Choose your language EoF

Inna lillahi wa inna ilaihi raji’un – We are God’s and to Him we return

Dying Far from Home: The Dramaticity of Death for Migrants and the Complexities of Islamic Funeral Rites in a Foreign Land

All migrants leave to return one day, at least that is what they believe and say. Only a part of them will be able to fulfill this wish others will be forced to abandon it. There are families who opt for the transfer of the body to the country of origin, while others, although still few, make the different choice, namely, to bury their loved one in Italy. In the first case, although the transfer of the body is strictly proscribed by Islam because the body must be buried at the place of death as soon as possible, transferring the body to the country of origin is important because it represents a “symbolic” return to the land of one’s birth and traditions. In the second case, the decision not to transfer the body to the country of origin often stems from the fact that the family and parental network feels more included and integrated in the host country. This is compounded by situations, especially of an economic and bureaucratic nature that make it almost impossible to be able to realize the desire to return “home.” Be that as it may, perplexity in deciding for the destination of the body cannot veil the drama of death itself.

Dying in a “distant land” means that everything that is taken for granted in the country of origin becomes probable, the reference being to the religious/spiritual and traditional ritual that the dying person must perform or be assisted in performing until the body is prepared for burial. This can be a source of concern for the foreign person because of the fear of being alone at this time and not being assisted in performing the rite also because in the case where the death occurs in a hospital (a fairly frequent occurrence) or other health and/or care facilities, health care personnel are not, often, able to guarantee such assistance.

When life is ending, the dying person must utter the Shahadah: Lâ ilâha illâ Allâh (there is no deity other than God) with the index finger of the right hand raised. In the event that the agonizing person is unable to speak and/or move. it will be the group of family members or friends who will recite the prayer for him by helping him, also, to raise his index finger.

Once death has been ascertained, it is necessary to immediately close the eyes of the deceased while reciting: inna lillahi wa inna ilaihi raji’un (we are God’s and we return to Him).

Then the body is washed, perfumed and wrapped in a white-colored kafn (shroud) and the whole thing is concluded with the funeral prayer (Salat Al-janazah). At this point the body is ready for burial, which for the Muslim means reaching the final earthly resting place.

The funeral prayer is a communal obligation (farḍ al-kifaya, or “sufficiency obligation”); it is sufficient if it is performed by a group of believers, otherwise all are liable in case of non-fulfillment.

The obligations necessary for the fulfillment of the five daily prayers (intention, major and minor purity, etc.) also apply to the funeral prayer, but the manner of its fulfillment is somewhat different: in the funeral prayer there is neither inclination (ruku‘) nor prostration (sujûd), and before the conclusion, invocations in favor of the deceased are recited, coming from tradition.

Here is an example of an invocation that can be recited in favor of the deceased:

Allahumma ghfir li hayyina wamayyitina washahidina wagha’ibina wasaghirina wakabirina wadhakarina waunthana. Allahumma man ah-yaytahu minna fa ahyihi ‘ala-l-islam, waman tawaffaytahu minna fatawaffahu ‘ala-l-iman. Allahumma là tahrimna ajrahu wala taftinna ba’dahu waghfir lana walahu. (Lord! Forgive our living and our dead, those present with us, those absent, our young and our old, our men and our women. Lord! He to whom You prolong life, let it be on the foundations of Islam; and he whom You call back to You, call him back by faith. Lord! Do not deprive us of his wages and do not lead us astray after him; and forgive us, and forgive him).

Rachid Baidada

Cultural Linguistic Mediator

Sources and Images

You might also like