Funerary culture in Islam

Authored by: Amila Buturovic

The Routledge Companion to Death and Dying

Print publication date:  May  2017
Online publication date:  May  2017

Print ISBN: 9781138852075
eBook ISBN: 9781315723747
Adobe ISBN:


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Like most religious cultures, in matters of death and funerary rituals Muslims are poised between universal processes of grief and body disposal and specifically Islamic teachings on the meaning of death and afterlife. The former is conditioned by a common human need to mourn and commemorate the dead. However, how that is enacted is largely informed by the norms and practices of the cumulative Islamic tradition rooted in the Qur’an and the prophetic traditions of hadith. Interpretative divergences are of great relevance in this respect: while most Muslims agree on some basic ideas of what it means to die as a Muslim, variations exist as to how death is ritually treated. The variations are partly cultural and environmental, in that the process of Islamization across the world involved negotiations of already established local practices and attitudes towards death in a particular geographic setting, but they are also denominational, reflecting enduring attention given to death and funerary practices by classical and contemporary religious scholarship. As we cannot concern ourselves with specific denominational or regional differences, we will present here relevant unifying aspects of funerary culture and their textual underpinnings, and offer some insights into their enactment in everyday life. A quick look at the pertinent passages from the Qur’an will be followed by relevant Prophetic and later authoritative elaborations that have jointly helped shape dominant funerary practices in Islam.

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