Wednesday 16 August 2023

What protocol is to be accorded to a funeral procession by a believer

Respect of human life is one of the supreme mentions in the Qur'an. In fact, respect should be meted out to people of authority, power and wealth. In Islam, a man is considered to be the viceregent of God. Therefore, his dignity must be kept supreme at all times, whether living or dead. 

While one is to be given respect owing to his character and piety, one should not forget to honour him when he dies and he must be accorded a dignified burial. It was in this context that God taught Caine to give a decent burial to his brother Abel when the former killed him on a dispute. The same has been mentioned in the 5th Chapter / Surah of Qur'an (verse 31) that when Cain was unsure of how to deal with the body of his brother Abel, God taught him what to do by sending a raven, who dug a hole in the ground to bury another dead raven and then covered it with the earth. —whom he had murdered—God sent a message in the form of a raven. Thus, this is how God taught Caine indirectly to bury his brother’s body.

So, when a person dies, it is incumbent upon every man to take the dead body in the form of a funeral procession to the place of burial and afford the dead a decent burial. Generally, close relatives and friends attend the last rituals of the dead. But in Islam, the dead is to be respected by every believer as has been the Sunnah of Prophet Muhammad ﷺ.

This Sunnah is mentioned in Ṣaḥīḥ al-Bukhārī  (Book 23 - Funerals (Al-Janaa'iz) /  كتاب الجنائز / Chapter 48: Whoever accompanies a funeral procession should not sit till the coffin is put down /  باب مَنْ تَبِعَ جَنَازَةً فَلاَ يَقْعُدُ حَتَّى تُوضَعَ عَنْ مَنَاكِبِ الرِّجَالِ، فَإِنْ قَعَدَ أُمِرَ بِالْقِيَامِ) as Hadith 1310, given herein under:

Narrated Abu y bSa`id Al-Khudri: The Prophet (ﷺ) said, "When you see a funeral procession, you should stand up, and whoever accompanies it should not sit till the coffin is put down."

Arabic text of Hadith:
حَدَّثَنَا مُسْلِمٌ ـ يَعْنِي ابْنَ إِبْرَاهِيمَ ـ حَدَّثَنَا هِشَامٌ، حَدَّثَنَا يَحْيَى، عَنْ أَبِي سَلَمَةَ، عَنْ أَبِي سَعِيدٍ الْخُدْرِيِّ ـ رضى الله عنه ـ عَنِ النَّبِيِّ صلى الله عليه وسلم قَالَ ‏ "‏ إِذَا رَأَيْتُمُ الْجَنَازَةَ فَقُومُوا، فَمَنْ تَبِعَهَا فَلاَ يَقْعُدْ حَتَّى تُوضَعَ ‏"‏‏.‏

There are Hadiths which show that the revered Prophet Muhammad ﷺ would stand up for funeral procession even of non-Muslims as mark of respect of the dead.

So, what do we do upon seeing a funeral process? If a beleiver is sitting, he should stand and say "Inna Lillahi wa inna ilayhi raji'un (إنا لله وإنا إليه راجعون) which means: “We surely belong to Allah and to Him we shall return”. " And silently pray for the forgiveness of the dead by saying supplicating any prayer in reference to the funeral. Like saying: O Allah, forgive our dead brother and elevate his station among those who are guided. Send him along the path of those who came before, and forgive us and him, O Lord of the worlds. Enlarge for him his grave and shed light upon him in it.

Thereafter, it is advisable to walk a few paces with the funeral procession as a respect to the dead. If one has time, one must follow the funeral procession to the graveyard and be there till the coffin is put down.

There are some general etiquettes when seeing a funeral procession. Some of these are listed below, remember these are not required by law, but it is the courteous thing to do.:
  • Stand up when seeing a funeral procession, and may take off the head gear as a mark of repsect.
  • Give way to the funeral process and its route must not be obstructed in any way. On intersections, the procession should be allowed to pass through and traffic should only resume until the last person or vehicle has passed.
  • Those driving and seeing a procession following them, should pull over and make way for the procession. 
  • Never ever beep to cut through the procession, for this would be mark of utter disrespect to the dead and inconvenience for the procession to proceed smoothly. 
We should not only practice these etiquettes ourselves but also teach our children to do so.
May Allāh (سبحانه و تعالى‎) help us understand Qur'ān and follow the Sunnah of Prophet Muhammad ﷺ, which is embodiment of commandments of Allah contained in the Qur'ān. May Allah help us to be like the ones He loves and let our lives be lived helping others and not making others' lives miserable or unlivable. May all our wrong doings, whether intentional or unintentional, be forgiven before the angel of death knocks on our door. 
وَمَا عَلَيۡنَاۤ اِلَّا الۡبَلٰغُ الۡمُبِيۡنُ‏ 
(36:17) and our duty is no more than to clearly convey the Message.”
That is Our duty is only to convey to you the message that Allah has entrusted us with. Then it is for you to accept it or reject it. We have not been made responsible for making you accept it forcibly, and if you do not accept it, we shall not be seized in consequence of your disbelief, you will yourselves be answerable for your actions on Day of Resurrection.

May Allah forgive me if my posts ever imply a piety far greater than I possess. I am most in need of guidance.

Reading the Qur'ān should be a daily obligation of a Muslim - Reading it with translation will make it meaningful. But reading its Exegesis / Tafsir will make you understand it fully. It will also help the Muslims to have grasp over social issues and their answers discussed in the Qur'an and other matter related to inter faith so that they are able to discuss issues with non-Muslims with authority based on refences from Qur'an.

Note: When we mention God in our posts, we mean One True God, we call Allah in Islam, with no associates. Allah is the Sole Creator of all things, and that Allah is all-powerful and all-knowing. Allah has no offspring, no race, no gender, no body, and is unaffected by the characteristics of human life.

Please refer to our exclusive reference page Etiquettes taught by Prophet Muhammad ﷺ for more etiquettes attributed to Prophet Muhammad.

You may also refer to our reference page: Sunnah and Hadith of Prophet Muhammad ﷺ to know more about sunnah of Prophet of Allah. You may also refer to our Reference Pages for knowing more about Islam and Qur'ān.

Disclaimer: The material for this post has been collected from the references as given below. If anyone differs with the material contained in this post, one may consult the references and their authors.  If someone has more material about the subject, he/she is most welcome to share in the comments box to make the post all encompassing.

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