Part II: Prayer (As-Salat)

Chapter 19

Funeral Prayer

Importance and essentiality

         It is the right of a Muslim, (whether male or female, young or old, pious or a sinner) that when he dies, funeral prayer should be offered for him. The funeral prayer is offered after giving the dead body Ghusl (bath) and after putting it in a coffin.

         The offering of funeral prayer is Fard Kafayah on all the male members of the Muslim community. It means that if some Muslims perform funeral prayer of a dead Muslim, the whole community is saved from the wrath of God. But if none performs the funeral prayer then the whole community would be sinful.

         Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) himself used to offer funeral prayer and in his Ahadith enjoined his followers to offer funeral prayer for a dead Muslim as it carries lot of rewards. Abu Hurairah has reported that the Prophet said: He who offers funeral prayer of a dead Muslim, he gets one carat of reward and he who participates in his burial also he gets two carats of reward. The companions asked: O messenger of Allah! What does carat mean? He said: It is equal to two big mountains (Bukhari, Muslim, Ahmad, Abu Daud, Nisai). According to a version of Nisai, each of them is bigger than Uhd mountain.

         The funeral prayer in its nature is a supplication for the forgiveness of the dead. It should be offered in congregation and more and more persons should attend it as this is more rewardful. According to Hadhrat Ayesha, the Prophet said: If a Muslim dies and a congregation as big as of hundred Muslims offers prayer for him and intercedes for (forgiveness of) him, their intercession is accepted (Muslim, Ahmad, Nisai). In some traditions, the number is forty or three rows. Therefore, it is preferable that the participants should be in large number and the rows in this prayers should be in odd number such as 1,3,5,7,9 etc. Funeral prayer of a dead person can also be offered by more than one congregation but of different people. It can also be offered in absentia i.e. in the absence of the dead body. The Prophet is reported to have offered funeral prayer of Nijashi (the King of Abyssinia or Ethopia) on his death in absentia. Funeral prayer for more than one dead person can also be offered together by one congregation, placing all the dead bodies in front of Imam.

         Funeral prayer should be offered in an open place or in a Janazgah (a place specified for funeral prayer). However in case of rain or bad weather or any other reason, it can be offered in a mosque or a hall. It is reported that the funeral prayers of Hadhrat Abu Bakr and Hadhrat Umar were held in the mosque.

Conditions and Salient Features

         Being in Wudu, being in Satar, making intention, and facing Qiblah are conditions of funeral prayer like other prayers. However there is no prescribed time for it. Although the times forbidden in case of other prayers are also applicable to it, yet it can be offered on a forbidden time if a dead body is brought on that time because it has been enjoined that funeral prayer of a dead person should not be delayed. This prayer is held without Adhaan and Iqaamah. The prayer is offered while standing without performing Ruku (Bowing), Sajdah (prostration) and Qaadah (sitting for Tashahhud), etc.

         In this prayer, there are four Takbeers, each is considered substitute of one Rakaah. Hence its Rakaahs are four.

         Reciting Surah Al-Fatihah is essential in this prayer as it is in other prayers because the Prophet has said that no prayer is valid without Surah Al-Fatihah. It is reported that Surah Al-Fatihah was recited in the funeral prayer of Hadhrat Abu Bakr and Hadhrat Umar. Talha-bin-Abdullah-bin-Auf says that he prayed a funeral prayer behind Abdullah-bin-Abbas who read Surah Fatihah aloud and then said: “I did read it out loud so that you may know that it is the Sunnah of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH).” However, according to jurists like Imam Abu Hanifa, Surah Fatihah is not essential in the funeral prayer as it is a Dua for a dead person and is not a prayer (Salat).

         According to some Ulama and Jurists, a short Surah or a passage of the Qur’an should also be recited after Surah Al-Fatihah as in other prayers, but many of them hold that it is not necessary.

         Offering Dua (making supplication) for the dead person is very essential in this prayer as it is the very purpose for which this prayer is held. The Prophet has enjoined: “When you offer Janazah (Funeral) prayer for someone, you should sincerely make Dua for him from your heart”. – (Abu Daud, Ibn Majah).

         Wheather the recitation of the Qur’an, Darud and supplications, should be silently made or aloud, the views of the jurists and Ulama differ. Some hold that it may be made aloud but majority holds that it should be made silently. But in the present days loud recitation would be more beneficial (as did Hadhrat Abdullah bin Abbas in the tradition quoted above) because majority of those who participate in Janazah prayer hardly know how to perform it and what are the supplications to be read in it.

         At the end of the Janazah prayer, salutations (saying Assalamu Alaikam wa Ramatullah) on both right and left sides are necessary as in other prayers. However Imam Malik and Ahmad hold that salutation should be pronounced on the right side only.

How to perform funeral Prayer

         After properly washing and shrouding the dead body, it should be brought and placed in front of the Imam. The Imam should stand level with the head and shoulder of the dead body if it is that of male, but if it is of a female he should stand level with the middle part of the body.

         The Imam stands facing the Qiblah and the followers stand behind him in rows, making rows in odd number such as 3,5,7,9,11,etc. Then the intention is made in mind individually by the Imam and the followers to offer Janazah Prayer Fard Kafayah with four Takbeers. The rest of the procedure is as under:-

First Takbeer: As stated above, there are four takbeers in Janazah Prayer. First Takbeer is Takbeer-e-Tahrimah. The Imam announces Allahu Akbar and raises his hands up to the shoulder level with the fingers stretched to the earlobes and the congregation does the same. Then the Imam folds his hands on his chest right hand over the left and the followers also do it.

1)            Then Thana () or any other supplication is read to glorify Allah. Thana is the same which is read in daily prayers with addition of one word  before the last word.

2)            Then Taawwuz () is read followed by Bismillah.

3)            Then Surah Al-Fatihah is read.

For Thana, Taawwuz, Surah Al-Fatihah, please see chapter No. 10.

Second Takbeer:  Then the Imam says the Second Takbeer and the congregation follows him. One may raise the hands up to shoulder level or keep them folded. After this Takbeer, Darud on the Prophet is read. It is preferable to read the Darud (Called Darud-e-Ibraheem) which we read in the Tashahhud of our usual prayers.

Third Takbeer:  Then the third Takbeer is called out by the Imam. After this Takbeer, supplication is made for the forgiveness of the deceased. One or more supplications can be made on this occasion.

         The Prophet used to recite various supplications in the funeral prayers. Abu Hurairah has reported that the Prophet prayed Janazah prayer of a Muslim and recited the following supplication once.

Allahuma-aghfir li-hayyina wa mayyitina wa shahidina wa ghaibina wa saghirina wa kabirina wa zakarina wa unthana. Allhuma man ahyaitahu minna fa ahyihi alal islam wa man tawaffaitahu minna fa tawaffahu alal Iman. Allahumma la tahirmna agrahu wa la taftinna baadahu.

“O Allah! Forgive those of us who are still living and those who are dead; those of us who are present and those who are absent, and our minors and our elders, and our men and our women. O Allah! Let the one whom thou keepest alive from among us, live his life according to Islam, and let the one whom Thou causest to die from among us, die as a believer. O Allah! Do not deprive us of his reward and do not try us after him”.

         If you do not remember the above supplication, then read the following:-

Allahumma aghfir lil-mu’minina wal-mu’minat

“O Allah! Grant forgiveness to all Muslim men and All Muslim women”.

Fourth Takbeer: Then the Imam says the Fourth Takbeer and the congregation followes him. After keeping quiet for some moments, the Imam says “Assalamu ‘alaykum wa rahmatullah” turning his face on both the right and left sides and the congregation follows him as (in other prayers), and thus the funeral prayer ends.

         The followers of Shafaai school of thought offer supplications for the deceased and the common believers after the Fourth Takbeer also but before concluding the prayer with salutations.

Eisal-e-Thawab – Is it possible?

         Eisal-e-Thawab means to send Thawab (reward) of one’s good deeds and acts of worship to a dead person. As a term, it means sending or gifting reward of one’s own good deeds or acts of worship and that of recitation of the Qur’an for the benefit of a dead relative, a friend or a dear one. The practice of sending Thawab to dead persons is very common among some Muslims belonging to Pakistan, India and Bangla Desh. They hold big gatherings on the third, seventh, tenth, and fortieth day or on specific days like Monday or Thursday or Friday after the death of their dear ones for this purpose. Reciters of the Qur’an are specially brought from a mosque or a Madrissah or an orphan-house who read Paras or Surahs of the Qur’an or read Kalmahs and supplications on the date- stones. Thus the Thawab gathered in the sitting is sent by a Maulvi to the departed soul through the souls of the Prophets and other pious persons in a Dua in which all the people participate. At the end of the meeting nice food is served to all the people present there, and money or clothes are given to the Maulvi and the reciters.

         Whether this Thawab reaches the departed soul or not, the opinions of the Jurists and the Ulema differ about it. According to Imam Abu Hanifa, the Thawab of all the righteous deeds and acts of worship and the recitation of the Qur’an can be sent or gifted to the departed soul as it reaches him or her. But according to Imam Malik and Shafaai, the Thawab of only the acts of charity and alms reaches the departed soul but not that of good deeds and acts of physical worship like fasting, prayer and recitation of the Qur’an.

         However, if we read the Qur’an we do not come across a single verse which authorizes a person to gift away the Thawab (rewards) of his virtuous deeds or acts of worship to someone else or to send such Thawab earned by him to his dear ones who are dead. The Qur’an says: “And that there is nothing for man except that for which he has himself made effort. And that his effort will be seen. And then he will be repaid its full rewards” (53:39-41). In another verse it says: ……For men is reward for that which they have earned and for women is reward for that which they have earned ……”(4:32). Yet in another verse the Qur’an has said: They were a people who have passed away. They shall have (the reward or punishment of that) what they earned and you shall have what you earn. And you will not be asked of what they used to do.” (2:134). The Qur’an says: “That (on the day of judgment) no burdened person will bear another’s burden” (53:38). Addressing the ignorant on behalf of the believers, the Qur’an (in its verse 55 of chapter 28) says: “……For us are our deeds and for you are your deeds….”

         Thus the whole scheme of the reward and punishment enunciated by the Qur’an is that every person is responsible for his own good or bad deeds. None else is responsible for one’s deeds. One would be rewarded for the good deeds which one has done and he would be punished for the bad deeds which he has done. One would not be rewarded for the good deeds done by others, nor he would be punished for the bad deeds done by others. So the sending of Thawab of good deeds or acts of worship by one to his deceased relatives or persons is of no avail. Had this been possible, the Prophet would have sent the reward of his good deeds and of the Qur’an recited by him to his dear ones like his parents, his uncle Abu Talib and his grandfather Abdul Muttalib. And directly or indirectly he would have persuaded his companion to do the same in respect of their dear ones. But neither the Prophet did it ever nor any of his companions did it ever.

         However, praying to Allah for the forgiveness of the dead believers is allowed. One is allowed even to visit the grave of one’s relatives who are dead and make supplication for their forgiveness (Dua-e-Maghfirat). The Prophet and his companions used to do that and the Prophet has enjoined the believers to do that. The Prophet has also stressed the believers to pray to Allah for the forgiveness of their parents. But the Qur’an and Hadith forbid praying for the polytheists and disbelievers even if they are your parents or your near relatives.


Copyright (c) Dr. Muhammad Sharif Chaudhry. All rights reserved. For more information, please contact at alshaufi(at)yahoo(dot)com