There are five main points for the preparation of a Muslim's body for burial; we present briefly the procedure involved in each of them:

I. Body-Washing or "Ghusl"

Washing the deceased's body is obligatory on Muslims; it is a Fard Kifaya, i.e., if some members take the responsibility of doing it the need is fulfilled, but if no one fulfills it then all Muslims will be accountable.

Washing can be carried out in the following way:

  • A man's body should be washed by men and a women's by women, but a child's body may be washed by either sex. A husband can wash his wife's body and vice-versa if the need arises.
  • Only one person is needed for washing with someone to help and preferably those people who know the deceased.
  • Place the body on a high place, e.g., a table or something similar.
  • Remove the deceased's clothes (garments) leaving the private parts covered.
  • Press the stomach gently and clean whatever comes out.
  • For washing, use a piece of cloth or your hands.
  • Only clean water may be used; add some scented oils (nonalcoholic) in the final wash. It is preferable to use warm water.
  • Perform ablution (wudu) for the body, cleaning the teeth and nose from outside only.
  • Wash three times, but if the body needs more cleaning, continue washing five or seven times, but in it must be odd numbers.

Turn the body on its left side and begin washing the right side. Then turn it on its right side to wash the left side. This is done in each wash. The first and the second washes are done with water and soap, while the last one with water and scent.

  • Hair should be un-braided, washed and combed, For women it may again be braided in three braids.
  • Dry the body with a clean cloth or towel.
  • Add some perfume on the head, forehead, nose, hands, knees, eyes, armpits, and place perfumed cotton on the front and rear openings.


II. Wrapping (Kafan)

  • The cloth used for wrapping the body must be a clean (preferably white) and should cover the whole body.
  • Add some perfume to the kafan (non-alcoholic).
  • Do not use silk cloth for men.
  • Use three pieces of cloth for men and five for women, (each piece of cloth must cover the entire body.)
  • Tie the open cloth at the head and feet, with a piece of cloth (from the same kafan) in such a way that one can differentiate the head from the legs.


III. Prayers (Salat)

  • It is better that those praying divide themselves into three rows facing the qibla (Shortest distance to Makkah, Saudi Arabia) with the Imam in front.
  • Put the body (or bodies) in front of the Imam.
  • The Imam should stand by the middle of the body if the deceased is a man and by the shoulder if she is a woman.
  • If there is more than one body, then they should be put one in front of the other, those of the men nearest to the Imam and those of the women furthest from him.
  • Having the appropriate neeyat (intention to perform Burial Prayers) in your heart, raise your hands in the usual manner and say, Allahu Akbar.
  • Then fold and hold your hands on your breast in the usual manner, the right hand on the left.
  • Read al Fatiha quietly.
  • Say Allah Akbar without raising the hands.
  • Pray for the Prophet in the same way as you do in tashahud.
  • Say Allahu Akbar (do not raise your hands).
  • Make du'a for the deceased.
  • Say Allabu Akbar (do not raise your hands).
  • Make du'a for the Muslims.
  • Say Assalaamu 'Alaikum, thus finishing the prayer.

The entire burial prayer is done while one is standing, there are no raks or sujud in it.

Du'a for the deceased may be chosen from any of the prophetic du'as:


IV. Funeral

  • In the procession mourners should walk in front or beside the bier. Those who are riding or driving should follow it.
  • Silence is recommended.
  • It is absolutely forbidden to accompany the body with music or crying.


V. Burial

  • The grave should be deep, wide and well made. It is recommended that it consist of two excavations, one inside the other. It is recommended that the smaller one called lahd be dug on the side of the larger one facing the qibla
  • It is in this one that the body is put.
  • The deceased's body should be laid on the ground with the face toward the qibla, the direction of the Ka'aba.
  • While laying it say: Bismillah Wa A'la Milla Rasulallah
  • It is not recommended to use a casket unless there is a need for it, e.g., if the soil is very loose or wet. A stone, or bricks or some soil should be put under the deceased's head to raise it up.
  • Do not use a pillow or put anything with the deceased inside the grave.
  • Cover the lahd with bricks so that they become like a roof for it. Pour three handfuls of soil.
  • Fill the larger pit with soil. It is preferable that each one of those present share in this by pouring three handfuls of soil. Raise the level of the grave a little less than one foot in a sloping way.


References (all in Arabic):

Al Fiqh'Ala Al Madhahib Al Arab'a, Abdul Rahman Al Jazeeri, 1970, pp. 500-5345.Fiqhul Sunnah, Vol. 4, Sayed Sabiq, 1968, pp. 69-138.Sifat Salatul Nabi, 5th Edition, Mohammad Nasirul Deen, Al Albani, 1389 P. pp. 125.Riyadhul Saliheen, pp. 360-373, Cairo Edition.


Ruling on women praying the janaazah (funeral) prayer

Praise be to Allaah.

Praying the janaazah (funeral) prayer is prescribed for both men and women, because the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) said: “Whoever attends the janaazah until he offers the prayer will have one qeeraat (of reward), and whoever attends until (the deceased) is buried will have two qeeraats.” It was said, “O Messenger of Allaah, what are the two qeeraats?” He said, “Like two great mountains,” meaning, of reward. (Saheeh – agreed upon).

But women should not follow the funeral procession to the graveyard, because they are not allowed to do that, as it was reported in al-Saheehayn that Umm Salamah (may Allaah be pleased with her) said: “We were forbidden to follow the funeral procession but it was not made absolute on us.” (narrated by Muslim).

But women are not forbidden to offer the janaazah prayer, whether it is offered in the mosque, in a house or in a prayer-place. Women used to offer the janaazah prayer with the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) in his mosque and after his lifetime. Visiting graves, however, is something which is only for men, as is following the funeral procession, because the Messenger (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) cursed women who visit graves.

The reason for that – and Allaah knows best – is that there is the fear that if women were to follow funeral processions to the graveyard or visit graves, that would cause fitnah (temptation) to others or to themselves. The Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) said, “I have not left behind any fitnah more harmful to men than women.” (Saheeh – agreed upon). And Allaah is the Source of strength.

Majmoo’ Fataawa wa Maqaalaat Mutanawwi’ah li Samaahat al-Shaykh ‘Abd al-‘Azeez ibn ‘Abd-Allaah ibn Baaz (may Allaah have mercy on him), vol. 13, p. 133

Funeral prayer in absentia, offering food to mourners and reading Qur’aan for the deceased

Praise be to Allaah.

Firstly: if a relative or close friend dies in another country, a person may travel to attend the funeral prayers if that is easy to do. There is nothing wrong with this travelling because it is travelling for a legitimate purpose, even though this action was not known among Muslims in the past. It was not done in the past because they were not able to do that, unlike today when travelling has become easier with faster methods of transportation.

With regard to offering the funeral prayer for the deceased in absentia, there is a great deal of difference of opinion among the scholars on this matter, because it is not reported that the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) did that, except in the case of the Negus (ruler of Abyssinia), and it was not narrated that the Muslims outside of Madeenah prayed for the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) in absentia when he died, even though their love for him was so great.

Also, it is not reported that the Muslims prayed in absentia for any of the khulafaa’ al-raashideen (the rightly-guided khaleefahs, the first four leaders of Islam after the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him)) when they died. Prayer for the dead in absentia was not known among the Muslims even though circumstances might have dictated it, such as the eagerness of the Muslims to do something of benefit for their brothers, especially those who were held in high esteem by all the Muslims, or one to whom one is related or who one is fond of, which would make one seek to do something good for him by praying for him.

For this reason, scholars such as Shaykh al-Islam Ibn Taymiyah were of the view that the fact that the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) prayed for the Negus was an exceptional case which applied only to him, because there was no one in the land where he died who could offer the janaazah prayer for him. In my view, this is a sound view in the light of the above. Some scholars say that the funeral prayer in absentia may be offered only for certain people among the ummah, such as famous scholars and just rulers; this view is close to the previous view.

On this basis, there is no reason why the funeral prayer should not be offered for the deceased both when one is present and in absentia.


Gathering to read Qur’aan and give the reward for that to the deceased is a bid’ah (reprehensible innovation), even if it is not done in return for any payment. If it is done in return for payment then it is haraam, because it is being done for a reason other than for the sake of Allaah, and any such action will not earn any reward. But if a person reads Qur’aan by himself and gives the reward for that to a relative or friend, without gathering with others for that purpose and without seeking payment, then there are two scholarly views in this case, one of which says that it is permissible and that the reward for the reading will reach the deceased.

The second view is that it is not prescribed to give the reward for the reading to anyone, because there is no evidence (daleel) to indicate that this is prescribed.


If the family of the deceased have a special reading, and invite people to a meal three days and forty days after the death, this is bid’ah (reprehensible innovation).

And every bid’ah is a going astray. The Messenger of Allaah (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) said: “Whoever invents something in this matter of ours (i.e., Islam) that is not a part of it will have it rejected.” The action mentioned is a matter that has been invented in the religion, so it is to be rejected, and the one who does it is a sinner and will not be rewarded.

What people say about the soul of the deceased visiting the house after forty days to get the reward is a lie which has no basis. The person who told you that the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) and his Companions did not do any of these things was right. You did well to ask about the things of which you were unsure, and your eagerness to know the Sunnah of the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) and act accordingly is highly commendable. This is how the Muslim should be; his concern should be to know the truth so that he can follow it, and know what is false so that he can avoid it.

We ask Allaah to make us and you steadfast in following the Straight Path. May Allaah bless our Prophet Muhammad and his family and companions, and grant them peace.

Shaykh ‘Abd al-Rahmaan al-Barraak.