The calico-covered corpse is gently lowered into the grave. Loving hands of sons and brothers receive the body of their loved one and place it in the narrow pit. The strips of plank are placed firmly next to each other. The last plank is placed leaving a dark and lonely grave under it. Spades are grabbed and heaps of sand come crashing down from all directions. However, all around the grave, business goes on as usual.

While the most stark reminder of death is right in front of the eyes, the latest car on the market, the rand/dollar exchange and other gossip continues among many of those present. While they patiently wait for the ‘faatihah’ to commence, the time is passed by idle gossip. Carrying the janaazah on our shoulders and witnessing the deceased being lowered into the grave also does not remind us of our own death. What then will remind us of that moment (which could be extremely soon) when we will breathe our last?

Rasulullah (sallallahu ‘alaihi wasallam) is reported to have said: “Remember excessively that which severs all pleasures — death.” (Sunan Tirmizi #2307) The best reminder of death is the graveyard itself. Hence Rasulullah (sallallahu ‘alaihi wasallam) has greatly encouraged that one should regularly visit the graveyard. While this sunnah of Rasulullah (sallallahu ‘alaihi wasallam) is unfortunately rarely practised, at least we get an opportunity to visit the graveyard when attending a funeral. However, this occasion of remembering death is also wasted gossiping.

The condition of Rasulullah (sallallahu ‘alaihi wasallam) when attending a funeral is clearly described in the following hadeeth of Baraa’ (radhiyallahu ‘anhu). He says: “Once we went with Rasulullah (sallallahu ‘alaihi wasallam) to attend the funeral and burial of a person. When we reached there, Rasulullah (sallallahu ‘alaihi wasallam) sat by the side of a grave and wept so profusely that the ground became wet with his tears. He then said: ‘Prepare yourself for (your entry in) the grave.’” (Sunan Ibni Maajah #4195)

Rasulullah (sallallahu ‘alaihi wasallam) has also instructed us as to what we should be doing when attending a janaazah. Rasulullah (sallallahu ‘alaihi wasallam) once said to the Sahaabah (radhiyallahu ‘anhum) when they had buried a person: “Seek forgiveness for your brother and beseech Allah Ta‘ala to keep him firm for verily he will be questioned now” (Sunan Abi Dawood #3221)

Thus the rare occasions when we visit the graveyard should serve as a reminder of our own death. Those few moments among the graves should not be wasted in idle gossip and worldly talk. While the burial is in progress, one should engage oneself in silently reciting whatever one is able to of the Quraan Majeed with the intention of passing the rewards to the deceased. This would be of immense benefit to oneself as well as the deceased.

May Allah Ta‘ala enable us to remember our death often, especially while in the graveyard. Aameen.