12 Muslim Funeral Etiquette & Customs

Muslim Funeral Etiquette
Wear conservative clothes, don't bring non-Halal food as gifts and refrain from hugging non-related members of opposite gender. Say Inna lillahi wa inna ilayhi raji'un to offer your condolences and don't click pictures.

1. What Happens After Death?

After a Muslim has passed away, it is traditional for the body to be collectively washed by adult members of the deceased’s family of the same sex. The corpse is then shrouded, which involves wrapping the body in a kafan (three plain white sheets).

Islamic funeral etiquette decrees that funeral arrangements should be made quickly. The burial often occurs within 24 hours or three days at the longest. This is because processes such as embalming are not part of the Islamic faith, so the body must be buried before decomposition begins.

2. Dress Code

The standard dress code for a Muslim burial is conservative and modest.

This means smart shirts and trousers for men and ankle-length skirts or long sleeve dresses for women. For non-Muslims attending a Muslim funeral service, standard Western funeral attire should be sufficient.

Muslim women and men will be expected to wear traditional clothing such as headscarves.

3. Gender Separation

Traditionally, women from the Muslim community do not attend funeral rites.

Non-Islamic women may attend, but this should be checked with whoever is in charge of funeral planning beforehand.

If women are present, expect the genders to be asked to sit separately. If you are a non-Muslim attending the service, be respectful of Muslim funeral traditions – even if it is different from how you have been raised, remember that the service is not about you.

4. Gift Etiquette

When visiting the deceased’s loved ones in the mourning period, it is appropriate to bring a fruit basket, baked goods, or easy meals.

Flowers can be sent to the funeral home but should never be sent directly to the mourning family.

Also read: A Ramadan Etiquette Guide for Non-Muslims

5. How to Offer Condolences

The correct way to offer condolences to the immediate family is to say, “Inna lillahi wa inna ilayhi raji’un” (We belong to Allah and to Him, we shall return).

This can be said whenever the family is seen during the period of mourning, even after the funeral process has been completed.

6. Participate in Prayer

Muslim kids standing for prayer
Muslim kids standing for prayer

The funeral prayer (salat al-janazah) is an important service part. The Imam leads it, usually in a mosque or other designated place.

The funeral prayer can take up to an hour. It starts with quietly reciting sura Al-Fatiha, and then asking for God to give peace, mercy, and blessings to Muhammad before the process finishes with two du’as. There is now bowing (ruku) during a funeral prayer.

Muslim community members must participate in the funeral prayer. Non-muslims are welcome to observe but should not try to join in unless specifically asked to by the deceased’s family. As the prayer is spoken in Arabic, non-speakers trying to mimic it could be distracting or offensive.

7. Can You Take Photographs?

It is considered offensive and disrespectful to take photographs during any part of the funeral process or while at the burial site.

Mourners and non-mourners should respect the grieving family and not attempt to take any photographs during the funeral.

8. Let the Family Lead

Though there are standard traditions for a Muslim funeral, these can vary slightly depending on location and cultural beliefs. Therefore it is important to follow the lead of the family of the deceased.

Even if you have been present at Muslim funerals before or are a Muslim yourself, you should never comment on the family following slightly different traditions from the ones you are used to.

9. Keep it Halal

Never bring non-Halal food to a funeral or offer non-Halal food as gifts to the mourners. Halal food is that which has been handled and prepared in accordance with the laws of the Quran.

Make sure to research what food is Halal before bringing any to a funeral – if you aren’t sure, ask a Muslim friend or someone who is schooled in the traditions of Islam.

10. Are There Caskets?

Islamic funeral traditions decree that there are no caskets or coffins.

Instead, the body will be laid on stones or wood planks at the bottom of the gravesite and then gently covered with the same material to protect the body from the soil.

11. Can I Hug at a Muslim Funeral?

Muslim woman hugging a child
Muslim woman hugging a child

Mourners should follow the same etiquette rules for physical contact as they would in normal Muslim life.

This means that members of the same sex or family members may hug, but non-related members of the opposite sex should refrain from physical contact.

12. Charity Contributions

Rather than giving a gift, it can also be acceptable to donate to charity on behalf of the deceased and their family.

Make sure that the charity you are donating to aligns with the beliefs and values of Islam – if you can find a specific Muslim charity, that is often a safe bet.

Jack Fairey

Jack is a writer based in west London, England. He is a keen traveler, and has a particular interest in the fascinating differences in etiquette across the world. When not writing, he can be found dreaming up his next trip to far off places.

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