No one chooses when or how we will die however, we know for a fact that it is inevitable and at one point or another, we will all go. The hope however remains that after one is gone, their family, friends and community sends them off with a befitting burial taking into consideration his/her religious beliefs as well as others cares and wishes.
The religion one is born into and one dies practicing is a large determinant of how one’s funeral is going to be performed. Many religions have various beliefs regarding death and the process that they consider to make a burial a befitting one. Majority of Ghanaians claim to be Christian and in fact available data shows that about 71.2% are Christians, 17.6% are Muslims and about 5.6% are traditionalists. In this article, GreenViews Residential brings you the processes and the ways Muslims in Ghana bury their dead loved ones.
In Islam, death is considered to be a transition from one state of existence to another called the afterlife. People who are considered to enter into this state of existence are those that live a good life by following the Islamic religious principles. A Muslim funeral is known as “Janazah” and it typically does not delay as it is conducted within 24 hours or before sundown of the passing of a deceased.
This arrangement is based on the Islamic law. For this reason, there is rarely viewing or wake keeping at the funeral. When a Muslim dies, the first thing that is done is to confirm whether he or she is truly dead. This is done by checking the vitals of the person and if in doubt, inviting a health professional to ascertain the state of the individual. After confirmation, the eyes of the corpse are closed if not closed already and family and friends are informed.
Prior to Muslim funeral, the body is washed 3 times which includes performing ablution on the corpse. This is a purification process which is referred to in Arabic as “Ghusl”. A same -Sex family member usually give the Ghusl. However some Muslim communities allow the husband or the wife of the deceased to take part in these preparations. Once cleaned and prepared, the deceased is covered in a white cloth called “Kafan”. The body is then laid upon three white cloths and usually the number of cloths used or the number of times the cloth is folded depends on the thickness of the cloth. Usually, the burial cloth is folded 3 times for males and 5 times for females. This is done so that no body part of the corpse will be seen through the cloth.
Before the body is transported to the prayer room or courtyard of the mosque the deceased is secured with ropes; one tied above the head, two tied around the body and one tied below the feet. The Family and friends of the deceased gather in the prayer room or courtyard of the mosque to perform “salat al-Janazah” (funeral prayers). Every Male must participate in the “Salat al- Janazah” but women may only participate if they wish to do so and at that point they are required to stand at the back when the prayers are being done. This prayer can be offered with or without the deceased and the final prayer is offered from the family and the community to ask for forgiveness for the deceased.
The funeral service is led by an Imam and includes prayers and readings from the Quran and if the corpse is present will be placed in front of the Imam in the direction of Mecca. After which the deceased is taken to the cemetery for burial. Traditionally only men are allowed to attend the burial though some Muslim community may allow women to attend. This is mainly because loud wailings, outbursts and outcries that are a commonplace in funerals of Christian and traditionalists in Ghana are absent during Islamic funerals since the faith frowns on that; and women are the ones who most easily give in to emotions. The grave is usually set at right angles to the direction of Mecca, with the deceased placed on their right side facing the Islamic Holy city called “Mecca”. Wood and stones are placed on top and beneath the body to prevent direct contact between the deceased and the soil.
All mourners will pour a handful of dirt on top of the grave before it is filled in. Cremation is prohibited in the Islamic belief, therefore no one is cremated. What happens after the funeral service is decided by the Islamic Faith and the family’s wishes. After a Muslim funeral service and burial, the family will typically gather in their homes and receive guests and this is to go on for 3 days however, some families extend the mourning period to 40 days based on the particular culture of the people. During this period, people go to visit the bereaved family and offer words of consolation such as “May Allah forgive this person…..” There is no loud music, noise making or dancing; just a solemn and somber atmosphere. In addition, one notable thing is that unlike funerals of other religions in Ghana, there are no dress codes. Visitor or sympathizers who wear black or red are not judged as they are considered as visitors who do not know much about the Islamic beliefs. When going to such a funeral, it is appropriate and customary to take some amount of money to give to the bereaved family as a donation or a gift.