What to do upon a Death
By Dr. Abdulhayy ‘Arifi rahimahullah
WHEN SIGNS OF DEATH START SHOWING UP
The blessed Companion Aboo Sa’eed Khudri radiyallahu anhu narrates that the Prophet sallalahu alayhi wasallam said, “Prompt the dying among you to say (the kalimah): Lã ilãha illallãh (I declare that there is no god but Allah).” (Muslim)
The blessed Companion Ma’qil Ibne Yasãr radiyallahu anhu narrates that the Prophet sallalahu alayhi wasallam said, “You should recite Soorah Yãseen over the dying among you.” (Musnade-Ahmad, Aboo Dãwood, Ibne Mãjah)
IN THE AGONY OF DEATH
Turn the face of the dying person towards the Qiblah. Let him or her make the following prayer, “O Allah, forgive me and have mercy on me and have me join higher companions.” (Tirmizi)
1. Soon after the signs of death become obvious, make the dying person lie on his back with the Qiblah on his right. Turn the face slightly towards the Qiblah, raise the head a little by placing a pillow or some other head-rest, in which case also, the dying person will be considered as facing the Qiblah. But leave the dying person as he is if he feels uncomfortable while being made to face the Qiblah. One should sit down close by and say loudly, “Ash’hadu allã ilãha illallãhu wahdahoo lã shareeka lahoo wa ash’hadu anna Muhammadan ‘abduhoo wa rasooluh.” (I bear witness that there is no god but Allah. He is One, there is no partner with Him; and I bear witness that Muhammad sallalahu alayhi wasallam is His Servant and His Messenger.) Given his condition, do not ask him to recite the kalimah, for that is a time of great trial – who knows what he might say under stress.
2. After the dying person has recited the kalimah once, leave it at that. Do not try to make him say the kalimah non-stop in an effort to see that he breathes his last whilst reciting it. For, the purpose is simply to make sure that the last words he says should be the kalimah. It is not at all necessary that the recitation of the kalimah continues right through the last breath. However, should he return to the mundane and the ordinary concerns of life, start reciting the kalimah again. When he, taking the cue, recites it, then be silent.
3. When breath loses its momentum and starts heaving faster and legs sag down, unable to stay up and the nose-top turns aside and the temples collapse inwards, take these signs to be the certain knock of death. At this time, start reciting the kalimah in a raised voice.
4. Reciting Soorah Yãseen lightens the hardship of death. Recite it sitting on the side of his head or anywhere else near the body, or ask someone else to do it.
5. At a time such as this, say nothing which may divert his attention to the concerns of worldly life, for this is the time to leave the mortal world and be present in the majestic Court of Allah Almighty. Do say that which turns his heart away from the concerns of the mortal world and diverts it towards the thoughts of his Creator, for it is here that the well being of the dying lies. At a time like this, bringing his children and family members before him, or anyone else he loved most, or to remind him of things or people in a nostalgic manner causing him to be swamped in the thoughts of loves lost, is a terrible thing to do to him. It is not nice that he says farewell to his life in the world so bound by its fond memories.
6. If, at the time of death, some unfortunate remark bordering on kufr (the denial of Faith) escapes the lips of the dying person, feel or say nothing about it. Instead, take it to be a slip of his reason under the stress of approaching death. When man loses his reason, he stands forgiven for his sayings and deeds. Keep praying that Allah Almighty forgives him.
7. When death comes, all concerned should say, “Innã lillãhi wa innã ilayhi rãji’oon” (Surely to Allah we belong, and to Him we are to return) and make the following prayer, “O Allah, help me in my hour of trial and replace it for me with what is better.” (Tirmizi)
8. When death becomes obvious and certain, take a strip of cloth, wide enough to pass under the chin, bring it on to the head, tie a knot, then close the eyes gently and pray, “I begin with the Name of Allah while being faithful to the Religion of His Messenger sallalahu alayhi wasallam. O Allah, make his matter easy on him and that which he is to face after death, and make him the blessed beholder of Thy Sighting, and make that to which he has departed better than what he has departed from.” (Durre-Mukhtãr)
9. Then straighten hands and feet, bring toes of the feet close together and tie them with a strip of cloth. Then, throw a sheet over the dead body and place it on a cot or a flat wooden bunk. Do not leave it lying on the ground. It is advisable to place some weight on the stomach lest it inflates. Allow no impure persons (in need of a bath, including women in conditions that exempt them from offering Salãh etc.) near the dead body. (Durre-Mukhtãr)
Now inform relatives and friends of the deceased so that they can all participate in his funeral prayers.
10. Some incense (such as oblibanum, lobãn or Frankincense), if available, may be placed near the deceased.
11. Reciting the Qur’ãn near the deceased before the washing of the body is not correct.
12. All funeral arrangements including the shrouding of the dead body have to be made very quickly. Start with locating a gravesite and the preparation of the grave. Collect everything needed for the stages of washing, shrouding, funeral and burial.
13. If a person dies on a Friday, it is better to make all arrangements and bury the deceased before the Jumu’ah congregational Salãh. Holding on to the prepared body with the thought that there will be a lot of participants in the Janãzah salãh after Jumu’ah is makrooh (detested). (Shãmi)
LET THERE BE NO WAILING OVER THE DECEASED
It has been related in a Hadeeth that once the Prophet sallalahu alayhi wasallam paid a visit to a Sahãbi who was on his deathbed. Seeing him in that condition, the Prophet sallalahu alayhi wasallam broke in tears. When people saw him in that state, they too started weeping. He then said to them, “Listen to me O people, and listen well. Allah Almighty certainly does not apprehend the weeping eye and the hurting heart, for a Servant of Allah has no control over these.” Then, pointing to the tongue, he added, “But a mistake made by this, that is, on intentional mourning and wailing, He punishes, and on reciting ‘Innã lillãhi wa innã ilayhi rãji’oon’ (To Allah we belong and to Him we are to return), and on raising hands of prayer and on seeking of His Forgiveness, He bestows His Mercy.” (Bukhãri, Muslim)
KISSING THE DECEASED
After the deceased has been given the required ghusl (bath), it is permissible to kiss the deceased under intense desire to express love or personal devotion as it was with the Prophet sallalahu alayhi wasallam when he kissed ‘Uthmãn Ibne Maz’oon radiyallahu anhu and wept. Very similar to this, the noble Companion Aboo Bakr radiyallahu anhu kissed the forehead of the Prophet sallalahu alayhi wasallam after his departure from this mortal world. (Zãdul-Ma’ãd)
ALL FUNERAL ARRANGEMENTS SHOULD BE SWIFT
It has been narrated that once the Prophet sallalahu alayhi wasallam came to visit Talhah Ibne Barã radiyallahu anhu when he was sick. Seeing his critical condition, he said to the people around him, “I feel that the time of his death has arrived. If it does come to pass, I should be informed and funeral arrangements be made with haste, for it is not appropriate that the dead body of a Muslim be left amidst his family members for long.” (Aboo Dãwood)
‘Abdullah Ibne ‘Umar radiyallahu anhuma narrates that he heard the Prophet sallalahu alayhi wasallam saying, “When one among you dies, do not keep him in the house for long. Make haste in taking him to the grave and burying him.” (Bayhaqi, Shu’abul-Imãn)