What to do if someone dies suddenly in your house

Posted on January 22, 2014


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.
A. Praise be to Allaah.
If the person has died and the soul has departed, then his relatives have to do the following: 
(a)                   Closing his eyes
(b)                   Making du’aa’ for him
This is because of the hadeeth of Umm Salamah, who said: 
“The Messenger of Allah (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) came to see Abu Salamah when his sight had become fixed (he had passed away).
So the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him 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 (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) said:
‘Pray to Allaah only for good for yourselves, because the angels (who are present) say “amen” 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.”  
(Narrated by Muslim, Ahmad, al-Bayhaqi and others)
(c)                    They should cover him with a cloth that will cover all of his body
This is because of the hadeeth of ‘Aa’ishah (may Allaah be pleased with her), according to which the Messenger of Allaah (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) was shrouded in a striped cloak. 
(Narrated by the two Shaykhs (al-Bukhaari and Muslim) in their Saheehs, by al-Bayhaqi and others).
(d)                   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 ‘Abbaas who said:
“Whilst a man was standing at ‘Arafaah, he fell from his mount and broke his neck (or he said, he died). The Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) 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 Talbiyah.” 
(Narrated by the two Shaykhs (al-Bukhaari and Muslim) in their Saheehs, and by Abu Na’eem in al-Mustakhraj, and by al-Bayhaqi. The additional material was not narrated by al-Bukhaari).
(e)                    They 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 Hurayrah (may Allaah be pleased with him) which he attributed to the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him): ‘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 the two Shaykhs (al-Bukhaari and Muslim) – this version was narrated by Muslim, and the authors of the four Sunans. It was classed as saheeh by al-Tirmidhi, Ahmad and al-Bayhaqi from Abu Hurayrah).
(f)                     They 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.”
(Narrated by al-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.” 
(g)                    Some of them 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 (may Allaah be pleased with him) that his brother died, leaving three hundred dirhams, and leaving dependents. He said,
“I wanted to spend it on his dependents, but the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) 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 Allaah, 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).’”
(Narrated by Ibn Maajah, Ahmad and al-Bayhaqi. One of its isnaads is saheeh and the other is like the isnaad of Ibn Maajah. Al-Boosayri classed it as saheeh in al-Zawaa’id). 
It was narrated from Samurah ibn Jundub that the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) 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 (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) 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 amongst 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 Allaah.
’ 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.’”
(Narrated by Abu Dawood, al-Nasaa’i, al-Haakim, al-Bayhaqi, al-Tayaalisi in his Musnad and Ahmad. Some of them narrated from al-Shu’bi from Samurah, and some mentioned Sam’aan ibn Mushannij in between them. The former is saheeh according to the conditions of the two Shaykhs [al-Bukhaari and Muslim], as al-Haakim said, and al-Dhahabi agreed with him; the latter is saheeh only)
We ask Allaah to forgive the believing men and women. May Allaah bless our Prophet Muhammad.
[Adapted from Mukhtasar Ahkaam al-Janaa’iz by al-Albaani]