Losing a close family member through death brings feelings of emptiness that no words can convey. In Islam, the official mourning period is three days, but the memories of the deceased will last forever. Knowing that Allah (swt) has the power to relieve our grief and suffering brings relief during this difficult test of our faith. Death is a test for the believer, as the pain and suffering brings one closer to Allah (swt).
Often, we forget about the families the deceased left behind—the ones who continue to live with the pain long after the final condolence bouquet has been delivered. Experiencing the death of a family member is traumatic enough, but to endure inappropriate behavior from other Muslims only prolongs the distress and further isolates the bereaved. Muslims are people of peace; this should be demonstrated through peaceful actions.
Here are five ways to help the families of the deceased and to earn the reward and pleasure of Allah (swt):
- Pray for the deceased and their family. When receiving news of death, recite: "To Allah (swt) we belong and to Him we shall return!" Pray for the deceased, asking Allah to grant them the highest level of Paradise. Pray that their grave is filled with noor (light) and the fragrance of Jannah (paradise), and to show them their place in Jannah. Pray they are resting peacefully in their graves, and that Allah eases the pain and suffering of the loved ones left behind.
- Visit the relatives of the deceased. Contrary to un-Islamic cultural and superstitious beliefs, speaking or associating with the relatives of the deceased will not unleash a death curse on you or your family. Prophet Muhammad [pbuh]visited the families and friends of the deceased.
- Express kindness in your words. Refrain from making inappropriate comments such as: "Thankfully, s/he was not married," or "Was it your fault?" or "How will you survive without your child/sibling/spouse/parent?" Remember, there will be many people who die single, or married, or with children; in youth and in old age; in sickness, in health, in accidents and even by murder. The kindest Muslims are those who ease the pain and suffering of others, as the reward for such actions comes from Allah. Blaming others for causing the death of a loved one will not bring the deceased back to life. Only Allah knows why it was his/her time of death; blaming others will only cause guilt and anxiety.
- Provide help and take action. Simple acts such as providing assistance or bringing food, or inviting them to your home, will be much appreciated as the family members often neglect themselves while grieving. Be among those Muslims who are caring and kind to others, especially during times of sadness. Often, the families of the deceased are embarrassed to ask for help, or just want to talk; offer your help.
- Be sensitive and humble. Now is the not the time to suggest a marriage partner, gossip, or talk about your own happiness. Even making remarks such as, "It is time for you to move on," or "At least you are so thin despite your loss," or "How much did you score from the inheritance?" is simply rude. It is also disrespectful to dress up as if you are celebrating a holiday while visiting the homes of the grieving families. One cannot imagine what the suffering individual is feeling, so just being there to show your support is better than saying something you will regret.
As with everything we do in this world, we should always strive to seek the reward of Allah (swt), so remember to always show kindness, especially towards those affected by the death, as it is a pain too deep for one to bear alone.