Convert Issues: American-Muslim Death Preparation
It may be uncomfortable to think about at times, and it may not be something we want to talk about, but the reality is we will all die. Allah says in the Quran in Surah 29:57 “Every soul shall have taste of death; In the end to us shall ye be brought back”.
Muslim immigrants in America and their next generations come from lands and cultures that are familiar with the process of Islamic funerals and burials. When a Muslim from that background dies more often than not there is a family, or at least an ethnic community, to step in and take care of matters and comfort the family. The situation with converts and our families is often much more complicated.
The Non-Muslim Family at The Time of Death
If we are single, or married to a non-Muslim, and die the responsibility for the burial is with the family. If that family is not Muslim they may not be familiar with the Islamic laws regarding this matter. Often times the family has good intentions: but buries their child or family member the only way they know how- as a Christian with a funeral in the church. Other families, who may have been hostile to the conversion to Islam in the first place, maliciously either bury the dead family member as a Christian or at the minimum deny their family member their rights as a Muslim. Sadly, I have witnessed several good Muslim brothers, who were regulars in the lines of salat, not buried as Muslims. One, who I remember vividly, was buried with a big cross on his casket.
In order to avoid this we must have an agreement with our family and make sure they know the Islamic rules regarding death and burial and have the contact information for your local masjid or whoever you prefer handle your burial. This should be in the form of an Islamic Will and fulfilling the legal requirements of whatever state you live in.
Announcing the Death
Another issue we as American-Muslim converts face today, when few are living in a jamaat with bayah creating communal leadership and responsibilities, is that many are isolated from the community. In the event of a long-term illness they may not be able to attend the masjid for a long period of time and may die without the knowledge of the community. Again, this is something I have seen happen. There have been brothers buried as Muslims, who had many Muslim friends, and there was no one there to attend the janazah. How can this be avoided?
- Each masjid having an assigned person to keep in touch with the sick and lead visitations to the sick. In the event you haven’t heard from someone in a while, even if they are not sick, they can investigate.
- Brothers carrying in their wallets, and sisters in their purses, and keeping a copy with their families, the names of area Muslims from all of the different religious, social, and geographical circles they know to ensure a large turnout to the janazah and communal support for the family in their time of need.
- Local email groups, Facebook pages, and twitter accounts, announcing sicknesses and deaths. These can be used to not only call the believers to prayer: but to also help look after the family after the time of death, especially if children are involved or relatives are in poverty.
- Here is an example for St. Louis and myself and you can tailor this to your area
Name: Umar Lee
West Florissant Masjid
Northwest Islamic Center
Dar al Islam
Old Geraldine Crew
St. Louis Muslim Cabbies
Out of Area:
Each of those contacted when in turn contact people. The list with all of these phone numbers and email addresses would be with someone responsible enough to call and contact everyone on the list and to send the info to the local Facebook and Twitter pages.
In the event the dead believer does not have the funds for burial this could also be used to raise the needed money