Allah (swt) says in the Quran that every individual is bound to taste death. Everybody knows that we are in this world for a short period, whereas our life in the Akhirah is eternal. Therefore, we need to think more on how we can improve our life in the Hereafter. Abu Hurairah (rta) narrated that the Messenger of Allah (sa) said: “When a man dies, all his good deeds come to an end except three: ongoing charity, beneficial knowledge or a righteous offspring, who prays for him.” (Muslim)

Customs and Rituals Following Death

It is wrongly believed that certain rituals can benefit the dead. For example, gatherings are held on specific days:

  • Soyem/Qul: Held on the third day after death. A huge gathering of relatives and friends is held at the house and a lavish meal is served.
  • Tabarak: Held every Thursday after death to recite the Quran together for the departed soul. In some cases, food is laid out for the deceased, with the belief that the soul of the departed will visit its house on that day.
  • Duswan: Held on the tenth day after death.
  • Beeswan: Held on the twentieth day after death.
  • Chaleeswan: Held on the fortieth day after death. It is a major event, which is organized on a grand scale. It is wrongly believed that if Chaleeswan is not held on the fortieth day or a day or two before, another family member might die.
  • Bursi: Death anniversary is held and all the relatives and friends gather together and condolences are repeated.
  • First Eid: The household of the deceased believe that the first Eid after the demise is a day of mourning and people visit to offer the first Eid condolences.

Other Misconceptions

  • Surah Al-Baqarah is read fourteen times, while the body of the deceased is still at home.
  • Keeping rice or wheat under the bed, where the dead body has been placed, and distributing it among the poor after the burial.
  • Paying someone to recite the Quran at the grave for several days.
  • Illuminating the grave for forty days, believing that the soul of the deceased visits the grave for forty days.

Several of these rituals are practiced in many Muslim countries today. In some Asian countries (India, Pakistan and Bangladesh), these are considered part of our Deen. Similar practices are prevalent in some Arab countries. These customs come from pagan religions, especially Hinduism.

For example, in Hinduism, emphasis is placed on gathering in the home of the deceased and remembering the deceased on certain days. They also believe that the deceased may suffer, if the family members do not prepare food and drink for others.

All these rituals are innovations that have neither legal basis nor precedent in Islam. Any Biddat, in the eyes of the Shariah, is highly reprehensible. Aisha (rta) has narrated that Prophet Muhammad (sa) said: “If somebody innovates something, which is not in harmony with the principles of our religion, that thing is rejected.” (Bukhari) Thus, we should try to distinguish Haq from Batil and Sunnah from Biddat. This can only be done, if we understand the message that Allah (swt) has conveyed to us through the Quran and Prophet’s (sa) Sunnah.

Funeral Rites in Islam

Relatives and friends should only observe a three-day mourning period. Abdullah Ibn Jafar (rta) narrated that the Prophet (sa) delayed coming to visit Jafar’s family for three days after his death; then, he came to them and said: “Do not cry for my brother after today.” (Abu Dawood)

We need to ensure that the funeral is performed in accordance with the Quran and Sunnah. We should visit the family of the deceased and offer condolences, help them and supplicate for the dead. Prophet Muhammad (sa) explicitly instructed relatives, friends and neighbours to send food to the bereaved family.

Abdullah Ibn Jafar (rta) has narrated: “When the news of Jafar’s (rta) death came, Allah’s Messenger (sa) said: ‘Prepare some food for the family of Jafar (rta), for verily there has come to them that which will preoccupy them.’” (Abu Dawood and At-Tirmidhi) The family members should not be burdened with entertaining guests, when they themselves are dealing with a calamity. Imam Shafai said: “I dislike gatherings, even if there is no wailing or crying. For it only renews the (family’s feeling of) sorrow and puts burdens on their food supplies.”

Moreover, recitation of the Quran before supplicating to Allah for forgiveness for the deceased can certainly be a means of acceptance of that supplication. However, there is no evidence found in the Quran and Sunnah that several readings of the Quran be completed on specific days. Death is a great tragedy that is combined by the desire to please Allah (swt) and benefit the dead through legislated means. It is a time to remember the deceased by instigating the Sunnah and shunning innovations with all their links to paganism.