As the world’s second most prominent religion, Islam has a place in many corners of the globe. This extends to Australia where many Muslims practice and share the beliefs of Islam. There are six main beliefs within Islam – the presence of one God in Allah, angels, holy books, prophets, predestination and the Day of Judgement.
It is the last of these, the Day of Judgement, which touches on the matter of life after death when the world ends and everyone is resurrected based on their deeds. That is, whether an individual moves to Paradise for a peaceful eternity, or to suffer in Hell.
Planning for an Islamic funeral
Islamic law dictates that a person shall be buried as soon as possible after their death, meaning funeral plans must commence with immediate effect. The specific preparation of a funeral service for a Muslim will typically require the input of a local Islamic group, albeit more funeral providers are starting to specialise in this area and develop capabilities.
Before the funeral itself, loved ones of the same gender as the deceased will wash the body at least three times, in a process known as Ghusi. After this, another process called Kafan will take place where the body is wrapped in various layers of sheeting, which are selected based on local customs. It is normal for more sheets to be used with a female, as well as a head veil and sleeveless dress down to the ankles. The body will be transported to the funeral service in a wrap of sheeting supported by rope.
Neither autopsies nor cremation are permitted under Islamic law. Additionally, viewings do not take place because of the immediate nature with which Islamic law dictates the burial of a Muslim. An imam, who is an Islamic leader in the community, will perform a series of prayers and readings from the Quran that may last up to an hour. Muslims in attendance will be dressed conservatively and participate in reciting the prayers and readings.
These prayers do not take place within the main room of the mosque but rather in adjoining prayer spaces where shoes are forbidden, or outside. Attendees will form rows, with male relatives occupying the front row, followed by male mourners, then by children, and in the final rows, women. Everyone faces in the direction of Mecca, the holiest city under Islam and the birthplace of the Prophet Muhammad.
Once this has been complete, the coffin will be passed between mourners in rows, shoulder to shoulder, in the direction of the final resting place, a grave aligned perpendicular to Mecca. Some communities permit women to attend and watch the burial, however, under strict Islamic practice it would normally be restricted to just men. As the body is rested such that the deceased is on their right side facing Mecca, those observing will recite prayers.
After the service, mourners will attend the home of the deceased’s family, providing them food for three days. Mourning times vary between local customs and traditions, but are at least 40 days. In the instance of widows, they are expected to mourn for 4 months and 10 days, during which time they cannot interact with men whom might be a future partner.