By Babatunde Jose
When the news of death in the family reaches the relatives and friends, the first thing that they should say is the following Quranic verse (2:156): “Inna lillahi wa inna ilayhi raji’un (Truly! To Allah we belong and truly, to Him we shall return).” In the case of the husband or wife, they should add:“ (O Allah grant me refuge in my affliction and replace her (or him) with someone better).
Once the person expires, the relatives and those present are obliged to perform particular services for him or her. The eyes of the dead person should be closed and some prayers should be made for him, based on the tradition of the Prophet. After this, the body of the deceased should be covered with a sheet of cloth large enough to cover the whole body. The burial should then be hastened as it is not permissible for Muslims to delay the burial in order for the maximum number of relatives to see the deceased, as is common practice among other communities. Once death is evident, the body should be prepared and taken out of the house for prayer and burial as soon as possible. In this way, contact with the dead body is minimized, which keeps the grief and hurt of seeing the dead down to a minimum. Abu Hurayrah related that the Prophet said “Hasten the funeral rites.” (Collected in all six major books of hadith; Sahih Al-Bukhari vol. 2, p. 225, #401; Sahih Muslim, vol. 2, p. 448, #2059; Sunan Abu Dawud, vol. 2, pp. 897-8, #3153; Sunan Ibn Majah, vol. 2, p. 383, #1477; Mishkat al-Masabih, vol. 1, p.338)
Those present and the relatives of the deceased are allowed to cry for a maximum period of three (3) days. Abdullah ibn Jafar narrated that the prophet delayed coming to visit Jafar’s family ‘for three days after his death’, then he came to them and said, “Do not cry for my brother after today.” (Abu Dawud, vol. 3, p. 1165, #4180)
Relatives of the deceased are obliged to be patient, practice self restraint, and gracefully accept Allah’s decree, because Allah has already promised mankind that He would test them: see Quran 2:155
Women are required to avoid all forms of beautification as a sign of mourning for their husbands, children or relatives. This does not contradict the recommendations for patience, as long as the mourning does not exceed three days for her child or relative and four months and ten days for her husband.
It is forbidden to make a big affair about announcing anyone’s death, such as proclaiming it from the minarets of the mosques, announcing it in the market streets, etc. However, a calmly expressed general announcement is allowed, based on the Prophet’s practice.
The custom of organizing gatherings in the home, at the grave or in the masjid to give condolences to the family of the deceased is against the Sunnah of the Companions of the Prophet.
Imam ash-Shafi’i said, “I dislike gatherings, even if there is no wailing or crying. For it only renews the (family’s feelings of) sorrow and puts burdens on their food supplies.” (Al-Umm, vol. 1, p. 248).
The obligation placed on the family of the dead person to prepare food for gatherings is incorrect. Furthermore, it contradicts the Prophet’s explicit instructions to relatives, friends and neighbors to send food to the bereaved family. (Al-Bukhari, vol. 7, p. 401, #593; Muslim, vol. 4, p. 1202, #5491. Collected by At-Tirmidhi, Abu Dawud and Ibn Majah (Sunan Ibn Majah, vol. 2, p. 455, #1610) and authenticated in Sahih Sunan Ibn Majah, vol. 1, p. 268, #1306)
This last injunction is the crux of this sermon. Today, we Moslems have gone against the tradition and we are all guilty of this infraction. To all intents and purposes, we have exceeded the limits. Only Allah will forgive us. What we now term ‘celebration of life’ of the dead is nothing short of burnishing of our individual and collective ego. My late father once told us that ‘we do not celebrate death as we celebrate birth’. Unfortunately we are lost in the art of personal egoistic practice. ‘My burial is bigger than yours’ is now the order of the day. Even our Islamic clerics who should know and offer their ‘fatwa’ on such practice are present at such gatherings, sometimes struggling for take-away food and gift packs. It has become a veritable avenue for the clerics to make quick money. Hence, rather than taking food to the bereaved, we now task the bereaved to hire caterer to make exotic food to entertain us. Ply us with wines and spirits and provide musicians to entertain us. In a spate of seven days a situation of loss, grieve and bereavement suddenly transforms into one of merriment and jollification. Even the animals we watch on the Geographic Channel do not exhibit such lack of compassion and bestiality.
FIDAU is an Arabic word which means ‘Redemption’ in English language. Yet, the concept of redemption is alien to Islam.
It is very common in the Yoruba Muslim society where people wrongly use the word FIDAU to mean praying for the deceased. This is mostly done on 8th day of the person’s demise or generally celebrated on the 40th day of the deceased. Obviously this is an innovation to Islam. Islam or the Prophet (SAW) never had this kind of prayer or celebration for a deceased Muslim in such style or manner. When Abu Bakre died no one made a special prayer, even though he was the best of the Companions. The same was when Umar was killed, neither did people gather to pray or read the Quran for him. Uthman and Ali were killed and the people did not gather after a specific time to pray for them, ask mercy for them or prepare food for sympathizers. It is, however, recommended for the relatives or neighbors of the deceased to prepare food for the deceased’s family and to send that food to them. This is similar to what the Prophet did when the news of Jafar’s death came to him. He said to his family, “Prepare food for the family of Jafar as something has occurred to them that is preoccupying them.”‘
Mourning according to the Sunnah is only for 3 days. The Sunnah concerning this is that one should offer condolences to the bereaved family and leave. Ahmad and many other Hanafi scholars also hold this opinion. The Shariah has outlined that when someone passes away it is permissible to do acts of charity on his behalf and to make dua and Istighfar for him. However, for this, the Shariah has not made specific days, months or dates, and has not fixed specific timings for such acts. Therefore, scholars have stated that to make such specification of a ‘3 days’, ’40 days’ or ‘yearly’ and to practice such observances is ‘Bid’ah’, and a repulsive innovation.
Early Hanafi scholars, however, held the view that there is nothing wrong in holding a gathering at places other than mosques for (3) THREE DAYS of condolence, so long as one does nothing prohibited. The practices of some people nowadays, such as gathering for condolences, setting up tents, spreading carpets, selection of ‘aso-ebi’, and incurring a lot of expenses out of arrogance, frivolities and show off are all despicable innovations that are forbidden and must be avoided, especially when most of these acts are contradictory to the teachings of the Quran and Sunnah and are vestiges of pre-Islamic customs of Jahiliyyah.
In essence, what people do after the death of their parents, wives or husbands, sons or daughters in terms of inviting friends and relations on the third, seventh and fortieth days to offer some ‘special prayers’ for the deceased as ransom or fidau due to his or her lapses, remains an innovation or Bid’ah.
The prayer is inconsequential in changing the past of the dead. Allah will never accept a ransom from the families, friends and relations of a dead person if he or she did not pay his or her right dues to Allah when alive. No compensations or substitute for bad work done while alive, instead of a good one later.
In fact, the special fidau prayers which people consider as Islamic, is really not Islamic in any way! It is a waste of money, time and above all null and void effort in a wrong direction. The Quran forewarns, thus: “That man can have nothing but what He strives for; That (the fruit of) His striving will soon come In sight.”(Quran 53: 39-40). That is to say, if the dead was righteous while alive, to him or her his or her credit! The next verse brings that out clearly: “Whoever works any act of righteousness and has Faith; His endeavor will not be rejected: We shall record it In His favor”.(Quran 21:94)
Similarly, Allah has given us an expansive liberty and freedom to choose to do good or bad while alive. Why after series of warnings and admonishing, and the flinging of several chances for repentance, can such a careless person be granted any compassion by proxy, and free of charge? Our chances of repentance are only during our life time. When we pass away, the chances become quiescent, dormant and frozen forever! There can be no repentance by proxy, because it is impossible for an empty sack to stand erect!
Lastly, we need to know that practicing (Bid’ah) innovation is a SIN in Islam as the Al-Hadith (Sahih Muslim) tells us: “Every innovation is a misguidance and every misguidance goes to Hell fire.” This is the Islamic way! May Allah grant us perfect understanding of Islam, Ameen. Hihdna siratlmutaqm: May Allah guide and direct us to the right path. May Allah forgive our trespasses; Ameen!
Barka Juma’at and a happy Weekend