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Aspects Of Islamic Faith - 77: Taking A Deceased Person For Burial

Islamic Perspectives - Muslim Journals

Arab News & Information - By Adil Salahi

AS Muslims we believe that every human being will be resurrected and brought back to life on the Day of Judgment. People are accountable for what they do in this life and will be taken either to heaven, if they are pious believers, or to hell, if their account is full of evil deeds. God has kept all matters relating to the life hidden from us, because that life is totally different from our present one, and our minds cannot draw a picture of what is totally unfamiliar to us. However the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) has given us some glimpses of what happens at the time of death, so as to emphasize the seriousness of the hereafter and the need to prepare for it.

Abu Saeed Al-Khudri quotes the Prophet as saying: "When the body of the deceased has been prepared for burial, and men carry it on their necks, if the deceased had been a pious person, the body will say: ‘Take me forward.' Otherwise, it will say: ‘Woe is his; where are they taking him?' The voice will be heard by everything except man. Had man been able to hear it, he would be stunned." (Related by Al-Bukhari).

Let us first clarify a linguistic point: What the body will say is expressed in the first-person pronoun if the deceased is pious, and in the third-person pronoun if otherwise. Several explanations have been given for the Prophet's choice of pronoun in each case. Perhaps the best is that when we are about to die and there is no hope of return, we are shown what lies ahead for us, and whether we will be in heaven or hell. A pious person rejoices at what he sees and is eager to make haste. Hence he tries to tell those around to take him forward. The one with a different destination laments what is about to happen to him. He is so horrified that he does not wish to associate himself with it. Hence, he uses the third-person, saying, "where are they taking him," when he means "where are you taking me?"

Scholars agree that what is being said is certainly voiced, but they differ on whether it is the body which says these words or the spirit. This is a minor point, as man is both body and spirit. How the voice is made need not trouble us, because once life is gone from the body, the person belongs to a different world. Hence what he says is not heard by man because man's world is limited to his faculties and other restrictions. The dead person now belongs to another world. Since what is said is reported to us by Prophet Muhammad, who always said the truth, we take it as it is and accept it as correct.

The Prophet says that had we heard what is said by the deceased we would have been stunned. Hence, God spares us this experience. What we understand from this is that what the deceased says is unpleasant for the living.

A final point is that Al-Bukhari relates this Hadith under a sub-heading denoting the prohibition of women carrying the body of the deceased when he is taken for burial. There is nothing in the Hadith to suggest that apart from the wording, "and men carrying it on their necks." There are, however, other Hadiths that indicate the prohibition more clearly. The reason for this prohibition is that several men carry the body and they walk very close to each other. If there were women among them, there will be much physical contact, when the situation is one of grief and sorrow. This is totally unbecoming and contrary to Islamic values.


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