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Burial

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Burial or dafn (Arabic: الدفن) is the interring of a corpse. The burial is performed in accordance with certain shari'a rulings and manners after shrouding and saying funeral prayer. Burial is a collective duty (al-wajib al-kifa'i), that is, it is waived if someone else undertakes it.

In Fiqh

In sources of fiqh, a part of "kitab al-tahara" (the book of cleanliness) or "kitab al-salat" (the book of prayer) is devoted to the rulings of corpses. These books are concerned with the rulings of a sick person who observes signs of death in him or herself (e.g. such a person should repent and make up for God's rights and people's rights), the rulings of ihtidar, that is the time when one is about to die (e.g. being directed to the qibla and instruction of Islamic beliefs), and actions that others are obliged to do after a Muslim dies (e.g. ghusl of the corpse, shrouding or takfin, tahnit, saying funeral prayer and burial). In each of these stages, which show the respect for the deceased and bring about the forgiveness of his or her sins, there are non-obligatory rulings (mustahab and makruh) elaborated in works of fiqh. In early works of fiqh and hadith, the rulings of the deceased are introduced under "kitab al-jana'iz" (the book of the corpses) or "bab fi ahkam al-jana'iz" (a section concerning the rulings of the corpses).

The obligations regarding the deceased have a collective nature (al-wujub al-kifa'i), that is they are waived if someone else undertakes them, and some of them (such as shrouding, tahnit, and burial) do not require the intention of the proximity to God, and others (such as ghusl and the funeral prayer) require such an intention. If for certain reasons, it is not feasible to perform any of these obligations, then the person will be excused.

Preparations

  • Ghusl: According to Imamiyya faqihs, the ghusl should be performed three times: first with water mixed with cedar, then with water mixed with camphor, and then with pure water.
  • Tahnit: after that, tahnit should be performed, that is, camphor should be rubbed on seven parts of the body that touch the earth in sajda (forehead, two palms, two kneels, and the tips of the big toes).
  • Shrouding: it is an obligation to shroud the corpse of a Muslim with three pieces of cloth covering the whole corpse.
  • Funeral: according to hadiths and sources of Imamiyya and Sunni fiqh, there is a great deal of virtue for the funeral of a dead person, that is carrying and/or going after the corpse.
  • Funeral prayer: after these stages, a funeral prayer should be said for the corpse of a Muslim over 6 years old.

Rulings and Philosophy

The burial includes the digging of a pit in the ground in which the corpse is placed and then covered with soil. The obligation of burying a corpse is emphasized in verses of the Qur'an, the tradition of the Infallibles (a), the practice of Muslims, and the consensus of faqihs.

According to hadiths, the corpse should be buried because it is a respect for it, it hides it from people, it protects the corpse from any offenses by his or her enemies, it reduces the remorse of his or her friends, and prevents the spread of the malodor of the corpse. These underlying reasons require that the grave be deep enough.

It is obligatory to place the corpse on its right side in the direction of qibla. Sunni jurisprudents or faqihs also hold it obligatory to place the corpse in the direction of qibla. The traditions and manners of burial (mustahab and makruh rulings) are elaborated in sources of fiqh, including al-wahsha prayer, holding a blessing ceremony for the deceased, sympathizing with the mourners, and visiting the grave.

If it is not feasible to dig the earth, then the corpse should be covered in other ways, such as by constructing a building on it or placing it in a coffin. According to Imamiyya and Sunni faqihs, it is makruh (or disliked) to bury a corpse with a coffin except when there is an exigency. If one dies in the sea or on a ship and his or her corpse decays before taking it to the land, then it should be thrown into the sea after ghusl, shrouding and saying the funeral prayer.

Crying for the Deceased Person

It is permissible to cry for the deceased provided that it does not imply the denial of the divine verdict, but actions such as hurting one's face, scratching one's skin and pulling one's hair, are forbidden, and mourners are recommended to remain patient.

Moving the Corpse to Another City

Scholars of Hanafi, Shafi'i and Hanbali schools of fiqh take it illegitimate to move the corpse of a Muslim from the place where it died to another city, after it was buried (except under certain circumstances), but most of them take it legitimate to do so before the burial. However, scholars of Maliki school of fiqh take it legitimate to move the corpse, both before and after the burial, provided that the corpse is respected and there is an exigency for doing so.

Shi'i faqihs take it mustahab to move the corpse to sacred places before its burial, but there is a disagreement among them to move it after the burial, although most of them take it permissible or even mustahab. Thus it is permissible to exhume the corpse from the grave in order to move it to sacred places, and it was a common practice among Shi'a.

If the corpse is supposed to be moved to another city, then it is obligatory to observe all the conditions of burial throughout the move, and the corpse is recommended to be placed in a coffin in order to prevent any disrespect to it.

Exhumation

Shi'i faqihs unanimously maintain that it is forbidden to exhume (nabsh) a corpse from the grave, that is, uncovering a corpse that is already buried. Therefore, the uncovering of a grave where the corpse has definitely turned into soil or when the corpse is placed inside a coffin is not an instance of exhumation (nabsh).

In some cases, it is not forbidden to exhume a corpse, including when the place in which the corpse is buried is trespassed (ghasbi), that is owned by someone who did not give the permission to bury the corpse in it, when the corpse is buried without ghusl or shrouding at all or in the proper manner, when it is necessary to see the corpse in order to discover some essential truth, and when the corpse is buried in a disrespectful place, such as when it is buried in a non-Muslim graveyard or in a garbage place. It is not permissible to exhume children of Imams (a), well-known righteous people, scholars, and martyrs even after a long time. Sunni scholars have also forbidden the exhumation except in certain cases.

References

  • The material for writing this article has been mainly taken from دفن in Farsi WikiShia.