General advice for non-Muslim woman attending a Muslim burial?
May 2, 2014 11:46 AM   Subscribe

Should I, a non-Muslim woman, wear a hijab to a Muslim burial? What else do I need to know to avoid offending anyone there?

For a variety of reasons, I have to go to the funeral of a Sudanese person who followed Islam. There will be Muslim people of several different nationalities, as well as non-Muslim people. We are in the USA.

By asking around, I have been told I should not attend the service because they do not allow women to attend funerals at the local Mosque, but I can go to the cemetery and attend the burial. I use the term "funeral" loosely. I think it's more like a short ceremony and prayer that must be done at the mosque.

The internet suggests no jewelry, no make up and modest dark clothes, which makes sense. Hijabs are mentioned, but I am not sure if it's appropriate for a non-Muslim to wear them? If so, are there any non-fashion tutorials that can teach me how to put it on properly?

Do you have any other advice regarding dress code, manners, etc.?

Thank you!
posted by Tarumba to Religion & Philosophy (13 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
A non-Muslim wearing a hijab feels wrong, almost like some sort of costume.

I think your best bet would be to ask the family or contact the mosque for advice; failing that, dark modest clothing --- skirts below the knee, long sleeves, dark hose, low heels, no cleavage showing --- and perhaps a hat or the kind of head covering the Catholic Church used to require.
posted by easily confused at 11:57 AM on May 2, 2014 [3 favorites]

I think that modest clothing and a scarf to cover your head is more than fine. No need to get a hijab-style scarf or wrap your head hijab style. I've attended Muslim funerals with a scarf that covers my head and I just tied it under my chin.
posted by quince at 12:02 PM on May 2, 2014 [2 favorites]

I'm Indian, but not Muslim, although I do have Muslim friends. Modest clothing and a scarf that covers your head- not tied hijab style- are your best bet.

on preview, easily confused has it.
posted by Tamanna at 12:08 PM on May 2, 2014

I've seen infinity scarves used as chapel veils at my IL's very conservative Catholic church. Something like that -- or one of these -- may work.
posted by ThatSomething at 12:09 PM on May 2, 2014

Response by poster: A non-Muslim wearing a hijab feels wrong, almost like some sort of costume.

Yes! I couldn't articulate it but that is exactly what I feel.

A loose head covering like the one in the etsy link above, or like this one would stress me out since I would fear it's about to fall all the time.

Would this style be acceptable? (in plain black), with a turtle neck?

Also, would pants be okay?

Thanks again!
posted by Tarumba at 12:17 PM on May 2, 2014

I think dressing modestly should be sufficient. The burial is being held outdoors in the U.S., not Sudan. The Qur'an is not the basis of the law or of cultural norms here.

I'd feel differently if you were attending the ceremony in the mosque, but you're not.
posted by jingzuo at 12:18 PM on May 2, 2014 [1 favorite]

Regular funeral attire is fine (modest and not too bright). The actual burial is usually just people standing around the grave site, reciting a short prayer and then shovelling dirt onto the coffin. Women tend to stand off to the side. Most funerals I've been to are for people from India/Pakistan so there may be differences in the Sudanese community.

As far as "hijab" is concerned. It is just a piece of cloth used to cover your head. As a non-Muslim no one will require you to wear it. If you would like to blend in then any scarf would work fine, although a plainer scarf is probably a better idea. BUT if you aren't comfortable with it then don't bother.

I am actually surprised that women aren't allowed to attend funerals at the mosque. I would only think that is the case if it was extremely small, but then they wouldn't have facilities for the washing of the body... I guess this is another thing where different communities may do things differently.
posted by any portmanteau in a storm at 12:20 PM on May 2, 2014

Any mosques I have ever traveled to, I have worn a light scarf over my head. It doesn't really matter if it stays put, just that you tried is very respectful. Nthing modest clothing.
posted by Sophie1 at 12:34 PM on May 2, 2014 [1 favorite]

Best answer: I was raised Muslim, and a lot depends on the particular person/family, and their level of religiosity. In general, you don't need worry about colors too much at a Muslim funeral or prayer at the mosque. I think modesty is more "appropriate" than colors - but since most Muslims are aware of funerary practices in the US, sticking to darker, subdued clothing is pretty safe.

As for modesty, bring a shawl or scarf if you would like. You don't need to wear it like a hijab, but wear it around your neck, then loosely cover your head if you see others doing it.

The thing about women going to funerals varies a lot. I come from a family that was practicing, but much less stringent about female rules, so we go to funerals or prayers at the mosque, as well as gravesite burials.

In general, this is what I would recommend (if you attend either):

- prayers at the mosque usually precede the burial. Most mosques have separate sections for men and women. You can join the female section, but sit quietly in the back. Best to avoid distractions like a phone or book, but sit in quiet contemplation during prayers. In the prayer area, bring a scarf or shawl to drape over your head. A simple scarf is fine - you can use something from your wardrobe most likely. Hot pink zebra print might be best avoided, but something like a paisley print or solid color is fine. You will be required to take your shoes off in the prayer area, so plan for that (easy to remove shoes, socks/stockings if you don't like bare feet)

- At the burial, it's usually men and closely related females/family that stand close to the grave. Non related females generally stand quietly in the back. It's usually pretty quick - some prayers are said, the coffin lowered to the ground, and people take turns shoveling dirt onto the grave. Most likely you will not be expected to do this, but if someone offers you a shovel, you can spread a little dirt. FYI traditionally Muslims are buried in a simple white cotton or linen cloth, and no coffin. This is often not allowed in the US due to groundwater issues, but it might be something to keep in mind. If you want to wear a loose scarf over your head, you can, but you don't have to. As far as jewelry/makeup, simple is fine. It will not be expected that you be completely unadorned, but if you keep things toned down (say, simple studs or pearl earrings, not long colorful dangly earrings), and you will be perfectly respectful.
posted by raztaj at 12:40 PM on May 2, 2014 [1 favorite]

Best answer:
Would this style be acceptable? (in plain black), with a turtle neck?
Also, would pants be okay?

The tying style of the scarf will be totally fine. Turtleneck isn't necessary, but obviously something low-cut would stand out. A crew-neck will also be ok.

Pants (not too tight - think work appropriate) or long skirt/dress would be just fine.
posted by raztaj at 12:44 PM on May 2, 2014 [2 favorites]

Reddit actually has a community for hijab and niqab wearing women, both Muslim and not. (There are non Muslim women who wear hijab, for various reasons.) They might be able to better answer your questions about funeralwear, and whether wearing a hijab would be appropriate.
posted by spinifex23 at 12:49 PM on May 2, 2014

The burial of a body in a shroud and without a coffin can be emotionally difficult to see if it isn't something you've experienced before. I know that it was painful for me to see what was clearly a body going into a grave and then being covered with shovels of dirt.
posted by sciencegeek at 3:52 PM on May 2, 2014 [1 favorite]

It's not an identical situation, but I went to a wedding at a mosque and wore a long dress and a scarf over my hair much like the photo you linked, and both the imam and the mother of the bride seemed to overtly approve. I think people can tell when you are trying to be respectful.
posted by feets at 10:05 PM on May 2, 2014

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