Death of a Non-Muslim Relative

Dead_flower_by_allsoulsnightWhen my father, who was a non-Muslim, passed away a couple years ago, I was faced with the question of what I, as a Muslim, should and am allowed to do in such a situation. What are my responsibilities towards my deceased non-Muslim father? Can I attend his funeral? Can I pray for him? Can I visit his grave? Am I eligible to receive inheritance from him? Thoroughly researching the rulings regarding the burial and funerals of non-Muslims, I got my answers.

Responsibilities of a Muslim towards Non-Muslim Parents

Islam encourages Muslims to strengthen the ties of kinship with both Muslim and non-Muslim relatives. In fact, being dutiful to one’s parents, no matter what religion they belong to, is placed in the Quran right next after worshiping Allah (swt): “And your Lord has decreed that you worship none but Him. And that you be dutiful to your parents…” (Al-Isra, 17:23)

Since dutifulness to parents extends beyond their death, a Muslim is allowed to participate in the funeral and burial of non-Muslim parents / relatives.

Zakariya al-Ansaari said: “He may (i.e., it is allowed for a Muslim and is not Makrooh) attend the funeral of a Kaafir relative, because of the report narrated by Abu Dawood from Ali who said: ‘When Abu Talib died, I came to the Messenger of Allah (saw) and said: ‘Your uncle, the misguided old man, has died.’ He said: ‘Go and bury him.’” (An-Nisai)

There are, however, certain restrictions on the involvement of a Muslim in the funeral and burial procedures.

Burying Non-Muslim Relatives

According to Sheikh Al-Albani, a Muslim is allowed to take care of the burial of his non-Muslim parents/relatives; however, this does not cancel out the hatred a Muslim should feel towards their Shirk. Further, a disbeliever can neither be buried in a Muslim graveyard (Fataawa al-Lajnah al-Daaimah, 9/10), nor prepared for the burial according to Islamic rites: he should not be washed or shrouded, and no prayer should be offered over him (Fataawa al-Lajnah al-Daaimah, 9/14).

a Muslim is allowed to take care of the burial of his non-Muslim parents/relatives; however, this does not cancel out the hatred a Muslim should feel towards their Shirk

From the earlier mentioned Hadeeth, in which the Prophet (saw) permits Ali (rtam) to go and bury Abu Talib, Sheikh Al-Albani concludes that if it were permissible for a Muslim to bury a non-Muslim according to Islamic rites, then the Prophet (saw) would have told Ali (rtam) to do so, “because it is well known that it is not permitted for the Prophet (saw) to delay explaining something at the time, when that information is needed.”

Although it is permitted for a Muslim to bury a non-Muslim relative, Fataawa al-Lajnah al-Daaimah, 9/10, suggests that, when possible, it is better to avoid doing it: “If there are people among the Kuffaar, who can bury their own dead, then the Muslims should not bury them, or join the Kuffaar and help them to bury them, or try to please the Kuffaar by joining the funeral procession, even if this is a political practice.”

 Attending Funeral and Burial

According to Sheikh Muhammed Salih Al-Munajjid, it is permissible for a Muslim to attend the funeral and burial of a non-Muslim relative. However, Muslims are restricted from participating in prayers or any other burial rites of other religions. Likewise, attending of the funeral should not involve anything Haram, such as listening to musical instruments and so on.

When attending the funeral and burial of a non-Muslim relative, the right intention for a Muslim to have is that of carrying out the duty of kindness to his deceased relative, sharing the misfortune with the family and strengthening good relationships with the rest of the kin.

When attending the funeral and burial of a non-Muslim relative, the right intention for a Muslim to have is that of carrying out the duty of kindness to his deceased relative

However, special restriction has been placed on attending the funeral of a hypocrite. The Quran directs the Prophet (saw) not to pray for the hypocrites and the rebellious against Islam and not to stand at their graves:

“And never (O Muhammad (saw)) pray (funeral prayer) for any of them (hypocrites) who dies, nor stand at his grave. Certainly they disbelieved in Allah and His Messenger, and died while they were Fasiqun (rebellious, — disobedient to Allah and His Messenger).” (At-Taubah, 9:84)

Praying for the Deceased and Visiting the Grave

Although in times of sorrow it might be extremely difficult and heart-wrecking to accept this, the Quran gives a straightforward order not to pray for the forgiveness of the deceased disbelievers, even if they are close of kin:

“It is not (proper) for the Prophet and those who believe, to ask Allah’s Forgiveness for the Mushrikin (polytheists, idolaters, pagans, disbelievers in the Oneness of Allah), even though they may be of kin, after it has become clear to them that they are the dwellers of the Fire (because they died in a state of disbelief).” (At-Taubah, 9:113)

A Hadeeth shows that even the Prophet (saw) himself was not given permission to pray for the forgiveness of his mother, although he was allowed to visit her grave. Abu Hurairah (rtam) has reported: “The Prophet (saw) visited the grave of his mother, and he wept and those, who were with him, wept. Then he said: ‘I asked my Lord for permission to pray for forgiveness for her, and He did not grant me permission to do that, and I asked Him for permission to visit her grave, and He gave me permission. So visit the graves, for they are a reminder of death.’” (Muslim, Abu Dawood, An-Nisai, Ibn Maajah, Al-Haakim, Al-Bayhaqi and Ahmad)

A Hadeeth shows that even the Prophet (saw) himself was not given permission to pray for the forgiveness of his mother, although he was allowed to visit her grave

The above Hadeeth also indicates the reason for visiting graves – to be reminded of death. To this, Sheikh Al-Albani adds that visiting the graves of non-Muslims should be done with the purpose of learning a lesson. Al-Albani says that non-Muslim dwellers of the grave should not be greeted with Salam and should not be prayed for; instead, they should be given the tidings of Hell.

The evidence for that is the Hadeeth of Saad ibn Abi Waqqas (rtam) who said: “A Bedouin came to the Prophet (saw) and said: ‘My father used to uphold the ties of kinship, and so on and so forth – where is he now?’ He said: ‘In Hell.’ The Bedouin got upset and said, ‘O Messenger of Allah, where is your father?’ He said: ‘Whenever you pass by the grave of a Kaafir, give him the tidings of Hell.’ The Bedouin later became a Muslim, and he said: ‘The Messenger of Allah (saw) gave me a difficult commission. Whenever I pass by the grave of a Kaafir, I give him the tidings of Hell.’” (Narrated by Al-Tabaraani in al-Mu’jam al-Kabeer, 1/191; Ibn al-Sunni in ‘Aml al-Yawm wa’l-Laylah, 588; al-Diyaa’ al-Maqdisi in al-Ahaadeeth al-Mukhtaarah, with a Saheeh Isnaad. Al-Haythami (1/117-118) said: it was narrated by al-Bazzaar and by al-Tabaraani in al-Kabeer, and the men of its Isnaad are sound.)

Inheriting from a Non-Muslim Relative

Another important matter to consider is the question of inheritance. The general rule is that a Muslim does not inherit from an unbeliever. Usamah bin Zaid (rtam) related that the Prophet (saw) said: “The Muslim does not inherit from the unbeliever, and the unbeliever does not inherit from the Muslim.” (Bukhari and Muslim)

The best we can do for our non-Muslim relatives is to share with them the teachings of Islam, before they reach the point of no return. One short sentence of Shahadah can make the difference for their entire eternity

However, the Scientific Research Committee ( has given a verdict that if a non-Muslim father has left a will, in which he specifies inheritance for his Muslim child, then the child is eligible to “receive up to one-third of the estate (33.3 %), since this is the amount of a person’s estate that he can bequeath to non-inheritors”. If, however, the percentage the non-Muslim father has specified in his will exceeds that, then the Muslim child “will not be permitted to accept this excess without the express permission of the other inheritors”.

The best we can do for our non-Muslim relatives is to share with them the teachings of Islam, before they reach the point of no return. One short sentence of Shahadah can make the difference for their entire eternity. We should earnestly pray to Allah (swt) to guide them to the Straight Path during their lifetime, for Allah (swt) Alone can guide a soul to the truth.

The Final Journey

Vol 6 - Issue 3 Final JourneyNaba Basar takes an in-depth look at the burial rites as explained in the Quran and Sunnah.

Allah (swt) says: “Then He causes him to die and places him in his grave. Then when it is His Will, He will resurrect him (again).” (Abasa 80:21-22)

Death is the ultimate reality of life, from which no soul on earth can turn their heads away. The first death on Earth took place, when the two sons of Prophet Adam (as) quarrelled, which resulted in the death of one. Allah (swt) says: “So the Nafs (self) of the other (latter one) encouraged him and made fair-seeming to him the murder of his brother; he murdered him and became one of the losers. Then Allah sent a crow who scratched the ground to show him to hide the dead body of his brother.” (Al-Maidah 5:30-31)

Burial rites hold great significance in a Muslim’s life. The Prophet (sa) said: “A Muslim has five rights upon other Muslims: responding to his greeting of peace (Salam), answering his invitation (to food), invoking blessings upon him when he sneezes, visiting him when he is sick and following his funeral when he dies.” (Bukhari and Muslim) Our beloved Prophet (sa) also instructed us to make haste in burying the dead saying: “Hurry up in the funeral rites for the dead body. If it had been righteous, then you are speeding it to good, and if it had been otherwise, then you are removing the burden of its evil from your shoulders.” (Bukhari and Muslim) Thus, there should be no delaying in burying the body.

As soon as a Muslim dies, his family is encouraged to pray for the departed soul. It is against the beliefs of Muslims to wail, scream and flog oneself. Prophet Muhammad (sa) said: “He is not of us who beats his face, tears his clothes and bewails loudly when misfortune happens to him, as was done before, during the days of ignorance.” (Bukhari and Muslim)


The family should prepare the body for Ghusl, as soon as the near and dear ones are informed of the sad demise. Firstly, the family should shut the eyes, close the deceased’s jaw and straighten the body, including fingers and toes. The manner of Ghusl, according to Sunnah, is first to cover the body, so as not to expose any private parts.

The Ghusl should begin by washing the hands, then the private parts, cleaning away all impurities. Then perform Wudhu (ablution) in the same manner that ablutions are performed for prayer, washing the head and face (and beards for men) using water infused with the leaves of the lotus or anything similar (such as soap). Then, pour water on the right side and then the left side, washing the whole body twice or thrice. This may be increased up to five or seven times, until the body is totally clean. In the last washing, it is preferred to add camphor to the water, if available. Non-alcoholic fragrance should be applied on all unseen parts of the body and the places upon which he/she prostrates. It is permissible to use fragrance on the whole body. In case of women, their hair should be plaited in three braids and placed behind them.

Since the deceased holds great respect, care should be taken that the place for Ghusl is secluded, clean and sterile. It should also be ensured that not too many people are present at washing of the body. It is preferable to have only very close family members. There is no proof of reading the Quran or any Duas during the Ghusl. Moreover, the people responsible for Ghusl are not permitted to disclose any unusual mark or sighting that they may witness, out of respect for the deceased.

It is preferable that women wash and shroud the woman’s body, and men wash and shroud the man’s body.

However, some schools of thought agree that it is permissible for the spouse to give Ghusl to each other, with the condition that in case of a deceased husband, there be the woman’s Mahram to help her. The Prophet (sa) said to his wife Aisha (rta): “You do not have to worry, if you die before me. I will wash you, shroud you and bury you.” (Ahmad)


Ghusl is followed by shrouding, and white is the recommended colour for it.

The man’s body should be shrouded in three white sheets. The winding or the wrap-around sheets should be spread out one on top of the other. After Ghusl, the deceased is lifted off with a sheet and placed on the winding sheets. The edge of the top sheet is folded over the deceased right side, then the other edge over his left side. Then, the second sheet should be folded the same way. The third and the largest sheet should be treated the same way. These sheets should be secured with a piece of cloth (tie ropes): one above the head, another under the feet, and two around the body.

Woman’s body should be shrouded in five pieces of cloth: two winding sheets, a long and loose sleeveless shirt (from shoulders to feet), a waist wrapper and a head veil. All these should be large enough to cover the whole body and may be perfumed with incense. A loin (side) cloth may be used to bind the upper part of her legs. Four tie ropes should be used – each one seven feet long. The loin cloth should be bound round her upper legs (acts like underwear). The waist wrapper is tied in place. Then, the sleeveless shirt should be put on – long enough to cover the body from shoulders to feet. The head veil should be put on as the last.

In case the deceased woman is in her menstrual period or has post partum bleeding, padding should be used to prevent blood from leaving the body.

Extravagance (such as silk fabric or golden threads) for the white shrouding cloth (Kafan) is not recommended. Nothing should be written on or placed inside the shrouds.

Such Biddats as tying Quranic verses around the deceased or applying Henna to the hands are strictly prohibited and should be avoided and discouraged under any circumstances. Also, taking pictures or making a movie of the dead is highly disapproved of, as it shows disrespect for the dead. There is no proof of reading any particular Surah a certain number of times or placing the Quran under the pillow of the deceased.

Funeral Prayer and Burial

Before performing the funeral prayer, the family members should ensure that the deceased was not indebted to anybody. If there was a debt on the deceased, then the family should repay it as soon as possible, even before the burial. If the family cannot afford to do so, then the debt should either be pardoned or someone else should step forward and liberate the family from it. This was the practice of Prophet Muhammad (sa).

Funeral prayers have to be performed in congregation, while standing. There are four Takbirs. There is no bowing or prostration. It is a silent prayer except for the Takbirs and Tasleem. It is permissible to offer a supplication after the fourth and last Takbir. This can be supported by the Hadeeth related by Abu Yafur through Abd Allah Ibn Abi Awfa.

He said: “I was with him in a funeral prayer when he made four Takbirs and waited for a while. (He means he was making supplication.) Then he said: “Were you thinking I was about to perform five Takbirs? They said: “No.” He said: “I saw the Prophet (sa) performing four (Takbirs).”

Scholars say you may pronounce the following supplication after the fourth Takbir: “Allahummah la tahrimna ajrahu wala taftinna badahu waghfir lana wa lahu.” The body should be placed in front of the person leading the prayer.

After the first Takbir, Surah Al-Fatihah is read. After the second Takbir, salutation for Prophet Muhammad (sa) is read (preferably the one read right after Tashahhud in Salah). After the third Takbir, Dua for the deceased is read:

“O Allah! Grant forgiveness to our living and to our dead, and to those, who are present, and to those, who are absent, and to our young and our old folk, and to our males and females. O Allah! Whomsoever you grant to live from among us, help him to live in Islam, and whom of us you cause to die, help him to die in faith. O Allah! Do not deprive us of the reward for patience on his loss, and do not make us subject to trail after him.”

This is followed by the last Takbir; then, one Tasleem on the right side is performed. According to Hadeeth it is favourable to have three rows for a funeral prayer. The Prophet (sa) said: “Whoever dies and three rows of Muslims pray for him, then he will be entitled to good.” (Abu Dawood and At-Tirmidhi)

The Prophet (sa) also said: “Whoever prays the funeral prayer for someone will receive a mountain of reward. Whoever then follows the deceased until burial will receive double that reward.” (Bukhari and Muslim)

Prophet Muhammad (sa) said: “Visit the sick and walk with the Janazah, it will remind you of the Hereafter.” (Muslim)

The bier of the deceased is then carried to its final abode, wherein he will dwell until the Day of Judgement. The Quran says: “Thereof (the earth) We created you, and into it We shall send you back, and from it We shall bring you out once again.” (Ta-Ha, 20:55)

After the Burial

The mourning period should not last beyond three days, except for the widow, whose mourning period (Iddah) is mentioned in the Quran as follows: “And those of you who die and leave wives behind them, they (the wives) shall wait (as regards their marriage) for four months and ten days.” (Al-Baqarah 2:234) This rule has been given so that the widow observes the memory of her husband, fulfills any obligations towards him, and can ascertain whether or not she is pregnant. If the widow is pregnant, then her waiting period ends, when she delivers her baby: “And for those who are pregnant (whether they are divorced or their husbands are dead), their Iddah (prescribed period) is until they lay down their burden.” (At-Talaq 65:4)

The Final Word

Death is exceedingly one of the greatest trials Allah (swt) causes mankind to pass through. Whether it is gradual or instant, most of us find it painful to bid farewell to our loved ones embarking on the final journey of their lives in this world. It is our correct perspective of the Hereafter, and love and trust in Allah (swt) that helps us overcome our grief and heal gracefully. There is much to look forward to, beyond death – Insha’Allah an eternal life of bounties in the company of our loved ones that we have lost today.