The Essential Acts of the Funeral Prayer (Shafii)

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What are the essential acts of the funeral prayer?

1- Intention. One must keep in mind its obligatory character; though need not explicitly intend it as a communal obligation. One may confine oneself to merely intending to pray four Allahu Akbars over the particular deceased person as an obligatory act, without intending its being in fulfillment of a communal obligation. The intention must coincide with one’s opening Allahu Akbar.

2- Qiyam or standing.

3- To say four takbir together with the beginning takbir. It is Sunnah to raise the hands up to the level of shoulders when uttering takbirs.

4- After the first Allahu Akbar, it is obligatory to recite the Fatiha. It is recommended to say “I take refuge … (Tawwudh)” before it and “Amin” after it, though not to recite the Opening Supplication (Istiftah) or a sura therein. It is a Sunnah to recite the Fatiha and invocations silently in the funeral prayer.

5- After the second takbir, it is obligatory to say the Blessings upon the Prophet (Salawat). It is said as follows:

“Allahumma salli ‘ala Muhammadin wa ‘ala ali Muhammadin kama sallayta ‘ala Ibrahima wa ‘ala ali Ibrahim innaka hamidun majid. Allahumma barik ‘ala Muhammadin wa ‘ala ali Muhammadin kama barakta ‘ala Ibrahima wa ‘ala ali Ibrahim innaka hamidun majid”

(O Allah, bless Muhammad and the folk of Muhammad as You blessed Ibrahim and the folk of Ibrahim for You are truly the Most Praiseworthy and Noble. And show grace to Muhammad and the folk of Muhammad as You showed grace to Ibrahim and the folk of Ibrahim, for You are truly the Most Praiseworthy and Noble.)”

6- To recite the following invocation after the third takbir:

“O Allah, forgive those of us who are alive and those who are dead, those present and those absent, those who are young and those who are old, those who are male and those who are female. O Allah, let those of us You give life, live by Islam, and let those of us You take back, die in the state of faith.”

The invocation changes depending upon the gender and age of the deceased. One may look for such details of this issue in an Islamic law book.

7- To recite the following invocation after the fourth takbir:

“Allahumma la tahrimna ajrahu wa la taftinna ba’dahu wa’ghfirlana wa la hu.”

(O Allah, do not withhold from us his recompense, nor try us after him, but forgive us and him.)

It is recommended to recite the 7th verse of chapter Ghafir (40) right after this invocation: “Those who sustain the Throne (of Allah) and those around it Sing Glory and Praise to their Lord; believe in Him; and implore Forgiveness for those who believe: “Our Lord! Your Reach is over all things, in Mercy and Knowledge. Forgive, then, those who turn in Repentance, and follow Your Path; and preserve them from the Penalty of the Blazing Fire!”

8- To Say “as-Salamu alaykum”. After the invocations, one says “as-Salamu ‘alaykum’’ twice. The first one of them is obligatory and the second one is Sunnah. One should intend to greet those who are on his/her right when saying salaam to his/her right, and those who are on his/her left when saying salaam to his/her left.

The following conditions are required for the performance of Funeral prayer:

  • The deceased must be a Muslim. It is forbidden to perform the funeral prayer over a non-Muslim and the hypocrites whose hypocrisy is obvious. It is commanded in a verse, “Nor do you ever pray for any of them that dies, nor stand at his grave; for they rejected Allah and His Messenger, and died in a state of perverse rebellion.”[1] If there are several deceased people, and if it is not possible to know which one of them were Muslims, it becomes obligatory to wash all their bodies and perform the funeral prayer over all of them. The funeral prayers are performed over each one of them by making the intention as “if he/she is a Muslim” and the following sentence should be mentioned in the invocation, “Allahummaghfir lahu in kana Musliman”. The bodies of those who commit suicide are washed, and their funeral prayer is performed.
  • The deceased must not be a martyr who died when fighting in a battle. This is because martyrs who die in a battle fighting with enemies are not considered as dead in the presence of Allah, neither are they washed nor are funeral prayers offered over them. The martyr is buried in his bloodstained clothes. (According to the Hanafi School, martyr’s body is not washed, but the funeral prayer is offered over them.)
  • The deceased must be clean, washed and enshrouded.
  • Those who perform the funeral prayer must be clean and ritually pure (in the state of ablution), cover the parts of their body, according to the requirement of Islam (satr awrah), and turn to the direction of the qiblah. Things that nullify the ritual prayer also nullify the funeral prayer.
  • The deceased must be placed in front of the congregation. It is recommended (mustahab) to form the congregation in three rows and keep the first rows longer.
  • In order to perform the funeral prayer, at least some limbs of the deceased must be present. If a Muslim dies in a blast and one of his limbs is found after the blast, this limb is washed and funeral prayer is offered over it. A premature baby that dies is regarded as an adult if it cried out or showed movement. However, if it had reached only four months in the womb and does not show any sign of life, then it is washed before burial, but not prayed over.
  • The funeral prayer must be offered in the standing position. There is no ruku’ or prostration in the funeral prayer. The imam should stand at the deceased’s head if he is a male, and at the deceased’s hips in the case of a female or a hermaphrodite.
  • The body of the deceased should be placed on the ground or on a high place like a rock. It is also permissible to keep the body of the deceased in people’s arms and hands during the funeral prayer or to perform the funeral prayer on a mount.
  • The congregation is not an obligation for the Funeral prayer. The obligation is fulfilled if a single Muslim man prays over the deceased. Women may also perform the funeral prayer. However, a prayer of a woman alone does not fulfill it when there is a man available, though, if there is no one besides women, then they are obliged to pray it and their prayer fulfills the obligation.

It is not permissible to postpone a funeral prayer in order to allow more congregation to attend it. The relatives of the deceased are allowed to perform a funeral prayer after others have offered a funeral prayer over the deceased, or even after the deceased is buried.

If there are more than one deceased, it is permissible to perform one funeral prayer over all of them. It is also permissible to offer the funeral prayer in absentia, i.e. offering a funeral prayer over a deceased Muslim in another place.

It is reprehensible to transfer the deceased to another city. According to Imam Shafi’i, it is permissible to transfer the body to to Mecca, Medina, and Jerusalem especially if the body of the deceased passes on at any place near these cities.

It is prohibited to open the grave or to transfer the body of the deceased after it is buried unless there is a necessity.

It is preferred to select the one who leads the funeral prayer from among the relatives of the deceased. In this regard, the selection is done from the ones closer to the deceased to those who are distant relatives.

It is a Sunnah to perform the funeral prayer in a place reserved for funeral prayers outside the mosque. However, it is permissible to perform it inside the mosque as well.

If the deceased is in debt, the heirs should pay his/her debt and if the deceased has left a will, his/her will should be fulfilled as son as possible.

[1] Al-Tawba, 9: 84.

Source: Fiqh1 (According To The Shafi’i School Of Islamic Law), Erkam Publications

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