Patience at the time of bereavement

The loss of a loved one is a time when a person may be overwhelmed with grief, and many customs surrounding bereavement reflect the depth of the feeling of loss. Wailing, eulogizing (i.e. praising the deceased excessively) and tearing one’s garments are all customs which were well known at the time of Jâhiliyyah, and are still common among some Muslims. Such conduct is not permitted in Islâm, as the believer is required to face bereavement, like all the other trials of life, with patience.

It is permitted to cry or weep, softy, before death, at the time of death, and after the person has died. According to ash-Shâfi‘î, however, it is makrûh to cry after the person has died, but permissible before the soul has departed.

The correct opinion is that crying is permitted both before and after death. The evidence for this is the hadîth narrated by Jâbir ibn ‘Abdullâh (RA) in which he said: “My father died at the battle of Uhud, and I began to weep. The people told me to stop, but the Messenger (SAAS) never asked me to stop. Then my aunt Fâtimah began to weep too, and the Prophet (SAAS) said: ‘It does not matter whether you cry or not, the angels kept shading him until they ascended with his soul’ ” (agreed upon).

Ibn ‘Abbâs (RA) reported that when Ruqayyah (RA), the daughter of the Prophet (SAAS), died, the women started to cry, and ‘Umar (RA) began to whip them to make them stop. The Prophet (SAAS) told him: “O ‘Umar, leave them alone and let them cry.” To the women he said: “Go ahead and cry, but avoid the crying of the shaytân. Whatever comes from the eye and heart is from Allâh and is a sign of mercy, and whatever comes from your hand and your tongue is from the shaytân.” (Ahmad)

A number of sound ahâdîth describe the Prophet (SAAS) weeping on a number of occasions when someone he loved had died. When the Prophet (SAAS) visited the tomb of his mother he wept, and caused others to weep. When he was burying the martyr ‘Uthmân ibn Madh’un (RA) after Uhud, he kissed him and his tears fell on ‘Uthmân’s face. When he gave the news of the death of Ja’far (RA) and his companions in the battle against the Romans at Mu’tah, he spoke with tears streaming down his face.

Another sound report describes how Abû Bakr (RA) wept when he kissed the Prophet (SAAS) after he had died. The ahâdîth that forbid crying should be interpreted as referring to the kind of crying that is accompanied by eulogizing and wailing.

Eulogizing and wailing

Eulogizing the dead and wailing in grief are harâm, according to Ahmad, ash-Shâfi‘î and others. In a hadîth narrated from ‘Abdullâh ibn Mas‘ûd (RA), that the Prophet (SAAS) said: “He is not one of us who strikes himself on the cheeks, rends his garment and behaves like the people of Jâhiliyyah” (al-Bukhârî and Muslim).

Abû Mâlik al-Ash‘arî (RA) said: “The Prophet (SAAS) said: ‘There are four habits which my Ummah has, which are from the Jahiliyyah. My Ummah will never rid itself of them. They are: seeking pride in noble descent; slandering one another by casting doubts one one’s lineage; seeking rain through astrology; and wailing.’ ” In another hadîth, the
Prophet (SAAS) said that if a woman practices the custom of wailing, and does not repent before she dies, on the Day of Resurrection she will be raised with clothes of tar and a shield of scabs. (Muslim)

Abû Mûsâ (RA) said: “The Prophet (SAAS) said: ‘The deceased person suffers because of the wailing of the living. When the wailing woman says, “What a great loss! I have lost my right arm, the one who clothed me”, the deceased will be pulled up sharply and asked: “Are you her right hand? Are you her support? Are you the one who clothed
her?” (Ahmad).

There is no doubt that wailing and eulogizing are harâm. How could it be otherwise, when they indicate discontent with one’s Lord and contradict patience? Behaving this way harms oneself too, when one slaps one’s face, pulls out one’s hair, prays to Allâh to take one’s soul, wastes possessions by tearing one’s clothes, complains of injustice from Allâh and praises the deceased with qualities that he did not possess. Any of these would be sufficient grounds for the total prohibition of wailing and eulogizing.

Saying a few words

It is permissible to say a few words when crying over a deceased person, so long as these words are true, and are not accompanied by wailing or expression of discontent with the decree of Allâh. Such brief words do not contradict patience, and are not harâm. Anas (RA) reported that Abû Bakr (RA) entered upon the Prophet (SAAS) after he had passed
away, put his hands on his temples, kissed him between the eyes and said: “O my Prophet, O my dearest friend, O my beloved.” (Ahmad)

Anas (RA) reported that when the Prophet (SAAS) became very ill, he started to lose conciousness. Fâtimah (RA) said, “How great is the distress of my father!” He said, “There will be no more distress for your father after today.” When the Prophet (SAAS) passed away, she said, “O my father who answered the call of his Lord, O my father whose destination is Paradise, O my father, to Jibrîl will tell the news of your death.” After the Prophet (SAAS) had been buried, she said, “O Anas, how could you bear to bury the Prophet and cover him with dust?” (al-Bukhârî)

When his son Ibrâhîm died, the Prophet (SAAS) said, “We are very sad for your death, O Ibrâhîm.” This does not indicate discontent with the decree of Allâh or complaining against Allâh. Such statements are no more than crying or weeping.

The deceased person suffers because of people’s wailing over him

A sahîh hadîth narrated from ‘Umar ibn al-Khattâb (RA) and his son, and al-Mughîrah ibn Shu‘bah indicates that a deceased person suffers because of people’s wailing over him. There should be no problem in understanding this hadîth, and it should not be seen as contradicting the Qur’ân or the basic principles of Sharî‘ah. It does not mean that a man can be punished because of another’s deeds. The Prophet (SAAS) did not say that the deceased person will be punished because of his family’s crying over him. What he said was that the deceased suffers because of that, meaning that it hurts him. Similarly, a dead person in the grave might suffer when a person in a neighbouring grave is being punished, just as in the life it hurts him to see his neighbour being punished. So when the family of a deceased person cries, wails and eulogizes him, like the people of Jâhiliyyah used to do, the deceased person will be hurt in his grave because of it. This is the suffering that is referred to in the hadîth.

‘Uddat as Sabirin by Ibn Qayyim


Sending Flowers and Reading Quran during Funerals

It should be noted that many people at the death of a dear person will bring flowers and wreaths and after proceeding with the funeral, will take the flowers and wreaths to the home of the deceased. They buy the best flowers and wreaths to show their deep sympathy and concern. To do this is forbidden – whether presenting it at the funeral, accompanying the funeral with it, or bringing it to the deceased’s house. This is an imitation of non- Muslims, and is an evil innovation which should be strictly avoided. Those who do such a thing will have no reward from Allah. To the contrary, they will be questioned for such meaningless waste.

Another misguided innovation during funerals is that the car that carries the deceased will broadcast, through speakers, a recording of the Holy Qur’an as if announcing the passing away of the deceased. The funeral procession should be characterized by thoughtfulness, humbleness, remembrance, reflection, awareness of Allah, and prayers for mercy. No sad music or religious chant should accompany funerals. These two rules should be followed and spread around to make Muslims aware of the right way.

The Manner of Offering Condolences

When offering condolences about the plight of a relative, friend or acquaintance, it is mustahab (preferable) to make du’a similar to the following du’a for your deceased brother. This is a du’a which Rasulullah [Sallallahu álayhi wa sallam] recited to Ummu Salamah [Radiallahu anha] at the death of her husband:

الّلهمَّ اغْفِرْ لأَبِى سَلَمَةَ وَارْفعْ دَرَجَتَهُ فِى الْمَهْدِيِّينَ وَاخْلُفْهُ فِى عَقِبِهِ فِى الْغَابِرِيْنَ وَاغْفَرْلَنَا وَلَهُ يَا رَبَّ الْعَالَمِينَ وَافْسَحْ لَهُ فِى قَبْرِهِ وَنَوَّرْ لَهُ فِيهِ

“O Allah! Forgive Abu Salamah, elevate his status among the guided people and look after the family that he left behind. O Lord of the universe! Forgive us and him, comfort him in his grave and lighten his stay (in the grave).” [Sahih Muslim]

It is desirable that your conversation with the bereaved person be aimed at lightening the effect of the calamity. This could be done by mentioning the reward of patience over that calamity, the transitory nature of life on earth and that the hearafter is an everlasting abode.

In this respect, it is desirable certain verses of Qur’an that are connected to that, or some of the well-spoken condolences if our ancestors. You may mention virtues such as the following:

وَبَشِّرِ ٱلصَّـٰبِرِينَ (١٥٥) ٱلَّذِينَ إِذَآ أَصَـٰبَتۡهُم مُّصِيبَةٌ۬ قَالُوٓاْ إِنَّا لِلَّهِ وَإِنَّآ إِلَيۡهِ رَٲجِعُونَ (١٥٦) أُوْلَـٰٓٮِٕكَ عَلَيۡہِمۡ صَلَوَٲتٌ۬ مِّن رَّبِّهِمۡ وَرَحۡمَةٌ۬‌ۖ وَأُوْلَـٰٓٮِٕكَ هُمُ ٱلۡمُهۡتَدُونَ 

(1) “Give glad tidings to those who patiently endure, who say when afflicted with a calamity: “To Allah we belong and to Him we return.” They are those on whom (descend) blessings and mercy from their Lord, and they are the ones who receive guidance.” [Surah Al-Baqarah: 155-157]

كُلُّ نَفۡسٍ۬ ذَآٮِٕقَةُ ٱلۡمَوۡتِ‌ۗ وَإِنَّمَا تُوَفَّوۡنَ أُجُورَڪُمۡ يَوۡمَ ٱلۡقِيَـٰمَةِ‌ۖ فَمَن زُحۡزِحَ عَنِ ٱلنَّارِ وَأُدۡخِلَ ٱلۡجَنَّةَ فَقَدۡ فَازَ‌ۗ وَمَا ٱلۡحَيَوٰةُ ٱلدُّنۡيَآ إِلَّا مَتَـٰعُ ٱلۡغُرُورِ 

(2)”Every soul shall have a taste of death and only on the Day of the Judgement shall you be paid your full recompense. Only those who are saved from the fire and admitted to Paradise (Jannah) will have attained the object (of life). For the life of this world is but good and chattels of deception.” [Surah Áala Imran: 185]

كُلُّ مَنۡ عَلَيۡہَا فَانٍ۬ (٢٦) وَيَبۡقَىٰ وَجۡهُ رَبِّكَ ذُو ٱلۡجَلَـٰلِ وَٱلۡإِكۡرَامِ

(3) “All that is on earth will persish, but face of your Lord will abide (forever), full of Majesty, Bounty and Honour” [Surah Ar-Rahman: 26-27]

You may even mention ahadith of Rasulullah [Sallallahu álayhi wa sallam] such as the following:

اللَّهُمَّ آجِرْنِى فِى مُصِيبَتِى وَأَخْلِفْ لِى خَيرًا مِنْها

Allahumma aajur ni fee museebati wa akhlif li khairan minha.

(1) “O Allah! Reward me in my calamity and replace my loss with a better one. [Sahih Muslim]

أِنَّ للَّه مَا أَخَذَ وَلَهُ مَا أَعْطَى وَكُلُّ شَيْءٍ عِنْدَهُ بِأَجَلٍ مُسَمًّى

(2) “Indeed! Whatever Allah gives or takes belongs to him and everything is predestined by Him. [Sahih Bukhari & Sahih Muslim]

أِنَّ الْعَينَ تَدْمَعُ وَالْقَلْبُ يَحْزَنُ وَلَا نَقُولُ مَا يَرْضَى رَبُّنَا وَأِنَّا بِفِرَاقِكَ يَا أَبْرَاهِيمُ لَحْزُونُونَ

(3) When Rasulullah [Sallallahu álayhi wa sallam] mourned the death of his son, Ibrahim, he said the above which translates as : “My ears are tearful. My heart is full of anguish, but we will only say what pleases our Lord. O Ibrahim! We are indeed grieved over your separation.” [Sahih Bukhari & Sahih Muslim]

Also, it is very appropriate to use some of the sayings of the pious predecessors in this regard.

(1) Sayyiduná ‘Umar Ibn Al-Khattab [Radiallahu anhu] used to say, “Everyday we are told so and so has just died. Most definitely, one day it will be said: ‘Umar has died.”

(2) The Khalifa ‘Umar Ibn ‘Abdul Aziz [Rahimahullah] said, “The person who has none of hos forefathers, between him and Adam [álayhis salam] alive, is indeed deep-rooted in death.”

(3) The illustrious Tábi’í, Hasan Basri [Rahimahullah] said, “O son of Adam! You are nothing but mere days. Whenever a day passes away, a part of you also passes away.”

(4) He also said, “Allah ordained that the ultimate resting place of the believers will be paradise, no less”

(5) Hasan Basri’s [Rahimahullah] student Malik Ibn Dinar [Rahimahullah] said, “The wedding of the one who fears Allah will be on the day of Judgement.”

A poet said:

We rejoice at the passage of days;

Whereas each day that passes brings us closer to death.

Another poet said in this regard:

We dont offer condolences because we are certain

Of life, but because it is the practice of our Religion;

For, the consoled and the consoling may live today

Tomorrow though they will vanish away.

A suitable poem in this regard is:

We die and live every night and day (by sleeping);

One day we will die and move away.

Another poem describes how oblivious humans can be to death:

We in this world are like passengers on a ship of load;

We think it still, but running is the boat.

I have quoted all these appropriate mourning quotations because I have witnessed many people engaging in discussions that do not befitt such a sad occasion. This adds to the distress and anguish of the bereaved. This is also contrary to the style and etiquette of Islam.

My comments: It would be better if more knowledgeable brother(s) are left to advise those close to the deceased to observe patience.

The Duty of Expressing Condolence

If a relative or a close friend of one of your friends happen to die, hasten to offer your condolences. You should share in his grief for that is the right of your family member, friend or fellow Muslim. If you can, you should attend the funeral and the burial at the cemettery. This is a highly rewarding gesture, an effective and stern admonition, and a lesson reminding you of the inevitable end of the entire creation.

A poet addressed a deceased person and said:

“While you were alive, you gave me many a lesson, reminder and admonition,

Today your death provides me with the most important lesson.”

Rasulullah [Sallallahu álayhi wa sallam] said, “A Muslim owes his fellow Muslim five rights; replying a greeting, visiting the ill, attending the funeral…” [Sahih Bukhari and Sahih Muslim]

Imam Ahmad [Rahimahullah] reported that Rasulullah [Sallallahu álayhi wa sallam] said, “Visit the sick and follow the funeral procession, it will remind you of the hereafter.”

Condolences and Breaking Unpleasant News

When you have to break undesired news of a tragic accident, or the death of a close relative or friend, it is appropriate that you break the news in such a way so as to lessen its impact and make it as mild and gentle as possible. For example, in the case of death, you may say, “Recently, I learned that so and so has been seriously ill and his condition worsened. Today I heard that he passed away. May the mercy of Allah be with him.”

Begin by giving the name of the person in question. Do not break the news of a death by saying, “Do you know who passed away today?” This unduly manner frightens the listeners and prompts them to expect the worst, namely that the death involves someone close to them who may have been sick or old at that time. Rather, if you commence by mentioning the name of deceased, this will soften the impact of the news, reducing the listener’s apprehension, while the news will still be conveyed.

Convey the news of fire, drowning, or a car accident etc. in a similar fashion. Prepare the listener for the news in a way that minimises the impact. Mention the name(s) of the affected person(s) in a diplomatic way, and dont shock your companions or relatives when conveying to them such news. Some people may have weak hearts and such bad may news cause them great harm, which may even lead to them fainting and collapsing.

If it is necessary to convey such news, choose the appropriate time. Dont convey such news at a meal, before going to sleep, or during an illness. Wisdom and tactfulness are the best qualities to handle such a situation.