The loss of a loved one is a time when a person may be overwhelmed with grief, and many customs surrounding bereavement reflect the depth of the feeling of loss. Wailing, eulogizing (i.e. praising the deceased excessively) and tearing ones garments are all customs which were well known at the time of Jâhiliyyah, and are still common among some Muslims. Such conduct is not permitted in Islâm, as the believer is required to face bereavement, like all the other trials of life, with patience.
It is permitted to cry or weep, softy, before death, at the time of death, and after the person has died. According to ash-Shâfiî, however, it is makrûh to cry after the person has died, but permissible before the soul has departed.
The correct opinion is that crying is permitted both before and after death. The evidence for this is the hadîth narrated by Jâbir ibn Abdullâh (RA) in which he said: My father died at the battle of Uhud, and I began to weep. The people told me to stop, but the Messenger (SAAS) never asked me to stop. Then my aunt Fâtimah began to weep too, and the Prophet (SAAS) said:
| It does not matter whether you cry or not, the angels kept shading him until they ascended with his soul (agreed upon).
Ibn Abbâs (RA) reported that when Ruqayyah (RA), the daughter of the Prophet (SAAS), died, the women started to cry, and Umar (RA) began to whip them to make them stop. The Prophet (SAAS) told him: O Umar, leave them alone and let them cry. To the women he said: Go ahead and cry, but avoid the crying of the shaytân Whatever comes from the eye and heart is from Allâh and is a sign of mercy, and whatever comes from your hand and your tongue is from the shaytân. (Ahmad)
A number of sound ahâdîth describe the Prophet (SAAS) weeping on a number of occasions when someone he loved had died. When the Prophet (SAAS) visited the tomb of his mother he wept, and caused others to weep. When he was burying the martyr Uthmân ibn Madhun (RA) after Uhud, he kissed him and his tears fell on Uthmâns face. When he gave the news of the death of Jafar (RA) and his companions in the battle against the Romans at Mutah, he spoke with tears streaming down his face.
Another sound report describes how Abû Bakr (RA) wept when he kissed the Prophet (SAAS) after he had died. The ahâdîth that forbid crying should be interpreted as referring to the kind of crying that is accompanied by eulogizing and wailing.
Eulogizing and wailing
Eulogizing the dead and wailing in grief are harâm, according to Ahmad, ash-Shâfiî and others. In a hadîth narrated from Abdullâh ibn Masûd (RA), that the Prophet (SAAS) said:
| He is not one of us who strikes himself on the cheeks, rends his garment and behaves like the people of Jâhiliyyah (al-Bukhârî and Muslim).
Abû Mâlik al-Asharî (RA) said: The Prophet (SAAS) said:
| There are four habits which my Ummah has, which are from the Jahiliyyah. My Ummah will never rid itself of them. They are: seeking pride in noble descent; slandering one another by casting doubts one ones lineage; seeking rain through astrology; and wailing.
In another hadîth, the Prophet (SAAS) said that if a woman practices the custom of wailing, and does not repent before she dies, on the Day of Resurrection she will be raised with clothes of tar and a shield of scabs. (Muslim)
Abû Mûsâ (RA) said: The Prophet (SAAS) said:
| The deceased person suffers because of the wailing of the living. When the wailing woman says, What a great loss! I have lost my right arm, the one who clothed me, the deceased will be pulled up sharply and asked: Are you her right hand? Are you her support? Are you the one who clothed her? (Ahmad).
There is no doubt that wailing and eulogizing are harâm. How could it be otherwise, when they indicate discontent with ones Lord and contradict patience? Behaving this way harms oneself too, when one slaps ones face, pulls out ones hair, prays to Allâh to take ones soul, wastes possessions by tearing ones clothes, complains of injustice from Allâh and praises the deceased with qualities that he did not possess. Any of these would be sufficient grounds for the total prohibition of wailing and eulogizing.
Saying a few words
It is permissible to say a few words when crying over a deceased person, so long as these words are true, and are not accompanied by wailing or expression of discontent with the decree of Allâh. Such brief words do not contradict patience, and are not harâm. Anas (RA) reported that Abû Bakr (RA) entered upon the Prophet (SAAS) after he had passed away, put his hands on his temples, kissed him between the eyes and said: O my Prophet, O my dearest friend, O my beloved. (Ahmad)
Anas (RA) reported that when the Prophet (SAAS) became very ill, he started to lose conciousness. Fâtimah (RA) said, How great is the distress of my father! He said, There will be no more distress for your father after today. When the Prophet (SAAS) passed away, she said, O my father who answered the call of his Lord, O my father whose destination is Paradise, O my father, to Jibrîl will tell the news of your death. After the Prophet (SAAS) had been buried, she said, O Anas, how could you bear to bury the Prophet and cover him with dust? (al-Bukhârî)
When his son Ibrâhîm died, the Prophet (SAAS) said, We are very sad for your death, O Ibrâhîm.This does not indicate discontent with the decree of Allâh or complaining against Allâh. Such statements are no more than crying or weeping.
The deceased person suffers because of peoples wailing over him
A sahîh hadîth narrated from Umar ibn al-Khattâb (RA) and his son, and al-Mughîrah ibn Shubah indicates that a deceased person suffers because of peoples wailing over him. There should be no problem in understanding this hadîth, and it should not be seen as contradicting the Qurân or the basic principles of Sharîah. It does not mean that a man can be punished because of anothers deeds. The Prophet (SAAS) did not say that the deceased person will be punished because of his familys crying over him. What he said was that the deceased suffers because of that, meaning that it hurts him. Similarly, a dead person in the grave might suffer when a person in a neighbouring grave is being punished, just as in the life it hurts him to see his neighbour being punished. So when the family of a deceased person cries, wails and eulogizes him, like the people of Jâhiliyyah used to do, the deceased person will be hurt in his grave because of it. This is the suffering that is referred to in the hadîth.