Death · Q & A

What to do when someone dies






Q. What do the relatives of the deceased have to do if their relative dies suddenly? This scenario happens often in every family, and many people do not have the knowledge of what is prescribed in the Islamic Sharee’ah concerning this. Please tell us, with the relevant evidence, the correct way to deal with this situation, so that if any of us are faced with this situation, we will not fall into bid’ah or do anything wrong.

Ans. Praise be to Allah

If the person has died and the soul has departed, then his relatives have to do the following:

  • Close His Eyes and Make Du’a for Him 

This is because of the hadeeth of Umm Salamah radhiAllahu ‘anha who said, “The Messenger of Allah salAllahu ‘alayhi wa sallam came to see Abu Salamah when his sight had become fixed (he had passed away). So the Prophet salAllahu ‘alayhi wa sallam closed his eyes and said, ‘When the soul is seized and it leaves the body, the eyes follow it.’ Some of Abu Salamah’s family wept and wailed, whereupon the Prophet said, ‘Pray to Allah only for good for yourselves, because the angels (who are present) say aameen to whatever you utter.’ Then he said, ‘O Allah! Forgive Abu Salamah; raise his station among those who are rightly-guided; and take good care of his family that he has left behind. O Lord of the Worlds! Forgive him and us, make his grave spacious, and put light therein for him.’” [Muslim, Ahmad, Bayhaqi and others]

  • Cover Him Up

The relatives should cover the deceased with a cloth that will cover all of his body. This is because of the hadeeth of ‘Aa’ishah radhiAllahu ‘anha, according to which the Messenger of Allah was shrouded in a striped cloak. [Bukhari and Muslim, Bayhaqi and others]

This applies in the case of one who does not die in a state of ihraam; the person who dies in ihraam should not have his head or face covered. This is because of the hadeeth of Ibn ‘Abbas radhiAllahu ‘anhu who said, “While a man was standing at ‘Arafaah, he fell from his mount and broke his neck (or he said, he died). The Prophet salAllahu ‘alayhi wa sallam said, ‘Wash him with water and lotus leaves, and shroud him in two cloths’  (according to another report, ‘… in his two cloths [which he was wearing for ihraam]’)  ‘… and do not perfume his body, and do not cover his head [or his face], for he will be resurrected on the Day of Resurrection reciting the Talbeeyah.’

[Narrated by Bukhari and Muslim, by Abu Na’eem in al-Mustakhraj, and by al-Bayhaqi. The additional material was not narrated by al-Bukhari]

  • Hasten to Bury Him

The relatives should hasten to prepare him and take him out, if it is obvious that he is dead.

This is because of the hadeeth of Abu Huraira radhiAllahu ‘anhu which he attributed to the Prophet salAllahu ‘alayhi wa sallam, ‘Hasten to bury the deceased, for if he was righteous, then you are taking him to something good, and if he was otherwise, then it is an evil of which you are relieving yourselves.’” [Narrated by Bukhari and Muslim]

  • Burial Should Take Place in the City of Death

The relatives should bury him in the city or country where he died, and not move him elsewhere, because that would contradict the haste in burying that is enjoined in Islam.

Hence when a brother of ‘Aa’ishah died in Wadi al-Habashah, and he was moved from the place where he had died, she said, “The only thing that upset me (or grieved me) was that I wished that he had been buried in the place where he died.” [Bayhaqi with a saheeh isnaad]

Al-Nawawi said in al-Adhkaar, “If he (the dying person) leaves instructions that he be moved to another land [for burial], those instructions should not be carried out, because moving the deceased [to another land for burial] is haraam according to the correct view of the majority, and was clearly stated by those who examined the matter in depth.”

  • Pay Off His Debts

MORE: D’uas for Paying Off Debt

Some of the relatives should hasten to pay off his debts from his money, even if that means paying all that is left. If he did not have any wealth, then the state should pay on his behalf, if he had tried his best to pay off his debts. If the state does not do that, and some people volunteer to do that, then that is OK.

It was narrated from Sa’d ibn al-Atwal radhiAllahu ‘anhu that his brother died, leaving three hundred dirhams, and leaving dependents. He said, “I wanted to spend it on his dependents, but the Prophet salAllahu ‘alayhi wa sallam said, ‘Your brother is being detained by his debt, so go and pay it off for him.’ So I went and paid it off, then I came and said, ‘O Messenger of Allah, I have paid it off, except for two dirhams which a woman claimed (were owed to her), but she had no proof.’ He said, ‘Give them to her, because that is her due (or, because she is speaking the truth).’”  [Ibn Majah, Ahmad and Bayhaqi]

It was narrated from Samurah ibn Jundub that the Prophet salAllahu ‘alayhi wa sallam prayed the funeral prayer (according to one report, he prayed the Fajr prayer), and “when he had finished he said, ‘Is there anybody here from the family of so and so?’ The people remained silent, because whenever he brought anything up, they would keep quiet at first. He said that three times, and no one answered. Then a man said, ‘Here he is.’ A man stood up and came, dragging his lower garment, from the back of the assembly. The Prophet salAllahu ‘alayhi wa sallam said, ‘What kept you from answering me the first two times? I did not mention your name except for a good reason. So-and-so – a man from among them – is being kept by his debt from Paradise. If you wish, you may ransom him, or if you wish, you may leave him to the punishment of Allah.’ If only you had seen his family and those who knew of his affairs getting up and praying off his debts, until there was no one left who could make any demands from him.’” [Abu Dawood, an-Nasaa’i, al-Hakim, Bayhaqi, al-Tayaalisi in his Musnad and Ahmad]

We ask Allah to forgive the believing men and women. May Allah bless our Prophet Muhammad salAllahu ‘alayhi wa sallam and allow us to follow his Sunnah, aameen.

Adapted from Mukhtasar Ahkaam al-Janaa’iz by al-Albaani.

Originally posted at

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