Janaza Salah — The Muslim Funeral Service

by Nasir Ahmad


In loving memory of my dear husband Haniff Mohammed.

May Allah forgive him his sins, have mercy on his soul and grant him a peaceful resting place in Jannatul Firdaus. Amin.


A faith in a life after death is the last of the basic articles of faith in Islam. The word generally used in the Quran to indicate this life is al-akhirah, which means, that which comes after. Death, according to the Quran, is not the end of man’s life; it only opens the door to another, a higher form of life (56:60, 61). Just as from the small life-germ grows the man, and he does not lose his individuality for all the changes which he undergoes, so from this man is made the higher man, his state being changed, and he himself being made to grow into what he cannot conceive of at present.

The opening chapter of the Quran, entitled the Fatihah, is not only looked upon as the quintessence of the Book, but it is actually the chapter which plays the greatest part in creating a true Muslim mentality, for a Muslim must recite it in the five prayers, over thirty times daily. In this chapter, Allah is spoken of as the Master of the Day of Requital, and thus the idea that every deed must be requited is brought before the mind of the Muslim continually. This constant repetition of the idea of a requital of deeds undoubtedly impresses on the mind the reality of a future life, when every deed shall find its full reward. The reason for attaching so much importance to a life after death is clear. The greater the faith in the good or bad consequences of a deed, the greater is the incentive which urges a man to, or restrains him from that deed. Therefore, this belief is both the greatest impetus towards good and noble, and the greatest restraint upon evil or irresponsible deeds.

Funeral Service:

A religious service is held over the dead body of every Muslim, young or old, even of infants who have lived only for a few minutes or seconds. When a person dies, the body is washed with warm water. Soap or any other disinfectant is used to cleanse it of all dirt and grime. In washing the dead body, the parts of the body which are washed in wudzu are taken first.

But before the washing is started and the clothes of the deceased are removed, the private parts are covered with a piece of cloth wide enough to cover the body from navel to knees. This is kept until the washing is complete.

Wudzu or ablution of the dead body is performed in the following manner:

  1. The private parts are thoroughly washed.
  2. The hands are washed up to the wrists.
  3. The mouth is cleansed with a piece of cotton.
  4. The nostrils are cleansed with cotton.
  5. The face is washed from forehead to the chin.
  6. The right arm and after that the left arm is washed up to the elbows.
  7. The head is wiped or washed up to the back of the neck.
  8. Lastly, the feet are washed up to the ankles, first the right foot and then the left.

After ablution, the whole body is thoroughly washed, preferably three times. In a funeral home where proper arrangements for pouring water through a rubber tube is available, washing three times is not necessary. Then the whole body is dried, preferably with a new towel.

Then the body is shrouded in an unsewn shirt. This is a sheet with a round opening in the centre for the head to pass through and it covers the body from the front to the back up to the knees. To further facilitate the putting on of the open shirt, cuts are made over the shoulders, in case of a male, and a cut in the middle-front over the bosom, in case of a female. Then the body is wrapped in a big sheet long enough to cover the body from the top of the head down to the end of the feet, with the face remaining uncovered. Finally, the body is wrapped in a second big sheet, longer than the first one, and the two ends are tied above the head and below the feet. In case the body is placed in a coffin, the tying of the two ends is dispensed with.

To further explain the above, we deal with each piece of cloth separately.

For a male, three pieces of white cotton are used. Two pieces should be approximately eight feet long and five and a half feet wide.

  1. One piece is to form an unsewn shirt with a cut at the centre to facilitate the passing through of the head. This piece should be big enough to cover front, back and up to the knees.
  2. One of the two pieces is wrapped from the head to the thigh.
  3. The largest piece is wrapped around the entire body from head to toe and tied above the head and below the feet.

For a female, five pieces of white cotton are used, two approximately eight feet long and five and a half feet wide. Similar wrappings are done as the above three with two additional pieces.

  1. One piece is wrapped around the waist, or a loose pajama is made.
  2. The other piece is for a head covering which should cover from the head to the navel.

If she has long hair, then after combing it properly, it is placed in the front over the bosom.

After the Janaza prayer, it is customary for people attending the funeral service to see the face of the dead body, and at that time the outer sheet is removed to show the face. But in a sealed coffin provided with a glass through which people can see the face, the outer sheet need not be wrapped so as to cover the face.

It is customary for camphor and sandalwood, which are both disinfectants and provide sweet smells, to be rubbed over the body. But modern perfumes can also be used instead.

In the case of martyrs, or persons slain in a battle, the washing and wrapping in white cloth is dispensed with.

The dead body is then placed on a bier or in a coffin, and carried on the shoulders of the bearers to its last resting place as a mark of respect, though the carrying of the body by any other means is not prohibited.

The Holy Prophet [Muhammad] (pbuh) stood up when he saw the bier of a Jew pass by. This he did to show respect to the dead, and then enjoined his followers to stand up as a mark of respect when a bier passed by, whether it was that of a Muslim or a non-Muslim.

Following the dead body to the grave and taking part in the Divine service held over it is regarded as a duty which a Muslim owes to a Muslim, and so also is the visiting of the sick. Technically, taking part in Divine service is called farz-e-kifaya, which means that it is sufficient that some Muslims should take part in it. Women are not prohibited from attending the Divine service or from following the bier. The service may be held anywhere — in a mosque or in an open space or in a graveyard if sufficient space is available or even in a funeral home where halls for this purpose are available.

Funeral Prayer:

All those who take part in the service should perform wudzu or ablution. The bier is placed in front of the congregation; the Imam stands facing the middle of the bier if it is a woman and opposite the head if it is a man, and faces the qiblah, i.e., towards Makkah. The people form themselves into lines according to the number of those who take part and face the qiblah. The general practice is to have three rows at least. If the number of people is very small, there is no harm if they form only one line. The number of rows should always be uneven, i.e., three, five, seven, nine, and so on.

The prayer is offered only in a standing posture. The service starts with the takbir (saying Allahu Akbar —Allah is the Greatest) at the pronouncement of which hands are raised to the ears and placed in the same position as in prayer. There are four takbirs in all, the final takbir being followed by a salaam as in the ordinary prayer.

First Takbir:

After the first takbir the following prayer called Thana (praise to Allah), followed by the opening chapter of the Quran, called AI-Fatihah, are recited.

سُبْحَانَكَ اللّٰهُمَّ وَبِحَمْدِكَ وَتَبَارَكَ اسْمُكَ وَتَعَالٰى جَدُّكَ وَلَآ اِلٰهَ غَيْرُكَ

Sub-haa-na-kal laa-hum-ma wa bi-ham-di-ka wa ta-ba-ra-kas mu-ka wa ta-aa-la jad-du ka wa laa i-laa-ha ghay-ruk.

“Glory to Thee, O Allah, and Thine is the praise, and blessed is Thy name, and exalted is Thy majesty, and there is none to be served besides Thee.”


اَعُوْذُ بِاللهِ مِنَ الشَّيْطَانِ الرَّجِيْمِ

بِسۡمِ اللّٰہِ الرَّحۡمٰنِ الرَّحِیۡمِ

اَلۡحَمۡدُ لِلّٰہِ رَبِّ الۡعٰلَمِیۡنَ ۙ﴿۱﴾ الرَّحۡمٰنِ الرَّحِیۡمِ ۙ﴿۲﴾ مٰلِکِ یَوۡمِ الدِّیۡنِ ؕ﴿۳﴾ اِیَّاکَ نَعۡبُدُ وَ اِیَّاکَ نَسۡتَعِیۡنُ ؕ﴿۴﴾ اِہۡدِ نَا الصِّرَاطَ الۡمُسۡتَقِیۡمَ ۙ﴿۵﴾ صِرَاطَ الَّذِیۡنَ اَنۡعَمۡتَ عَلَیۡہِمۡ ۙ۬ غَیۡرِ الۡمَغۡضُوۡبِ عَلَیۡہِمۡ وَ لَا الضَّآلِّیۡنَ ٪﴿۷﴾

A-oo-zu bil-laa-hi mi-nash shay-taa-nir ra-jeem.

Bis-mil laa-hir rah-maa-nir ra-heem.

Al-ham-du lil-laa-hi rab-bil aa-la-meen.
Ar-rah-maa nir-ra-heem. Maa-li-ki yaw-mid-deen.
ee yaa-ka na-bu-du wa ee yaa-ka nas-ta-een.
Ih di-nas si-raa-tal mus-ta-qeem
Si-raa-tal la-zee-na an-am-ta a-lay-him, ghay-ril magh-doo-bi a-lai-him wa-lad-daal-leen.

“Praise be to Allah, the Lord of the worlds, the Beneficent, the Merciful, Master of the day of Requital. Thee do we serve and Thee do we beseech for help. Guide us on the right path, the path of those upon whom Thou hast bestowed favours, not those upon whom wrath is brought down, nor those who go astray.”

Second Takbir:

Then follows a second takbir without raising the hands to the ears, and the following prayer known as as-salaah alan Nabiyy [Durood Sharif], i.e., salutations to the Holy Prophet Muhammad, is recited:

اَللّٰھُمَّ صَلِّ عَلٰی مُحَمَّدٍ وَّعَلٰٓی اٰلِ مُحَمَّدٍ کَمَا صَلَّیْتَ عَلٰٓی اِبْرَاھِیْمَ وَعَلٰٓی اٰلِ اِبْرَاھِیْمَ اِنَّکَ حَمِیْدٌ مَّجِیْدٌ اَللّٰھُمَّ بَارِکْ عَلٰی مُحَمَّدٍ وَّعَلٰٓی اٰلِ مُحَمَّدٍ کَمَا بَارَکْتَ عَلٰٓی اِبْرَاھِیْمَ وَعَلٰٓی اٰلِ اِبْرَاھِیْمَ اِنَّکَ حَمِیْدٌ مَّجِیْدٌ

Al-laa-hum-ma sal-Ii a-laa Mu-ham-ma-din wa a-laa aa-li Mu-ham-ma-din ka-maa sallay-ta a-laa Ib-raa-hee-ma wa-a-laa aa-li Ib-raa-hee-ma, in-na-ka ha-mee-dum ma-jeed.

Al-laa-hum-ma baa-rik a-laa Mu-ham-madin wa a-laa aa-li Mu-ham-ma-din ka-maa baa-rak-to a-laa Ib-raa-hee-ma wa a-laa aa-Ii Ib-raa-hee-ma, in-na-ka ha-mee-dum ma-jeed.

“O Allah! Exalt Muhammad and the true followers of Muhammad, as Thou didst exalt Abraham and the true followers of Abraham, for surely, Thou art Praised, Magnified.

“O Allah! bless Muhammad and the true followers of Muhammad as Thou didst bless Abraham and the true followers of Abraham, for surely Thou art Praised, Magnified.”

Third Takbir:

The third takbir is then pronounced in a manner similar to the second takbir, and a prayer for the forgiveness of the deceased is addressed to Allah. Different forms of this prayer are reported as having been offered by the Holy Prophet (pbuh), thus prayer in any form is permissible.

The following two prayers are the most well-known:

اَللّٰهُمَّ اغْفِرْ لِحَيِّنَا وَمَيِّتِنَا وَشَاهِدِنَا وَغَآئِبِنَا وَصَغِيْرِنَا وَكَبِيْرِنَا وَذَكَرِنَا وَاُنْثٰانَا ؕ اَللّٰهُمَّ مَنْ اَحْيَيْتَهٗ مِنَّا فَاَحْيِهٖ عَلَى الْاِسْلَامِ ؕ وَمَنْ تَوَفَّيْتَهٗ مِنَّا فَتَوَفَّهٗ عَلَى الْاِيْمَانِؕ اَللّٰهُمَّ لَا تَحْرِمْنَا اَجْرَہٗ وَ لَا تَفْتِنَّا بَعْدَہٗ۔

Al-laa-hum-magh-fir li-hay-yi-naa wa may-yiti-naa wa shaa-hi-di-naa wa ghaa-i-bi-naa wa sa-ghee-ri-naa wa ka-bee-ri-naa wa zaka-ri-naa wa un-saa-naa, al-laa-hum-ma man ah-yay-ta-hoo min-naa fa-ah yi-hee a-lal islaam, wa man ta-waf-fay-ta-hoo min-naa fa-ta-waf-fa-hoo a-lal ee-maan. al-laa-hum-ma laa tah-rim-naa aj-ra-hoo wa laa taf-ti-naa ba-da-hoo.

“O Allah! Grant protection to our living and to our dead and to those of us who are present and those who are absent, and to our young and to our old folk and to our males and to our females. O Allah! Whosoever Thou grantest to live among us, cause him to live in Islam (submission) and whosoever of us Thou causest to die, make him die in faith. O Allah! Do not deprive us of this reward and do not make us fall into a trial after him.”

Another prayer runs thus:

اَللّٰهُـمَّ اغْفِـرْ لَهٗ وَارْحَمْـهُ وَعافِهٖ وَاعْفُ عَنْـهُ وَاَكْـرِمْ نُزُلَـهٗ وَوَسِّـعْ مَدْخَـلَهٗ وَاغْسِلْـهُ بِالْمآءِ وَالثَّـلْجِ وَالْبَـرَدِ وَنَقِّـهٖ مِنَ الْخَطَـايَا كَمَا نَـقّيْتَ الـثَّوْبَ الْاَبْيَـضَ مِنَ الدَّنَـسِ۔

Al-laa-hum-magh-fir la-hoo war-ham-hu wa aa fi-hee wa-fu an-hu wa ak-rim nuzu-la-hoo wa was-si mad-kha-la-hoo wa agh-sil-hu bil-maa-i was-sal-ji wal-ba-ra-di wa naq-qi-hee mi-nal kha-taayaa ka-maa naq-qay-tas saw-bal ab-ya-da mi-nad-da-na-si.

“O Allah! Grant him protection, and have mercy on him, and keep him in good condition, and pardon him, and make his entertainment honourable, and expand his place of entering, and wash him with water and snow and hail and cleanse him of faults as a white cloth is cleansed of dross.”


In the case of children, the following prayer is added:

اَللّٰهُـمَّ اجْعَلْھُ لَنَا فَرَطًاوَّاجْعَلْھُ لَنَآ ذُخْرًاوَّجْعَلْھُ لَنَا شَافِعًا وَّ مُشَفَّعًا

Al-laa-hum-maj-al-hu la-naa fa-ra-tan-w waj-al-hu la-naa zukh-ran-w waj-al-hu lanaa shaa–fi-an-w wa mu-shaf-fa-aa.

“O Allah! make him a cause of recompense for us and make him a treasure for us on the day of Resurrection and an intercessor and the one whose intercession is accepted.”

Except for the takbirs and the salaam, the entire service is performed silently. The hands are raised to the ears when the first takbir is said but not when the other three takbirs are pronounced.

The latecomer can join the prayer at any stage by saying Allahu Akbar but preferably not later than the announcement of the third takbir when the main prayer for the dead is being offered.

Fourth Takbir and Tasleem:

The prayers for the deceased are followed by a fourth takbir, after which comes the tasleem as at the close of prayers, i.e.:

اَلسَّلَامُ عَلَیْکُمْ وَرَحْمَۃُ اللّٰہِ

As-sa-laa-mu a-lai-kum wa rah-ma-tul-laah.

“Peace be on you and the mercy of Allah.”

These words are uttered and the face is turned to the right. At the second utterance the face is turned to the left.

When the service is finished, the bier is taken to the grave and buried. The grave is dug in such a manner that the dead body may be laid in it facing Makkah. It is generally between four and six feet deep, and an oblong excavation is made on one side, wherein the dead body is to be placed. This is called the lahd. The dead body is made to rest in the lahd facing the qiblah. If the dead body is contained in a coffin, the lahd may be dispensed with. If the grave is north-south the dead body is laid in the same direction, head facing towards the west.

Lowering the Body:

The following words are reported in a hadith as having been uttered by the Holy Prophet (pbuh) when the dead body was lowered in the grave:

بِسْمِ اللّٰہِ وَ بِاللّٰہِ وَ عَلٰی سُنَّۃِ رَسُوْلِ اللّٰہِؐ

Bis-mil laa-hi wa bil-laa-hi wa a-laa sun-na ti ra-soo-lil-laah.

“In the name of Allah and with Allah and in accordance with the Sunnah of the Messenger of Allah.”

The grave is then filled and a prayer is again offered for the dead one. The people then depart.

Janaza Ghaibana:

A similar religious service may be held in the case of a dead person when the dead body is not present. This is called Janaza Ghaibana.

Patience enjoined:

Islam forbids indulgence in intemperate grief for the dead. It requires that all affliction be borne patiently. On hearing of the death of a relative or a friend, or of any other affliction, a Muslim is enjoined to say:

اِنَّا لِلّٰہِ وَ اِنَّاۤ اِلَیۡہِ رٰجِعُوۡنَ

In-naa lil-laa-hi wa in-naa I-lay-hi raa ji-oon

“We are Allah’s and to Him we shall return.”

These words are a source of unlimited solace and comfort in bereavement. Hence it is forbidden that one should indulge in regular mourning or ostentatious grief.

When visiting a cemetery, the following prayer is recommended:

اَلسَّلَامُ عَلَـيْكُمْ اَهْلَ الدِّيَارِ مِنَ الْمُؤْمِنِيْـنَ وَالْمُسْلِمِيْنَ وَاِنَّآ اِنْ شَآءَ اللّٰهُ بِكُـمْ لَلَاحِقُـوْنَ نَسْئَلُ اللّٰهَ لَنَـا وَلَكُـمُ الْعَـافِيَةَ

As-sa-laa-mu a-lai-kum ah-lad di-yaa-ri mi-nal mu-mi-nee-na wal-mus-li-mee-na wa innaa in-shaa-al laa-hu bi-kum la-laa-hi-qoon. Nas-a-lul laa-ha la-naa wa la-ku-mul aa fiyah.

“Peace be on you, O residents of this world from among the faithfuls and the Muslims, and we will surely join you, if it please Allah. We pray to Allah for security for you and for ourselves.”

Numerous innovations have developed regarding what should be done to benefit the dead. There are traditions speaking of the Quran being read to the dying person, but there is no mention at all of its being read over the dead body or over the grave. However, it is reported that the Holy Prophet, peace and blessings of Allah be upon him, prayed for dead when visiting their graves.

The serving of food to visitors on the third or tenth or fortieth day after death is also an innovation. There is no mention of it in any tradition. It is, however, recommended that food should be prepared and sent to the family of the deceased by others. Mourning may be observed for three days at the most and people should visit the house of the deceased to offer their condolences. After three days all members of the family may attend to their work in the normal manner. Alms may, however, be given on behalf of the deceased, and doing deeds of charity is the only thing allowed.

Iddah or Waiting Period for a Widow:

This means a waiting period of four months and ten days for a widow. It is usually considered that during this period the wife of the deceased is supposed to confine herself to her home and even to her room. That is absolutely wrong. The purpose of this waiting period is to ascertain the existence of pregnancy, if any, and in that case the iddah will end at the delivery of the child. So, the only restriction on the wife of the deceased is that she is not allowed to enter into any marital negotiation or contract before the expiry of iddah. Otherwise, there is, as such, no restriction on her movement as far as her work-place duties, or her social and household matters, are concerned. To emphasise the point, one should note that there is no iddah for older women or women who have no intention of marrying again.

In-naa lil-laa-hi wa in-naa i-lay-hi raa-ji-oon:

اِنَّا لِلّٰہِ وَ اِنَّاۤ اِلَیۡہِ رٰجِعُوۡنَ

In-naa lil-laa-hi wa in-naa I-lay-hi raa ji-oon

“Surely we are from Allah, and to Him we shall return” (The Holy Quran, 2:156).

تَبٰرَکَ الَّذِیۡ بِیَدِہِ الۡمُلۡکُ ۫ وَ ہُوَ عَلٰی کُلِّ شَیۡءٍ قَدِیۡرُۨ ۙ﴿۱﴾ الَّذِیۡ خَلَقَ الۡمَوۡتَ وَ الۡحَیٰوۃَ لِیَبۡلُوَکُمۡ اَیُّکُمۡ اَحۡسَنُ عَمَلًا ؕ وَ ہُوَ الۡعَزِیۡزُ الۡغَفُوۡرُ ۙ﴿۲﴾

“Blessed is He in Whose hand is the Kingdom, and He is Powerful over all things, Who created death and life that He might try you (as to) which of you is best in deeds. And He is the Mighty, the Forgiving” (The Holy Quran, 67:1–2).

Urdu Poem with English Transliteration and Translation: Ik na Ik Din

One day you will certainly be presented before God,
No one can ever escape at all from death.

You will have to leave this transitory world one day,
Everyone is helpless before the Divine command.

O man! You will have to stand firm all the time,
Against grief and sorrow, despair and distress, trial and anxiety.

Do not despair like this, of the audience with God.
There is nothing difficult for Him Who is the remover of all difficulties.

How can the humble mortals fulfil your desires?
Make all your petitions known to Him Who is the true provider of all needs.

You should efface from your heart all the traces of dualism.
Bow your head only before the Master of the heavens and the earth.

You should hate evil and love what is good.
One day you will have to appear before your Lord.

How can falsehood prosper before truth?
What worth is a stone before a precious ruby?

Urdu Poem with English Transliteration and Translation: Ai Hubb-i Jaah Waalo

O lovers of pomp and show! This is not the place where one stays for long.
None of your predecessors have lived here forever.

Go and cast a look at their tombs,
And reflect where all your forbears have gone.

One day that place of rest will be yours also.
One day this morning of (your) life will decline into evening for you.

One day people will carry you in a bier,
And will return home in grief after burying you.

O people! The pleasures of life can never last for ever.
Do you not ever fear death and think of passing away from this world.

Just take thought for where your fathers and forefathers have gone!
Who called them back and why have they left this world?

That day will also be your lot one day.
Do not ever feel so happy; the time of departure is slowly drawing near.

Search for the way which will cleanse your heart and soul,
And reduce the baser self to nothingness in obedience to God.