No, A Non-muslim may not attend a Muslim funeral. However, praying the Janazah prayer is different from attending a gathering for the dead. Non-Muslim relatives and others may attend the gathering but they are not permitted to pray. Whether or not they can follow the funeral procession to the grave is a matter of debate. Some scholars permit it, and some scholars do not permit it.
Imagine a scenario where a few individuals, presumably non-Muslim, are standing in a semi-circle near a cemetery with their eyes set on a Muslim Janazah or a funeral is taking place.
How they are standing there with sadness suggests a sense of longing or grief, and you wonder why they’re standing at a distance and not joining the funeral gathering closer to the burial site.
Muslim Life Partner?
Maybe they have a personal connection to the deceased—a family member or a loved one who converted to Islam?
Perhaps while they are standing afar but facing the ceremony, it indicates they really wish to be a part of the farewell. Let’s remove the confusion.
What Does The Islamic Sources Say?
In Islamic teachings, there isn’t any prohibition barring non-Muslims from attending Muslim funeral gatherings. But since they are not Muslim, they don’t fit the criteria needed to pray the funeral prayer which is called Janazah in Arabic.
Maliki scholar Ulaysh Rahimahullah was asked about whether or not a non-Muslim can attend the funeral prayer. He answered that non-muslims may not attend the funeral prayer because funeral prayer is a part of Islam. Those who do belong to the Islamic faith may not attend such religious worship or follow the funeral procession. But they can attend other programs that are not strictly part of worship.
The scholars are of the view that non-Muslims, when visiting with genuine intentions—such as paying respects to their relatives, visiting during significant occasions, or maintaining the graves—are indeed allowed.
On the other hand, some scholars say they can follow the procession and enter the cemetery.
Shafii Scholar Ustadh Farid Dingle is of the opinion that a non-Muslim may enter the cemetery and visit a Muslim’s grave (Mawahib al Jalil, Hattab). However, they may not pray for the dead but rather only call upon Allah. He also mentioned they should dress modestly, which we will cover in detail later.
From the website of the Pejabat Mufti Wilayah Persekutuan— article Al-Kafi #1247, regarding the regulation of a non-Muslim entering the Muslim cemetery, we find the following:
There is no evidence that forbids non-Muslims from visiting a Muslim cemetery, that we could find. Additionally, we discovered the initiatives of a group of non-Muslims who collaborate to clean the grounds of a Muslim cemetery as part of an Allah SWT-recommended cooperative act of good deeds:
مَلَى الْبِرِّ وَالتَّقْنَنَوا عَلَى
“And collaborate in piety and righteousness,”
According to scholars, it is permissible for non-Muslims to accompany a Muslim funeral procession and bid farewell. (See also Syarh al-Talqin ‘ala al-Fiqh al-Maliki 4/119 and Hasyiyah al-Khurasyi ‘ala Mukhtasar al-Khalil 2/183, Minah al-Jalil 1/534)
Reasons For Non-Muslims Attending A Muslim Funeral
There are several possible reasons why non-Muslim members of the community may want to join a Muslim funeral.
It could be one of their Muslim friends or their family members who converted. They may not even be related, but they want to show respect to a member of their locality.
Both the deceased’s “new” Muslim family and their biological relatives go through a difficult emotional journey when a loved one passes away, especially if they have embraced Islam.
The familial love ties endure despite the conversion, and both parties feel a great deal of loss.
Upon the death of a Muslim convert, the Muslim relatives and the people in charge of the funeral need to invite the deceased’s non-Muslim biological family. With this gesture, the two families’ shared grief is acknowledged along with their lasting relationships.
They can pay tribute to their deceased family member by attending the funeral program but not the prayer, which provides comfort, closure, and an opportunity to say goodbye for the last time.
The responsibility now lies in sharing this knowledge and extending invitations, ensuring that no grieving non-Muslim has to endure the pain of standing at a distance, wanting to bid farewell to their loved ones but feeling unsure of their place in the ceremony.
It’s about fostering understanding, empathy, and inclusivity, ultimately honoring the departed and easing the hearts of those who mourn their loss.
For the benefit of the non-Muslim community in the UK, the Muslim Burial Council of Leicester published a pamphlet titled “Attending a Muslim Funeral—A Guide for Non-Muslims.” Maybe other countries may want to do the same for the convenience of the non-Muslims.
Understanding the Context
Although the Islamic tradition observes certain customs and manners, it welcomes anyone who would like to participate in the memory of the deceased. It is not against Islamic teachings for non-Muslims to attend funerals.
Instead, they encourage community solidarity in times of loss, acknowledging the shared humanity in grief and the importance of offering condolences and support across religious boundaries.
Muslim Funeral Etiquette for Non-Muslims
For non-Muslims intending to attend a Muslim funeral, there are certain etiquettes to be mindful of:
Muslim Funeral Dress Code: Dressing modestly is crucial. For men, this means attire such as shirts and trousers, while women are advised to wear ankle-length skirts or dresses, accompanied by a long-sleeved, high-necked top and a headscarf.
Respectful Conduct: It’s essential to observe respectful behavior, refraining from performing rituals of other religions or any action that might be perceived as disrespectful within the Islamic context.
Understanding the Rituals: Familiarizing oneself with the proceedings of the funeral, such as the funeral prayer, the procession to the grave, and the moments of final prayers at the graveside, helps in respectfully participating or observing.
Significance of Muslim Funerals
In Islamic tradition, the funeral holds profound spiritual and communal significance.
The process involves swift burial—usually within 24 hours of death—emphasizing the transient nature of life and the importance of honoring the deceased promptly.
The rituals, from the washing and shrouding of the body to the funeral prayer and burial, are intimate and largely performed by selected relatives and community members.
However, observers, including non-Muslims, are welcome to attend and witness these rituals, expressing solidarity and offering support.
In many cases, non-Muslims might not be aware of their ability to attend a Muslim funeral or the appropriate conduct to follow.
It is incumbent upon the Muslim community to extend invitations and disseminate information about the permissibility and guidelines for non-Muslim attendance.
This proactive approach fosters inclusivity and ensures that grieving non-Muslims can participate in bidding farewell to their loved ones within the Muslim tradition.
The Islamic tradition, while rooted in specific practices and rituals, inherently values compassion, unity, and empathy in times of mourning.
Non-Muslims can attend Muslim funerals, providing solace and solidarity to the bereaved, as long as they adhere to the respectful customs and etiquettes outlined by the tradition.
In embracing inclusivity, we honor the memory of the departed and demonstrate the shared humanity in grief across diverse religious backgrounds.