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A formal or ceremonial observance of the religious context rites - Essay Example

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The purpose of the essay “A formal or ceremonial observance of the religious context rites” is to examine the nature, role and significance of religious rites by comparing and contrasting the rites and rituals peculiar to Islam and Christianity…
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Download file to see previous pages The purpose of the essay is to examine the nature, role and significance of religious rites by comparing and contrasting the rites and rituals peculiar to Islam and Christianity.
Funeral rites in Islam as well as Christianity serve to provide solace and comfort to help cope with the loss of a loved one while simultaneously reinforcing belief in the almighty by driving home the frailty of human existence. They are rites of passage. Both religions share some common beliefs pertaining to death. Islam and Christianity believe in life after death (akhirah and resurrection respectively), the existence of heaven and hell, the immortality of the soul, that life on earth is merely a test to be followed by a day of reckoning or Judgment day where one will be punished or rewarded. However they differ in ritualistic practice.

Funeral rites in Islam honor the dead. The dying person tries to die with the Shahada or declaration of faith on the lips. This prayer reaffirms the belief that there is no god but Allah and that Muhammad is his prophet. The body is cleansed thoroughly as instructed in the Hadith by the prophet Muhammad following the death of his daughter "wash her three times, or more than that if you feel it necessary with water". This process is called ghusl. Particular attention is given to the parts of the body that are cleansed before prayers. The body is anointed with camphor then shrouded in clean white cloth (Kahn) that symbolizes purity. If a person has performed hajj his ihram is used to wrap the body.
Funeral prayers called Salatul Janazah are recited. It is here that the Shia and Sunni Muslim practices differ. Differences arise in their use of Hadith material, as the Sunni Muslims recognize six books of the Hadith while the Shias recognize only four that give importance to Ali who is believed to be the rightful successor to the prophet. Wailing at funerals is prohibited by the Sunni Muslims while the Shias have no such restrictions. Salatul Janazah is significant as it provides solace to the mourners and reiterates the belief that the soul of the deceased has gone on to a better place. The dead are given instructions on how best to answer the interrogation by the angels Munkar and Nakir
The body is then carried away to be buried. The coffin is ahead of the mourners in the funeral procession as it is believed that the Angel of Death leads in front of the bier. The body is lowered into the earth without the coffin, which indicates that there is nothing inhibiting the body as it begins the ascent heavenwards. The arms are folded to give the appearance of prayer (salat), as a gesture of reverence. The body is buried facing the direction of the Ka'ba at Mecca, which signifies the umbilical- cord like connection that exists between God and his followers.
Christian funeral rites mirror their belief in resurrection. The Bible attests that Jesus' death as atonement for the sins of mankind and his ultimate resurrection has enabled man to gain ascendancy over death. By way of preparation for the last journey, the body is cleansed physically as well as spiritually by washing and then anointing the body with sacred oil. In the Bible the process of anointing is described as follows, "Is any sick among you Let him call for the call for the elders of the church, and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord: And the prayer of the faithful shall save the sick and the Lord shall raise him up; and if he has committed sins, they shall be forgiven him"(James 5:14-15). ...Download file to see next pagesRead More
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