After Christianity, Islam is the largest religious faith in the world. Presently, it is the fastest-growing faith. Islam was created by the prophet Mohammed about 600 years after the birth of Christ and the word Islam means "submission." The Koran is the holy book of the Muslim people.

An Overview of Beliefs

Islam is a monotheistic religion like Judaism and Christianity. There are two main groups or denominations of Islam, the Sunni and the Shiite. Islam is a complex religion but it can be summarized in what is known as the shahadatan ("two statements"), which is, "There is no God but God; Muhammad is the messenger of God." A recitation of this statement is all that is required to become a Muslim.

Views on Death and the After-Life

Muslims believe in the continued existence of the soul after death, and a transformed physical existence, just as Christians do. Muslims likewise believe that there is a day of judgment coming and that God will ultimately send a person to Paradise or Hell. In the Muslim cosmology Heaven is a place of worldly delights, including sexuality, and hell is described in lurid detail as a place of punishment in the Koran.

The judgment of God plays a very important role in Muslim beliefs. They believed that a final determination will be made on judgment day. If a person is destined for hell they will suffer in the graves, but if destined for heaven they will have peace until the judgment comes. This concept only applies to regular Muslim believers; the Koran teaches those who died fighting for God go immediately to heaven without any intermediary period and that all infidels (non-Muslims) go directly to hell.

Mourning and Funeral Rites

A funeral procession to the gravesite is a traditional part of Islamic funeral rites. Friends and family are expected to be a part of that procession and they are expected to offer condolences and comfort to the surviving spouse and family. One of the most encouraging things that one Muslim may share with another in this time of loss, is that they accept the death as the will of God. 

Demonstrative mourning such as wailing and shrieking is not permitted. Muslims are expected to mourn the loss of a friend or loved one for three days. A widow mourning her husband may mourn, by tradition, up to four months and 10 days.

How to Express your Condolences

It is considered polite to leave the family alone after the funeral, and after offering condolences. Family and friends will often bring food to the family of the deceased so they do not have to deal with such matters on the day of the funeral. In addition to offering food it is appropriate to send flowers to the surviving spouse after the funeral service.

Important note: The statements made about beliefs and rites are general in nature and may vary by sect, denomination, country or ethnic group. The information provided here is intended as an overview, and if you have questions about specific matters you should contact the clergy or other person conducting the funeral service. If you read anything in this section that differs from the beliefs in your tradition, please contact usso we can update this page.