If you are from Pakistan and if you have been through the unfortunate event of losing someone, then I am sure you will find the following article very relatable.
You learn about the death of a loved one. As a response, your body goes into flight mode. You look around and see everyone you love, losing themselves. You are unable to think or act rationally. Despite all this, you hold yourself together to give support to your family. To look after them and to figure out what should be done next.
Slowly you see relatives pouring in. Relatives who couldn’t care the least. Relatives you didn’t even know you had. Relatives who are just there to exchange the latest gossip. Sadly, most people are here just for the sake of formality.
You overhear people complaining about the weather, the traffic, the country’s current economy, or the pandemic. Some are those who are more interested in your household than the country, so they ask you about your college, grades, interests, hobbies or who cooks the food. If not this, there are some who are here just to give their opinions on how to wash the dead, tie the kaffan or to point out that the dead’s feet are facing the Ka’aba. It’s however, very rare that you will find someone who acts according to the demand of the situation and asks you if you are coping with the situation well. Sadly, these people only make an already difficult moment more difficult.
As you mourn, as you see your family mourn, it occurs to you that you have to arrange for the washing up of the dead, the burial services and of course for the food and drinks of all the people who are supposedly here to console you. Afterall, we care about our social conventions in every situation.
Funerals in Pakistan are more influenced by societal norms than the religion itself. The line between what is a cultural obligation and what is a religious one is pretty blurred. The family of the deceased is supposed to cater for the food and drinks of all the people who come to attend the funeral. If they don’t, society spares them no taunts.
The news of death is already very gruesome and the added obligation of providing food to the mourners is an unnecessary burden on the family. This widespread practice actually goes against Prophet (PBUH)’s instructions to the relatives, neighbors and friends to send food to the grieving family. Arranging feasts or gatherings like the ones we do in Pakistan is actually a convention from the pre-Islamic days of ignorance. The correct way is to come, offer your condolences to the family and leave immediately as these gatherings only revive the sorrows and adds to the grief and burden of the already mourning family.
Our religious teachings also forbid us to cry out loud, wail continuously or have long outbursts of grief. Here, however you will find some relatives who will actually encourage you to wail loudly or make unnecessary absurd complaints to God as they think it’s a way of venting out.
Then comes the Qul, Quran Khanis and Chaliswey all of which have no authentic approval. There is absolutely no evidence that the messenger of Allah, his noble family or any of his companions ever gathered people at the house of the deceased after a certain number of days, say 9, 10, 11, or 40, to make dua, recite the Holy Quran or perform the Tasbih. Without doubt, such commemorations are no more than innovations which have crept into our rituals.
Sadly, Muslims in Pakistan have failed to understand the objective behind funerals and have turned it into a nightmare of sort. Instead of using this tragedy as an opportunity to reflect over the reality of life, we have turned it into something that only increases the worries of the grieving family.
Different people have different ways of dealing with such traumatic situations. Some may like to distract themselves with chores while others may prefer being alone or being surrounded by their close people. It is therefore important for us to understand what the bereaving family is going through and respect their preferences. Give them space and let them know that you will always be there if they need any help.