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Janaza


Janaza arabic for 'bier, corpse placed on bier, or final rites'. In Islam the congregational funeral prayer has a specific significance.

There are no explicit directives regarding the final rites in the holy quran. But the treatises on the fiqh, based on the hadith describes it in detail. After the death of a Muslim, the corpse is laid on a bier, with its head facing the qiblah (the direction of the Ka'aba in Mokkah), and washed. But no niyat (pronouncement of the intention) is recited for this act. Every limb of the corpse is washed an odd number of times, either three or five. Then the corpse is wrapped in a kafan (shroud). The kafan may have one, two, or three pieces of cloth. The treatises on the fiqh prescribe three pieces for a man and five pieces for a woman. The kafan for a man may be of five pieces, too.

The kafan cloth is usually white in colour. If someone dies in ihram (in the garments worn during the performance of the hajj), the head need not be covered. Martyrs are not washed before burial because this removes the blood, the testimony to martyrdom. It is not allowed, unless essential, to keep lights near the dead body. After all the rites are performed and the corpse is ready for burial, it is placed on a bier and taken to a mosque or open space for janaza. The bier with the corpse of both male and female persons are carried by the male. The corpse of a woman is kept covered so that people do not see her face. The bier is placed in front of the congregation for the janaza prayer, which is performed without ruqu or sijda. In the janaza it is customary to pray for the salvation of the departed soul.

Participation in a funeral procession is considered mustahab (an act of piety but not mandatory). An odd number of people take part in the burial process. The corpse is laid in the grave, with the head again facing the qiblah. Each of the persons present on the occasion throws three handful of soil upon the grave. Kalema tayyeba is uttered into the ears of the dead person. Its purpose is to enable the deceased person to give appropriate answers when Munquir and Naquir will interrogate him/her in the grave. Sometimes, Surah Fatiha, the first verse of the Quran, and Mu'awbizatan, the last two, are recited. During burial of a woman, the grave is covered with a sheet of cloth.

According to fiqh, it is forbidden to adorn the grave, or place a headstone. A piece of wood or stone may be placed only to indicate the position of the corpse's head. Despite this restriction, graves or mausoleums, gorgeously adorned, are quite common in Bangladesh.

Ziyarat (visiting a grave and offering prayers) is allowed, although the custom was forbidden during the early years of Islam. It is customary to visit the family of the deceased to condole the death, before and after the burial rites. According to fiqh, it is permissible to feed the poor after the funeral. During such feasts, chapters from the Quran are recited for the salvation of the departed soul. [Syed Ashraf Ali]