Another time the husband of a friend of mine, another ex-pat like myself, was killed in a freak accident. As I drove to the hospital to where she was waiting for his body to be released, I felt such a conflict of emotions. I didn’t know her that well, and felt that I would only upset her if I saw her by blubbering away on her shoulder. As I walked around to the end of the hospital building to the garden behind where she was sitting under some trees with a few friends, and I found, to my surprise that, once I had greeted her and kissed her and cried a little, I calmed down in her presence and found an immense feeling of peace. The next day another friend, also an ex-pat, rang me and said she wanted to visit the widow, but was afraid that she might upset her. I encouraged her to go and told her that it would help her more than the widow. This bereaved woman received immense support from her neighbours and people who came to know of her plight, as well as her friends….. and friends of her friends!
However, there are some things I don’t like in relation to the funeral traditions here in Algeria, and these are the un-Islamic traditions that have crept in, such as having a “do” on the 40th day, ornate gravestones for the grave, visiting the graves on the Eid day of celebration and other bidah (innovation) etc. etc. In Islam the people should support the bereaved family with food etc. but here in Algeria, like some other Muslim countries, it is the bereaved family that has to feed the visitors for at least 3 days, and this can put a tremendous strain on the family at a time when they can least cope with it, even if it is usually the extended family that do the cooking and serving. Sometimes the women of the deceased do all the cooking, which in one way seems rather hard, but in another, maybe it is a way of coping with the first moments of grief, and normally family members rally around and help anyway.
In Ireland when there has been a bereavement in my family people usually bring dishes and plates of sandwiches, scones etc for the first day or so, and the body is normally buried quite quickly, within a couple of days of death. On the day of the funeral the family do generally provide food in the form of sandwiches and soup especially for those who may have traveled from afar, and often this food is provided by a local pub, served in a side room and paid by the family of the deceased. So I suppose it’s not so different in many ways…..except for the pub of course!
My husband and his brother were winding up his mother one day and told her that they would not feed anyone at her funeral – that they would spend the money on something else…..maybe they would buy a new car with the money instead. She nearly had an apoplexy at the thought of all those people coming from far and wide to her funeral and not getting fed!
They also can do the whole wailing and screaming thing, which is upsetting to watch and also against Islamic tradition. The Prophet, Muhammad (SAWS) said “Whoever beats the cheeks (i.e slaps himself), cleaves the (outer) garment and cries out in the manner of Jahiliyyah (i.e Pre Islamic Period) is not one of us.” (Al-Bukhari (1298), and Muslim (103). When my brother-in-law died (Rahimullah) soon after we arrived in Algeria, a woman started crying loudly at his funeral. She wasn’t even related to him, but they often consider it a sign of respect and love to do so. Eventually my mother-in-law asked her to stop. That doesn’t mean to say that we are not supposed to weep and be upset – “Whatever the eye or the heart may produce is from Allah and out of mercy, but whatever the hand or the tongue may produce is from the Devil.” (Musnad Ahmad (1/237, 238, 335). “The hand or the tongue” referring, in this instance to pulling and tearing of the clothes and slapping the face and screaming.
I can hear the clock ticking, but instead of going into top gear to get ready for my “wake up call” I feel almost paralysed with the enormity of it all. How much I want to do, how little I am doing, how much I KNOW I should be doing. I love writing lists, and my eldest daughter and I had an interesting discussion one day about this love of mine. We have visions of the Angel of Death coming to take my soul and me saying “Oh no! I haven’t finished writing my lists yet – never mind do anything on them!!!” Funny…… but also too realistic and feasible for my liking!