Birth and death are a huge part of our lives regardless of where we live and what religion we follow. Depending on your religion and region, the gatherings and rituals that follow these events are also different.
Today, I just want to share with you the funeral gatherings I witnessed in Pakistan. It is a Muslim state so I gather the funeral proceedings I saw here are similar to most, if not all other Muslim states.
The funeral proceedings here start with the announcement of the death of the person. This is done through the mosques mainly. A close relative goes to all the mosques in the surrounding area to inform the keeper about the death. The keeper then announces the death of the departed along with the time of the funeral prayer for the departed soul through the same loudspeakers that are used for the five daily prayer calls (Azaan).
As the neighbors and family members get to know about the death, they start gathering at the house of the deceased to perform the final rituals on the dead body and support the immediate family and mourn their loss. This keeps up until the time of funeral prayer nears.
The Final Rituals
The final rituals in Muslims are very straight forward. They bath the body of the departed following certain religious protocols. Only men can bathe a man’s body and women can bathe a womens. Once the bathe is completed, the body is covered in a white shroud. How the body is covered in shroud varies between man and woman.
The Funeral Prayer
The body is then carried to the mosque to perform the funeral prayer. Males from friends, family members and neighbors carry the body on their shoulders to the mosque. Carrying the body of a deceased is considered a virtue among Muslims and everyone tries to lend their shoulder to the body for a few steps until it reaches the mosque. Once at the mosque the body is placed in front of the funeral prayer area and the final prayer is said.
After the prayer the body is again carried to the graveyard. There, the body is laid to rest while the attendants ask for the forgiveness of the sins of the deceased through supplication. Also, as the grave is covered up the attendants through a fist full of sand on it. Another act that is considered a virtue. All the proceedings at the graveyard are looked after and attended by males only.
While all this unfolds, the family of the deceased does not eat or drink anything and sort of fasts. This is not considered a ritual or a religious act. It is just that the shock of losing a loved one kills the appetite of the family. As people return from the graveyard, the food is served to the attendants. The food is mainly catered is consists of either a rice dish called “Biryani” or a curry called “Qorma” or even both at times.
After the meal people usually head to their homes only to return the next day to offer their condolences and prayers again. This usually continues for three days before the family can continue with their routine lives.