Is It Haram to Attend Non-Muslim Funerals?

by John Green
Some Muslim legal scholars assert that attending a non-Muslim funeral is permissible.

Some Muslim legal scholars assert that attending a non-Muslim funeral is permissible.

Whether attending a non-Muslim funeral is haram, or prohibited, is a question that has given rise to significant differences of opinion within the Muslim community. Some Muslim legal scholars assert that attending the funeral of a non-Muslim friend or relative can be wholly consistent with Islamic principles. Others, though, argue that attending a non-Muslim funeral violates core principles of the Islamic faith.

Haram and Halal

As Muslim scholar Yusuf al Qaradawi observes, Islamic law divides human behavior into two distinct categories: lawful (halal) or unlawful (haram). Determining whether a particular action is haram is both essential and complex. For example, not only does a funeral raise issues in regard to proper rituals and social ethics, it also has the potential to involve a believer in the worship of a false god. Because committing the sin of shirk, or idolatry, is believed to be worthy of eternal suffering, the implications of attending a non-Muslim funeral can go beyond simple questions of etiquette.

Muhammad and the Quran

As Islamic Research Foundation President Zakir Naik notes, a Muslim's answer to this question must be consistent with the Quran and the Sunnah, the legal precedent derived from the Hadith, which are contemporary accounts of Muhammad's statements and actions. For example, as noted in Sayyid Saabik's collection of Islamic law, the Quran (9:113) indicates that it is haram for Muslims to pray for pagans who are clearly condemned to eternal fire, even if they are relatives. On the other hand, the Hadith report that Muhammad once stood up for a passing funeral procession, only to be informed that the deceased was a non-Muslim. Instead of sitting down, Muhammad said, "Does he not also have a soul?"

Why Attendance is Permitted

A number of Muslim scholars agree that neither the Quran nor the Sunnah impose an absolute prohibition on attending non-Muslim funerals. According to Grand Mufti of Egypt Ali Gomaa, attending a non-Muslim funeral is in fact consistent with the ethics of the Quran (60:8), which commands believers not to cut themselves off from non-Muslims who are not fighting against them. In addition to expressing good manners in a way that attracts non-believers to Islam, Muslims can avoid jeopardizing their own spiritual state by making sure that they do not participate in shirk or other prohibited behavior at any non-Muslim funerals they attend, such as praying for deceased individuals who had worshipped gods other than the one true God of Islam.

Why Attendance is Forbidden

Some Muslim religious authorities prohibit attending non-Muslim funerals. For instance, Sheikh Sulaymaan ibn Naasir al-‘Alwaan asserts that the Quran teaches that attending a non-Muslim funeral is haram because it shows love, respect or friendship toward an unbeliever, which he argues is forbidden by the Quran (58:22). Similarly, a fatwa, or ruling on Islamic law, published on Islam Web cites the Quran's prohibition on praying for deceased non-believers as grounds for banning attendance at their funerals. The same fatwa notes that attending a Hindu cremation ceremony would be an even greater violation of Islamic law, since it would imply agreement with the burning of a body, which is also haram. Nonetheless, there are also Islamic scholars who make an exception for funerals of non-Muslims with whom a believer has some sort of personal connection, such as a co-worker or relative.

About the Author

John Green is an attorney who has been writing on legal, business and media matters for more than 20 years. He has also taught law school and business courses in entrepreneurship, business enterprise, tax and ethics. Green received his J.D. from Yale Law School and his Ph.D. in religion from Duke.

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