Burial of the Deceased (part 1/3)

Since 2012-12-21

The Prophet (Peace and Salutations upon him) encouraged haste in burial of the deceased. This includes the entire process from ghusl to burial, but in particular it refers to carrying the body of the deceased from the Janaaza to the burial.


In the Name of Allah, Most Gracious, Most Merciful
The Prophet (Peace and Salutations upon him) encouraged haste in burial of the deceased. This includes the entire process from ghusl to burial, but in particular it refers to carrying the body of the deceased from the Janaaza to the burial. Abu Hurayrah narrates that the Prophet (Peace and Salutations be upon him) said: “Hasten with the Janaza. If it was a righteous person, then you are forwarding it to its bliss, and if it was other than that (not righteous), then you will remove this burden from your necks.” [Reported by al-Bukhari (volume 2, hadith 401) and Muslim (volume 2, hadith 2059)].
«أسرعوا بالجنازة، فإن تك صالحة فخير تقدمونها، وإن يك سوى ذلك، فشر تضعونه عن رقابكم» رواه البخاري ومسلم
It was the practice of Abu Bakr and Umar that they would carry the deceased while the people attending the burial followed behind the deceased. It is not the Sunnah to make specific dua or remembrance in a loud and rhythmic manner during the burial. Due to the widespread ignorance of the Sunnah which exists one should exercise caution when enjoining the good and forbidding the evil, especially if it will lead to fitnah and fighting during a burial. However if a person’s advice will be accepted then they should advice people involved in these innovations. The scholars of the salaf would say that the Sunnah is to lower the voice when the Janaaza is present
It was not the habit of the female Companions that they would follow the Janaaza to the burial. Um Atiyyah narrates:
“We were forbidden to follow the Janaaza until the graveyard.” [Reported by Saheeh al-Bukhari, hadeeth 1278].
«نهينا عن اتباع الجنائز، ولم يعزم علينا» رواه البخاري
Abu Hurayrah narrates that the Prophet (Peace and Salutations be upon him) said: “Allah curses the women who frequently visit the graveyard” [Reported by Sunan at-Tirmidhi and authenticated by Al-Albani].
«أن رسول الله صلى الله عليه وسلم لعن زوارات القبور» رواه الترمذي وصححه الألباني
A common question which is asked is whether it is permissible for women to remain in a waiting area of the graveyard eg. in the car park while a burial takes place. This inshaalah is permissible.
Burying the body is Fard Kifiyah (communal obligation) and a right of the deceased. Even a non-Muslim has the right to be buried. However, the full etiquettes of washing, shrouding and Janaaza prayer are of course to be followed only with Muslims. Out of his Mercy, Allah taught human beings to bury their deceased. Allah mentioned in the Quran when Qabil killed Habil:
{Then Allah sent a crow who scratched the ground to show him to hide the dead body of his brother. He (the murderer) said: "Woe to me! Am I not even able to be as this crow and to hide the dead body of my brother?" Then he became one of those who regretted.} [Surah al-Maidah 5:31].
{فَبَعَثَ اللَّـهُ غُرَابًا يَبْحَثُ فِي الْأَرْضِ لِيُرِيَهُ كَيْفَ يُوَارِي سَوْءَةَ أَخِيهِ ۚ قَالَ يَا وَيْلَتَا أَعَجَزْتُ أَنْ أَكُونَ مِثْلَ هَـٰذَا الْغُرَابِ فَأُوَارِيَ سَوْءَةَ أَخِي ۖ فَأَصْبَحَ مِنَ النَّادِمِينَ} المائدة: 31


Transliteration: FabaAAatha Allahu ghuraban yabhathu fee alardi liyuriyahu kayfa yuwaree sawata akheehi qala ya waylataaAAajaztu an akoona mithla hathaalghurabi faowariya sawata akhee faasbaha mina alnnadimeena
Sheikh As-Sadi said that the Companions said, “When his brother died, Qabil left him on the bare ground and did not know how to bury him. Allah sent two crows, which fought with each other until one of them killed the other. So it dug a hole and threw sand over the dead corpse (which it placed in the hole).
{Thereof (the earth) We created you, and into it We shall return you, and from it We shall bring you out once again.} [Surah TaHa 20:55].
{مِنْهَا خَلَقْنَاكُمْ وَفِيهَا نُعِيدُكُمْ وَمِنْهَا نُخْرِجُكُمْ تَارَةً أُخْرَىٰ} طه: 55


Transliteration: Minha khalaqnakum wafeehanuAAeedukum waminha nukhrijukum taratan okhra
Allah said in the Quran: {Then He causes him to die, and puts him in his grave;} [Surah Abasa 80:21].
{ثُمَّ أَمَاتَهُ فَأَقْبَرَهُ} عبس: 21


Transliteration: Thumma amatahu faaqbarahu
Again, Allah said in the Quran: {Have We not made the earth a receptacle?} [Surah al-Mursalat 77:25].
{أَلَمْ نَجْعَلِ الْأَرْضَ كِفَاتًا} المرسلات: 25


Transliteration: Alam najAAali alarda kifatan
Imagine if the corpses of human being were not buried underground but remained on the surface of the earth. Disease would be spread from the decomposing bodies, but worse still people would see the corpses of their loved ones and be disgusted with life and loose the joy of life.
The definition of a grave is a hole in the ground. It is therefore not permissible to put a grave above the surface of the earth. It is against the fitrah to put a grave above the surface of the earth as the Son of Adam, who is the ancestor of all humans, dug a grave in the ground. It is of course absolutely impermissible and against the fitrah to cremate the deceased. It is also not permissible for a Muslim Doctor to consent for a Muslim or non-Muslim body to be cremated.
The Prophet (Peace and Salutations upon him) said regarding preparation of the grave: “Dig and make it wide and deep” [Sunan at-Tirmidhi, authenticated by Al-Albani].
«احفروا وأوسعوا وأحسنوا» رواه الترمذي وصححه الألباني
After considering the ruling of burying the deceased we need to study the manner of putting the body into the ground and preparing the grave. Sheikh al-Albaani said you will not find the graves of Muslims except that they face the Qiblah.
The Prophet (Peace and Salutations upon him) said: “Your Qiblah the living and the dead” [Reported as Hasan (good) by Al-Albani].
«...قبلتكم أحياء و أمواتا» حسنه الألباني
Scholars have discussed the depth of the grave. Some scholars say the depth should be equivalent to a forearm. However most scholars say that the depth should be equivalent to a person standing and raising their arms. This is better to avoid smells from the decomposing body reaching the surface and also to prevent disturbances of the earth exposing the body. The grave should be wide enough for at least 3 people to stand in the grave.
With the increasing scarcity of land in many countries the question arises is it permissible to build on top of existing graves after a long period of time has passed and the bodies of the deceased have completely disintegrated. Some experts claim that 80 years is sufficient for the human body to completely disintegrate. Interestingly enough there was an incident where the grave of Imam Ash-Shawkani (died in the 13th century AH) was exposed during a flood in Yemen. The scholars then dug and collected the bones of Imam Ash-Shawkani and placed it in a shroud. They attempted to keep the matter secret but the news reached the President of Yemen who sought to achieve a political advantage from the situation. He announced the new Janaaza of Imam Ash-Shawkani to show his Islamic credentials are respect for scholars. The incident shows that the bones of human beings can survive for at least 140 years.
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