When someone dies: Islamic Religious Tradition

Muslim burials focus on following the Islamic teachings and religious traditions to give the deceased a respectful burial. It is important that Muslim burials happen as quickly as possible. The burial must take place within 72 hours and ideally within 24 hours after the person passes. Before the burial, the deceased person is prepared in a ritual washing. Family members and people specifically trained according to the Islamic guidelines take part in the washing (also called Ghusl). This is a purification process in which the body is washed an odd number of times with clean water and then wrapped in a simple white fabric (usually cotton or linen). The uniformity of the shroud creates an equality during the burial process since everyone gets the same kind of simple white shroud.

Salat Al-Janazah

There is a special funeral prayer known as the Salat Al-Janazah that happens before the burial. This funeral prayer typically takes place at a mosque. In the prayer there is a collective appeal for forgiveness and mercy to Allah. Allah is the Arabic word for god and represents an all-powerful deity in Islam.


According to Islam, Muslim people should be buried in a Muslim cemetery or a cemetery dedicated to Muslim burials in some way. The deceased person should be buried on their right side facing the qiblah (the direction of the Kaaba in Mecca). The qiblah is the direction that Muslim people face when they do their daily prayers. It faces the Kabba in Mecca, Saudi Arabia because the Kabba is considered the house of Allah and therefore the holiest site in Islam.

Family (with the help or friends or community leaders) can gently lower the deceased person into the ground. They may recite certain verses of the Quran as they do so. Friends and family then fill the earth in with shovels. Doing this is considered a blessing for those that participate.

Mourning Period

There is then a mourning period where it is customary to express condolences to the friends and family of the deceased person. Muslim people will offer their support to the family and direct prayers in the deceased person’s name. They may do acts of charity in the name of the deceased person as well.

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