Every person has to taste death some day or the other. Death keeps a perfect calendar and is never untimely. It comes at the appropriate time and at the place specified by Allah the most exalted. Nobody can escape death. This is why some people say death is the greatest reality of life.
When a person dies, his relatives and friends are grieved. People express their grief in different ways. Some shed tears, some wail, some scratch their chests with their nails, some slap their face and forehead, some even tear off their clothes.
Islam being a complete and perfect code of conduct has laid down guidelines even for mourning a death. How did the most revered Prophet (SAW) mourn the death of His beloved son Ibrahiem (RA)?
Anas bin Malik (RA) says, “We went with Allah’s Messenger (SAW) to the blacksmith Abu Saif, who was the husband of the wet-nurse of Ibrahiem (RA), the son of the Holy Prophet (SAW). Allah’s messenger (SAW) took Ibrahiem, kissed him, smelled him and later we entered Abu Saif’s house and that time Ibrahiem was breathing his. The eyes of Allah’s messenger started shedding tears.” Abdul Rehman bin Auf (RA) said, O Allah’s Messenger (SAW) even you are weeping!” He said, “ O Ibn Auf this is mercy.” Then He wept more and said, “ The eyes are shedding tears and the heart is grieved, and we will not say except what pleases our Lord. O Ibrahiem! Indeed we are grieved by your separation.” (Al Bukhari).
The most revered Prophet (SAW) did not wail. Of course he shed tears out of mercy. “The deceased who is wailed over is tortured for that wailing” (Narrated by Al Mughira and reported by Bukhari). However, Aisha (RA) holds a different view. After the death of Umer (RA), Aisha (RA) said, “ May Allah be merciful to Umer (RA). By Allah, the Allah’s messenger (SAW) did not say that a believer is punished by the weeping (crying aloud) of his relatives. But he said Allah increases the punishment of a disbeliever because of the weeping (aloud) of his relatives.” (Al Bukhari).
However, one needs not get confused. The most revered Prophet (SAW) has strictly forbidden wailing over the deceased and whatever has been forbidden should be avoided. Even if the deceased is not punished for the wailing of his relatives, it is a detested act and can win the wailing person a place in hell (for disobeying the most revered Prophet (SAW).
Similarly the most revered Prophet (SAW) has forbidden slapping one’s face. “He who slaps his cheeks, tears his clothes and calls to or follows the ways and traditions of the days of ignorance is not from us.” (Al Bukhari). Another hadith clears the point. Abu Musa (RA) narrates that he got seriously ill, fainted and could not reply his wife while he was lying with his head in her lap. When he came to his senses, he said, “I am innocent of those of whom Allah’s Messenger (SAW) was innocent. Allah’s Messenger (SAW) is innocent of the woman who cries aloud (or slaps her face) and who shaves his head and tears off her clothes (on the falling of a calamity). (Al Bukhari).
The philosophy behind forbidding wailing, slapping the face or tearing off the clothes etc is to strengthen their belief in Allah the most exalted and to invoke His blessings. “It is He Who gives life and to Whom shall everything return” (Al Quran). A believer must believe in this verse and when he does so, Allah showers on him His blessings.