When a Muslim burial is an unfamiliar event, funeral guests should familiarize themselves with Muslim funeral customs ahead of time. This ensures a guest does not offend anyone and helps guests better understand and appreciate the ceremony.
Muslim Burial Traditions
Muslim burial customs largely follow specific rites. However, Muslim funeral rites vary slightly with regional interpretation and modification of tradition. Some factors that change Muslim death traditions are the economic situation of the deceased's family, as well as the deceased's nation. Middle Eastern Muslims, for example, accept the transplantation of organs, while it is prohibited by many Indian Muslims. Even though there are regional differences in Muslim culture, there are important similarities. In all cases, the main purpose of Muslim funeral customs is to bring together the living and honor the dead.
The Muslim Culture
Muslim burials are conducted quickly after death as there is no embalming. This is done out of respect for the dead. Muslim burial traditions proceed in the following order: bathing the dead body, enshrouding the body, funeral prayer, and burial of the body. Muslim bathing rules hold that men wash the dead bodies of men, women wash the dead bodies of women and any gender may wash a minor. After the cleansing, the body is wrapped in three layers of white cotton or linen cloth for men and five layers of the same type of cloth for women.
Next, male relatives carry the body to a mosque. Once inside the mosque, shoes must be removed, and the women and men sit apart from each other. Female guests should take a scarf as they are customarily worn. The funeral may be held outside. Muslim funeral services are led by a religious leader, such as an imam, the family priest, or the village Kazil. Women may attend a Muslim funeral, but are not allowed at the gravesite. A casket is not always used, but when it is, it is usually a simple wooden box. The deceased is placed on his side, with his head facing Mecca.
The body is then fully buried by gravediggers. The eldest male usually supervises as the grave marker is stamped and patted down to shape. After the burial, the Muslims who have gathered to pay their respects pray together for forgiveness of the deceased one last time. Some Muslims, such as those from Southeast Asia, scatter flowers and perfumed rose water on the grave as their last action before leaving the burial.