With over 3.5 million Muslims who live in the UK these days, Islamic funerals make up a significant part of the funeral industry in the country. Planning an Islamic funeral isn’t that different from organising one for any other faith group. However, there are certain rites and traditions associated with Muslim funerals that those outside of the Islamic faith might not be familiar with. If you are a non-Muslim but need to arrange an Islamic funeral, what do you need to do?
Firstly, it is important to act fast. Muslim traditions dictate that planning a funeral should begin immediately and that the burial ought to take place within 24 to 48 hours. Of course, this is not always possible. In some cases, a coroner may delay the funeral of anyone in the UK so that the cause of death can be ascertained. However, even if there is an unavoidable delay imposed on you, planning the funeral should start without delay.
Booking an appropriate firm of funeral directors is the most important thing to do after the death of a loved one or friend, according to Newrest Funerals, a leading firm of funeral planning advisors. Although most funeral directors can handle the deceased, not all will be as well-versed in Islamic funeral rites as you might prefer. Essentially, what you will want is a firm that can prepare the body for you so that the hands are placed over the chest of the deceased in the traditional way. Ideally, a close family member of the same sex will clean the body but if this is not possible, you’ll want funeral directors who can perform this service for you in the traditional way.
After the body has been prepared, it should be wrapped in one or more white sheets. These will then be secured with ropes before the body is placed into a coffin. It is very rare for open casket services to take place at Islamic funerals or for bodies to be repatriated. Instead, funerals tend to take place as close as possible to the location where the person died. This may mean having to contact the local mosque so that the body can be conveyed there for the funeral service. Please note, however, that funerals don’t take place in mosques themselves – they’re usually staged in a prayer room or a courtyard nearby that is part of the complex. The Imam will lead prayers. Check on the rules about women attending because this varies in the UK.
After the service, the body of the deceased will be taken to its final resting place. It will be lowered into the ground after which mourners will be expected to throw three handfuls of earth into the grave. Generally speaking, close family members will then go into a period of mourning that lasts for at least 40 days. Sending food and flowers to the deceased’s family during this time is often encouraged.