Sunday, November 19, 2017 - 30 Safar 1439
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If a person realizes he is dying, what should he do at the moment of his death?

If a person realizes he is dying, what should he do at the moment of his death?

Answer

If death approaches and the person is able to speak, he should testify that he believes in the Oneness of God. This is known as the "Kalimah" in many Muslim countries. If he says it by himself, it is well and good. If not, then anyone who is attending him should instruct him to say it. If the dying person is unable to speak, he may make the testification mentally. If you are attending a dying person, you should not insist that he utter the declaration because he may be in pain or may not be in his full mental faculties. Insistence may cause him to say something unsuitable. If he says it once, it is well and good and you should not try to make him say it again unless he speaks of other things. In this case, you are to say the declaration again to him, implying that he should say it so that his last words be the testification of faith. Although some scholars are of the view that a dying person should be instructed to utter the complete testification of faith, most of them maintain that it is sufficient to prompt him to say its first part i.e. "There is no deity save Allah."

It is recommended to turn a dying person to face the qiblah, the direction of prayer, [by laying him on his right side].

It is also recommended to read the chapter of "YaSeen" to a dying person. When death is confirmed, someone should close the eyes of the deceased and cover him and his family should immediately start preparing for his burial. He should then be washed and shrouded before offering the funeral prayer over him and burying him. His debts should be paid off as soon as possible from his own property. If he dies insolvent, his debts may be paid from the zakah funds of the Muslim community.

His family should exercise patience and pray to God to reward them for their acceptance of His will with patience and perseverance. The Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) recommended that we say the following supplication when we suffer the death of a relative, "To God we belong and to Him we return. My Lord, reward me for my affliction and compensate me with something better" [recorded by Ahmad and Muslim].

It is recommended to inform the deceased's relatives and friends of his death. It is permissible to lament the death of a deceased without shouting or wailing. A woman may not wear mourning clothes for any relative for more than three days, the only exception being for her husband for whom she should remain in mourning clothes throughout the mourning period which lasts for four months and ten days, unless she is pregnant when it lasts until her delivery.

Preparing for burial
Preparing for burial starts with washing the deceased and this is a communal obligation. If someone undertakes it, the obligation is fulfilled and the sin and responsibility [of its nonperformance] is lifted from the rest. But if no one undertakes it, all of them incur a sin.

Washing the body
The body should be washed with water. It is sufficient to wash the body once but is preferable to wash it three times with soap and water. If any impurity has fallen on the body, it should be removed first. Only those who are needed for the washing should attend and they should not publicize any bad thing they notice about the body. The deceased is undressed but his private parts should remain covered during washing. When the body is washed, it is dried with a clean dress or cloth other than the wraparounds. The water used for washing the body is infused with some perfumes before the body is finally wrapped in full. It should be noted here that a combatant who is killed in battle by non-believers need not be washed but wrapped in his own clothes and buried.

Shrouding the body
It is a communal duty to wrap the deceased in clean dress or clothes, preferably white in color. If the deceased is a male, it is recommended to shroud him in three layers and if the deceased is a woman, in five. Silk may not be used to wrap a male. Although this is permissible for a female, most scholars find it offensive.

The prayer over the deceased
The prayer over the deceased [i.e. janazah prayer] is preferably led by his nearest relative. It consists of four glorifications of God, i.e. saying ‘Allahu Akbar’, with only the imam saying it loudly. After the first ‘Allahu Akbar’, the imam and all of those performing the prayer must recite ‘Al-Fatihah’. After the second ‘Allahu Akbar’, it is obligatory to say the Blessings on the Prophet (peace be upon him) which is normally recited in the second part of the testification of faith in ordinary prayers. After the third ‘Allahu Akbar’, supplications are made on behalf of the deceased asking God to forgive all his sins and admit him into paradise. After the fourth ‘Allahu Akbar’, supplications are made for all Muslims.

Burial
The deceased is then taken for burial. Those following the funeral procession should walk quietly without reciting anything loudly, even though it may be from the Qur`an or glorification of God. The grave should be deep enough to conceal the odor of the body and prevent animals from digging it up. The surface of the finished grave should be raised above the ground by not more than 25 to 30 cm, so that it can be known to be a grave and it is impermissible to raise it any higher. It is preferable to bury Muslims in graveyards, although it is permissible to bury a dead person at home. However, it is preferable to follow the Prophet's Sunnah since he ordered the burial of his Companions in the graveyard known as "Al- Baqee’".

Consoling the family of the deceased
It is recommended to offer condolences to the members of the deceased’s household although they are discouraged from gathering in a particular place to accept condolences. These should be offered when meeting his relatives.

Visiting graveyards
It is recommended to visit graves and graveyards. When you arrive at the grave of a deceased relative, you are to stand at its head and pray for him. Most scholars agree that it is also permissible for women to visit graves, but they are forbidden from wailing and crying loudly.
 

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