Muharram Images

What are Islamic mourning rites and rituals (Muharram)?

On Ashura, the Muslims take out processions carrying colorfully decorated taziyas (bamboo and paper replicas of the martyr’s tomb) embellished with gilt and mica. Colorful replicas of Hazrat Imam Hussain’s tomb at Karbala are also carried in procession and buried at an imitation Karbala. The mourners walk barefoot to the beat of drums. In a frenzy of grief, they beat their chests and cry out the name of Hussain. They sometimes even flagellate or whip themselves, drawing blood. Wrestlers and dancers enact scenes depicting the battle at Karbala. While many Muslims take to the streets to mourn, there are some families that retain personal mourning houses.

Lucknow (Uttar Pradesh), being the centre of Shia culture and religious activities, observes the rites of mourning with great passion. In places other than Lucknow, the taziyas are taken out and buried in the local burial ground known as Karbala.

Sunni Muslims may also commemorate Hussain’s death but in a less demonstrative manner, concentrating instead on the redemptive aspect of his martyrdom.

Islamic Mourning Rites And Rituals

Islamic Funeral: Death rituals and their meaning

1Death rituals are unique
Every religion or belief system has its own death rituals or methods prescribed for funeral. All of these rituals have their unique significance and we should respect them, though it depends on our present circumstances whether we are able to fulfill the obligations or not.

2Reciting prayers at the time of death
Like any religion, Islam also suggests that the attendees or the people present around a dying person should utter prayers. Encouraging the dying one to recite words of remembrance and prayer is also recommended.

3After death
After the death of the person, the attendees are advised to remain calm, pray for the departed, and begin preparations for burial. It is suggested, like in many religions, that the eyes of the deceased should be closed, and the body covered temporarily with a clean sheet. Excessive wailing and screaming is discouraged.

4Preparing for burial
The burial process is advised to start as soon as possible to avoid the need for embalming or. If needed, an autopsy may be performed on the body but not without respect to the dead.

Kafan means shroud for the dead. However, if the person died as a martyr, Kafan is not readied–the same cloth in which he / she died is used. Like many other religions, the deceased is washed respectfully, sometimes with scented water. Kafan (white clothes) is then wrapped around the body.

6Prayers at the funeral
At the site of the funeral, there are special prayers that are uttered. These are called salat-l-janazah. These are not held inside the mosque and should be carried out outdoors. There is no bowing or prostration during these prayers.

7Burial procedure
Only men accompany the deceased to the grave. Most preferably, wherever the death occurred, the burial should happen there. Transporting the body to other location is not advised. The deceased is laid in the grave facing Mecca.

8Mourning period and conduct
A 3-day mourning period is observed. It’s done without any decorative clothes and jewelry. Widows have to observe an extended mourning period of 4 months and 10 days long. She can’t remarry during this period.

9Post Funeral Reception
The immediate family will gather and receive visitors after the funeral and it is customary for the community to provide food for the family for the first few days of the mourning period.

10Collective prayers after burial
The gathered will pay their respect to the dead and will also say prayers collectively for the forgiveness of the dead. In some cultures, the surviving members of the deceased scatter flowers and perfumed rose water upon the grave as the last action prior to leaving the grave.

11Visiting graves
Visiting graves is allowed but supplicating to the dead, invoking their assistance, wailing, or other types of shirk and sinful actions are prohibited. The main reason for this visit should be a reminder of the hereafter.

12Rituals may differ
Some of the rituals are subjected to regional interpretations and may differ. However, the inner significance remains the same.

13Adherence is good
As a believer in the Islamic traditions, Muslims are advised to adhere to these guidelines as staunchly as they can. Without doubt, according the present condition, economic viability and some local laws, some changes are agreed upon.

14The main significance of these rituals
All in all, the dictum is to remind everybody that the body is perishable and one should not lose faith in Allah, and that time and again, we should be reminded of the hereafter. Excessive expression of loss, pain and sadness is discouraged to make one strong about accepting this truth of human life.

15How do you feel?
I am sure nobody likes to talk about death generally but it’s the biggest truth of our lives–it gives us the indicator that human life is temporary and we should be conscious about God and to always be under His command.

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