Q When does ghusl for touching a dead body become wajib?
A. It becomes wajib when a person touches a human dead body which has become cold and has not yet been given ghusl. Ghusl is also wajib if one's nail or bone touches the nail or bone of the dead body.
Q What types of ghusl are given to a dead person?
A. There are 3 ghusls that are given. The first one is of water mixed with berry leaves (sidr), the second one is with water mixed with camphor and the third one with unmixed water.
Q It is wajib-e-kifai to give ghusl, kafan, hunoot, salaat and dafan. What does this mean?
A. This means that if someone undertakes the responsibility to perform these than it is not obligatory on others to do the same. However if that person leaves the work half done, others must complete it.
Q It is generally believed that after the death of a person, he/she feels some pain if we touch the body. Is this true?
A. The person does not feel any physical pain as such, since the body is no longer alive. It is the soul that feels pain if the body is handled disrespectfully. This 'pain' can be described as the way one feels when one sees one's child being hurt by someone else. Therefore, it is very important to handle the body with great respect after death.
Q Before burial, it is normal for family and close friends to view the deceased. What are the rules governing the viewing of the body e.g. Mahram and Namahram?
A. The same rules that apply during 'life' also apply in 'death'. Only the face should be kept open, therefore if a na-mahram views the body, he or she should do so without any bad intentions.
Q We recite namaaz-e-mayyit in congregation, do I still need to repeat the recitations after the Imam?
A. Yes all the takbirs and recitation need to be recited by all participating in the namaaz.
Q How should the coffin be carried during the funeral procession?
A. It is mustahab to carry coffin on the shoulders. It is mustahab to start bearing the coffin from the side where the right hand shoulder of the mayyit is and to continue in an anticlockwise direction. The cycle is from the right shoulder of the mayyit then the right leg of the mayyit, then the left leg of the mayyit and ending at the left shoulder of the mayyit. People should not move across the front of the coffin or underneath it.
Q Are there any rules governing the depth of the grave?
A. It is mustahab that the depth of the grave should be approximately equal to the height of an average person.
Q How should the body be laid during burial?
A. The body should be laid on its right with the whole front portion of the body facing the Qiblah. The body should be put close to the wall of the coffin to prevent it from sliding onto its back or its front. The ties of the shroud should be open and the right cheek should be placed on earth. The head should be placed on a pillow made of some earth.
Q How should the next of kin hold the mayyit during the recitation of talqin?
A. The person should hold the right shoulder of the mayyit with his right hand and the left shoulder of the mayyit with his left hand. Whenever the name of the mayyit is being recited during the talqin, the person should shake the body softly.
Q Why is earth swept in with the back of the hand only and why is it makruh on family members to sweep dirt into grave?
A. One of the last rights of a person on a fellow mu'min is the tradition of burial; and this is symbolized by a person putting a handful of earth inside the grave. There are hadith, which say that it is better to do that by using the back of the hand.
However, for the closest family members (the blood relatives) it is not recommended - this would save them from further emotional distress.
Q After the grave has been filled with earth, it is recommended to put water. What is the method of doing this?
A. It is recommended for the person to face the Qiblah to put water on the grave starting with the head and then going around edges and back to the head - if water remains, then it is to be put in the centre of the grave. What is recommended is to do it once, and it is not necessary that all the children or relatives of the deceased do that. Just one person would be sufficient to fulfil that mustahab act.
Q Prophet (s.a.w) once said that the most difficult night for a dead person is the night of his burial, therefore have mercy on your dead people by giving charity in their name. If you cannot give charity in their name, then one person should recite two rak'at namaaz (referring to Namaaz-e Wahshat).
Does this mean that this namaaz is to be recited only once by the wali of the deceased or someone who has been assigned by the wali to do this namaaz? Instead, is it not preferable for the entire congregation to recite 'Namaaz-e-Washaat' on the night of the burial, especially since it is the most difficult night for a dead person instead of 'Namaaz-e-Hadya-e Mayyit'?
A. The recommendation of Namaaz-e Wahshat is only for the wali, not for others. So this custom of the whole congregation doing it is not based on the sunnat. What is sunnat is sunnat only on basis of the recommendation of the Ma'sum (a.s). If people want to follow a sunnat, then others should be doing Namaaz-hadya-e mayyit.
Q The importance of Namaaz-e-Washaat is also emphasized on the night of burial, with the belief that it sheds light to the deceased in the grave. Other sources have also said that the night before the burial, if Namaaz-e-Shaab is recited, it provides additional relief to the deceased. Is this correct?
A. Namaaz-e-Washaat should be recited on the first night following the burial. There is no information on the importance of Namaaz-e-shaab to the deceased before the burial.
Q Is it recommended to put flowers, plant rose bushes etc on the grave of the deceased or is it preferable not to do so?
A. There is no recommendation to put flowers nor is there any prohibition.
Q After a person has passed away can their soul 'meet' with other souls of other deceased individuals? Would my mother and father now be able to communicate again? Does a deceased individual know about who has passed way on this earth?
A. The situation of the barzakh (between death and the day of resurrection) is very complex; there is no simple answer to such questions it all depends the situation of the souls and their levels. If two individual are in the same category or on the same status, they might be able to communicate.
Q Is it true that the soul of the deceased visits households of their children every Thursday?
A. Again it depends on their status: souls of some believers will be able to visit their family once a week; some will be able to visit once every two weeks, etc.
Q Do we believe that the Marhum/Marhuma can communicate with family members and others death, via dreams?
A. Such things could be possible; but it is very rare. And if it happens, it is about their own situations and not about those who are alive. The living people can do things to improve the situations of the dead by giving in charity on their behalf or fulfilling their missed obligations. But the dead cannot do anything about the living.
Q When we see the dead in our dreams, is there any significance to the messages imparted in the dreams? If we see one in good/bad state does this imply anything?
A. Each dream has its own significance of communication. There is no general statement for all dreams.
Q Is it permissible for a pregnant woman to visit the cemetery? If the woman is not 'paak', is it permissible for her to visit the cemetery or is it advisable for her not to do so?
A. There is no problem for a pregnant woman or a woman who is in her periods to visit the cemetery. What is makruh is that a najis person-man or woman-should not be in the room where a dead body has been placed.
Q Following the death of my father, I used to attend the graveyard to recite Sura-Yasin at the most peaceful time of the day when there was no one else around. Yet, I am told that it is Makruh for woman the visit the graveyard. Is this true?
A. It is Makruh for woman to attend the funeral or actual burial ceremony but it is okay after burial has taken place.
Q One of the disciplines of visiting the cemetery states that, 'Worldly talks, jokes and laughs should be avoided'. During the summer months when majlis' are held at the cemetery, socialization does occur as friends and family meet each other and tabarruk is served. Should this be avoided or is it okay?
A. Visiting the cemetery is recommended for two purposes:
-For increasing the thawab of those who are buried there when visitors recite surah-e- fateha.
-For making the visitors realize the eventuality of death and prepare themselves for the journey to the hereafter.
Keeping that purpose in mind, we should not be joking and laughing in the cemetery.
Q What is the effect on the dead person if the body is kept in the mortuary or if a postmortem is carried out?
A. The term 'respect' comes into play again. The body should not be kept in the mortuary unnecessarily. If a post mortem is absolutely necessary, then it may be performed.
Q The phrase 'Time is a great healer' does not mean much when family members are grieving. What are recommended acts we can do after?
A. There are no specific duas, but it is desirable (Mustahab) to pray Salatul Walidayn, a two rakat salat, between Maghrib and Isha prayers, in order to offer it as a gift (hadiyya) to parents. Continuous recitation of the Holy Qur'an is also advisable.
Q Is it recommended that the light in the room of the Marhum/marhuma be 'switched on' for a period of 40 days?
A. There is no such recommendation. This is only when the body is still inside the room - it should not be left dark.
Q Is there a hadith which signifies that specific amaals be done on exactly the 40th night or day after the burial of the Marhum/Marhuma?
A. There is no special a'maal for the 40th night or day after the passing of a person.
Q Following the death of a loved one, majalis are normally held for forty days for the thawab of the marhum. What is the significance of forty days? Some sources have also said that the soul of the bereaved comes to the house for the forty days and therefore an incense stick (agarbathi) should be kept lit in the room of the bereaved. Is this true and can you shed further light on the issue of having incense sticks when majalis are held?
A. The process of grief is usually a family issue with no religious implications. The 'forty day' time line is generally used, similar to the tradition governing Imam Husayn's (a.s) fortieth (Chehlum).
Q Can you briefly comment on the concept of reciting the Holy Qur'an for the thawab of the marhum, especially during the forty days following death?
A. The Holy Quran can be recited at all times and there are no specific rules governing the forty day period. Distributing duas (wakf for the marhum), offering Sadka, donating for good causes, feeding our mumineen in memory of the deceased, etc. are other charitable methods that provide spiritual benefit to the marhum.
Q Traditionally, after the death of a husband, the wife would not work outside the home or leave home for at least four months. Many women still follow this. Is there any religious implication to this?
A. Yes the rules governing this are that women should not wear any bright clothes (attraction) nor should they go out for social purposes during this period. Working outside home to earn a living is permissible.
Q Upon my father's death, his desire to be buried in the grave of his late mother was fulfilled. I was also informed that in some places, due to a shortage of burial sites, the graves are re-used for future burials after many years. What are the rules governing this?
A. The grave can be re-used and 40 years is the general period considered for a body to decompose