Saudi Arabia and Burying Their Dead

Most religions will have set procedures and rituals when it comes to that sensitive time in burying a loved one who has passed on. There are indeed specific rituals as well as customs which are followed when burying a muslim loved one in Saudi Arabia.

I am not an expert on the subject but will present the basic procedures as a way of informing those who may not be aware of these rites and have Muslim friends or family. To begin with, unlike some faiths primarily in Christianity, when a muslim dies, it is preferred for the body to be buried as soon as possible and usually within 24 hours of passing. If necessary, autopsies may be performed but the emphasis is on if necessary.

In preparation for burial the body will be washed and shrouded. It should be noted that this also includes shaving the body, particularly in the case of a male. A muslim is to be buried similar in the same manner in which he or she appeared on this earth – clean shaven. And only those closest to the deceased would be entrusted and undertake such a private final act. The body will also be washed in a similar manner as when a muslim makes ablutions for prayer. The body will be shrouded in clean white sheets which are referred to as kafan.

Once the body has been prepared, the deceased will be transported to a site where funeral prayers will be said. These prayers are commonly held outdoors in a courtyard or public square. Many muslims request that there final prayers be said inside the walls of the Haram (Grand Mosque). Those close to the decease and others wishing to show respect will gather at the time of the funeral prayers. However in many Saudi families it is not unusual that it is the men only who participate in the funeral prayers as well as the actual funeral where the deceased is buried.

It is preferred for a muslim to be buried in a muslim cemetery where he or she died rather than need to be transported to another city or country and therefore embalming the body. At the cemetery, the body will be placed in a simple grave. It is typical for graves to not be marked with tombstones in Saudi Arabia. And again, women are prohibited from entering cemetaries in Saudi Arabia so they are not present at the time of the actual burial. Nor are they allowed to come at a later date and pay respects at the gravesite. This is not a common practice in Saudi Arabia as compared to other countries and other faiths.

Upon the death of a loved one, a three day mourning period goes into effect. During this period the family and loved ones observe increased devotions as well as receive visitors who wish to express their condolences. Segregation continues to be upheld while homes are opened up to receive visitors.


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