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How Long After Death do Muslims have to be Buried?

Funerals and burials in the Islamic faith have their own set of rules and customs. From preparing the dead in a specific way to performing funeral prayers, there’s a lot you need to know when dealing with the dead.

One very important thing to keep in mind with Muslim funerals is when you should lay the body to rest. Can you wait a bit until all the deceased’s loved ones gather to pay their respect and pray, or is that not permissible? Is there a time limit you need to abide by? 

You’ll find all these answers and more in this article, so let’s dive in.

When Should a Muslim Be Buried?

In Islam, the burial should take place as soon as possible. Accordingly, Muslims strive to bury their dead in no more than 24 hours.

Unlike other religions, where it’s okay to delay the burial so that the deceased’s friends and relatives can gather, Islam favours a fast burial.

This partially stems from the days when a lot of diseases and sanitary issues were caused by dead bodies. So, in order to protect the living, Muslims always performed a speedy burial.

However, there were some exceptions to the rule that still apply to this day. In most cases, if the deceased is suspected of dying from an unnatural cause, the burial can be delayed.

For instance, if the Muslim was killed or if foul play is suspected, the burial can wait until the cause of death is determined. Once the suspicions have been cleared or confirmed, the body should then be buried without delay.

Is There a Time Limit on Burial?

Not per se, but it’s best to bury the deceased no more than three days after the death. 

Of course, that doesn’t apply if the body requires to be examined by forensic examiners.

For instance, when Colonel Gaddafi died, his body had to be put on display to convince people he was dead. After that, there were investigations into the cause of his death, which took more time. And there were even discussions on how his body should be buried.

Nevertheless, this rarely happens. Even when Osama bin Laden was killed, his body was washed, shrouded, and disposed of at sea in no longer than 24 hours. 

In a Nutshell

As a general rule of thumb, Muslim burials should be done as quickly as possible, preferably in no more than 24 hours. However, if the body needs to be examined in case of foul play or somesuch, the burial can be delayed until the cause of death is discovered.