Islamic Laws

Salat al-Mayyit (ritual prayer for the dead)

By: Hojjat al-Islam Muhsin Qara’ati
When a Muslim, even if he is a child, dies, prayer is to be performed for his corpse after the ritual bathing {ghusl al-mayyit} and enshrouding {kafan} are done. Although it is called salat al-mayyit {prayer for the dead}, in reality it is nothing more than supplication, because it has no ruku‘, sujud, tashahhud, and salam.
To perform ablution {wudhu} or dry ablution {tayammum}, or taking a bath {ghusl} is not a prerequisite for its performance. The physical purity of the person praying is not also required though it is better to observe all the conditions for prayer.
It is better to perform this rite in congregation.
To offer prayer for the corpse of a Muslim is wajib kifa’i, which means that it is incumbent upon all Muslims, and if a Muslim or a group of Muslims do so, the rest are excused.
This prayer requests mercy and forgiveness for the dead one. As such, it is better for the friends and relatives of the deceased and the believers to be informed to participate therein, and pray for him.
This prayer brings mercy to the dead one as well as forgiveness for the sins of the persons praying.[1][616]
Usually, in offering this prayer certain recommended {mustahabb} supplications and statements are recited. The obligatory things, however, which are necessary for every Muslim to know, are the following: Salat al-mayyit consists of five takbirs.
After the first takbir, “Ashhadu an la ilaha illallah wa anna Muhammadan rasulullah” {I bear witness that there is no god but Allah and that Muhammad is the Messenger of Allah} is recited.
After the second takbir, “Allahumma salli ‘ala Muhammad wa ali Muhammad” {O Allah! Send blessings on Muhammad and the progeny of Muhammad} is recited.
After the third takbir, “Allahumma ’ghfir li’l-mu’minina wa’l-mu’minat” {O Allah! Forgive the believing men and women} is recited.
After the fourth takbir, “Allahumma ’ghfir li-hadha (or li-hadhihi) al-mayyit” {O Allah! Forgive this dead (male or female as the case may be)} is recited.
After the fifth takbir, the prayer is finished.
The person praying for the dead body must face the qiblah and place the corpse in the lying position in front of him in such a manner that the head of the dead body is on the right side of the one praying while the feet are on his left side.
The person praying must not be far from the corpse, but if the prayer is in congregation, there is no problem if others are far from the dead body, provided the connection between those who are praying is maintained.
If the prayer for the dead Muslim is not offered (intentionally or out of forgetfulness), or it is found out later that the prayer offered was invalid, it must be offered near his grave after the burial.

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