How Soon Should a Muslim Burial Take Place?

by Marion Lougheed
Deceased Muslims are always buried, never cremated or embalmed.

Deceased Muslims are always buried, never cremated or embalmed.

For Muslims, death is a natural part of life. At the same time, grief and mourning are also normal and it is common at funerals to see people openly expressing their feelings of loss in emotional ways. Losing a loved one can be very difficult, and Muslim burials follow prescribed guidelines to help everyone affected cope with the situation.

Buried as Soon as Possible

In theory, a deceased Muslim should be buried as soon as possible. Many believers try to have the burial take place within 24 hours of the person's passing. During this time, the body will never be left unattended. Muslims must make sure that certain pre-burial rituals are completed before the burial occurs, so it is not always feasible to bury the deceased immediately. The time frame is not set in stone, but the sooner the burial happens, the better.

Dying Abroad

In general, a person should be buried close to where they died. This idea has to do with the fact that it takes a lot of time and can be expensive to transport a body from one region to another. That being said, it is permissible to send a body back to the person's home country, especially if they specified in their will that they wished to be buried in a particular spot. Similarly, it may not be possible to find a Muslim cemetery in the country where the person died. The final decision is usually left up to those responsible for the burial.

Working with a Coroner

The Muslim Burial Council of Leicestershire explains that sometimes the law will require an autopsy, depending on how the person died. This procedure can be stressful for some Muslims, because it delays the burial. The MBCOL suggests that the family can help speed things up by picking one person to communicate with the coroner. If an autopsy is not obligatory, Muslims do not have to agree to one. In fact, the MBCOL argues that, "Post mortems without the existence of compelling medical or legal circumstances amounts to desecration of the body."

Alternatives to Burying in the Ground

In some instances, it may be impossible to bury a body in the ground. For example, a person could die while on a ship. Al-Islam.org relates that a body can be preserved on the ship until a proper burial can occur. However, if there is no way to keep the body from decaying, "it should be lowered into the sea in a vessel of clay or with a weight tied to its feet." Under circumstances where burial cannot be undertaken, the body "may be kept in a vault or a coffin, instead."

About the Author

Marion Lougheed is a world citizen with a B.A. (Hons.) in social and cultural anthropology. She also holds a diploma in professional writing. She has visited or lived in more than 12 countries since the age of seven.

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