Muslim Burial Traditions
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In Islam, very specific rituals are followed when a person pass away. A Muslim burial should take place as soon as possible after the person dies. The moment a person passes away, his or her eyes are closed if they are open. Thereafter, the body is prepared for the burial. The body is washed many times and often this is done 5 times or more using jujube. The washing is always done in odd numbers, like 5, 7 or 9.
First the right side of the body is washed and then those parts are washed which a person washes when preparing for prayers. The final water used for washing should contain added perfume. However, if a Muslim dies a martyr, then his or her body is not washed. The odor of the body is allowed to remain for the Day of Judgment.
Once the ritual cleansing and washing is over, the body is wrapped in a shroud. An ordinary sheet can be used as a shroud, but most of the times, a special cloth that is used for making shrouds is used.
Then a funeral prayer is said. This obligation falls on the community and if a Muslim is buried without this funeral prayer, the community commits a sin for not fulfilling its obligations. This prayer is said out the mosque in a special area known as Musallah. At times, the prayer is said at the grave site after the body is lowered into the grave. This is also acceptable, but is not the first choice.
Generally, most Muslims are buried in shrouds, but the rich use caskets and this is permitted by Islam. The body is placed on its right side and the head should be turned to face towards Qibla. Also, the head of the body should be raised slightly above the ground by means of a stone or brick. Once the body is placed, then large stones are used to cover the body. Even bricks can be used for this purpose. Then, 3 handfuls of the earth are put on the stones and this practice is followed by all the mourners present. Then, the grave is filled with the earth and thereafter, all the mourners again put 3 more handfuls of earth. This marks the completion of the grave and burial. The grave can be covered with earth, or large stones can be placed on top after the grave is covered. There are no fixed rules on this. However, the mound should not be more a foot high.
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