When someone of the Islamic faith dies, Muslims within the community will gather together to offer prayers for the deceased’s forgiveness. This funeral prayer is called the Salat al-Janazah or Janazah prayer.
In preparing for the burial of the deceased, the family or other members of the Muslim community will clean and shroud the deceased’s body. The only time this is not performed is if the deceased was a martyr. In that case, the deceased will be buried in the clothing in which he died.
The body is respectfully washed with clean, scented water, and then the body is wrapped in a kafan, or clean, white burial shroud. This is done prior to the funeral prayer.
This sacred prayer is a very important part of the funeral tradition because if a person is buried without it, the entire Muslim community will incur a sin for having neglected this very important obligation.
While the prayer may be said in the mosque, it is more customarily practiced outside the mosque. It is also acceptable to pray the Janazah prayer in a graveyard, but it is not acceptable to utter other prayers there. The prayer can be said at some distance from the graves or in an area specifically dedicated to prayer. The prayer may also be said over the deceased’s grave if the person was buried prior to the prayer being performed.
The spoken words of the prayer incorporate a quiet reading of Al-Fatiha, then praying for Mohammed and reciting two supplications. The prayer is conducted when an Imam is present and facing toward the Qiblah.
Rewards for Prayer
Offering the funeral prayer is comes with a reward for the person who says the prayer as well as for the deceased. It is said that the person who says the prayer gains “one Qeerat of reward,” and the person who says the prayer and stays by the body until its burial will receive “two Qeerats of reward.”
Sometime special circumstances surrounding the death of a Muslim make it impossible for another Muslim to pray the Janazah prayer over the body. In this special case, it is sometimes considered acceptable for the prayer to be performed elsewhere.
Finality of Death
When someone dies, Muslims believe that everything is left behind. There are only three things that persist after death: charity given during a lifetime will continue to help others, people will continue to benefit from knowledge, and a righteous child can still pray for the deceased.