Post-Mortem Practices in Muslim Populations: Guidance for Funeral Directors, Healthcare Practitioners, and Medical Examiners

Post-Mortem Practices in Muslim Populations: Guidance for Funeral Directors, Healthcare Practitioners, and Medical Examiners

Omar Bagasra (Claflin University, USA) and Anisah Bagasra (Kennesaw State University, USA)
Copyright: © 2020 |Pages: 16
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-7998-0018-7.ch004

Abstract

The chapter introduces the reader to the main post-mortem rituals in Islam, specifically pre-burial rituals of washing, shrouding, and preparing the body for burial, funeral customs, and the actual burial process. It outlines issues of concern for Muslims including the practices of embalming, autopsy, and organ donation. The chapter also discusses contemporary challenges facing Muslims living in Western countries attempting to adhere to traditional Islamic post-mortem practices and ways that Muslim communities and services providers are addressing these challenges.
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Background

The Islamic view and definition of death is clearly outlined in the Quran. Passages from the Quran support a definition of death as biological decomposition, in which the body becomes dust and bones. In Chapter 37 verse 16 the Quran states: “When we are dead and have become dust and bones, shall we (then) verily be resurrected?” Death is also defined as the time at which the soul leaves the body: “No, when your soul reaches your throat, and the people around you say, “Who can help?” and you realize your time has come, and your legs are put one over the other, on that day your soul, to Me, will come” (The Quran Chapter 75, verses 26-30). Thus, death involves both the departure of the soul from the body, and the process of decomposition of the body. The recognition that death involves both the soul and the physical body informs Muslim approaches to death and dying. Muslim beliefs regarding life after death also play an important role in the shaping of death rituals. Islamic theology notes that after death there is life in the grave that occurs prior to resurrection and judgement regarding placement in heaven or hell (Vitkovic, 2018). Thus, the grave and all of the rituals surrounding the grave including burial and funeral prayers are an important part of the transition from one stage to the next.

Key Terms in this Chapter

Fiqh: Islamic jurisprudence. Specifically, human understanding of divine Islamic law as revealed in the Quran and the Sunnah.

Fatwa: A ruling by a recognized religious authority on an issue that impacts Islamic law. A Fatwa is usually issued on a matter of contemporary note, where there is no frame of reference from the Quran , hadith , or Sunnah .

Qibla: The direction of Mecca in Saudi Arabia, considered the holiest site for Muslims.

Barzakh: Transitory period between death and resurrection within Islamic theology. This “life in the grave” may consist of punishment or reward.

Ghusl: An Arabic term referring to the full-body ritual purification mandatory before the performance of various rituals and prayers, for any adult Muslim after having sexual intercourse, completion of the menstrual cycle, and upon death prior to burial.

Janazah Prayer: Obligated funeral prayer for a deceased Muslim.

Minimally Invasive Autopsy: A term for a postmortem examination with minimal or no disruption to bodily cavities using imagery, needle biopsies, external examination, or patient records.

Shrouding: The process of covering and wrapping the deceased person within Islamic tradition. The amount of cloth, number of pieces, and process of shrouding depend upon gender and a carefully outline in Islamic fiqh.

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