The Imam’s Wife’s Funeral

Today I attended a funeral in bright pink socks. I woke up late, grabbed the only decent clean pair of socks available, missed the bus and stood ten minutes in the shower getting my shoes soaked before the next bus arrived. I was late in arriving at the funeral care centre but just on time as they had ran over time. The men stood outside waiting as the ladies crowded the narrow corridor inside. I barely made it on time for the first takbir of the solat jenazah. Then, the women took turns paying their last respects for the imam’s wife.

Apparently the mandi jenazah, or the cleansing ritual for the deceased took place at the centre as well. This was a pleasant surprise as the centre looks more accustomed to Christian funerals; I guess they improvised with what was provided. The little room where the body is resting in the coffin was packed and half the crowd prayed outside the room during solat jenazah.

I was told later the body was buried in the coffin with the bottom-inside of the coffin lined with a layer of soil to keep to the Sunnah (standard procedure for Muslim burial is the body lowered directly to the ground, no coffin, only several planks of wood to keep the body in place). The cemetery was mixed but they probably allocated specific zones for different religious faiths. The coffin was brought out in a black funeral car with a man in black attire in a black top hat and a black walking stick walking preceding the vehicle. I guess apart from the Muslim ritual to prepare the body for burial, the other aspects were pretty much British.

I said a little prayer and took a quick glance before letting the next in line to pay her respects. I can’t bring myself to look at faces of the deceased for long; I prefer to keep the memory of them while they’re alive.I ’ve never seen most of the ladies who turned up for the funeral before. Females are the minority during Terawih prayers in Ramadan and the large numbers only come during Eid prayers or the fortnightly family gatherings at the mosque where there’s abundance of free food. Today at least 10 families came. By family I meant those who came with their spouses or siblings and their children.

After seeing the body sent off for burial, I was treated to lunch before we were due to return to the mosque in a couple hours for another short prayer session. The Bruneian lady’s place where my friend and I rested for a while had assorted Malay kuih and we had kuih kapit and almond London (chocolate almond cookies) for mid-afternoon snack. We just came back from a solemn affair and yet if felt like Raya having tea in her living room. We returned to the mosque just in time as they were serving food to everyone who attended the service earlier, so had second lunch. It was lamb shish wrap earlier and then lamb curry. They gave me some of the untouched leftovers to bring home together with some naan. Mind you, I just made lamb curry yesterday, so that makes a week of lamb? Oh boy.

As usual, they gave generous portions of curry and rice to everyone, and most of the ladies only managed half their plate. The rest were thrown into the rubbish bag. I never liked having good food wasted, next time I’m attending another of their makan parties I’ll make sure I bring a stack of food containers. Maybe I should get several of the large metal food containers to donate to the mosque for them to serve food in so people are free to take as much or as little as they want instead distributing single portions of curry and rice on plates (which makes it very difficult to pack left overs).

People in mosques that I visit have always been very nice to me. Whether it’s KL, Seremban, Melaka, London, or Bath, I hardly return from my visits empty handed (or empty handed but with a full tummy), Alhamdulillah. Ramadan the year before the imam’s wife always made sure I had something to bring home after prayers. Every time she packs me the left overs it’ll last me a week. Her spirit lives on as I come home with ration for the next couple of days, insyaAllah.

May Allah bless arwah Nikhat Azami.

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