Should women be allowed to go to funerals?

Charles 10 Comments



I don’t suppose there can be many ‘indigenous’ funerals held these days which prohibit the presence of women. There may be one or two redoubts in Presbyterian Scotland. Bucking the trend in the wider community, though, many Muslims prohibit their presence. 

Why ban women from funerals? To spare their feelings, mostly. Or put it another way, because they can’t be relied on to hold themselves in check. Women, as is well known, are easily subverted by the slightest emotion. They are prone to making a scene and creating disorder. 

This, at least, is the consideration which informs a thumbs-up for female funeral attendance at Muslim funerals in America, where Shaykh Luqman Ahmad has delivered this ruling

based upon the fact that Muslims in America, as a rule do not engage in the practices of wailing, tearing clothing, beating the cheeks, and hollering out bad statements at funerals, and the evidence from the sunna of the Prophet (SAWS) and the view of the scholars we have mentioned, it is not haram for Muslim women to accompany the funeral procession to the grave sites as long as they are able to control themselves … If there is a probability that attendance at the burial will stir emotions to a degree where unlawful behavior will likely occur … then it is prohibitively disliked.

Women: know your limits


  1. Charles

    For all the obvious reasons, this is a little upsetting! But, also—it’s sad, because disallowing women to attend funerals robs them of the opportunity to grieve appropriately.

    I live in Brooklyn, NY, where there are a lot of orthodox Jewish communities, and the same cultural attitude is sometimes present, where women aren’t allowed to attend certain religious and cultural rites.

    That video is ridiculous!

  2. Charles

    Not sure what FS can do about Jewish custom in Brooklyn or wherever. Love the video, I’ve lived that era and thank goodness fun can now be made. Interestingly women now predominate at funerals especially as funeral directors and celebrants. When asking families their preference for a man or woman celebrant the majority choose a woman – even a female vicar. The reason they often state is that women are much more empathetic and are able to get under the surface of the deceased and therefore the tribute brings the dead person much more into focus in the ceremony. The ‘congregation’ often ask whether the celebrant was a family member or certainly must have known the deceased.

  3. Charles

    No! And anyway, why would they want to leave the kitchen?

    OK, that was a (poor) joke. Having had the privilege to conduct a few Muslim funerals, it is indeed a little strange to see women take a back seat. Custom and traditional are all very well, but discrimination and changing attitudes are going to make this hard to accept.

  4. Charles

    Here in Muslim Bosnia, my experience is that women do not attend a burial. But they have a women’s gathering at the mosque, with ritual and prayers led for women and by women. I was privileged to join in this experience at my local mosque last summer, following the death of a neighbour. I found it very lovely. Afterwards, everyone — men and women — gather for refreshments.

  5. Charles

    “And if the wailing woman does not repent before she dies, she will be made to stand on the Day of Judgment wearing a garment of tar and a mangy coat of armor.”

    “Allah knows best.”

    Where’s Christopher Hitchens when you need him?

  6. Charles

    We are living in troubled and violent times. It is easy to follow fashion and ‘other’ the Other. I am begging you not to get swept along with Charles’s playfulness into a sweeping diss of traditions that are unfamiliar.

  7. Charles

    Kathryn, thanks for the real perspective – it sounds as if it was incredibly supportive. Here’s my stereotypes – observing groups at English wakes, I’d say attendees naturally split into male/female groups – the women talking through all the emotions and events leading up to the funeral, while the men stand stoic and straight probably feeling helpless because they couldn’t fix the illness/avert the death. The exceptions are older long married couples who sit together and seem to be one entity! Of course I look through the lens of my own culture – but life and death are complex concepts and realities and less black and white than they may first appear. Traditions grow over centuries. You can’t easily plop a post modern Western evolving culture onto a traditional and rigorous ‘eastern’? ‘religious’? way of life. My ritual might not suit your grief… I’m not condoning the ‘banning’ of women at the funerals, but there’s a lot of other things to examine in order to engender the equality crown – education being the main way to promote change …..on both sides of the divide. I know ‘backward’ Christians who pick random verses from the bible to subjugate women and others.
    I also know an amazing (progressive?) Muslim lady who talks about her intelligent faith in Allah in the same way that an equally intelligent Catholic talks about her faith in God. Both humble me in their knowledge, their faith and their generosity in sharing their perceptions.

    If only we were all the same…

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