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Stories of Cloth - Fowzia: A Somali funeral

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Fowzia: A Somali funeral

Fowzia

A Somali funeral

I come from Somalia, where death rituals are very intimate and supportive. It is the duty of children to give both physical and emotional care to their parents and grandparents, particularly through illness and loss.

When someone is known to be sick or dying, friends, neighbours and relatives will visit him, greeting him, reading the Qu’ran to him and praying for him and his close family. Visitors also prepare dishes of food to be shared amongst the grieving family. Once the loved one has passed away, the body is almost immediately prepared for burial by close members of the family, men for a man and women for a woman. The deceased is tenderly washed while prayers are said over them. The body is then wrapped with white cotton cloths from foot to head and anointed with perfumes and spices, ready to be taken to the mosque for prayers.

It is forbidden for Muslims to be cremated. The body leaves the mosque draped with a green cloth, which is embroidered in gold with the name of Allah, like the one in the picture. It is carried to the graveyard for burial. This usually happens on the same day as death. A parting is made in the shroud near the right side of the face, allowing it to touch the earth directly.

Family members will then ask if their deceased relative was in debt to anyone, so that they can pay them off in order to help release their loved one’s soul into heaven. The grave will regularly be visited by the family, to pray for the soul of the one they have lost and to remind themselves of the fate that is to come to us all, acknowledging that we are all equal in the eyes of God because from dust we came and to dust we shall return.


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