Ahmad has reported that Waqid ibn ‘Amr ibn Sa’d ibn Mu’azh said: -I attended a funeral procession in the tribe of Banu Salimah. I stood up on seeing the funeral procession. Thereupon Naf’i ibn Jubair said to me: ‘Sit down. I will give you the reason for this. Mas’ud ibn Al-Hakim Az-Zurrqi told me that he heard ‘Ali ibn Abi Talib saying: -The Prophet, peace be upon him, commanded us to stand up upon seeing a funeral procession, but later on he would remain seated, and bade us to do the same.” – Muslim has reported it in these words: “We saw the Prophet, peace be upon him, standing, so we stood. Then he sat down, and we too sat. Tirmizhi said: ‘This hadith from ‘Ali is sound, and it includes four of the successors of the Companions who related it successively. According to some people of knowledge this is the common practice.”
Ash-Shafi’i said: -This is the most authentic report on the subject. This hadith abrogates the one cited previously which says: ‘Stand up when you see a funeral procession.’ – Ahmad said: -One may or may not stand up for a funeral procession, depending on one’s preference. He argues that the Prophet, peace be upon him, used to stand up for a funeral, but later on he would remain seated.’ This is also the opinion of Ishaq ibn Ibrahim. Ahmad, Ishaq ibn Hubaib, and Ibn Al-Majishun of the Maliki school.
An-Nawawi said: “Considering all these opinions, standing up upon seeing a funeral procession is desirable.” Al-Mutawalli and Ahmad also hold this view.
Ibn Hazm said: “Standing up upon seeing a funeral procession is recommended, even if it is a funeral of a disbeliever or a pagan, until the coffin is placed on the ground or disappears from sight. But if someone remains seated there is no harm. Those who hold it as a desirable act cite what is related by the group on the authority of Ibn ‘Umar who reported from ‘Amir ibn Rabi’ah that the Prophet, peace be upon him, said: “When you see a funeral procession stand up for it, and remain standing until it disappears from sight or (the coffin) is placed down on the ground.” Ahmad said: “Whenever Ibn ‘Umar saw a funeral procession he would stand up for it and would remain standing until it passed by.”
Sahl ibn Hanif and Qais ibn Sa’d reported that they were sitting in Qadisiyyah (A town in Syria) and a funeral procession passed by them. On seeing it both of them stood up for it. They were told it was the funeral of a non-Muslim. They said: -Once when a funeral procession was passing by, the Prophet, peace be upon him, stood up for it. And when told that it was funeral procession of a Jew, he exclaimed: ‘Does he (a Jew) not possess a soul?” (Bukhari and Muslim) Ibn Mas’ud and Qais used to stand up for a funeral procession.
The wisdom behind standing, according to Ahmad, Ibn Hibban and Al-Hakim, as stated in a hadith related from the Prophet, peace be upon him, is “to show respect to Him Who seizes the souls” or in the words of Ibn Hibban “as a mark of respect to Allah Who seizes the souls.”
In short, there is disagreement on this issue among the scholars. Some disapprove of standing for a funeral procession, while others prefer it. Some leave it to the individual’s discretion. Each of these scholars supports his stand with specific arguments, and one may follow any of these opinions.