Retrospection: Death is Inevitable (Part 1)

grave2“Please, baby, sleep now,” I pleaded to my child, as was down with a terrible headache. A train of thoughts occupied me. Every second that passed by was adding more to my vulnerability. It all came to a halt, when my husband’s cell phone rang. It was my brother on the line. The cell phone broke the silence, but it also led to more scream and crying. I knew it the very minute. My husband sympathetically said Inna Lillahe Wa Inna Ilaihe Rajioon. It was my beloved, my role model, my grandmother, my Amma, who had expired.

The following day, I composed myself for her farewell. I was keeping all the religious steps in mind. We tried our best to avoid innovations (Biddah). I did not even weep and was in state of denial, a defense mechanism.

“I will give her bath,” I told my mother and aunts. We arranged the stuff needed for her final bath. I was having chills, as I had been among those, who would avoid such gatherings. I never used to attend any funerals. I used to sob and yell, if caught a sight or sniffed the smell of camphor (Kafoor). My teeth would chatter, and I would get goosebumps. The moment I saw her dead body, I was numb, as if chilled to the bone. I was unable to move an inch, my legs felt so weak then. She was lifeless, cold and stiff. I can still recall that touch. Her head was up and eyes were little bit open. I felt the pain on her face, as if I could myself feel her soul departure. That white shroud was so daunting to me when I was little. Wrapping her up in that white shroud was strenuous and backbreaking. We whimpered but did not weep out loud.

Amma’s presence had always been so energetic, pleasant and cheerful. Why that time the mere sight of hers drenched us all in the plethora of bereavement and dullness. The thought was disturbing me and badly quavered my nervous system, while others (outsiders) were indulged in their chain of worldly talks, which comprised of back biting (Gheebah) – people, who were more concerned about: who was attending the funeral? Why he/she was not present? Her death reason, her attire and who had accompanied her when she was on ventilator (was she wearing Saree as always)? How many kids her granddaughters had? When will Biryani be served and the specific preference of the chicken piece? Which hospital was she admitted to? Was it clean enough for kids to visit frequently? Who came first and who did not call for condolence?

A highly esteemed person or a well-known human is soon termed as a cadaver. It is our identity that is lost and we are nothing, but a carcass.

A highly esteemed person or a well-known human is soon termed as a cadaver. It is our identity that is lost and we are nothing, but a carcass.  Aren’t we fearful of the fact that one day we will be in her place? Helpless. Who knows, what a corpse is going through? Is the dead person happy or sad? We don’t know what it is saying, crying for help, or eager to go to its grave soon.

It is narrated by Abu Sa’id Al-Khudri that, Allah’s Apostle (sa) said: “When the funeral is ready (for its burial) and the people lift it on their shoulders, then if deceased is a righteous person, he says, ‘Take me ahead,’ and if he is not a righteous one then he says, ‘Woe to it (me)! Where are you taking it (me)?’ And his voice is audible to everything except human beings; and if they heard it, they would fall down unconscious. (Bukhari)

“And if you could see when the angels take away the souls of those who disbelieve (at death), they smite their faces and their backs, (saying): Taste the punishment of the blazing Fire. This is because of that which your hands had forwarded. And verily, Allah is not unjust to His slaves. Similar to the behaviour of the people of Firaun (Pharaoh), and of those before them; they rejected the Ayat (proofs, verses, etc.) of Allah, so Allah punished them for their sins. Verily, Allah is All-Strong, Severe in punishment.” (Al-Anfal 8:50-52)

“Nay, when (the soul) reaches to the collar bone (i.e. up to the throat in its exit), and it will be said: “Who can cure him and save him from death?”And he (the dying person) will conclude that it was (the time) of departing (death); and leg will be joined with another leg (shrouded).The drive will be, on that Day, to your Lord (Allah)! So he (the disbeliever) neither believed (in this Qur’an, in the Message of Muhammad (sa)) nor prayed! But on the contrary, he belied (this Quran and the Message of Muhammad (sa)) and turned away! Then he walked in full pride to his family admiring himself!” (Qiyamah 75:26-33)

To be continued…

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 (IslamToday.net) 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.