieving ourselves or carrying tales, the Prophet (Peace and Salutations upon him) is also teaching us that punishment in the Hereafter can be due to sins which harm others and sins which do not harm others. Many people have a misconception that a sin is that which harms others like carrying tales or stealing, but sins can also be of the type that does not harm others such as a person who is careless when relieving himself, thereby violating the guidance of the the Prophet (Peace and Salutations upon him).
There is also another similar narration of Jabir and scholars differ whether this is a different incident or the same incident. The two incidents do not in and of themselves estbalish a sunnah of placing bracnes or leaves on graves to reduce the punishment of the deceased:
1) None of the early scholars considered it sunnah. Some considered it haram while others considered it Makrooh.
2) The Prophet (Peace and Salutations upon him) did not do this as a habit on all of the graves he attended.
3) Abu Darda is the only Companion who requested that a branch be put inside his grave. Note how he did not request the branch be put on top of his grave.
One of the scholars explained that the reducation of the punishment of the grave was due to the barakah (blessings) of the Prophet (Peace and Salutations upon him) himself, not that the act of placing a branch or leaf on a grave has any effect on the punsihment. The personal relics or effects of the Prophet (Peace and Salutations upon him) can be used for tabaruk (seeking blessings). Certainly during his life the Companions used his relics and effects for tabaruk such as his hair, saliva or water used for his wudhu (Peace and Salutations be upon him). However these were things which had touched the blessed body of the the Prophet (Peace and Salutations upon him). For example Khalid bin Waleed was known to keep hairs of the Prophet (Peace and Salutations upon him) under his kulunsuwa. However many relics which we have today cannot authentically be traced back to the Prophet (Peace and Salutations upon him) and some of them have nothing to do with the actual person of the the Prophet (Peace and Salutations upon him). For example many ignorant Muslims seek blessings from the actual walls of the Prophet’s Mosque in Medina. The marble in the walls is imported from China. It has no connection with the person of the Prophet (Peace and Salutations upon him)! Also note that while the Companions sought blessing from the relics and effects of the Prophet (Peace and Salutations upon him) they did not go to extraordinary lengths to preserve these relics and impose the seekings of their blessings on future generations as if it is an obligatory part of the religion.
Placing flowers at the graves as is the custom at non-Muslim graves is a clear innovation and immitation of non-Muslims.