Fiqh-us-Sunnah Volume 4, Funerals and Dhikr, Fiqh 4.054A.

Section : Joining the Funeral Procession and Carrying the Coffin.

A certain etiquette is recommended while walking in a funeral procession or carrying a coffin:

1. Carrying a coffin and accompanying it to the graveyard is recommended. According to the sunnah it is preferable to go all around the coffin while carrying it. Ibn Majah, Al-Baihaqi, and Abu Daw’ud At-Tayalisi report that Ibn Mas’ud said: “If one walks in a funeral procession and carries the coffin, one should do so from all the sides of the coffin, for this is a sunnah of Prophet, peace be upon him.” But this is optional. Abu Sa’id reported that the Prophet, peace be upon him, said: “Visit the sick, and follow the funeral procession, for it will (help) remind you of the Hereafter.” This was narrated by Ahmad with a sound chain of narrators.

2. A funeral procession must proceed at a fast pace. The group reported on the authority of Abu Hurairah that the Prophet, peace be upon him, said: “Walk briskly while carrying a coffin, for if the deceased is righteous, you would be taking it to something better, and if he or she is an evil person, then you will be getting him or her off your necks.” Ahmad, Nasa’i, and others reported that Abu Bakrah said: “If you had seen us following a funeral procession along with the Prophet, peace be upon him, you would have thought that we were jogging.” Bukhari reported in his book on History that, when Sa’d ibn Mua’zh died, the Prophet, peace be upon him, walked at such a fast pace behind his funeral that our shoes came apart.”

The author of Al-Fath said: “In short, it is preferable to walk fast in a funeral, but this should not harm or affect the coffin or put to hardship those carrying the coffin or following it, because that would defeat the Islamic goal of promoting hygiene and avoiding placing undue hardship on other Muslims.” Al-Qurtubi said: “This hadith means that people should not delay the burial, because such a delay is often the result of arrogance and vanity.

3. One may walk in front of the funeral, behind it, to its right side, or left side, or close to it. There is a difference of opinion among the scholars on this point. The majority of the scholars hold that walking in front of the funeral is preferable, for the Prophet, peace be upon him, Abu Bakr, and ‘Umar used to walk in front of it, as narrated by Ahmad, and compilers of Sunan.

The Hanafi school holds that walking behind a funeral is preferable, as is indicated from the words of the Prophet, peace be upon him, concerning following a funeral.

Anas ibn Malik is of the opinion that one may walk anywhere in a funeral procession, as mentioned above in the hadith of the Prophet, peace be upon him: “A rider should ride behind the funeral, whereas one on foot may walk behind it, or in front of it, or to its right side or left side, or close to it.” Apparently there is no hard or fast rule in this regard, and the difference of opinion in this regard is quite legitimate.

Abdur Rahman ibn Abza reported that Abu Bakr and ‘Umar used to walk in front of a funeral, while ‘Ali walked behind it. When told that Abu Bakr and ‘Umar were walking in front of the funeral, ‘Ali remarked: “They both know that walking behind a funeral is better than walking in front of it, just as the prayer of a person in congregation (jama’ah) is better than the prayer of one offering it alone. But Abu Bakr and ‘Umar did so in order to make it easy for others.” This was narrated by Al-Baihaqi and Ibn Abu Shaibah. Al-Hafiz said its chain of authorities is sound.

Riding behind the funeral, without a valid excuse, is disliked in the opinion of the majority of scholars. Doing so after the burial, is not disliked, however, and is quite acceptable, as indicated by a hadith narrated by Thawban, which says that the Prophet, peace be upon him, was brought a mount to ride during a funeral, but he declined. But, when he returned after the burial and was offered a mount, he rode on it. They asked him about this (why he declined to mount during the funeral procession) and he replied: “Verily, the angels were walking with the funeral, so I did not like to ride while the angels were walking. But, when the angels left, I rode the mount.” This was narrated by Abu Daw’ud, Al-Baihaqi, and Al-Hakim, who said this hadith is sound according to the criterion of Muslim and Bukhari. Tirmizhi narrated that the Prophet, peace be upon him, walked with the funeral of Ibn Ad-Dahdah, but on his way back he rode on horseback. According to Tirmizhi this is a sound hadith.

This hadith does not contradict the other hadith in which the Prophet, peace be upon him, is reported to have said: “A rider must stay behind a funeral,” since this may imp!y that such an act is disliked, though permissible. The Hanafi school holds that there is no harm in riding, although it is better to walk unless for some valid reason one is unable to do so. And in light of the above hadith a rider should stay behind the funeral procession. Al-Khattabi said: “I know of no difference of opinion amongst scholars on the point that a rider should stay behind a funeral procession.”