Wednesday, February 01, 2006


Departure: Some Questions

Salam :o)

I attended a two day course this week on Death and Bereavement which has left me with alot to think about.

I don't intend to speak about the understanding of Death according to Islamic Traditions here as I believe that 1. I won't do it justice and 2. It has been dealt with by our Teachers in many places. It only requires for one to do a neat search and they shalt find or simply click on the pics here :o)

So what if I attended this 2-day course? Well I am pretty unorthodox in that, unlike all the smarty people I don't type my notes - instead there were many questions which emerged from the experience which I wanted to share with you folk. In a way, it is to encourage active 'thinking' on our departure and that of others.

I wrote most of this on the train in my notepad sitting next to someone typing up reviews on his laptop for the corporate he works for. Life, I thought.

We started off the session with a scenario:

You have been diagnosed with Cancer and have 3 weeks to live, what do you do?

Hmmm interesting...

Actually what do you do??!

We all answer this question individually based upon our own personal circumstances and social situations. Some of us are married; others are not; some of us are divorced with children; others are still living with their parents. We may be parents of little people; we may be carers of a sick parent -

The different settings God Almighty has placed us in are symbolic of how death is an event which affects people in different ways. So back to the question of the task - what do you do?

Most folk agreed that we would write a will. The following pointers arose for the will-writing:

Who would you like to carry out your Ghusal (washing / bathing)?

Where would you like to be buried?

Do you have children? Have you thought about what will happen to them afterwards? What would you expect from them in your absence?

And your spouse?

If you are single without children - what are your concerns for your loved ones after your departure?

Aside from the will-writing it is also worth pondering the following if 3 weeks is all that is left:

Do you need to return anyones' (borrowed) items?
Are you financially in debt?
Do you owe any missed fasts / prayers?
Are you on 'not so good' talking terms with anyone?

What are you going to do about it??

The course was very positive in exposing many concerns surrounding death and after it. It has motivated me to find out further about the intricacies of various issues around this event.

We need more people working towards the refining and tweaking of the current manner in which the event of departure is handled. This needs to be done on many levels: Spiritual / Family / Community etc

Some more pointers to arise:

For those dying in hospital, are relatives of the deceased aware what their rights are? eg many hospitals do allow the removal of tubes from the body by a relative.

From the period of time that the person dies to when they are taken for bathing in the mosque - what is happening to the body?

Do we all have sufficient financial arrangements in place for a funeral?

The Bathing (Ghusal)

Who is present during the bathing?

How many people are in the room?

Is the door closed fully to allow privacy or is it open for anyone to enter?

What environment is the body being washed in?

What is being said? Are folk chatting?

Is the temperature of the water suitable?

What adhab (etiquettes) are being displayed whilst emptying the bladder / stomach of the body? Is sensitivity shown whilst cleaning the private parts of the individual?

When washing the various parts of the body how is it being handled? Gently or with forceful scrubbing?

Is the sheet covering the body clean to begin of with? Is it new? Does it make the body appear very visible once wet?

Whilst lifting the body and putting the shroud over it, do you do what is convenient for yourself? Or what is easier for the body to cope with?

Who does the bathing in your community?

How many people in your family are familiar with the process of doing the bathing?

The trainor required a model fot the bathing and 2 bathers - and yes, the goon that I am, I volunteered.. Also because I was one of the 'lighter' bodies in the room! It was a pleasant experience to lay on a table with various sheets upon me. It helped me get closer to accepting the whole process a lot easily than I had thought so I was glad to be the possessor of a weird personality :-D

It burst many myths - Wow to know that ones' body is still shown dignity and not left naked on a cold table with strangers prodding it gave me some relief. I was very happy to know that the body is kept covered whilst being prepared for burial. Alongside the fact that warm water is used for the wash - how wonderful I thought.

Those bathing the body are requested to treat it gently and as my bather lifted my hand and rested it down on the table again (without dropping it) I was reassured that the Mercy of God Almighty really is something beyond the comprehension for my little brain.

The final rinse and perfuming the body (with a something which is a natural insect repellent) made me very pleased :)

It is very difficult to explain how beneficial the whole experience was and my suggestion for you is to get someone to conduct a 'fake bathing' on you. It made me realise that even in the last stages of your earthly life, God Almighty has commanded that full justice be done to you, and that you are still safely under His Divine Care.

We were scheduled to visit the local mosque to view the bathing facilities. Sadly, there was a funeral and we were unable to attend. However, it is something I recommend and will myself endevour to do for my belief is that such things develop a greater sense of empathy whilst supporting others. Also we should familiarise ourselves with what is to happen to us one day too.

Those left behind..

What do you say to those left behind?

How long do you keep saying it?

What support networks are needed for bereaving individuals?

Are such initiatives in place?

If your friends' parent died, how would you support your friend?

Is there financial assistance available to people whilst they are trying to sort out frozen bank accounts and paperwork?

As a community of Muslims do we visit converts who lose (Non-Muslim) relatives to offer our condolences?

Do we visit our friends from other faiths when they lose a beloved?

Socially cut off...

Do we realise how peoples' confidence can be kicked after the loss of a loved one?

Are we aware that many people may require support and assistance in basic things such as completing a form and may not have the motivation or confidence to do it after the loss of their significant other?

Many people can get socially cut off from other people and may end up feeling excluded from friends and even other family members - what is done in such circumstances?

Are we prepared to spend time thinking about the welfare of others months and years after their loss?

Bint concludes:

There is a strong need for awareness about what is to happen around the time of our departure and afterwards. These are just some of the questions which came to mind.. I have several others.

Having worked with people who have sunk into depression as a result of bereavement, I believe there is a real need for supporting bereaving individuals. We must become people of compassion as our Teachers narrate.

I hope I have given you enough to think about - and may we eventually convert the thinking into actions.
Wa alaykum as salaam :)

Hope that you are well inshaAllah *hugz*

This has been a nice read alhamdulillah.

However from my experiences when you're in the shock of bereavement no matter how prepared you are it's still difficult to go through all the motions.

I've also found that sometimes the actions/ignorance of others around you, family/friends who think that they are acting in your best interests, hinders the islamic recommendations.

A classic example is transporting the deceased 'back home'. For some reason, many muslims find it necessary to be buried in Pakistan. In fact we are advised to be buried as soon as possible. This is an issue that we should make sure our families are aware of inshaAllah.

I could go on...but I won't...

Take cares,

Wa salaam
Well, maybe I will...but at the weekend :P Hehehe
Salam Bhaji-Jaani x x x

Huggies for you too deary :-)

Shock, yes you are right.

The 'back home' issue you mention was a something I made a note of.. alongside 10-20 other fiqhi-type issues for clarification. But that wasn't the main point of my post here ie the Fiqh part.

So I must await a weekend of Bhaji-Jaanis' questions? My my deary - you will have me up to my ears in fiqhi questions :-P

Wasalam x x x
Assalamu 'alaikum sis.

Nice post and yes it has left me with a lot of thinking. InshaAllah will put it into pactise.

I didn't even realise how some of these questions are important. Funny how I havn't really planned properly for something that is going to happen for definate, SubhanAllah. Better get sorted right?!!

Love Sabeen
Walaikumaslam Sabeen

Well thank you for popping-by Camel-Land :-D Howdy?

Yes - it is a journey we all need to plan.. or at least start thinking about..

Wasalam, duas
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