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Last Updated: 2013/04/18
Summary of question
If one wants to buy kafan (shroud) for himself before death, what are the different recommendations according to the traditions of Prophet (pbuh) and Ahlul Bayt (a.s) especially when it comes to the type and other specifics that one may have to be considered before buying.
question
If one wants to buy kafan (shroud) for himself before death, what are the different recommendations according to the traditions of Prophet (pbuh) and Ahlul Bayt (a.s) especially when it comes to the type and other specifics that one may have to be considered before buying.
Concise answer
As for the conditions and manners of buying a shroud, there are certain recommendations in our jurisprudential sources some of which we shall mention as under:
1. It is recommended that the shroud be clean and free of any problem or doubt.[1] As stated in a narration, Sindi bin Shahak, who had been assigned by Harun al-Rashid to watch over Imam Kazem in prison, said: When his (Imam Kazem’s) time of death neared, I asked him to allow me to shroud you [i.e. let me bear the cost of the shroud and burial]. 
“We are a family whose Hajj, wives’ dowry and shrouds are from our cleanest properties.”[2]
2. It is recommended that the shroud be from white cotton.[3] Imam Baqir, peace be upon him, has been quoted as having narrated from the Holy Prophet (a.s.): “No color is better than white for dress; wear white dress and shroud your dead ones with it.”[4] Imam Sadiq (a.s.) said: “Cloth made of wild flax (linen) is typical of Banu Israel with which they shroud (their dead bodies) and cloth made of cotton is typical of the Ummah (people) of Muhammad (pbuh).”[5]
3. The shroud should not be a usurped property; otherwise it is haram to shroud a dead body with it and it will not suffice.[6] That is because of a consensus existing among jurisprudents and verses[7] as well as traditions[8] which generally forbid from using or appropriating others’ properties without their permission and consent.[9]
4. The shroud must not be made of pure silk.[10] However, if its non-silk material is more than the silk in it, there is no problem. Imam Hadi (a.s.) was asked about certain garments that were made in Basra and were like special Yamani cloth (which was made of silk and cotton): “Is it permissible to use it for shrouding the dead?”
Imam Hadi (a.s) said: “If the cotton used in it is more than silk, there is no problem.”[11]
 

[1] Bahrani, Yusuf bin Ahmad, Al-Hadaeq al-Nazera fi Ahkaam al-Itrah al-Tahera, researched and edited by Iravani, Muhammad Taqi, Muqarram, Sayyid Abdur Razaq, vol.4, p. 67, Islamic Publications Office, Qom, first edition, 1405 A.H; Imam Khomeini, Sayyid Rohullah, Tahrir al-Wasilah, vol.1, p. 75, Dar al-Ilm Publications Institute, Qom, first edition (date not mentioned).
[2] Shaykh Hurr Amili, Wasail al-Shi’ah, vol.3, pp. 55 – 56, Aalulbayt (a.s.) Institute, Qom, first edition, 1409 A.H.
[3] Hilli, Najmuddin Ja’far bin Hasan, al-Mu’tabar fi Sharh al-Mukhtasar, vol.1, p. 284, Sayyid al-Shuhada Institute, Qom, first edition, 1407 A.H; Tahrir al-Wasilah, vol1, p. 75.
[4] Wasail, al-Shi’ah, vol.3, p. 41.
[5] Shaykh Saduq, Man La Yahzuruhu al-Faqih, researched and edited by Ghaffari, Ali Akbar, vol.1, p. 147, Islamic Publications Office, Qom, second edition, 1413 A.H.
[6] Najafi, Muhammad Hasan, Jawaher al-Kalam fi Sharh Sharae’ al-Islam, researched and edited by Abbas, Akhundi, Ali, vol.4, p. 169, Dar Ihya al-Turath al-Arabi, Beirut, seventh edition, (date not mentioned); Tahrir al-Wasilah, vol.1, p. 73.
[7] Such as this verse:  “O you who believe! do not devour your property among yourselves falsely, except that it be trading by your mutual consent; and do not kill your people; surely Allah is Merciful to you.” Al-Nisa: 29.
[8] For instance, the Holy Prophet (pbuh) said: «لَا یَحِلُ‏ مَالُ‏ امْرِئٍ مُسْلِمٍ إِلَّا عَنْ طِیبِ نَفْسِه‏» “It is not halal to use the property of someone without his consent.” Shaykh Mufid, al-Masail al-Saghaniyah, p. 140, Shaykh Mufid Millennium Global Congress, Qom, first edition 1413 A.H; Also, this same tradition has been narrated from Imam Sadiq (a.s.); Shaykh Hurr Amili, al-Muhimmah fi Usul-e Al-Aemmah (Takmilat al-Wasail), researched and edited, al-Qaeni, Muhammad bin Muhammad al-Hussein, vol.2, p. 454, Imam Reza (a.s) Islamic Sciences Institute, Qom, first edition, 1418 A.H.
[9] Naraqi, Mulla Ahmad, Mustanad al-Shi’ah fi Ahkaam al-Shari’ah, vol.3, p. 207, Aalulbayt (a.s.) Institute, Qom, first edition, 1415 A.H; Jawaher al-Kalam fi Sharh Sharae’ al-Islam, vol.4, p. 169.
[10] Al-Mu’tabar fi Sharh al-Mukhtasar, vol.1, p. 280 – 281; Jawaher al-Kalam, vol.4, p. 169.
[11] Man La Yahzuruhu al-Faqih, vol.1, p. 147.
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