How to Proceed With Bereavement in Islam
29 SEP 2017
The Islamic mourning process is relatively simple, but it does conform to certain guidelines and traditions. Immediate family members are the only ones considered to be "in mourning," which means that it is important for other people to know how to proceed when visiting or offering the family condolences. For Muslims, bereavement is a natural part of death, so expressing sadness is acceptable in prescribed ways.
1 The Bereavement Period
The bereavement period lasts for three days for all mourners. If a woman loses her husband, she is supposed to stay at home for approximately four and a half months. Exceptions are made if she is pregnant or if she is responsible for making money for the household. In the first case, she stays home until the birth. In the second case, she can generally get a "religious dispensation," according to A. R. Gartad's article "Muslim Customs Surrounding Death, Bereavement, Postmortem Examinations, and Organ Transplants." For all other mourners, the three-day mourning period is sufficient.
2 Visiting the Bereaved Family
Muslims often visit the family of the deceased in the period immediately following the death. Out of respect for the bereaved, visitors do not wear jewelry or makeup and they take off their footwear before going into the house. Visitors and mourners wear simple, subdued clothing, although it does not have to be dark. During these visits, the focus is on consoling the mourners and allowing them to talk about their loss. It is also common for prayers to be recited or read.
3 Expressing Grief
Muslims consider death "divinely willed and when it arrives it should be readily accepted," as explained by Dr. Abduljalil Sajid in his article "Death and Bereavement in Islam," published by the Muslim Council of Britain. However, expressing grief and loss is also considered natural. Sajid suggests that quiet tears are acceptable, but outright crying can cause pain to the deceased. Another reason why loud wailing is not allowed is because it seems like a rejection of God's will. Muhammad and other notable Muslim figures cried upon the loss of someone close to them.
4 Prayers for the Dead
Whether in mourning or not, Muslims go to the mosque to pray for the dead whenever they want. These prayers ask for forgiveness for sins and are one kind of dua. However, if the deceased is a child who had not yet entered puberty, dua is not necessary, since the person is seen as without sin. At the funeral, the imam leads the community in the Salat al-Janazah, which is specific to the occasion, and requires facing Mecca. Afterward, during the bereavement period, the mourners and those who visit them say prayers continually at their house.
- 1 National Center for Biotechnology Information: Muslim Customs Surrounding Death, Bereavement, Postmortem Examinations, and Organ Transplants: A. R. Gatrad
- 2 Muslim Council of Britain: Death and Bereavement in Islam: Dr. Abduljalil Sajid
- 3 A Muslim Primer: Ira G. Zepp, Jr.
- 4 Essential Islam: Diane Morgan