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Wednesday, September 01, 2004

Questions about Death

Question 1: I have seen and attended several gatherings of Qur'anic recitation for the deceased after he/she was buried. I have heard that this is not Sunnah but a custom. Is it Haram to do it and/or to participate in these meetings?

This is a custom not Sunnah. Muslims in different parts of the world developed this custom. However, it is not bad at all. It is Sunnah if people are invited to read Qur'an, and it is also Sunnah to listen to the recitation to the Qur'an. It is a good habit for the bereaved family to reduce their sorrows. The visitors should not burden the family with the expectation of foods and refreshments. Instead, the visitors are to bring foods to the family as a form of condolence. Someone who is an Islamic scholar should give a talk at the gathering to remind people to be close to Allah (swt). The function should be simple and people should listen and/or read Qur'an. They should learn the lesson that any one from amongst them may be the next in line for a similar tragedy.

If someone considers this type of gathering to be a religious meeting, then it would be called innovation (Bid'ah). The latter is Haram in Islam. Every Bid'ah is Haram, and it will lead people astray, and away from religion. Therefore, let us make use of such functions to remind people of death. They may be scared and they may improve their relationship with Allah.

Question 2: Can women pray on the deceased with the congregation?

Yes. A woman can pray on the deceased with a congregation, similar to any other Salaat. She can do it also individually by herself. It was reported that Umar Ibn Al-Khattab had to wait for his wife Umm Abdullah so that she could pray on 'Utbah. Also, 'Aisha had invited Sa'ad Ibn Abi Waqqas to pray on 'Utbah.

Question 3: What is the Idda for the widow?

The 'Idda for the woman whose husband died, is to stay for a period of four months and ten days without getting married. The Qur'an is explicit about this issue. Allah (swt) says in Surah al-Baqarah (The Cow), the following:

"If any of you die and leave widows behind; they shall wait concerning themselves four months and ten days. When they have fulfilled their term, there is not blame on you if they dispose of themselves in a just and reasonable manner. And Allah is well acquainted with what you do. There is no blame on you if you make an indirect offer of betro-thal or hold it in your hearts. Allah knows that you cherish them in your hearts: but do not make a secret contract with them except that you speak to them in terms honorable, nor resolve on the tie of marriage till the term prescribed is fulfilled. And know that Allah knows what is in your hearts, and take heed of Him; and know that Allah is Oft-forgiving, Most Forbearing." (2:235)

Question 4: Why is the Idda period prescribed only for women and not for men?

The idea of 'Idda for woman is mainly to verify whether she is pregnant from the previous husband who has already died. Moreover, she should also show some respect for her deceased husband by giving herself a waiting period. This 'Idda period may change if she finds out that she is already pregnant; then she has to wait until she delivers her baby and becomes clean from the after-birth period itself (the confinement period or in Arabic "Nifaass" period.)

Question 5:There are some Muslims who expose the face of the dead after Salatul Janazah, and just before the burial. Is this practice a custom or a religious duty?

This is a bad custom to open the face of the deceased from the kafan before burial. It is not a religious teaching. On the contrary, it might be considered against the Islamic Shari'ah.

Such a custom causes the immediate relatives of the deceased to become very upset: crying loudly, wailing, and even kissing the dead person's body. Some may fall unconscious due to their feelings and emotions. Moreover, the dead person had Wudoo' after ghusl, and if any woman touches him, he will lose his wudoo'. A dead Muslim is to go to Allah (swt) in a state of Tahara, cleanliness, and wudoo'.

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