The Muslim Faith, Burial at Sea and Cremation

It must be understood that while this information was furnished by reliable sources, there are many different opinions between those of Muslim faith, and any Muslim contemplating cremation or burial at sea should seek proper council.

Rules About Burial of the Dead Body

620. It is obligatory to bury a dead body in the ground, so deep that its smell does not come out and the beasts of prey do not dig it out, and, if there is a danger of such beasts digging it out then the grave should be made solid with bricks, etc.

621. If it is not possible to bury a dead body in the ground, it may be kept in a vault or a coffin, instead.

622. The dead body should be laid in the grave on its right side so that the face remains towards the Qibla.

623. If a person dies on a ship and if there is no fear of the decay of the dead body and if there is no problem in retaining it for sometime on the ship, it should be kept on it and buried in the ground after reaching the land. Otherwise, after giving Ghusl, Hunut, Kafan and Namaz-e-Mayyit it should be lowered into the sea in a vessel of clay or with a weight tied to its feet. And as far as possible it should not be lowered at a point where it is eaten up immediately by the sea predators.

624. If it is feared that an enemy may dig up the grave and exhume the dead body and amputate its ears or nose or other limbs, it should be lowered into sea, if possible, as stated in the foregoing rule.

625. The expenses of lowering the dead body into the sea, or making the grave solid on the ground can be deducted from the estate of the deceased, if necessary.

626. If a non-Muslim woman dies with a dead child, or soulless foetus in her womb, and if the father is a Muslim then the woman should be laid in the grave on her left side with her back towards Qibla, so that the face of the child is towards Qibla.

627. It is not permitted to bury a Muslim in the graveyard of the non-Muslims, nor to bury a non-Muslim in the graveyard of the Muslims.

628. It is also not permissible to bury the dead body of a Muslim at a place which is disrespectful, like places where garbage is thrown.

629. It is not permissible to bury a dead body in a usurped place nor in a place which is dedicated for purposes other than burial (e.g. in a Masjid).

630. It is not permissible to dig up a grave for the purpose of burying another dead body in it, unless one is sure that the grave is very old and the former body has been totally disintegrated.

631. Anything which is separated from the dead body (even its hair, nail or tooth) should be buried along with it. And if any part of the body, including hair, nails or teeth are found after the body has been buried, they should be buried at a separate place, as per obligatory precaution. And it is Mustahab that nails and teeth cut off or extracted during lifetime are also buried.

632. If a person dies in a well and it is not possible to take him out, the well should be sealed, and the well should be treated as his grave.

633. If a child dies in its mother's womb and its remaining in the womb is dangerous for the mother, it should be brought out in the easiest possible way. If it becomes inevitable to cut it into pieces there is no objection in doing so. It is, however, better that if the husband of the woman is skilled in surgery the dead body of the child should be taken out by him, and failing that, the job should be performed by a skilled woman. And if that is not available, a skilled surgeon who is the mahram (one with whom marriage cannot be contracted) of the woman should do it. And if even that is not available a skilled man who is not mahram (one with whom marriage can be contracted) should remove the dead child. And if even such a person is not available the dead body can be brought out by any unskilled person.

634. If a woman dies and there is a living child in her womb, it should be brought out in the safest possible way, even if there be no hope for the child's survival. The body of the mother should then be sewn up.

Mustahab Acts of Dafn

635. It is Mustahab that the depth of the grave should be approximately equal to the size of an average person and the dead body be buried in the nearest graveyard, except when the graveyard which is situated farther is better due to some reasons, like if pious persons are buried there or people go there in large number for Fateha.

It is also recommended that the coffin is placed on the ground a few yards away from the grave and then taken to the grave by halting three times briefly. It should be placed on the ground every time and then lifted before finally it is lowered into the grave at the 4th time. And if the dead body is of a male, it should be placed on the ground at the 3rd time in such a manner that its head should be towards the lower side of the grave and at the 4th time it should be lowered into the grave from the side of its head. And if the dead body is of a female it should be placed on the ground at the 3rd time towards the Qibla and should be lowered into the grave sidewise and a cloth should be spread over the grave while lowering it. It is also Mustahab that the dead body should be taken out of the coffin and lowered into the grave very gently, and the prescribed supplications should be recited before and during burying the dead body; and after the dead body has been lowered into the niche, the ties of its shroud should be unfastened and its cheek should be placed on earth, and an earthen pillow should be done up under its head and some unbacked bricks or lumps of clay should be placed behind its back so that the dead body may not return flat on its back. Before closing the niche, the person reciting the talqin should hold with his right hand the right shoulder of the dead body and should place his left hand tightly on its left shoulder and take his mouth near its ear and shaking its shoulders should say thrice: Isma' ifham ya ....... here the name of the dead person and his father should be called. For example, if the name of the dead person is Muhammad and his father's name 'Ali it should be said thrice: Isma 'ifham ya Muhammad bin 'Ali. And then he should say: Hal anta 'alal 'ahdil lazi farqtana 'alayhi min shahadati an la ilaha illal lahu wahdahu la sharika lah wa anna Muhammadan sallal lahu 'alayhi wa Alihi 'abduhu wa Rasuluhu wa sayyidun nabiyyina wa khatamul mursalina wa anna 'Aliyyan Amirul mu'minina wa sayyidul wasiyyina wa imamu nif tarazallahu ta'tahu 'alal 'alamina wa annal Hasana wal Husayna wa 'Aliyyabnal Husayni wa Muhammadabna 'Aliyyin wa Ja'farabna Muhammadin wa Musabna Ja'farin wa 'Aliyyabna Musa wa Muhammadabna'Aliyyin wa 'Aliyyabna Muhammadin wal Hasanabna 'Aliyyin wal Qa'imal hujjatal Mahdi salawatullahi 'alayhim a'i'mmatul mu'minina wa hujajullahi'alal khalqi ajma'ina wa a'immatuka a'immatu hudan abrar ya ........(here the name of the dead person and his father should be called) and then the following words should be said: Iza atakal malakanil muqarraabani Rasulayni min 'indillahi tabaraka wa ta'ala wa sa'alaka 'an Rabbika wa 'an Nabiyyika wa 'an dinika wa 'an Kitabika wa 'an Qiblatika wa 'an A'immatika fala takhaf wa la tahzan wa'qul fi jawabi hima, Allahu Rabbi wa Muhammadun sallal lahu 'alayhi wa Alihi nabiyyi wal Islamu dini wal Qur'anu kitabi wal Ka'batu Qiblati wa Amirul mu'minina 'Aliyybnu Abi Talib imami wal Hasanubnu 'Aliyyi nil Mujtaba imami wal Husaynubnu 'Aliyyi nish-shahidu bi-Karbala imami wa 'Aliyyun Zaynul 'Abidina imami wa Muhammadu nil Baqiru imami wa Ja'faru nis Sadiqu imami wa Musal Kazimu imami wa 'Aliyyu-nir Riza imami wa Muhammadu nil Jawadu imami wa 'Aliyyu nil Hadi imami wal Hasanul 'askari imami wal Hujjatul muntazar imami ha ula'i salawatullahi 'alayhim ajma'in A'i'mmati wa sadati wa qadati wa shufa-a'i bihim atawalla wa min a'daihim atabarra'u fid dunya wal akhirati thumma i'lam ya ....... here the name of the dead person and his father should be called and thereafter it should be said: Annal laha tabaraka wa ta'ala ni'mar-Rabb wa anna Muhammadan sallal lahu 'alayhi wa Alihi ni'mar Rasul wa anna 'Aliyyabna Abi Talib wa awladahul ma'suminal A'i'mmatal ithna 'asharah ni'mal A'i'mmah wa anna ma ja'a bihi Muhammadun sallal lahu 'alayhi wa Alihi haqqun wa annal mawta haqqun wa suwala munkarin wa nakirin fil qabri haqqun wal ba'tha haqqun wan nushura haqqun wassirata haqqun wal mizana haqqun wa tatayiral kutubi haqqun wa annal jannata haqqun wan-nara haqqun wa annas sa'ata a'tiyatun la rayba fiha wa annallaha yab'athu man fil qubur. Then the following words should be said: Afahimta ya .... (here the name of the dead person should be called) and thereafter the following should be said: Thabbatakallahu bil qawlith thabit wa hadakallahu ila siratim mustaqim 'arrafallahu baynaka wa bayna awliya'ika fi mustaqarrim min rahmatih. Then the following words should be uttered: Alla humma jafil arza 'an jambayhi vas'ad biruhihi ilayka wa laqqihi minka burhana Alla humma 'afwaka 'afwaka.

636. It is recommended that the person who lowers the dead body in the grave should be Pak, bare-headed and bare-footed and he should climb out of the grave from the feet side. Moreover, persons, other than the near relatives of the deceased, should put the dust into the grave with the back side of their hands and recite the following: Inna lillahi wa innailayhi raji'un. If the dead person is a woman, her mahram and in the absence of a mahram her kinsmen should lower her in the grave.

637. It is Mustahab that the grave be square or rectangular in shape and its height equal to four fingers' span. A sign should be fixed on it for the purpose of identification and water should be poured on it, and then those present should place their hands on the grave parting their fingers and thrusting them into earth. Then recite Surah al-Qadr 7 times and pray for the forgiveness of the departed soul and say: Alla humma jafil arza 'an jam bayhi wa as'idilayka ruhahu wa laqqihi minka rizwana wa askin qabrahu min rahmatika ma tughneehi bihi 'an rahmati man siwaka.

638. It is Mustahab that when the persons who attended the funeral have departed, the guardian of the dead person or the person whom the guardian grants permission should recite the prescribed supplications for the dead person.

639. It is Mustahab that after the burial, the bereaved family is consoled, praying for their well being. However, if the condolence is given long after the event, and if it serves to refresh the sorrowful memories, then it should be avoided.

It is Mustahab that food be sent to the members of the family of the deceased for 3 days. It is, however, Makrooh to take meal with them in their homes.

640. It is also Mustahab that a person should observe patience on the death of his near ones, especially on the death of his son, and, whenever the memory of the departed soul crosses his mind, he should say: Inna lillahi wa inna ilayhi raji'un and should recite the holy Qur'an for the sake of the departed. A man should visit the graves of his parents and pray there for the blessings of Allah for himself and should make the grave solid so that it may not be easily ruined.

641. As a matter of precaution, one should refrain from scratching one's face or body, or uprooting one's hair to display the grief. However, slapping one's head or face is permitted.

642. It is not permissible to tear one's clothes on the death of anyone except on the death of one's father and brother, though the recommended precaution is that one should not tear one's clothes on their death also.

643. If a wife mourning the death of a husband scratches her face causing blood to come out, or pulls her hair, she should, on the basis of recommended precaution, set a slave free, or feed ten poor, or provide them dress. And the same applies when a man tears his clothes on the death of his wife or son.

644. The recommended precaution is that while weeping over the death of any person one's voice should not be very loud.

Namaz-e-Wahshat (Prayers to be offered for the departed soul on the night of burial)

645. It is befitting that on the first night after the burial of a dead person, two Raka'ats of wahshat prayers be offered for it. The method of offering this prayers is as follows:

In the first Raka'at, after reciting Surah al-Hamd, Ayatul Kursi should be recited once and in the second Raka'at, Surah al-Qadr should be recited 10 times after Surah-al-Hamd; and after saying the Salam the following supplication should be recited: Alla humma salli 'ala Muhammadin wa Ali Muhammad wab'ath thawabaha ila qabri ......(here the name of the dead person and his father's name should be mentioned).

646. Wahshat prayers can be offered in the night following the burial of the dead body at any time, but it is better to offer it in the early hours of the night after 'Isha prayers.

647. If it is proposed to transfer the dead body to some other town or its burial is delayed owing to some reason, the wahshat prayers should be deferred till the first night of its burial.


648. It is haraam to open the grave of a Muslim even if it belongs to a child or an insane person. However, there is no objection in doing so if the dead body has decayed and turned into dust.

649. Digging up or destroying the graves of the descendants of Imams, the martyrs, the Ulama and the pious persons is Haraam, even if they are very old, because it amounts to desecration.

650. Digging up the grave is allowed in the following cases:

  • When the dead body has been buried in an usurped land and the owner of the land is not willing to let it remain there.
  • When the Kafan of the dead body or any other thing buried with it had been usurped and the owner of the thing in question is not willing to let it remain in the grave. Similarly, if anything belonging to the heirs has been buried along with the deceased and the heirs are not willing to let it remain in the grave. However, if the dead person had made a will that a certain supplication or the holy Qur'an or a ring be buried along with his dead body, and if that will is valid, then the grave cannot be opened up to bring those articles out. There are certain situations when the exhuming is not permitted even if the land, the Kafan or the articles buried with the corpse are Ghasbi. But there is no room for details here.
  • When opening the grave does not amount to disrespect of the dead person, and it transpires that he was buried without Ghusl or Kafan, or the Ghusl was void, or he was not given Kafan according to religious rules, or was not laid in the grave facing the Qibla.
  • When it is necessary to inspect the body of the dead person to establish a right which is more important than exhumation.
  • When the dead body of a Muslim has been buried at a place which is against sanctity, like, when it has been buried in the graveyard of non-Muslim or at a place of garbage.
  • When the grave is opened up for a legal purpose which is more important than exhumation. For example, when it is proposed to take out a living child from the womb of a buried woman.
  • When it is feared that a wild beast would tear up the corpse or it will be carried away by flood or exhumed by the enemy.
  • When the deceased has willed that his body be transferred to sacred places before burial, and if it was intentionally or forgetfully buried elsewhere, then the body can be exhumed, provided that doing so does not result in any disrespect to the deceased.
:. Religious Views on Scattering Ashes and Burial at Sea
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