What is the ruling of a Muslim following the funeral procession of a non-Muslim?
Alhamdulillah, praise and thanks to Allah for the many countless blessings He has blessed us all with. Blessings and salutations to the Prophet Muhammad PBUH, his wives, his family, companions and all those that follow his teachings to the day of judgement.
One should understand that in this issue there is no evidence that could be used to decide the final decision for it. Hence, scholars have differing opinions regarding this issue. There are some who ruled it permissible while others prohibit it. Here, we include the opinions and discussions of scholars in fiqh books regarding this issue:
- First: The opinion that ruled it permissible
This opinion is based on the athar of salaf al-soleh of the companions of the Prophet PBUH and the tabi’en Radhiallahu’anhum. Among them are:
- Some of the companions of the Prophet PBUH followed the funeral procession of Harith bin Abi Rabi’ah’s mother who is a Christian. This is recorded in a narration from al-Imam Muhammad bin al-Hassan al-Syaibani in his book al-Aathar (2/178) and is also the opinion of al-Imam Abu Hanifah Rahimahullah:
أَنَّ الْحَارِثَ بْنَ أَبِي رَبِيعَةَ مَاتَتْ أُمُّهُ النَّصْرَانِيَّةُ، فَتَبِعَ جَنَازَتَهَا فِي رَهْطٍ مِنْ أَصْحَابِ النَّبِيِّ صَلَّى اللهُ عَلَيْهِ وَسَلَّمَ. قَالَ مُحَمَّدٌ: لَا نَرَى بِاتِّبَاعِهَا بَأْسًا، إِلَّا أَنَّهُ يَتَنَحَّى نَاحِيَةً عَنِ الْجَنَازَةِ، وَهُوَ قَوْلُ أَبِي حَنِيفَةَ رَضِيَ اللَّهُ عَنْهُ
“Indeed, the mother of al-Harith bin Rabi’ah who is a Christian passed away. And group of the companions of the Prophet PBUH followed her funeral procession. Then Muhamad al-Syaibani said: I don’t see (following the procession) as a transgression except when a part of the deceased body is exposed (open casket) and this is the opinion of Abu Hanifah RA.”
- Al-Sya’bi Rahimahullah said:
مَاتَتَ أُمُّ الْحَارِثِ بْنِ أَبِي رَبِيعَةَ، وَكَانَتْ نَصْرَانِيَّةً، فَشَيَّعَهَا أَصْحَابُ مُحَمَّدٍ صَلَّى اللهُ عَلَيْهِ وَسَلَّمَ. قَالَ الثَّوْرِيُّ فِي بَعْضِ الْحَدِيثِ: إِنَّهُ كَانَ يُؤْمَرُ أَنْ يَمْشِيَ أَمَامَهَا
“The mother of al-Harith bin Abi Rabi’ah died, while she is a Christian. Then, the companions of the Prophet PBUH followed the funeral procession. Al-Thauri Rahimahullah said that in come hadiths it is stated: Indeed, they are asked to walk in front of it (the deceased)”
Musannaf Abdul Razak al-Son’ani (9926)
The same is stated in Ibn Abi Syaibah in his Musannaf (11842), with different wording but the same meaning.
- From Abi Wael, he said:
مَاتَتْ أُمِّي وَهِيَ نَصْرَانِيَّةٌ فَأَتَيْتُ عُمَرَ فَذَكَرْتُ ذَلِكَ لَهُ فَقَالَ: ارْكَبْ دَابَّةً وَسِرْ أَمَامَهَا.
“My mother passed away while she is still a Christian. Thus, I went to Umar RA and informed him about it. Umar RA said: Take you animal mount and walk in front of it (the funeral procession)”
Musannaf Ibn Abi Syaibah (11844)
- Al-Imam al-Nawawi Rahimahullah state in al-Majmu’ that al-Imam al-Syafi’e Rahimahullah in Mukhtasar al-Muzani and his colleagues said that it is permissible for a Muslim to follow the funeral procession of his non-Muslim family members and to visit their graves. (See al-Majmu’ Syarh al-Muhazzab. Dar al-Fikr, 5/144)
- The same is stated for the opinion that ruled it permissible to follow the funeral procession of non-Muslims according to the qiyas (analogical deduction) that it is permissible to follow the funeral procession of a non-Muslim family member. This is stated by al-Imam Shamsuddin al-Ramli Rahimahullah in his book Nihayah al-Muhtaj. He said that the permissibility of following the funeral procession includes for one’s non-Muslim neighbours and maula (slave) and this is in accordance with the qiyas (analogical deduction) of the permissibility of visiting them. (See Nihayah al-Muhtaj ila Syarh al-Minhaj, 3/23)
- Second: The opinion that prohibits it
The evidences used for the prohibition of following the funeral procession of non-Muslims are as the following:
- According to the narration regarding the death of Abu Talib, the Prophet PBUH’s uncle where the Prophet PBUH said to Ali RA:
اذْهَبْ فَوَارِ أَبَاكَ ثُمَّ لاَ تُحْدِثَنَّ شَيْئًا حَتَّى تَأْتِيَنِي
“Go and bury your father, and then do not do anything until you come to me.”
Sunan Abu Daud (3214) and Sunan al-Nasa’ie (2006)
The Prophet PBUH just asked Ali RA to bury his father (Abu Talib) and the Prophet PBUH himself did not even attend the funeral nor did he follow the procession of his uncle.
- Al-Imam Malik Rahimahullah states his opinion in al-Mudawwanah: “For a Muslim, he should not bath his father’s body, or follow the procession, or visit the grave…” (See al-Mudawwanah. Dar al-Kutub al-‘Ilmiyyah, 1/261)
- For madhhab al-Hanbali, it is stated in Syarh al-Muntaha al-Iradat: “A Muslim should not bath the body of a non-Muslim due to the prohibition of showing muwalah (loyalty) for them for there are elements of honouring and commemorating them. It is the same as praying for them.” Furthermore, it is also said: “Muslims should not shroud, pray or follow their (non-Muslims’) procession.” (See Syarh al-Muntaha al-Iradat. ‘Alim al-Kutub, 1/347)
After analysing both opinions, we would like to state that this is a khilafiyyah issue (an issue where scholars have differing opinions about it). There are two opinions regarding this issue for there are two angles to this issue. For scholars who ruled it permissible, they look at it from the angle of al-bir wa al-ihsan (doing good and being compassionate), while scholars who prohibit it look it through the angle of muwalah (loyalty), ta’zim (honouring) and tathir (commemorating) the deceased.
As for this issue, in our opinion, it is permissible according to the evidences which are in accordance with madhhab Hanafi and Syafi’e, for it is a solution for the khilaf (difference of opinions).
However, it must fulfil the following conditions:
- One does not believe their religion as true.
- Are not involved with the religious ceremonies of the funeral procession or ceremony.
- For those who are related to the non-Muslim, such as someone who has just embraced Islam, friends, neighbours and others, we suggest to showcase akhlak islami and act as an example of the beauty of Islam itself. Demonstrating sympathy and empathy towards other people, regardless of religion according to the true principle of Islam.
Hopefully, with this explanation, we are able to be respectful with one another, helpful among friends and neighbours, comforting the sorrowful family members of the deceased.