Funerary curiosities

A discussion of funerary customs notably the placement of Aloe vera plants on graves

 

subaitnah_34

 

 

There was even a type of Aloe which was traditionally planted over the graves because it was thought to give the dead the necessary patience to wait until the resurrection day.

http://www.aligelgroup.com/english/aloe_story.htm

“Throughout history and in every human society, the disposal of the dead has been given special significance. The practice was originally motivated not by hygienic considerations but by ideas entertained by primitive peoples concerning human nature and destiny. This conclusion is clearly evident from the fact that the disposal of the dead from the earliest times was of a ritual kind. Paleolithic peoples, such as the Neanderthals and later groups, not only buried their dead but provided them with food, weapons, and other equipment, thereby implying a belief that the dead still needed such things in the grave. This very significant practice can be traced back to great antiquity, possibly to about 50,000 BC.

“The ritual burial of the dead, which is thus attested from the very dawn of human culture and which has been practiced in most parts of the world, stems from an instinctive inability or refusal on the part of man to accept death as the definitive end of human life. Despite the horrifying evidence of the physical decomposition caused by death, the belief has persisted that something of the individual person survives the experience of dying. In contrast, the idea of personal extinction through death is a sophisticated concept that was unknown until the 6th century BC, when it appeared in the metaphysical thought of Indian Buddhism; it did not find expression in the ancient Mediterranean world before its exposition by the Greek philosopher Epicurus (341-270 BC).

“The belief that human beings survive death in some form has profoundly influenced the thoughts, emotions, and actions of mankind. The belief occurs in all religions, past and present, and decisively conditions their evaluations of man and his place in the universe. Mortuary rituals and funerary customs reflect these evaluations; they represent also the practical measures taken to assist the dead to achieve their destiny and sometimes to save the living from the dreaded molestation of those whom death had transformed into a different state of being.”

[http://cyberspacei.com/jesusi/inlight/religion/rites/Death.htm]

 

 

“Plant aloe on the graves of loved ones to promote a peaceful existence until the deceased is reborn. Use for success in the world. Prevents feelings of loneliness.”

http://www.earthwitchery.com/herbsa-g.html

 

Contents

(Numbers refer to the pages of the original MS Word version of the document.)

Contents. 3

Table of Figures. 5

Tables. 6

Introduction. 7

Mountain Oasis Communities. 7

First observation. 8

Subaitah. 8

Aloe vera ‘crop circles’ 10

Other cemeteries. 11

Aloe vera on the Oman peninsula. 15

Elixir of Youth, Plant (Herb) of Immortality. 20

Records of Aloe vera on graves. 21

Other instances of plants on graves. 25

Plant attributes responsible. 28

Conclusion. 31

Death. 32

Funerary customs. 33

Conclusion. 40

Acknowledgements. 41

Appendices. 42

Appendix A: Muslim funerary rites. 43

Appendix B: Other discussions of death in Islam.. 44

Care for the Dying. 44

Washing and Shrouding. 44

Funeral Prayers. 44

Burial 45

Mourning. 45

More Information. 45

Death Rites. 46

Islamic Burial 46

Appendix C: References to aloe in the Bible. 48

Appendix D: How Romans Buried Their Dead. 49

Death and Burial in the Roman Culture. 49

Appendix E: Death and Burial in Greek Culture. 50

Appendix F: Death, funerary customs, and afterlife in Judaism.. 51

Appendix G: Other discussions of Aloe vera. 52

Aloe vera taxonomy and etymology. 62

Folk medicine. 62

For combating vampires. 62

Research for possible medical uses. 63

Aloe (Aloe vera) aka burn plant, medicine plant 64

Research papers cited. 66

Global Healing Center. 67

Equine In Motion. 67

Aloe4HealthOonline. 68

Appendix H: Communities and associated cemeteries where Aloe vera observed. 70

Subaitah. 70

Wadi Khutwah communities. 71

Khutwah. 71

Jazira. 72

Khabbayn. 73

Musah. 73

Aboul 74

Sharam.. 75

A’Dahir. 76

Appendix I: Authentic Step-by-Step Illustrated Janazah Guide. 78

Acknowledgments. 78

Introduction. 80

  1. A) Death. 82
  2. B) Mourning the dead. 87
  3. C) Al-Ghusul (washing the dead Muslim) 88

Place of washing: 88

  1. D) Al-Kafan (shrouding the dead Muslim) 90

Steps of shrouding: 91

  1. E) Salatul Janazah (the funeral) 94
  2. F) Following the Janazah. 99
  3. G) Al-Dafin (burial) 100

How to enter the body into the grave. 101

  1. H) Special cases. 105

1) Miscarried Fetus: 105

2) Children: 105

3) Martyr: 105

  1. I) Condolences. 106
  2. J) The Edda (waiting period) of Muslim widows (females) 107
  3. K) Rewards after death. 109
  4. L) Visiting the cemetery. 110
  5. M) References. 112

Appendix J: Religious Rites. 113

4.10 Death Rites and Customs. 113

4.10.1 Relevant Concepts and Doctrines. 114

4.10.2 Patterns of Myth and Symbol 116

4.10.3 Death and Funerary Rites and Customs. 118

4.10.4 Cults and Memorials of the Dead. 123

4.10.5 Psychological and Sociological Aspects of Death. 125

4.10.6 Modern Notions of Death. 126

Appendix K: Photographs of graves with Aloe vera. 127

Appendix L: Other plants associated with immortality and special powers. 132

 

Table of Figures

(Numbers refer to the pages of the original MS Word version of the document.)

Figure 1: The graves (right) separated from the housing and date gardens by a wide, deep wadi. 8

Figure 2: Grave at Subaitah with Aloe vera in a circle. 9

Figure 3: Grave with scattering of Aloe vera plants at Subaitah. 9

Figure 4: Meter-long stick shows size of Aloe vera circle of plants; remains of dead plants in center of circle. 10

Figure 5: General view of cemetery at Khutwah with clumps of Aloe vera visible throughout the cemetery. 12

Figure 6: A large number of Aloe vera plants in the vicinity of several graves at Khutwah. 12

Figure 7: At Jazira, Aloe vera plants cover a large area making it difficult to identify individual graves; however, this is a cemetery containing more than a dozen graves (one lower left). 13

Figure 8: Settlements (blue markers) with cemeteries that include graves with Aloe vera plants growing on top of the interment. City of Al Ain (UAE) and Mahadah (Oman) included for reference. 14

Figure 9: Countries and locations where the custom of placing Aloe vera plants on graves has been reported (red pins). Also marked are Yemen and Socotra (blue pins) where the plant may have originated based on some sources. 22

Figure 10: Google Earth image of Queshm Island and its proximity to the Musandam peninsula. 23

Figure 11: The distance, as calculated on Google Earth, from Queshm Island to the tip of the Oman peninsula is approximately 51 kilometers. 23

Figure 12: Communities (blue markers)  where the custom of placing Aloe vera on graves was noted; communities of Mahadah (Oman) and Al Ain (UAE) included (red labels) for reference.

Figure 13: The mausoleum of Mohammed bin Ali near Birkat, Oman. The mausoleum is surrounded by a large Islamic cemetery. 25

Figure 14: One one of the graves in the cemetery that includes the Mausoleum of bin Ali, this Aloe plant was recorded. 26

Figure 15: Wadi Subaitah on edge of Wadi Jizzi, Oman. 70

Figure 16: Settlement and cultivated area on left, graves on terrace on opposite side of wadi bed. 70

Figure 17: View of three mountain oasis communities in close proximity to one another, each with cemeteries with Aloe vera planted on graves. 71

Figure 18: Khutwah (Oman) with cultivated area bottom left and graves several hundred meters upstream. 71

Figure 19: Jazira (Oman) located upstream from Khutwah and Khabbayn is still without electricity, phone or other municipal services. 72

Figure 20: Graves at Jazira are located adjacent to the settlement area. 72

Figure 21: Khabbayn (Oman) is a large oasis with cemetery located south of the oasis and west of the new housing. 73

Figure 22: Musah (Oman) is located several kilometers deep into the mountains. 73

Figure 23: Cemetery at Musah is located on narrow ledge downstream from the oasis and above the access road and terraces. 74

Figure 24: Aboul (Oman) features a small fort; the supply of fresh water has decreaed significantly in the past few decades. 74

Figure 25: Older graves at Aboul are clustered upstream from the oasis (oldest graves) and adjacent to the oasis but on the opposite side of the watercourse. 75

Figure 26: Sharam (Oman) once a large community that likely regulated caravan traffic in Wadi Sharam. 75

Figure 27: Cemetery is located several hundred meters inland (away from wadi and cultivation areas) beyond abandoned structures. 76

Figure 28: A’Dahir (Oman), one of four communities in close proximity, has a separate  source of water from wadi system southwest of the settlement. 76

Figure 29: With one of the larger cemeteries in the area, A’Dahir shows evidence of having been a large and successful settlement for hundreds, if not thousands, of years. 77

Figure 30: Kafan of a male. 91

Figure 31: Kafan of a female. 93

Figure 32: Arrangement of men, women, and children at Salatul Janazal 96

Figure 33: Salatul Janazah for a Muslim female (left), Salatul Janazah for a Muslim male (right) 97

Figure 34: Types of graves:  Al Lahed (left) and Al Shaq (right) 100

Figure 35: How to place the body in the grave. 101

Figure 36: Looking into the grave. The deceased inside the grave laying on his right side and facing the Qiblah. 102

Figure 37: A single clump of Aloe vera on this grave. 127

Figure 38: What appear to be two circles of Aloe vera plants on this grave. 127

Figure 39: Clumps of Aloe vera at each end of this grave. 127

Figure 40: Another view of a circle of Aloe vera with remains of dead plants inside. This is one end of the grave; another circle is present at the other end. 128

Figure 41: This is perhaps the largest circle of Aloe vera plants with remains of dead plants inside the circle. 128

Figure 42: Clusters of plants at either end of this grave. 129

Figure 43: Only grave with prominent stones in the middle of the grave suggesting the deceased may be female. 129

Figure 44: Close up of a circle of plants. 129

Figure 45: Another Subaitah grave with clusters of plants at both ends. 129

Figure 46: Perhaps the largest population of Aloe vera plants on any of the graves at Subaitah. 130

Figure 47: A single Aloe vera plant on this grave in the community of Al Sa’franna (Oman). [Photo courtesy of Cheryl Dance.] 131

 

 

Tables

Table 1: Coordinates of graves at communities observed. 11

Introduction

In the course of touring abandoned settlements along the western slopes of the Hajjar Mountains, it is not uncommon to find the remains of structures, including houses, copper smelters, “donkey” trails, irrigation systems and defensive constructions, such as walls and towers. Associated with these settlements, as has been the case for all of human history perhaps, are the places where the living accommodate the dead.

Many ancient graves have been located – one believed to date back to the Umm an Nar period was documented near the oasis at Hayl al Nawafil – and most appear to be from the Islamic period. Dating graves using just the visible clues is a very inexact science, but much can be discerned from the surface conditions, visible aspects of the graves’ construction, and any items which, because of their location, might be associated with the cemetery, such as pottery.

While documenting and recording these gravesites – using photography and GPS data – a curious correlation has been observed: the presence of Aloe vera plants on the graves, inside the observed interment area.

In this paper, I will consider possible explanations for the existence of Aloe vera plants on graves in cemeteries in the area including:

— list of the communities where the practice was observed;

— discussion of the history of Aloe vera in the region;

— discussion of Aloe vera as a medicinal plant (along with other uses);

— evidence of Aloe vera and other plants planted on graves; and

— discussion of funerary practices and customs.

While the communities themselves are very old – most have been in existence for up to 4000 years in all likelihood – the graves with Aloe vera plants all appear to be relatively recent, Islamic, and with grave features common in the area for late-Islamic graves. The explanation for the custom is more difficult to determine, especially given Islamic instructions regarding the burial of the deceased.

 

Mountain Oasis Communities

The western slopes of the Hajjar Mountains, the backbone of the Oman peninsula, have been occupied for thousands of years. There is evidence of human settlement activity throughout the mountains, reflecting more than 4000 years of farming and hunting activity. Ancient occupants were adept at finding and exploiting sources of fresh water whether mountain stream, freshwater spring, or hotspring. (At the mountain oasis communities of Musah, all three types of water sources are exploited.)

One simplistic overview of life in the region in the ancient past was that human activity was concentrated in three general groups:

— those who lived along the coast and survived by fishing (fish and shellfish) and trade;

— those who lived in the mountains and survived by farming (dates, fresh fruit, vegetables), producing charcoal, smelting copper, and exploiting water resources; and

— those who had not sedentary lifestyle but, rather, were constantly on the move, trading, managing caravans, surviving with sheep, goats and camels along with the scarce resources of the desert.

This discussion concerns the occupants of the mountain farming communities who built houses, developed elaborate water management systems (aflaj), produced goods for trade, and buried their dead.

First observation

The correlation was first realized at Wadi Subaitah (24°15’54.92″N  56° 9’38.79″E), a small mountain oasis community situated on a narrow strip of arable land clinging to the steep mountain slopes, the terraces built on the remains of a gravel plain that has been eroded over the years. The wadi bed is an impressive 30 or more meters deep and approximately 20 meters wide as it curves around the houses and mosque. These structures, and the gardens that remain, are located on the southern side of the wadi.

The wadi serves to separate the living from the dead.

Subaitah

Graves b

Figure 1: The graves (right) separated from the housing and date gardens by a wide, deep wadi. [Google Earth edited Brien Holmes]

On one side of the wadi (generally the land south of the wadi), a falaj system, fed by a mountain stream, brings water several hundred meters to a reservoir, around which houses and a mosque were constructed on the slope of the mountain ridge. Beyond the houses and reservoir (down stream), farming activity takes place on the narrow ledge as the wadi bends to the west and south. (Subaitah is one of few still-active mountain oasis communities without a supply of electricity or telephone service; until recently, vehicles were unable to cross the wadi but today a bridge/weir allows vehicles to the gardens though not inside the farmed area. For some period of time, the oasis was supplied by a cable transfer service.)

On the opposite side of the wadi, the gravel plain shows only a few signs of human activity; there are a handful of stone structures, commonly associated with early Islamic occupation. However, most of the area remains covered with the common ‘desert armor’, a dense field of large, smooth-surfaced stones that feature a dark ‘desert varnish’ stain. The plateau is divided into a number of sections by the various side wadis that drain into the main channel.

On one of the sections, located almost opposite the village structures, is a collection of graves that number more than fifteen (15). Remarkably, almost all (12) have Aloe vera plants growing in the interment area. The graves appear to be from the same period as they have common characteristics (single course of stones defining the area of the interment, large flat rectangular stones placed on end at either end of the grave). Judging from the relative size of the graves, the interred appear to have been adults of the short stature associated with the ancient mountain inhabitants; that is, the graves are approximately one and a half (1.5) meters in length.

A relationship or correlation between the Aloe vera plants – known as ‘sabar’ or  ‘saqal’ in Arabic according to Marijcke Jongbloed’s ‘Wildflowers of the United Arab Emirates’ (pp 29) – was noted by Marijcke in her book; “Remarks: Often planted on or near graveyards.” She also noted its many traditional uses, many of which are medicinal applications.

subaitnah_31

Figure 2: Grave at Subaitah with Aloe vera in a circle on the internment area. [Brien Holmes]

subaitnah_40

Figure 3: Grave with scattering of Aloe vera plants at Subaitah. [Brien Holmes]

 

Aloe vera ‘crop circles’

Research conducted on the Aloe vera plant has failed to provide any clues on the growth patterns of the plant. It is assumed from observation that the plant grows outward from the point where the first plant was placed as propagation of Aloe vera is a combination of seed production and new shoots spreading under the surface around the base of the parent plant. Over time, the plant spreads outward while the original plants in the center die, leaving a circle of healthy plants surrounding the remains of the older plants. The rate of growth and spreading from that central point is affected by a number of factors including weather and soil conditions.

Some of the circles of Aloe vera plants measured more than a meter with few, if any, living plants inside the circle. On other graves, there were only one or two plants and no evidence of a circle of plants.

Given the variables – soil, climate, plant condition – it is not possible to determine the age of the plants nor whether the plants are the remains of original plants placed on the graves, plants resulting from subsoil propagation, or plants that may have developed from seed distribution.

subaitnah_38

Figure 4: Meter-long stick shows size of Aloe vera circle of plants; remains of dead plants in center of circle. [Brien Holmes]

Clive Winbow, author of a book on the native plants of Oman, said the ‘crop circle’ pattern may be common for the plant.

I can confirm that ‘crop circle’ effect. In my garden this has happened
with Aloe vera in 2 locations taking I would say, approx eight – ten
years, for the circle to emerge, with dieback in the centre. You would
recall that the common aromatic Cymbopgon schoenanthus grass also does
this, but I could only guess the reason in either case, I’m afraid,
connected with colonisation. Aloe is an excellent horticultural ground
cover, I find, as it forms offsets quite aggressively, through long
underground shoots. – Clive Winbow, personal communication

As noted, given all the variables, it is difficult to estimate the age of the plants and ‘crop circles’ at Subaitah though it appears the plantings may be 100 years old, perhaps older.

Other cemeteries

Having observed the situation at Subaitah, it was decided to visit other known graves to see if these featured Aloe vera plants. It was also decided that known clusters of Aloe vera plants would be inspected again to see whether there were graves located nearby.

After one season of informal inspections, no Aloe vera could be found growing “wild”; all were associated with graves. (One mountain oasis community, still occupied, did have a small “garden” that included cactus and Aloe vera plants but no graves.) However, not all graveyards had Aloe vera plants. The area investigated included all of the communities on the western slopes of the Hajjar Mountains between Wadi Jizzi and Wadi Sharm, a distance of almost 50 kilometers and an area populated by the Ka’abi.

Aloe vera was observed growing on graves in cemeteries at Khutwah, Jazira, Aboul, Khabbayn, Musah, Sharam, and A’Dahir. (For Google Earth images showing location of these communities and associated cemeteries, see Appendix H.)

Table 1: Coordinates of graves at communities observed

Settlement North East
Subaitah 24°15’53.92″N 56° 09’46.32″E
Jazirah 24°19’13.93″N 56° 09’02.07″E
Khabbayn 24°18’34.96″N 56° 07’37.88″E
Khutwah 24°19’11.67″N 56° 07’44.99″E
Aboul 24°26’09.31″N 56° 03’51.88″E
Musah 24°22’15.54″N 56° 04’43.97″E
Sharam 24°29’50.47″N 55°59’24.25″E
A’Dahir 24°18’03.82″N 56° 07’37.09″E

DSC_0142

Figure 5: General view of cemetery at Khutwah with clumps of Aloe vera visible throughout the cemetery. [Brien Holmes]

DSC_0129

Figure 6: A large number of Aloe vera plants in the vicinity of several graves at Khutwah. [Brien Holmes]

DSC_3273

Figure 7: At Jazira, Aloe vera plants cover a large area making it difficult to identify individual graves; this is a cemetery containing more than a dozen graves (one lower left). [Brien Holmes]

communities b

Figure 8: Settlements (blue markers) with cemeteries that include graves with Aloe vera plants growing on top of the interment. City of Al Ain (UAE) and town of Mahadah (Oman) included for reference. [Google Earth edited Brien Holmes]

 

 

Aloe vera on the Oman peninsula

Tracing the path Aloe vera has taken from its origins in the Arabian Peninsula and northern Africa, does not appear to have been documented though it is evident its medicinal qualities have been widely known for thousands of years. From references on Sumerian tablets in the third millennium to use of the plant in Egypt and records of Alexander the Great (b. 356 BC, d. 323 BC) dispatching emissaries to the island of Socotra to secure a supply of the plant for his army, Aloe vera has evidently been a medicinal plant employed in many different cultures and, as such, would have been transported widely by traders, fishermen, Bedouin, and others.

“The earliest record of Aloe vera is found on a Sumerian clay tablet from the city of Nippur. The record dates back to 2100 BC, during the reign of the famous King Sargon of Akkad. The plant was depicted in stone carvings and Egyptian vases. Aloe vera also appeared in the famous “Ebers Papyrus”, an ancient Egyptian book of remedies and one of the oldest preserved medical documents dating to about 1550 BC. “Ebers Papyrus” provides many uses for Aloe vera claiming both internal and external benefits.

In ancient Egypt, Aloe vera, known as the ‘plant of immortality’, was presented as a burial gift to deceased pharaohs. The National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine reported it was a customary gift, as the Egyptians believed it would usher the departed into a new life. According to legend, Aloe vera surrounded the pyramids and was planted along the route to the Valley of Kings. When they came to flower, it symbolized that the pharaoh reached the other side.”

From: http://www.aloe1.com/history/aloe-vera-part-1

Samantha Munro, in her article ‘Aloe vera – History Use and Benefits’ on the Aloe Health UK site (www.aloehealthuk.com) suggests the plant and its medicinal – and other – benefits have been known for more than 4000 years.

“Often called the ‘miracle plant’ or the ‘natural healer’, Aloe vera is a plant of many surprises. It flourishes in warm and dry climates, and to many people it looks like a cactus with fleshy thorny leaves. In fact it is a member of the Lily family, staying moist where other plants wither and die by closing its pores to prevent moisture loss.

“There are around 400 species of Aloe, but it is the Aloe Barbadensis Miller (Aloe vera or “true aloe”) plant which has been of most use to mankind because of the medicinal properties it displays. Ancient records show that the benefits of Aloe vera have been known for centuries, with its therapeutic advantages and healing properties surviving for over 4000 years. The earliest record of Aloe vera is on a Sumerian tablet dating from 2100 BC.

“Its antiquity was first discovered in 1862 in an Egyptian papyrus dated 1550 BC. It was used to great effect by Greek and Roman physicians. Researchers have found that both the ancient Chinese and Indian used Aloe vera. Egyptian Queens associated its use with their physical beauty, while in the Phillipines it is used with milk for kidney infections. Aloes are referred to in the Bible, and legend suggests that Alexander the Great conquered the island of Socotra in the Indian Ocean to secure supplies of Aloes to treat the battle wounds of his soldiers.”

There is no mention of Alexander the Great having been to Socotra in the discussion of his life and conquests at the History of Macedonia website [http://www.historyofmacedonia.org/AncientMacedonia/AlexandertheGreat.html] In fact, some Internet sites associated with Socotra discount the story [http://www.socotraislandadventure.com/Socotra_People&Culture.htm]:

Socotra is distinguished by a distinct and unique cultural history.  Although it is unlikely that the legend that Aristotle advised Alexander the Great to send colonists to Socotra to harvest aloe is true, the existence of such a legend points to Socotra being “on the map” already in ancient times.  Archaeological work over the last century has shown that the island was inhabited from at least the first centuries A.D., and that Socotra was visited and settled by Africans, Arabs and Indians.

However, other Socotra sites suggest the legend may be true as Socotra was considered a source of at least four items that were much-valued in the ancient world [http://www.socotra-eco-tours.com/products/socotra-history/].

The importance of the island had always been based on four almost miraculous commodities: frankincense with its deeply mysthic meaning for ancient nations, myrrh as a medicine and basis for luxurious perfumes, dragon blood used for body decorations and medical treatments, and aloe also very precious in traditional medicine. The value of these substances resulted in Socotra being much more famous in the ancient times than it is nowadays. As legends put it, the Egyptians used to visit Socotra to establish frankincense orchards because its resin was said to help spirits to reach the afterlife. According to the Phoenicians, the island used to be a home to the legendary Phoenix bird that lived on the frankincense and flew to the Egyptian city of Heliopolis every 500 years in order to rise from its ashes. Possibly due to high quality of local frankincense and its market value, the South Arabian tribes began to settle down on Socotra around 1000 BC. 

The first mention of Socotra in record however does not concern the heavy smell of frankincense but the noise of weapons. During his war adventures, the young Greek titan Alexander the Great got attracted by Socotra. It is said that it was Alexander’s tutor, Aristotle, who peaked interest in Socotra by referring to the availability of myrrh some time around 330 BC. Those sent to colonize the island were handpicked by Aristotle and came from his native town of Stageira. Their task was to colonize the island and turn it into Alexander’s base for his invasion to India and a rich source of healing myrrh that was more than handy to the Greeks so much involved in wars. Interestingly, this story was related by the Arab historian al-Masudi writing in the tenth century AD. As we all know, Alexander’s invasion to India was everything but success. However Socotra became a part of the Helenic world and was mentioned by many ancient authors.

Perhaps story tellers, recounting the conquests of Alexander the Great, Gilgamesh, and Sinbad over time, have contributed to the confusion. No doubt the legends are valuable assets for tour operators, among others, to exploit [http://adimiziani.wordpress.com/tag/alexander-the-great/]:

Records in the ancient tomes such as Periplus dating to the 1st century EC (Common Era), indicate that Socotrans, likely descended from South Arabian tribes, made incense from the ubiquitous frankincense trees on the island when it was considered the “gold of the east”. They also produced cinnabar, aloe, turtle shells and ambergris. Legendary figures such as Gilgamesh and Sinbad supposedly visited the island, as well as Alexander the Great, Marco Polo and Chinese Admiral Zheng He.

One site dedicated to the history of Macedonia discusses the history of the island of Socotra – and the origin of the island’s current name – as well as the legend of Alexander the Great’s conquest of the island and removal of the original population to establish a colony of Greek-speaking individuals responsible for aloe cultivation.

Scotra, probably represented the usual pronunciation of the name SOCOTRA, which has been hypothetically traced to a Sanskrit original, Dvvpa-Sukhadhara, “the island Abode of Bliss,” from which (contracted Diuskadra) the Greeks made “the island of Dioscorides.”

So much painful interest attaches to the history of a people once Christian, but now degenerated almost to savagery, that some detail may be permitted on this subject.

The Periplus calls the island very large, but desolate; . . . the inhabitants were few, and dwelt on the north side. They were of foreign origin, being a mixture of Arabs, Indians, and Greeks, who had come thither in search of gain . . . The island was under the king of the Incense Country . . . . Traders came from Musa (near Mocha) and sometimes from Limyrica and Barygaza (Malabar and Guzerat), bringing rice, wheat, and Indian muslins, with female slaves, which had a ready sale. Cosmas (6th century) says there was in the island a bishop, appointed from Persia. The inhabitants spoke Greek, having originally settled there by the Ptolemies. “There are clergy there also, ordained and sent from Persia to minister among the people of the island, and a multitude of Christians. We sailed past the island, but did not land. I met, however, with people from it who were on their way to Ethiopia, and they spoke Greek.”

The ecclesiastical historian Nicephorus Callistus seems to allude to the people of Socotra, when he says that among the nations visited by the missionary Theophilus, in the time of Constantius, were “the Assyrians on the verge of the outer ocean towards the East . . . whom Alexander the Great, after driving them from Syria, sent thither to settle, and to this day they keep their mother tongue, though all of the blackest, through the power of the sun’s rays.” The Arab voyagers of the 9th century say that the island was colonized with Greeks by Alexander the Great, in order to promote the culture of the Socotrine aloes; when the other Greeks adopted Christianity these did likewise, and they had continued to retain their profession of it. The colonizing by Alexander is probably a fable, but invented to account for facts.

[Edrisi says (Jaubert’s transl. pp47, seqq) that the chief produce of Socotra is aloes, and that most of the inhabitants of this island are Christians; for this reason: when Alexander had subjugated Porus, his master Aristotole gave him the advice to seek after the island producing aloes; after his conquest of India, Alexander remembered the advice, and on his return journey from the Sea of India [nb Alexander the Great invaded India in 326 B.C.] to the Sea of Oman, he stopped at Socotra, which he greatly admired for its fertility and the pleasantness of its climate. Acting on the advice of Aristotle, Alexander removed the inhabitants from their island, and established in their place a colony of Ionians, to whom he entrusted the care of cultivating aloes. These Greeks were converted when the Christian religion was preached to them, and their descendants have remained Christians. – H.C.]

http://history-of-macedonia.com/2011/04/19/alexander-socotra/

(The site includes a link labeled “Source” which goes to Gutenberg.org; no specific source is available.)

Tracing the history of Aloe vera suggests it originated in the Arabian peninsula [http://www.kew.org/plants-fungi/Aloe-vera.htm]:

Aloe vera is native to the Arabian Peninsula and is widely cultivated around the world. It has escaped from cultivation and become naturalised in the Mediterranean, north Africa, the Indian subcontinent, South America and the Caribbean.

Its uses, as summarized on the Kew website, are considered with the plant’s uses still very popular today:

Aloe vera has been used for centuries and it is more popular today than ever. It is cultivated around the world as a crop for its colourless jelly-like leaf parenchyma known as ‘aloe gel’. It is used for a variety of purposes in food, food supplements, herbal remedies and cosmetics.

Aloe vera leaf parenchyma (aloe gel) may be effective when used on the skin against psoriasis, burns, frostbite, and sores caused by the Herpes simplex virus. Research has shown that, taken orally, aloe gel can help to lower cholesterol levels in people with high cholesterol, and can help to lower blood glucose levels in people with type II diabetes.

The green outer layer of the leaves of Aloe vera yields a bitter, yellow exudate which has very different properties from those of the colourless parenchyma. The bitter leaf exudate has traditionally been used as a laxative. However, research has indicated that the active constituents may have harmful effects and can interact with other medicines and herbal remedies. It should not be given to children or to pregnant or breastfeeding women.

David Cutler, former staff member at the Kew Royal Botanical Gardens was co-author (Gale, R. and Cutler, D.F. (2000)) of Plants in Archaeology – Identification Manual of Artefacts of plant origin from Europe and the Mediterranean (Westbury Scientific Publishing & Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew. 512 pp.) was asked if, in the course of research for the book, whether the authors had identified the use of Aloe vera on grave sites. “I have not come across any records of Aloe vera from archaeological sites.  There may be some, but I have been retired now for a number of years, and haven’t kept up on the literature in this area!” he replied. (http://www.kew.org/science-research-data/directory/people/Cutler_David.htm)

The uses of the plant today are many and varied. A collection of almost 40 papers on the uses of Aloe vera can be found at http://www.nupro.net/aloe/aloebook.pdf.

One of the more detailed summaries of the history of the plant [http://www.aloe1.com/history/aloe-vera-part-1] includes this discussion:

The earliest record of Aloe vera is found on a Sumerian clay tablet from the city of Nippur. The record dates back to 2100 BC, during the reign of the famous King Sargon of Akkad. The plant was depicted in stone carvings and Egyptian vases. Aloe vera also appeared in the famous “Ebers Papyrus”, an ancient Egyptian book of remedies and one of the oldest preserved medical documents dating to about 1550 BC. “Ebers Papyrus” provides many uses for Aloe vera claiming both internal and external benefits.

In ancient Egypt, Aloe vera, known as the ‘plant of immortality’, was presented as a burial gift to deceased pharaohs. The National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine reported it was a customary gift, as the Egyptians believed it would usher the departed into a new life. According to legend, Aloe vera surrounded the pyramids and was planted along the route to the Valley of Kings. When they came to flower, it symbolized that the pharaoh reached the other side.

Besides it’s healing potential, Aloe vera, which over the centuries, has also been called the ‘lily of the desert’, ‘elephant’s gall’ and the ‘burn plant’, was reportedly used by Egyptian queens like Cleopatra to give them younger, more radiant skin.

Aloe vera is referenced multiple times in the Bible for its’ healing properties. The Aloe Barbadensis Miller Stockton species of Aloe vera is known as the “Virgin Trinity” plant because it is claimed to be a descendant of the variety that Nicodemus used to anoint Jesus’ body after the crucifixion, as found in John 19:39.

Documents dating back to 40 AD prove the ancient Greeks and Romans also used the Aloe vera plant. The Greek physician Dioscorides and the famed Hippocrates, referred to as the father of modern medicine, both touted the curative effect of Aloe vera when applied to stomach ailments and open wounds. Dioscorides, a doctor who served in the Roman army, wrote in his “De Materia Medica” that Aloe vera juice treats issues of the gums and mouth and “loosens the belly, cleansing the stomach”.

Aloe vera was used in many cultures across the ancient world. There is evidence that the Phoenicians dried the Aloe vera pulp and exported it throughout the Greco-Roman empire, exposing more people to it’s uses and benefits. There is further documentation that Alexander the Great, who conquered and created one of the largest empires in ancient history, used the plant’s gel to doctor his soldier’s wounds on a campaign in the Indian Ocean.

Other cultures, like China, the Philippines and India, have records of Aloe vera use. According to “Copra’s Indigenous Drugs of India”, “the uses of aloe…for external application to inflamed painful parts of the body and for causing purgation [internal cleansing] are too well known in India to need any special mention.”

After being used throughout the ages, Aloe vera was brought to the new world by Spanish conquistadors and missionaries when they colonized South America and the Caribbean in 1600 AD. In 1720, Carl Von Linne, a Swedish physician known as the father of modern taxonomy, gave the healing plant the scientific title—Aloe Barbadensis Miller. Throughout the 19th and 20th centuries the plant was grown in warm climates, with the first commercial United States farm established in Florida in 1912. Up until the present day, international research is still being conducted on the uses and healing properties of the curative Aloe vera plant.

Many of these details are also mentioned at http://www.aloeria.co.uk/html/body_aloe_vera_history.html.

The plant, having made its way from the Arabian peninsula (and/or Egypt), was eventually available in India where it has been known by different names including mussabar. The plant is discussed on many websites dedicated to medicinal plants of India, including a site dedicated to the herbal garden of the President of India [http://presidentofindia.nic.in/herbal_gardens.html].

 

Elixir of Youth, Plant (Herb) of Immortality

Given its history and the use, over millennia, as a medicinal plant, it is not a surprise that it has earned a reputation as a unique and much-prized plant. Different cultures and groups, over time, have identified it as the ‘Plant of Immortality’ and ‘Elixir of Youth’, to name a few.

Also called “the elixir of youth” by the Russians, “the herb of immortality” by the old Egyptians or the “harmonious remedy” by the Chinese, Aloe vera is without a doubt the medicinal herb most widely known for its noticeable impacts on health and at the same time the ingredient most widely used in the cosmetic industry. Not one study conducted so far was fully able to explain the wonders which lie within this herb and how its compounds work together in a miraculous way to bring about the treatment or the alleviation of some of the most serious illnesses like cancer or AIDS.  

Aloe vera or “Aloe Barbadensis” is a plant which originated in North Africa and spread to the fertile lands with mild climate. Its physical aspect is similar to that of the cactus; the thick rind hides a succulent core formed mostly of water.

The aforementioned herb gained worldwide recognition and has been intensively used from the oldest of times due to its extraordinary features. A clear proof of this fact is a clay plank found in the antic city of Nippur, Babilon (the Irak from today) dating from year 2200 b.c. From Greek physicians like Celsius and Dioscorides to Romanians (Pylni the Great) and Arabs (Al-Kindi) to C.E. Collins, the one who published the first modern medical thesis in United States (1934), “Aloe vera” has always been an issue with a long history behind it. Just about every important civilization used it for its benefical effects over health and beauty. Egyptians would mix aloe with other herbs while preparing remedies for internal and external anomalies. After the Second World War, Aloe vera was introduced in treating the victims of the catastrophies from Nagasaki and Hiroshima because of its ability of mitigating the pain of the patients and renewing skin tissues.

http://www.liveandfeel.com/medicinalplants/aloe_vera.html

However, as noted in Appendix L, many plants have been associated with immortality and other special qualities.

 

 

Records of Aloe vera on graves

The custom of planting Aloe vera on graves does not appear as common as are the medicinal applications. To date, only a handful of references have been found reporting the planting of Aloe vera on a grave though there are many references to the use of the plant and its derivatives in funeral preparations.

In the horn of Africa, the use of the plant on graves has been mentioned in Ethiopia and Somalia but specific locations are not given. Likewise, the custom has been reported from Iran, but only on Queshm Island located in the Straits of Hormuz immediately opposite the tip of the Musandam peninsula.

This plant is very good adaptad [sic] in South Iran. It also grows in dryland regions of Iran. This plant was brought to Gheshm (the land in Iran) by businessman many years ago. It is narrated in “Sabir name” in Persian that this plant relaxes men. This plant is put on the grave that relaxes the family of decesed [sic]. In Gheshm few hectars [sic] of old grave yard has Aloe vera as traditional plant of graves. This paper reviews history, its chemicals, medical usage, plant morphology, extracts and agronomy of Aloe vera.

http://www.aensiweb.com/aeb/2010/464-468.pdf

It is interesting that the reason mentioned for planting Aloe vera on the graves on Queshm Island is for the benefit of the relatives of the deceased, not in connection with any benefit the plant may provide on Judgment Day, or any other explanation.

locations

Figure 9: Countries and locations where the custom of placing Aloe vera plants on graves has been reported (red pins). Also marked are Yemen and Socotra (blue pins) where the plant may have originated based on some sources. [Google Earth edited Brien Holmes]

qshm

Figure 10: Google Earth image of Queshm Island and its proximity to the Musandam peninsula. [Google Earth edited Brien Holmes]

distance

Figure 11: The distance, as calculated on Google Earth, from Queshm Island to the tip of the Oman peninsula is approximately 51 kilometers. [Google Earth edited Brien Holmes]

One other reference to the planting of Aloe vera in cemeteries was included in a blog recounting a visit to Egypt:

We took the road south from Tobruk, past the World War Two cemeteries with their neat rows of headstones and swept pathways, stippled with aloe vera plants, flowering cacti, and simple dedications. These burial grounds were tidy, orderly, nothing like the mass graves slowly filling in Tripoli.

http://www.utne.com/blogs/blog.aspx?blogid=30&tag=Libya

One source (Symbolism and Design in Ancient Egyptian Gardens by Alix Wilkinson) was reviewed for any reference to Aloe vera as a common plant in Egyptian gardens; however, there was no mention of Aloe vera nor of any custom of placing living plants on graves.

The Earthwitchery website makes reference to the custom but provides no details and no references:

Aloe (Aloe vera) aka burn plant, medicine plant

Feminine. Moon. Water.

Protection, Luck. Guards against evil influences and prevents household accidents. Plant aloe on the graves of loved ones to promote a peaceful existence until the deceased is reborn. Use for success in the world. Prevents feelings of loneliness.

http://www.earthwitchery.com/herbsa-g.html

The text (above) appeared verbatim on the site http://www.wiccantogether.com/group/cronesandelders/forum/topics/magical-properties-of-herbs.

The practice has also been observed in at least one other place in Africa, a custom of the Bantu tribes of Africa.

Aloe products, such as dried leaves, have been found amongst the items used for fetish purposes by traditional priests and witch-doctors. As uprooted aloes can survive for years, and even flower in this condition, they are often hung over doors of houses as charms intended to ensure long life for the occupants. An uprooted A. aristata Haw. Plant in the home of a childless woman in Botswana is supposed to indicate whether or not the woman will bear a child, according to whether the plant flowers or dries up. Several species, such as A. rivae and A. vera, are planted on graves. In southern Africa a Sotho man maintained a plant of A. arborescens as the home of the spirits of his male ancestors.

(Jackson, 1964). (p. 28 Aloes The genus Aloe Edited by Tom Reynolds [http://www.scribd.com/doc/117406711/ALOES-THE-GENUS-ALOE]

[Jackson, A.O. (1964) An unusual Bantu household altar. Aloe, 2, 14–15.]

The custom has also been recorded in Somalia and Ethiopia, which could explain the custom adopted elsewhere in Africa. The other possible explanation is that the custom was a cultural exchange between Omani sailors and traders and African populations during the centuries when Oman controlled most of the east coast of Africa. If the cultural exchange had taken place, it is possible that the custom passed from the African populations to the Omani populations based on some African custom or may have been passed to African populations by the Omanis as a byproduct of the introduction of Islam during the colonization process.

Tangentially, there is a reference to research conducted on the Tourin Shroud. Evidently Italian researchers who were analyzing a fragment of a thread from the Shroud found traces of Aloe and myrrh (http://www.sindone.info/FAZIO2.PDF). The research team members, authors of the report cited here did not find any traces of “aromas or burial ointments” was “negative” (page four).

Numerous Internet sites, including some presented in Appendix F, include mention of the use of Aloe vera as an ointment used in the embalming process practiced in several ancient cultures.

 

Other instances of plants on graves

It is not certain that any plant appearing on a grave was placed there deliberately; however, in the instance of Aloe plants, the practice does appear to be deliberate. While the use of Aloe vera was noted and recorded specifically in several cemeteries, the author has noted only one other instance of a plant being (evidently) placed on a grave was in the Salalah district of Oman.

bin_Ali_07

Figure 12: The Mausoleum of Mohammed bin Ali near Birkat, Oman. The Mausoleum is surrounded by a large Islamic cemetery. [Brien Holmes]

bin_Ali_01

Figure 13: One of the graves in the cemetery that include the Mausoleum of bin Ali, this Aloe  plant was recorded. [Brien Holmes]

Clive Winbow, author of the book ‘Native Plants of Oman’, identified the plant as Aloe inermis.

“ . . . the plant is Aloe inermis, now renamed A praetermissa. It is identifiable as the leave tips curve outwards.”

“Both that species and the other Dhofari aloe, the endemic A dhofarense, may be used as dyes, and also (used to) have local medicinal uses. Wherever you come across A vera in the northern wadis you assume it is a relic of past habitation in that area.”

Other references to the Aloe vera plant appearing on graves:

Aloe and world cultures

In Arabic, the Aloe plant is called sabbar, an Arabic word that means burden bearer. The Arabs used to sling Aloe plants on the doors of their homes, supposedly to prevent evil from entering. The plants will stay green and alive for extended periods of time and may even flower. Egyptians, who have a long relationship with Aloes, still grow the plants around graveyards to symbolize the patience which is to be exercised during the long suffering from losing the deceased person. The Gala, a hematic tribe who now lives in Ethiopia and Somalia in East Africa grow the plants around their graves and they believe that when the plants flower, the deceased has been admitted to heaven.

[http://www.garudaint.com/product.php?id=35]

 

The Mahometans, especially those in Egypt, regard the Aloe as a religious symbol. In Cairo, the Jews adopt the practice of hanging up the Aloe.

In the neighbourhood of Mecca , at the extremity of every grave, on a spot facing the epitaph, Burckhardt found planted a low shrubby species of Aloe whose Arabic name, saber, signifies patience. This plant is evergreen and requires very little water.

[http://dratiq.com/aloevera.html]

The account above may have originated at the www.botanical.com site:

History

The Mahometans, especially those in Egypt, regard the Aloe as a religious symbol, and the Mussulman who has made a pilgrimage to the shrine of the Prophet is entitled to hang the Aloe over his doorway. The Mahometans also believe that this holy symbol protects a householder from any malign influence.

In Cairo, the Jews also adopt the practice of hanging up the Aloe.

In the neighbourhood of Mecca, at the extremity of every grave, on a spot facing the epitaph, Burckhardt found planted a low shrubby species of Aloe whose Arabic name, saber, signifies patience. This plant is evergreen and requires very little water. Its name refers to the waiting-time between the burial and the resurrection morning.

[http://www.botanical.com/botanical/mgmh/a/aloes027.html]

 

As per legend, it was the miraculous healing power of Aloe vera that prompted Alexander the Great to conquer the island of Socotra. Cleopatra’s famed beauty is also attributed to the natural goodness of Aloe vera. While the Arabs have a tradition of placing it at graves as a symbol of regeneration and resurrection, the African hunters used its gel as a deodorant.

[http://www.svlele.com/herbal/aloevera.htm]

The references, if any, cited at these websites did not provide any additional details to substantiate these claims. Like many historical details, it seems, the custom of placing Aloe vera plants on graves is passed on as a legend and, as such, there is likely some truth to the claims.

Prior to the introduction of Islam in the Arabian peninsula, Aloe vera appears to have been used for its medicinal qualities rather than any association with the afterlife or resurrection. The ancient Egyptians did, however, make a connection between the plant and funerary customs though there is no record of the plant being placed on graves.

Ancient Egypt

The Aloe vera history is found with the ancient Egyptians to have the reputation as a beauty product for women. The Pharaohs considered it an “elixir of long life”. It was traditional to bring a plant of Aloe vera to the funeral as a gift, which was a symbol of a new life.

The Aloe vera planted along the route leading to the Valley of the Kings and that around the pryramids, accompanied the Pharaoh during his passage to the beyond. They believed it would feed and care for him on his journey in eternity.

When it came into flower, it was the sign that the Pharaoh had reached the “other bank”. The priests used the Aloe vera plant during the funeral rituals by incorporating it in the embalming formula under the name of “the plant of immortality”.

http://www.aloe-vera-advice.com/aloe-vera-history.html

 

Plant attributes responsible

While there is no reliable confirmation or explanation to explain the custom of placing Aloe vera plants on graves, it does seem there are two credible explanations: resurrection beliefs and medicinal benefits.

Given the fact that the custom of planting Aloe vera on graves appears to be confined to the time of Islam, and in countries where one or more branches of Islam are and have been practiced, it is logical to consider an association between the religion and the custom.

While all of the mono-theistic western religions – Judaism, Christianity, Islam – include the belief in a day of resurrection, Islam appears to have a less contradictory understanding, and therefore teaching, of the belief. Jews and Christians are taught of an impending Day of Judgment when all will rise from the dead and their fate determined, though interpretations and explanations do vary.

In Judaism, the day of judgment happens every year on Rosh Hashanah (a day which is also known as Yom HaDin, Judgment Day), therefore the belief in a last day of judgment for all mankind is disputed. Some Rabbis hold that there will be such a day following the resurrection of the dead. Others hold that there is no need for that because of Rosh Hashanah. While yet others hold that this accounting and judgment happens when one dies. Yet others hold that the last judgment only applies to the nations and not the Jewish people.

[http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Last_Judgment#Judaism]

In Christianity, opinions vary from Catholicism to Eastern Orthodoxy, Protestantism, and Esoteric Christian traditions. [http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Last_Judgment] The Wikipedia discussion, evidently well cited, summarizes the different positions among Christians; only the section on Catholicism is noted here.

Belief in the last judgment (often linked with the General judgment) is held firmly inside Catholicism. Immediately upon death each soul undergoes the particular judgment, and depending upon the state of the person’s soul, goes to heaven, purgatory, or hell.

The last judgment will occur after the resurrection of the dead and the reuniting of a person’s soul with own physical body. The Catholic Church teaches that at the time of the last judgment Christ will come in His glory, and all the angels with him, and in his presence the truth of each man’s relationship with God will be laid bare, and each person who has ever lived will be judged with perfect justice. Those already in heaven will remain in heaven; those already in hell will remain in hell; and those in purgatory will be released into heaven. Following the last judgment, the bliss of heaven and the pains of hell will be perfected in that those present will also be capable of physical bliss/pain. After the last judgment the universe itself will be renewed with a new heaven and a new earth in the World to Come.

[http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Last_Judgment#Christianity]

In Islam, as is practiced in most subsets of the religion, the Day of Judgment appears to have more significance.

Belief in al-Qiyāmah is considered a fundamental tenet of faith by all Muslims. Belief in the day of Judgement is one of the six articles of faith. The trials and tribulations associated with it are detailed in both the Qur’an and the hadith, as well as in the commentaries of the Islamic expositors and scholarly authorities such as al-Ghazali, Ibn Kathir, Ibn Majah, Muhammad al-Bukhari, and Ibn Khuzaimah who explain them in detail. Every human, Muslim and non-Muslim alike, is believed to be held accountable for their deeds and are believed to be judged by God accordingly.

[http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Last_Judgment#Islam]

All western religions, and most eastern religions, also include a belief in some form of afterlife [http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Afterlife].

Modern teaching of the western religions does appear to place more emphasis on the idea of afterlife with the exception of Islam which still emphasizes the connection between resurrection and an afterlife.

That teaching may be one explanation for the use of the plant on graves owing to the reputation the plant has among cultures and societies in the region, notably that the plant represents longevity and immortality while, at the same time, providing medicinal benefits.

As a result, the act of planting Aloe vera on the grave of a deceased individual would serve:

— the notion of longevity and immortality, confirming that the deceased, though dead, retains the promise of immortality which will (may) come on Judgment Day; and

— the practical value of the plant for use by the deceased who may have been ill or injured at the time of death and could use the medicinal qualities of the plant to tend to any illness or injury when that individual rises on Judgment Day.

Why is this custom not widely embraced? The most logical explanation for that is that the teachings of Islam discourage, if not outright prohibit, the “beautification” of a grave with a plant or other item.

In the United Arab Emirates and northern Oman, the instances of the planting of Aloe vera appear to have occurred over the past 100 or 200 years in an area concentrated along the western slopes of the Hajjar Mountains, an area populated by the al Ka’abi.

While the al Ka’abi occupied the area, individuals from many other countries were a part of those communities, often as laborers. For example, the trading of slaves from Africa was a part of the culture in the Oman peninsula for centuries, the individuals transported to the peninsula from Zanzibar and other points along the east coast of Africa. Some of these individuals would have ended up in the territory controlled by the al Ka’abi. The fact the custom of planting Aloe vera on graves does not appear elsewhere in the Oman peninsula suggests this custom may have roots in Africa as other regions of the Oman peninsula, notably along the Arabian Gulf coast, were populated by individuals from the north (present-day Iraq and Iran, for example).

 

 

 

 

 

 

Conclusions and explanations

It seems evident that the plant, having originated in the Arabian peninsula, was transported by armies and explorers to all corners of Asia, Europe and Africa and, eventually, every corner of the world. It is now cultivated on large farms to supply the evidently growing demand for the plant in medicine and cosmetics.

How it came to be in the Oman peninsula specifically is not covered in any of the material reviewed. However, it is likely that the plant made its way to the region as a result of a combination of the invading armies of conquest, individuals involved in the frankincense trade, and individuals involved in the ancient civilizations, such as Hili.

The association of the plant with graves and the interment of deceased Muslims in the mountain oasis communities from Wadi Jizzi (Oman) to Juwaif (Oman) is unclear. (The author is not asserting that the planting of Aloe vera occurs only in this area along the western slopes of the Hajjar Mountains; however, there are no reports and the author has not observed this practice elsewhere during almost 30 years of travel in Bahrain, the United Arab Emirates, and Oman.)

The fact that there are reports of the custom being practiced in southern Iran and in Somalia and Ethiopia suggests the custom could have originated in either location and have been brought to the territory of the al Ka’abi by trade, among other means. Caravan routes existed along the western edge of the Hajjar Mountains, from Salalah and Nizwa to points north including the Buraimi Oases for thousands of years. Likewise, trade existed along the southern coast of the Oman peninsula, connecting all points between the Straits of Hormuz and the Horn of Africa, for thousands of years; individuals could have brought the custom to the al Ka’abi territory via any of the east-west wadi routes that linked the interior with the coast (Nizwa, Jizzi, Helo, Dibba etc).

Several factors contribute to the challenge to trace the events that led from the original discovery of the plant to its use on graves. These factors include:

— the period of time between the first recorded use of Aloe vera and the present;

— the patterns of trade and human migration and political activity in the region; and

— the lack of a culture of writing among populations in the Oman peninsula.

In conclusion, while the precise path of the plant’s use leading to its inclusion in funerary customs in northern Oman may be impossible to identify, it may be concluded that trade, human migration, evolution of local societies, and political activity combined to produce the results.

 

 

Death

The second path of investigation is to consider human reaction to the inevitable fact of death of family members, community colleagues, and others. Different cultures have evolved a variety of customs to deal with death. Among the factors creating to the evolution of customs has been the adoption of religious customs and beliefs.

Much has been written about death. Dying has been a part of mankind’s history from the beginning of time and individuals, societies, religions, cultures have all developed theories, customs and beliefs surrounding death, developing funerary practices that embrace or accommodate these theories, customs and beliefs.

One discussion of death (cyberspacei.com/jesusi/inlight/religion/rites/Death.htm#_Toc503706341#_Toc503706341) discusses some of these aspects of death:

Throughout history and in every human society, the disposal of the dead has been given special significance. The practice was originally motivated not by hygienic considerations but by ideas entertained by primitive peoples concerning human nature and destiny. This conclusion is clearly evident from the fact that the disposal of the dead from the earliest times was of a ritual kind. Paleolithic peoples, such as the Neanderthals and later groups, not only buried their dead but provided them with food, weapons, and other equipment, thereby implying a belief that the dead still needed such things in the grave. This very significant practice can be traced back to great antiquity, possibly to about 50,000 BC.

The ritual burial of the dead, which is thus attested from the very dawn of human culture and which has been practiced in most parts of the world, stems from an instinctive inability or refusal on the part of man to accept death as the definitive end of human life. Despite the horrifying evidence of the physical decomposition caused by death, the belief has persisted that something of the individual person survives the experience of dying. In contrast, the idea of personal extinction through death is a sophisticated concept that was unknown until the 6th century BC, when it appeared in the metaphysical thought of Indian Buddhism; it did not find expression in the ancient Mediterranean world before its exposition by the Greek philosopher Epicurus (341-270 BC).

The belief that human beings survive death in some form has profoundly influenced the thoughts, emotions, and actions of mankind. The belief occurs in all religions, past and present, and decisively conditions their evaluations of man and his place in the universe. Mortuary rituals and funerary customs reflect these evaluations; they represent also the practical measures taken to assist the dead to achieve their destiny and sometimes to save the living from the dreaded molestation of those whom death had transformed into a different state of being.”

 

Funerary customs

As discussed in the excerpt above and numerous articles and books – and songs and poems and paintings – the way communities, families, and religions deal with a death varies considerably today and have varied over time and among cultures.

In the Oman peninsula, societies developed some dramatic funerary customs, many of which are still evident today. Tombs of the Umm an Nar culture have been excavated and studied on the coastline at Abu Dhabi [http://www.adach.ae/en/portal/umm.alnar.aspx]. The former Abu Dhabi Authority for Culture and Heritage (ADACH) (now part of Abu Dhabi Tourism and Culture Authority) discusses important archaeological sites at Marawah Island [http://www.adach.ae/en/portal/marwa.island.aspx], Jebel Hafit [http://www.adach.ae/en/portal/jabel.hafit.tombs.aspx], Bida Bint Saud [http://www.adach.ae/en/portal/bida.bint.saud.aspx], and Hili (Al Ain) [http://www.adach.ae/en/portal/alhilli.archaelogical.park.aspx]. At archaeological sites in the ‘Buraimi Oasis’ region, especially at Jebel Hafit, Bida Bint Saud, and Hili, burial systems are the most dominant features of the sites. Archaeological teams including those from Denmark, France, Iraq, and the United Arab Emirates have observed and reported much of the funerary customs associated with the tombs. However, none of the investigations appears to have drawn any connection between graves and Aloe vera.

Likewise, a review of literature and websites for archaeological sites in Oman, notably publications in the series The Journal of Oman Studies, has likewise failed to find any reference of the use of Aloe vera on graves in the region. One of the few published accounts is Marijcke Jongbloed’s book on the plants of the United Arab Emirates.

The funerary customs associated with Islam are well documented and, assumed, have been followed by the local population for centuries following the adoption of Islam in the region in the 7th century. Numerous books, periodicals, and websites discuss the history of Oman and the coming of Islam. One thorough discussion was published in Saudi Aramco World in the magazine’s May/June 1983 issue, pages 4-7  [http://www.saudiaramcoworld.com/issue/198303/oman-a.history.htm].

With the advent of Islam, ‘Amr ibn al-‘As, later famous as the conqueror of Egypt, and one of the most important political and military leaders of the early Muslim community, was sent to Oman by the Prophet Muhammad. This was probably in the year 632, for while he was in Oman he learned of Muhammad’s death that year in Medina, and hastened back. His mission, however, was successful: the two sons of the Julanda of Oman accepted Islam, and immediately, with their Azd kinsmen, set about driving the Persians out of the country: they sent a letter to the pagan Sasanid governor at Rustaq, inviting him to embrace Islam and, when he refused, defeated him in battle. The Azd then besieged the Persian garrison at Sohar, forcing the governor to surrender and leave the country. The Azd subsequently played a major role in the Islamic conquests. They were one of the five tribal contingents that settled in the newly founded garrison city of Basra at the head of the Arabian Gulf: under their great general al-Muhallab ibn Abi Sufra, they also took part in the conquest of Khurasan and Transoxania.

Another important group in Oman’s history was the Kharijites, who fled south following the battle of Siffin, in 657, when the forces of Ali, son-in-law of the Prophet, fought the armies of Mu’awiya, the governor of Syria, and founder of the Umayyad dynasty, over the issue of the succession to the caliphate. The Kharijites refused to accept either Ali or Mu’awiya as the legitimate successor, believing the caliphate should be elective, and many took refuge in Oman, far from the authority of the central government. In 750, when the Umayyad dynasty was overthrown by the Abbasids, an Omani branch of the Kharijites known as the Ibadis picked as their spiritual leader Julanda ibn Mas’ud – a descendant of the same Julanda brothers who first embraced Islam, and despite an expedition to Oman sent by the Abbasids, these Imams ruled in Oman thereafter.

The article suggests the Ibadi branch of Islam dates back to 750 AD.

The differences between the Ibadi branch of Islam and other branches is the subject of many papers, books, websites, and articles. The concern here is whether there is any significant difference between Ibadi and other branches of Islam regarding funerary procedures and the interment of the dead.

One way to consider the scope of the difference between the branches is with regard to hadiths, a hadith being “a saying or an act or tacit approval or disapproval ascribed either validly or invalidly to the Islamic prophet Muhammad.” (Islahi, Amin Ahsan (1989 (tr:2009)) (in Urdu). Mabadi Tadabbur-i-Hadith (translated as: Fundamentals of Hadith Interpretation). Lahore: Al-Mawrid. Retrieved 2 June 2011.

The Wikipedia site discussion of Ibadi Islam has the following discussion of Hadith from the perspective of Ibadi followers [http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ibadi]:

View of hadith

Ibāḑīs accept as authentic far fewer hadīth than do Sunnīs, and some hadith accepted by Ibāḑīs are rejected by Sunnīs. Ibāḑī jurisprudence, naturally, is based only on the ḥadīth accepted by Ibāḑīs. Several of Ibāḑīsm’s founding figures – in particular Jābir ibn Zayd – were noted for their ḥadīth research, and Jābir ibn Zayd is accepted as a reliable narrator by Sunnī scholars as well as by Ibāḑī ones.

The principal ḥadith collection accepted by Ibāḑīs is Musnad al-Rabī’ ibn Ḥabīb, as rearranged by Abū Ya’qūb Yūsuf ibn Ibrāhīm al-Warijlanī. Ibāḑī jurists use the rules set by Abū Ya’qūb al-Warijlanī to determine the reliability of a ḥadīth. These are largely similar to those used by Sunnīs.

Ibāḑī jurists, however, criticize some of Muḥammad’s companions, believing that some were corrupted after the reign of the first two caliphs. Still, they accept hadith narrating the words of the companions as a third basis for legal rulings, alongside the Qur’an and ḥadith relating Muḥammad’s words.

There is nothing, however, to suggest that the funerary practices/customs followed in Ibadi Oman vary significantly from those generally prescribed for all Muslims.

One of the most thorough discussions of funerary customs was found at [http://www.missionislam.com/knowledge/janazahstepbystep.htm] (copy enclosed).

Of particular interest were the sections of the discussion pertaining to the cemetery and individual graves. In the discussion of interment (Al Dafin), the authors note:

There is no Islamic teaching of putting flowers, food, water, or money around the grave that will benefit the deceased.

There is no Islamic teaching of putting anything in, on or around the grave that will benefit the deceased.

However the authors do note that “Some of these practices are done by some Muslims in different countries, but that does not make it the Islamic way.

Likewise, practices may have varied in the past.

Quoting specific teachings, the authors report:

It is prohibited to build any form of construction on the grave, or decorate the grave.

From the authentic traditions, it is clear that to erect domes over graves or build mausoleums or Mosques on graves is strictly forbidden. Prophet Muhammad (P.B.U.H) said: “Do not build Mosques in the graveyard.” (Muslim)

Ali ibn abi Taleb reported that: “Prophet Muhammad (P.B.U.H.) instructed him to destroy all statues, and not to leave a grave raised high without leveling it with the ground,” (Muslim) which means no construction on the grave.

The following is from the Encyclopedia of Islam (personal copy of the author):

“The dead body was washed by those of the same sex though  [II:442a] there were exceptions;

Abå Bakr [q.v.] gave orders that he should be washed by his widow. It was a mark of piety for one at the point of death to wash himself in readiness. The body was not stripped entirely and was washed several times, always an uneven number, and for the last sidr leaves or camphor was steeped in the water. If disease made it unwholesome to touch the body, it was enough to pour quantities of water over it. Washing began with the right side and the parts washed in the ritual ablution. Martyrs who fell in battle were not washed and were buried in their blood-stained clothes without prayers. Grave-clothes might be the everyday garments, usually three, though sheets were used; white was the normal use though colours were allowed but not red. The eyes were closed, the jaw tied up and the graveclothes tied tightly but were loosened in the tomb. If the clothes were short they had to cover the head while the feet might be covered with reeds. The body was carried to the grave on an open bier with a cloth thrown over it, and there was an extra covering for a woman. Burial might be in the house but was more usual in a cemetery. The funeral moved quickly for, “If I am good, hurry me to God; and if I am bad, get rid of me quickly”. It was better to walk in the procession than to ride and it was a work of merit to help carry the bier, if only for a few steps. A halt might be made at a mosque for prayers which differed from the  ßal§t  [q.v.] because the mourners stood throughout. Prayers were said by the grave. A near relative officiated though the governor or a famous scholar might be asked to lead or might insist on doing so. The im§m  [q.v.] stood by the head of a man or by the trunk of a woman. Prayers were said over an infant if it had cried once but not over a suicide. Those sitting in the street should stand as a funeral passes. Women were not allowed to be present; this was to avoid the lamentation customary in the ò3§hiliyya [q.v.] because lamentations added to the pains of the dead. The earth must not press on the body which must sit up to answer Munkar and NakÊr so the grave was a pit with a narrower trench at the bottom or a niche hollowed out at the side; the trench was roofed with flagstones and the niche shut off by a wall of sun-dried bricks. Grave-diggers specialized in one or other of these forms and MuÈammad’s grave depended on whether a “trencher” or a “nicher” came first. If this tale is true, these forms of burial existed before Islam but the details are so precise that the whole is suspect. The nearest relatives descended into the grave to put the body in position with the face towards Mecca and to loosen the grave-clothes. One man one grave is the rule; after the battle of UÈud two bodies were put in one grave but one was taken away later; if a man and a woman had to be laid in one grave, there had to be a partition between them. Burial might be on the day of death or the following day but a hurried burial at night was not approved. Some held that the earth over a grave should be level though others allowed a small mound. Covering it with plaster and inscriptions was forbidden but headstones with name, date and sentences from the |ur”§n soon became common. Water was often sprinkled on the grave; rain watered that of a saint and in later times, if there was a horizontal stone, it had a hole in it to let water through. Coffins were not used at first but by the 6th century they were common. There might be a meal with gifts of food to the poor. Customs changed; women followed funerals, professional |  [II:442b] mourners were employed and masonry tombs became common.[1]

And later: “Aloes seems to be mentioned by Arabic writers only in the story of ø9amåd; otherwise it is found only in a Syriac lexicon.”

The discussion from the Encyclopedia of Islam is very similar, though with less detail, than that in the paper enclosed, namely Authentic Step-by-Step Illustrated Janazah Guide. The Encyclopedia of Islam also notes that “Customs change . . .”.

One source [http://www.nagpuronline.com/people/rit_mslm.html] noted: “When the grave is completely filled in, two stones are kept over it on either ends and two plants or branches or trees are planted.” (Entire article appears as Appendix A.)

However, another reference site [http://islam.about.com/cs/elderly/a/funerals.htm ] discourages the planting of flowers on the grave:

The deceased is then taken to the cemetery for burial (al-dafin). While all members of the community attend the funeral prayers, only the men of the community accompany the body to the gravesite. It is preferred for a Muslim to be buried where he or she died, and not be transported to another location or country (which may cause delays or require embalming the body). If available, a cemetery (or section of one) set aside for Muslims is preferred. The deceased is laid in the grave (without a coffin if permitted by local law) on his or her right side, facing Mecca. At the gravesite, it is discouraged for people to erect tombstones, elaborate markers, or put flowers or other momentos. Rather, one should humbly remember Allah and His mercy, and pray for the deceased. [The entire discussion of death, funerals etc is contained in Appendix B.]

 

The history of Aloe vera

In the unattributed discussion of the history of the plant at http://www.garudaint.com/product.php?id=35, it is confirmed that the plant has been associated with medicine for thousands of years.

As discussed in the article, the aloe plants “belong to the liliaceae family which contains over 200 genera” with the aloe – in its different variations – accounting for 1/10th the lily family. “Aloeneae is the tribe of the liliaceae family to which the aloe genus belongs. According to different botanical sources, there are from 325 to 380 different species and varieties of Aloe.”

The article reports that the plant was known and used in the Arab world more than 3000 years ago, the earliest printed reference reported from Egypt.

“Records of ancient knowledge of the Egyptians about Aloe vera is [sic] available to us through the everas papyrus which was written in the year 1552 B.C. and is kept now in the German University in Leipzig.”

Eventually, Arab traders and sailors took the plant to India where its use was widespread. It is believed it spread from India to China and beyond.

The article is the only one located to date discussing the relationship between the plant and Arab/Islamic culture.

“In Arabic, the Aloe plant is called sabbar, an Arabic word that means burden bearer. The Arabs used to sling Aloe plants on the doors of their homes, supposedly to prevent evil from entering.

“The plants will stay green and alive for extended periods of time and may even flower. Egyptians, who have a long relationship with Aloes, still grow the plants around graveyards to symbolize the patience which is to be exercised during the long suffering from losing the deceased person. The Gala, a hematic tribe who now lives in Ethiopia and Somalia in East Africa grow the plants around their graves and they believe that when the plants flower, the deceased has been admitted to heaven.”

The reference to the practices in Ethiopia and Somalia leads to an interesting speculation. Perhaps the planting of Aloe vera on graves has been passed to the people of northern Oman after centuries of movement of people from the west coast of Africa to the Arabian Peninsula; the history of the plant is often linked to the island of Socotra, located near the coast of Somalia and currently part of Oman. Is it possible the custom was brought to the region by persons brought from Somalia or Ethiopia? Or has the custom been passed from community to community along the southern coast of the Arabian Peninsula over the millenia?

In a brief discussion of Aloe vera by Satish Lele (http://business.vsnl.com/nelcon/herbal.htm), the origin of the plant is traced to Somalia.

“The word ‘aloe’ has its roots in the Arabic word ‘alloeh’, which means ‘radiance’. A native plant of Somalia with a history dating back to the fourth century B.C, Aloe vera also figures prominently in Egyptian, Chinese, Greek, Indian and Christian literature. As per legend, it was the miraculous healing power of Aloe vera that prompted Alexander the Great to conquer the island of Socotra. Cleopatra’s famed beauty is also attributed to the natural goodness of Aloe vera.”

Lele’s discussion of Aloe vera in Arab culture varies slightly from the previously cited source: “ . . . the Arabs have a tradition of placing it at graves as a symbol of regeneration and resurrection . . .”

Another source (http://www.aloeria.co.uk/html/body_aloe_vera_history.html) also notes the mention of aloe on a Sumerian clay tablet as well as the reference to aloe in Egypt a few centuries later.

“One of the earliest books on the subject of natural medicine (the only kind known at the time) was the Rig Vede, compiled in India sometime between B.C.E. 4500 and B.C.E. 1600. While it lists hundreds of plants deemed useful in medicine and is the logical starting point for any discussion of alternative medicine, it does not specifically mention Aloe vera. Many believe that a Sumerian clay tablet, found in the city of Nippur, written around B.C.E. 2200, was the first document to include Aloe vera among plants of great healing power. The first detailed discussion of Aloe’s medicinal value is probably that which is found in the Papyrus ebers, an Egyptian document written around B.C.E. 1550. This document gives twelve formulas for mixing Aloe with other agents to treat both internal and external human disorders.

“The first milestone in Western man’s detailed understanding of medicinal plants is the work of Hippocrites (460B.C.- 375B.C.), the father of modern medicine (doctors today still take the Hippocratic Oath). His Material Medica makes no direct mention of Aloe, but during that same period, the plant, according to Copra’s Indigenous Drugs of India, had come into widespread use. Interestingly, Copra writes, ‘The use of Aloes, the common musabbar, for external application to inflamed painful parts of the body and for causing purgation [internal cleansing] are too well known in India to need any special mention.’”

 

Aloe and the Bible

The use of aloe for various purposes is mentioned in a number of locations in the Bible, the one mention of aloe and funerary practices being in John 19: 38-40:

“And Nicodemus, who at first came to Jesus by night, also came, bringing a mixture of myrrh and aloes, weighing about a hundred pounds. Then they took the body of Jesus, and bound it in strips of linen with the spices, as the custom of the Jews is to bury.”

The complete set of verses from John and other instances where aloe is mentioned in the Bible are listed in Appendix C.

 

 

Conclusion

Aloe vera has been a part of numerous cultures for thousands of years as a result of its medicinal qualities which were recorded as early as Sumerian society. Like many other plants, Aloe vera has been associated with special powers including immortality and longevity. As a result, it is not surprising that it has been used, from time to time, as part of funerary customs in different cultures.

The earliest association of the plant with funerary customs appears to be in ancient Egypt in connection with the burial of Pharaohs. However it is not until the time of Islam that there is any specific mention of the living plant being placed on graves; while there are references to the practice, there are few, if any, details so it is difficult at this time to conclude when the practice may have begun.

The practice appears to be limited to a relatively small geographical area between the Horn of Africa and southern Iran at the Straits of Hormuz. This is an area where trade and hunting and human migration has taken place for thousands of years so it is not surprising that a funerary custom, along with language, food, dress, arts, or lifestyle would be shared and even common among families and tribes in the region.

Cultures that have occupied the region for thousands of years have used a variety of different means of disposing of the deceased including elaborate tombs and subterranean burials. These different burial systems have been studied and documented extensively.

However, the custom of planting Aloe vera plants on graves appears to be a recent development that seems to be in contravention of Islamic instructions regarding the burial of the dead. Burials, along with preparation of the body of the deceased, are detailed in Islamic teachings due, in part, to the belief in a Day of Resurrection.

Although families and tribes in the Oman peninsula share much history, the custom of planting Aloe vera on graves appears limited to an area associated with the al Ka’abi family, in an area along the western slopes of the Hajjar Mountains in Oman and the United Arab Emirates.

It would be helpful to have a more comprehensive record of the presence of Aloe vera plants on graves in the UAE and Oman, a more accurate estimation of the age of the plants and the graves, and any reference to the plant in the available histories of the peoples of the UAE and Oman. The custom may be known in the oral history of the region and steps to record and document that oral history should be promoted extensively.

With modern living standards and policies to relocate populations from mountain oasis communities, the custom of burying the dead in cemeteries adjacent to these communities appears to be abandoned.

 

 

Acknowledgements

A survey of this nature – considering the graves of unknown individuals in mountain oasis communities – has not been one to attract a great deal of interest among friends and colleagues. However, a few have been especially supportive and helpful in collecting information on the topic. Cheryl Dance (Al Ain) has looked for evidence of the planting of Aloe vera on graves in communities she visits in Oman and the United Arab Emirates and her photographs and documentation has been very much appreciated. Lynn Kordus (USA) has been exceedingly generous in her forwarding of websites and other information that has contributed to the understanding of ancient funerary customs and uses of Aloe vera. Clive Winbow (Muscat), author of the book ‘The Native Plants of Oman’ has likewise been generous with his time; his expertise in identifying plants and his extensive knowledge of plants and their uses in the Oman peninsula is very much appreciated. Thanks also to Peter Hellyer for his support and encouragement over the years. Finally, a sincere note of appreciation to Zaki al Nusseibeh for his patience and contributions as he and I discussed different aspects of this custom.

Appendices

Appendix A:   Muslim Funerary rites

Appendix B:   Other discussions of death in Islam

Appendix C:   References to aloe in the Bible

Appendix D:   How Romans Buried Their Dead

Appendix E:    Death and Burial in Greek Culture

Appendix F:    Death, funerary rites, and other customs in Judaism

Appendix G:   Other discussions of Aloe vera

Appendix H:   Communities and associated cemeteries where Aloe vera observed

Appendix I:     Authentic step-by-step illustrated Janazah guide

Appendix J:    Religious Rites

Appendix K:    Photographs of graves with Aloe vera

Appendix L:    Other plants associated with immortality and special powers

 

Appendix A: Muslim funerary rites

(as discussed at: http://www.nagpuronline.com/people/rit_mslm.html)

Funeral Rites: Muslims bury their dead, and the same word janazah is used for the corpse, the bier and the funeral. When a man is at the point of death a chapter of the Kuran telling of the happiness awaiting the true believer in the future life, is read, and he is given a few drops of sarbat. After death the body is carefully washed and wrapped in three or five clothes for a man or woman, respectively. Some camphor or other sweet-smelling stuff is placed on the bier. Women do not usually attend funerals, and the friends and relations of the deceased walk behind the bier. To carry a bier is considered a very meritorious act, and four to the relations, relieving each other in turn, bear it on their shoulders. Muslims allow no delay for carrying their dead to the place of interment, and necessarily attend the funeral on foot. The funeral service is recited in a mosque or in some open space close to the graveyard. Usually the family priest or the village Kazi recites the service. Coffins are only used by the rich. When the body has been lowered in the grave each person takes up a clod and pronouncing over it a verse of the Kuran places it gently over the copse. When the grave is completely filled in, two stones are kept over it on either ends and two plants or branches or trees are planted. Then the fatima, i.e., the opening chapter of the Kuran, is read. On the third day is feast is given in the morning and after that trays of flowers with a vessel containing scented oil are handed round and the guests pick flowers and dip them into the oil. They then proceed to the grave, when the oil and flowers are poured over the grave. On the morning of the tenth t his offering of flowers and scented oil is repeated. Other feasts are given on the fortieth day, and at the expiration of four, six and nine months and one year from the date of death, and the rich sometimes spend large sums on them. These observances though not prescribed by the Kuran have been retained either form pre-Islamic times or adopted in imitation of the Hindus.

 

Appendix B: Other discussions of death in Islam

(as discussed at http://islam.about.com/cs/elderly/a/funerals.htm)

“Death is a very painful and emotional time, yet one that may be filled with hope and mercy. Muslims believe that death is a departure from the life of this world, but not the end of a person’s existence. Rather, eternal life is to come, and we pray for God’s mercy to be with the departed, in hopes that they may find peace and happiness in the life to come.

Care for the Dying

“When a Muslim is near death, those around him or her are called upon to give comfort, and reminders of God’s mercy and forgiveness. They may recite verses from the Qur’an, give physical comfort, and encourage the dying one to recite words of remembrance and prayer. It is recommended, if at all possible, for a Muslim’s last words to be the declaration of faith: “I bear witness that there is no god but Allah.”

“Upon death, those with the deceased are encouraged to remain calm, pray for the departed, and begin preparations for burial. The eyes of the deceased should be closed, and the body covered temporarily with a clean sheet. It is forbidden for those in mourning to excessively wail, scream, or thrash about. Grief is normal when one has lost a loved one, and it is natural and permitted to cry. When the Prophet Muhammad’s own son died, he said: “The eyes shed tears and the heart is grieved, but we will not say anything except which pleases our Lord.” One should strive to be patient, and remember that Allah is the One who gives life and takes it away, at a time appointed by Him. It is not for us to question His wisdom.

“Muslims strive to bury the deceased as soon as possible after death, avoiding the need for embalming or otherwise disturbing the body of the deceased. An autopsy may be performed, if necessary, but should be done with the utmost respect for the dead.

Washing and Shrouding

“In preparation for burial, the family or other members of the community will wash and shroud the body. (If the deceased was killed as a martyr, this step is not performed; martyrs are buried in the clothes they died in.) The deceased will be washed respectfully, with clean and scented water, in a manner similar to how Muslims make ablutions for prayer. The body will then be wrapped in sheets of clean, white cloth (called the kafan).

Funeral Prayers

“The deceased is then transported to the site of the funeral prayers (salat-l-janazah). These prayers are commonly held outdoors, in a courtyard or public square, not inside the mosque. The community gathers, and the imam (prayer leader) stands in front of the deceased, facing away from the worshippers. The funeral prayer is similar in structure to the five daily prayers, with a few variations. (For example, there is no bowing or prostration, and the entire prayer is said silently but for a few words.)

Burial

“The deceased is then taken to the cemetery for burial (al-dafin). While all members of the community attend the funeral prayers, only the men of the community accompany the body to the gravesite. It is preferred for a Muslim to be buried where he or she died, and not be transported to another location or country (which may cause delays or require embalming the body). If available, a cemetery (or section of one) set aside for Muslims is preferred. The deceased is laid in the grave (without a coffin if permitted by local law) on his or her right side, facing Mecca. At the gravesite, it is discouraged for people to erect tombstones, elaborate markers, or put flowers or other momentos. Rather, one should humbly remember Allah and His mercy, and pray for the deceased.

Mourning

“Loved ones and relatives are to observe a 3-day mourning period. Mourning is observed in Islam by increased devotion, receiving visitors and condolences, and avoiding decorative clothing and jewelry. Widows observe an extended mourning period (iddah), 4 months and 10 days long, in accordance with the Qur’an 2:234. During this time, she is not to remarry, move from her home, or wear decorative clothing or jewelry.

“When one dies, everything in this earthly life is left behind, and there are no more opportunities to perform acts of righteousness and faith. The Prophet Muhammad once said that there are three things, however, which may continue to benefit a person after death: charity given during life which continues to help others, knowledge from which people continue to benefit, and a righteous child who prays for him or her.

More Information

“A complete discussion of death and burial rites in Islam is given in the Authentic, Step-by-Step, Illustrated Janazah Guide by brother Mohamed Siala, published by IANA. This guide discusses all aspects of a proper Islamic burial: what to do when a Muslim dies, details of how to wash and shroud the deceased, how to perform the funeral prayers and the burial. This guide also dispels many myths and cultural traditions that are not based in Islam.”

A copy of the website is enclosed; the material on the site was edited to correct errors in punctuation, typesetting, and grammar; no changes were made to the text or the highlighting of text.

(as discussed at http://www.netplaces.com/understanding-islam/life-events-in-muslim-families/death-and-funeral-rituals.htm)

“Islam sees death not as an end to life but rather as the beginning of the world to come. Muslims recognize that all creatures will die and believe that God determines our time and place of death. ““Every soul shall have a taste of death; in the end to Us shall you be brought back…. Nor does any one know in what land he is to die. Verily, with Allah is full knowledge, and He is acquainted with all things.”” (Qur’an 29:57, 31:34)

Death Rites

“Muslims see death as a natural event, and they prefer to face death in the company of family and friends, not among strangers in a sterile medical ward. When a Muslim nears death, his loved ones gather around to help him turn his thoughts to God, encourage him to repent his sins, remind him about the good things he did during his life, and give him hope about the mercy of God. They may also prompt him, very gently, to utter words of faith as his last words.

“After death has been confirmed, those present close the eyes of the deceased, cover the body with a clean sheet, and supplicate God to forgive him for anything he did wrong during his life. They then hasten to prepare the body for washing, shrouding, and burial.

“It is common in some Muslim countries to declare a 40-day national mourning period upon the death of a dignitary. This practice has no basis in Islam. The mourning period in Islam is limited to three days, except in the case of a widow mourning her husband’s death.

Islamic Burial

“Muslims strive to bury the dead as soon as possible after death, and many Islamic burials occur within twenty-four hours. Family members or other members of the Muslim community care for the deceased. They wash the body several times with water, following the same general process as in the ablutions for prayer. In the final wash, perfume or camphor is added to the water. Finally, the body is dried with a towel and shrouded in plain white cloths.

“According to a tradition of the Prophet Muhammad, Muslims may bequeath up to one-third of their estate in a written will to any person or organization of their choosing. In addition, transfers of estate may be done at any time during a person’s lifetime. These amounts are not included in the inheritance calculations.

“At the time of burial, Muslims gather to pray the funeral prayer, called salaat-l-janazah. This is a congregational prayer during which worshipers ask God for forgiveness and mercy for the deceased. The congregation gathers in front of the body, standing in rows. The funeral prayer is said silently except for a few words. After the prayer, the body is transferred directly to the cemetery for burial.

“Muslims prefer simple and natural burials. If permitted by local law, the deceased is buried without even a casket. The shrouded body is placed in the grave resting on the right side, facing Mecca. Muslim cemeteries are characterized by simplicity, humility, and economy. One will not find ornate monuments or elaborate floral displays. A grave is usually marked with a simple stone marker, level to the ground.

“The official mourning period in Islam is three days. For widows, this period is extended to four months and ten days, as described in the Qur’an (2:234). The Prophet Muhammad advised his followers to be humble and patient in mourning. Grief at the death of a loved one is natural, but Muslims are not to despair or lose faith.”

– – –

(as discussed on page 24 of http://www.islam-in-oman.com/fileadmin/booklet/en/book_RTO_en.pdf)

“The rituals for the burial of the dead are based on religious teachings and may differ slightly depending on the ethnic group and traditional practices. All are agreed, however, that the dignity of the dead must be respected, whether man or woman. The ritual begins with the washing of the body, which is then perfumed and wrapped in a white shroud. The funeral bier is carried on the shoulders to the cemetery where prayers are held. The prayer includes asking for mercy and forgiveness for the departed and imploring for his or her entrance into paradise.

“Then the body is carried to the grave, which is a simple pit dug in the appropriate size and depth, into which the body is laid. It is covered with stones so that the funeral bier is not sullied with dust and dirt. Only then is the grave filled with earth.

“Usually there is no indication who is buried in a grave, but grave sites may be marked to provide information about the gender of the deceased. A simple upright stone on either end of the grave marks the final resting place of a man; these plus a third stone in the center indicates that of a woman. On occasion someone may write the name of the deceased on a stone or a small table, which then fades with time. The Omanis rarely visit the graves of their loved ones. The care and maintenance of cemetery plots as is common among Christian denominations as a means of venerating the dead is not practiced in Islam.”

 

Appendix C: References to aloe in the Bible.

How lovely are your tents, O Jacob! Your dwellings, O Israel! Like valleys that stretch out, like gardens by the riverside, like aloes planted by the LORD, like cedars beside the waters.
Num 24:5-6

All Your garments are scented with myrrh and aloes and cassia, out of the ivory palaces, by which they have made You glad.
Psalms 45:8

Your plants are an orchard of pomegranates with pleasant fruits, fragrant henna with spikenard, Spikenard and saffron, Calamus and cinnamon, with all trees of frankincense, myrrh and aloes, with all the chief spices– A fountain of gardens, a well of living waters, and streams from Lebanon. THE SHULAMITE
Song 4:13-15

I have perfumed my bed with myrrh, aloes, and cinnamon. Come, let us take our fill of love until morning; let us delight ourselves with love.
Prov 7:17-18

After this, Joseph of Arimathea, being a disciple of Jesus, but secretly, for fear of the Jews, asked Pilate that he might take away the body of Jesus; and Pilate gave him permission. So he came and took the body of Jesus. And Nicodemus, who at first came to Jesus by night, also came, bringing a mixture of myrrh and aloes, weighing about a hundred pounds. Then they took the body of Jesus, and bound it in strips of linen with the spices, as the custom of the Jews is to bury.
John 19:38-40

Appendix D: How Romans Buried Their Dead

“Funeral Preparation

“When a person died, he would be washed and laid out on a couch, dressed in his finest clothes and crowned, if he had earned one in life. A coin would be placed on his mouth, under the tongue, or on the eyes so he could pay the ferryman Charon to row him to the land of the dead. After being laid out for 8 days, he would be taken out for burial.”

http://ancienthistory.about.com/od/deathafterlife/a/RomanBurial.htm

 

Death and Burial in the Roman Culture

Romans could either bury or burn their dead, and depending upon the personal customs, people would choose one ritual over the other. Roman treatment of the deceased in terms of the cremation rituals perpetuated their life status.

Burial

The Romans believed the soul of a deceased person could only find peace when the physical body was buried in a proper manner and all ceremonies were conducted appropriately. If this was not done, the soul would haunt its home and other family members. It was the solemn religious duty of the living to perform solemn religious rituals for the dead.

Cremation

For those who preferred cremation over burial, there were strict religious rites to be performed. Also, the interment of the body, either the bones or ashes, had to be duly buried in the earth in order to bring happiness and peace to the soul of the deceased person. However, children less than forty days old and slaves were to be buried.

http://www.netplaces.com/evidence-of-the-afterlife/afterlife-beliefs-in-ancient-and-modern-cultures/death-burial-and-the-afterlife-in-greece-and-rome.htm

Appendix E: Death and Burial in Greek Culture

The Greeks believed that when a person dies, his spirit or psyche leaves the physical body in the form of a little breath or puff of air. The deceased was then prepared for burial according to Greek customs. The dead body was washed, anointed with oil, and dressed for the rituals. Relatives, primarily women, conducted the burial ceremonies, which can be divided into three main parts:

  • The prosthesis:This refers to the laying out and display of the body, so relatives, friends, and acquaintances could come and pay their respects to the deceased.
  • The ekphora:Ekphora is the funeral procession, where the deceased was brought to the cemetery for burial. Ekphora usually took place just before dawn, and it involved building the funeral pyre (if the dead body was to be burned) or filling up the grave with objects of daily use. More elaborate objects such as monumental earth mounds, specially built tombs, and marble statues were erected around the grave, to ensure that the deceased would not be forgotten.
  • The interment:The remains of the body, or ashes, if cremated, were placed inside the tomb specially built for the deceased. The tomb could be a family plot (peribolos), a communal grave (polyandreion), or a monumental tomb for the elite. Immortality lay in the continued remembrance of the deceased person by his family members.

The burial ceremonies in the ancient Greek culture were a representation of the social and financial status of the deceased, as the tombs of wealthy men were built in an extravagant manner. Jewels and extravagant objects were considered essential grave offerings.

The Greeks believed those who were not buried or cremated in the appropriate manner would be destined to suffer between the two worlds and would not be given an entry into the underworld, the land of the dead, until these rites were completed.

http://www.netplaces.com/evidence-of-the-afterlife/afterlife-beliefs-in-ancient-and-modern-cultures/death-burial-and-the-afterlife-in-greece-and-rome.htm

 

Appendix F: Death, funerary customs, and afterlife in Judaism

Resurrection and Reincarnation

Belief in the eventual resurrection of the dead is a fundamental belief of traditional Judaism. It was a belief that distinguished the Pharisees (intellectual ancestors of Rabbinical Judaism) from the Sadducees. The Sadducees rejected the concept, because it is not explicitly mentioned in the Torah. The Pharisees found the concept implied in certain verses.

Belief in resurrection of the dead is one of Rambam’s 13 Principles of Faith. The second blessing of the Shemoneh Esrei prayer, which is recited three times daily, contains several references to resurrection. (Note: the Reform movement, which apparently rejects this belief, has rewritten the second blessing accordingly).

The resurrection of the dead will occur in the messianic age, a time referred to in Hebrew as the Olam Ha-Ba, the World to Come, but that term is also used to refer to the spiritual afterlife. When the messiah comes to initiate the perfect world of peace and prosperity, the righteous dead will be brought back to life and given the opportunity to experience the perfected world that their righteousness helped to create. The wicked dead will not be resurrected.

There are some mystical schools of thought that believe resurrection is not a one-time event, but is an ongoing process. The souls of the righteous are reborn in to continue the ongoing process of tikkun olam, mending of the world. Some sources indicate that reincarnation is a routine process, while others indicate that it only occurs in unusual circumstances, where the soul left unfinished business behind. Belief in reincarnation is also one way to explain the traditional Jewish belief that every Jewish soul in history was present at Sinai and agreed to the covenant with G-d. (Another explanation: that the soul exists before the body, and these unborn souls were present in some form at Sinai). Belief in reincarnation is commonly held by many Chasidic sects, as well as some other mystically-inclined Jews.

[http://www.jewfaq.org/olamhaba.htm]

Appendix G: Other discussions of Aloe vera

This section is intended to highlight some of the discussions (in English) about Aloe vera, its history, names, and uses.

Most of these sites do not provide bibliographies or references for the information shared or other details of the plant’s history.

It is interesting that several sites offer different translations or interpretations of the Arabic word for the plant. Some of this may be the result of different adjectives or terms used to describe the effect or application of the plants rather than a literal translation of the proper name for the plant.

The sites are presented in no particular order though a leading commercial site is shown first followed by two more scientific sites. The collection includes a handful of unexpected sites to illustrate how broad the appeal of the plant; for example, the plant’s “powers” are said to extend to witchcraft and vampires.

– – –

The AliGel company promotes the use of the plant extracts for medicinal purposes.

Aloe was a well-known plant already at the time of the Ancient Greeks. Indeed Dioscorides and Plinius inform us that it has been used as medical treatment since the IV century B.C.

Aloe was native to the Socotra Island and in Islam it was worshipped and considered a religious symbol. Islamic pilgrims used to bring it to the Temple of the Prophet and also to hang it above the doorstep of their houses to protect their homes.

There was even a type of Aloe which was traditionally planted over the graves because it was thought to give the dead the necessary patience to wait until the resurrection day.

The Sanskrit name of Aloe is kumari, which means “maiden” or “virgin”. This is because Aloe seems to give back to women the energy they had when they were young.

Aloe’s therapeutic properties are well-known in many countries. In the USA it is called “Medicine Plant”; in Spain it is called Sàvila; in Sanskrit and in the Ayurvedic medicine it is called Ghrita-Kumari; in Malaysia it is called Jadam; in China it is called Luhui; in Potugal and its domains it is known as Erba Balbosa; in Greek, Latin, Italian, German, Russian, French and Hawaiian it is simply known as Aloe.

The name “Aloe” derives from the Arabic word “Alloch” which means “bitter and shiny substance”. The adjective “vera” (“true”) has been added a long time ago to refer to the Barbadenis variety and to point out that only that variety of Aloe has the better healing properties. Nevertheless later on it was discovered that also other Aloe species similar to the Barbadenis one have exactly the same precious properties.

For centuries – or better: millennia – the almost magic properties of Aloe derivates (oil, lymph and mucilage) has been renowed [sic] among many different eastern as well as western cultures. Aloe has been used both for internal and external topic application, to heal burns and wounds, to soothe many different types of pain and also to treat some diseases.

News about Aloe have been found on Sumerian clay tablets where it is referred to as Musabbar. In the Ebers papyrus – the most ancient document about medicine ever discovered up to now, indeed it dates back to 1500 b. C.- are listed all the medical properties of Aloe discovered by traditional Egyptian medicine, not to mention a large number of treatments and remedies where Aloe features as one of the main ingredients. The medical receipts written on papyri systematically alternate with magical formulae that in ancient times were thought to make the treatments more effective and powerful.

http://www.aligelgroup.com/english/aloe_story.htm

– – –

Two of the more credible discussions of Aloe vera are from WebMD and the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine (NCCAM).

WebMD

http://www.webmd.com/vitamins-supplements/ingredientmono-607-Plant%20of%20Immortality%20(ALOE).aspx?activeIngredientId=607&activeIngredientName=Plant%20of%20Immortality%20(ALOE)

Aloe (often called Aloe vera) is a plant related to cactus. It produces two substances, gel and latex, which are used for medicines. Aloe gel is the clear, jelly-like substance found in the inner part of the aloe plant leaf. Aloe latex comes from just under the plant’s skin and is yellow in color. Some aloe products are made from the whole crushed leaf, so they contain both gel and latex. The aloe that is mentioned in the Bible is an unrelated fragrant wood used as incense.

Aloe medications can be taken by mouth or applied to the skin. Aloe gel is taken by mouth for osteoarthritis, bowel diseases including ulcerative colitis, fever, itching and inflammation, and as a general tonic. It is also used for stomach ulcers, diabetes, asthma, and for treating some side effects of radiation treatment.

But most people use aloe gel topically, as a remedy for skin conditions including burns, sunburn, frostbite, psoriasis, and cold sores. Some people also use aloe gel to help surgical wounds and bedsores heal faster. There is some science supporting these uses. Some chemicals in aloe gel seem to be able to increase circulation in the tiny blood vessels in the skin, as well as kill bacteria. Together, these effects suggest that aloe gel might be effective in speeding wound healing. But it’s too early to come to that conclusion. Evidence is contradictory. One study suggests that aloe gel may actually delay wound healing.

Some people take aloe latex by mouth, usually for constipation. Less often, aloe latex is used orally for epilepsy, asthma, colds, bleeding, absence of menstrual periods, colitis, depression, diabetes, multiple sclerosis, hemorrhoids, varicose veins, bursitis, osteoarthritis, and glaucoma and other vision problems.

But taking aloe latex by mouth is likely unsafe, especially at high doses. There is some concern that some of the chemicals found in aloe latex might cause cancer. Additionally, aloe latex is hard on the kidneys and could lead to serious kidney disease and even death.

A number of years ago, the FDA became concerned about the safety of aloe latex, which was an ingredient in many laxatives. The FDA’s concern was heightened by the fact that people develop a kind of “tolerance” to aloe latex. They have to take more and more of it to get a laxative effect. That means they are likely to increase their dose — and their risk. The FDA requested safety data from the makers of laxatives that contained aloe latex, but they didn’t comply, possibly because of the expense involved in doing safety studies. In the absence of safety data, the FDA required manufacturers to remove or reformulate all over-the-counter (OTC) laxative products in the U.S. market that contained aloe. The deadline for compliance was November 5, 2002.

How does it work?

The useful parts of aloe are the gel and latex. The gel is obtained from the cells in the center of the leaf; and the latex is obtained from the cells just beneath the leaf skin.

Aloe gel might cause changes in the skin that might help diseases like psoriasis.

Aloe seems to be able to speed wound healing by improving blood circulation through the area and preventing cell death around a wound.

It also appears that aloe gel has properties that are harmful to certain types of bacteria and fungi.

Aloe latex contains chemicals that work as a laxative.

– – –

National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine (NCCAM)

http://nccam.nih.gov/health/aloevera

This fact sheet provides basic information about Aloe vera—common names, what the science says, potential side effects and cautions, and resources for more information.

Aloe vera’s use can be traced back 6,000 years to early Egypt, where the plant was depicted on stone carvings. Known as the “plant of immortality,” aloe was presented as a burial gift to deceased pharaohs.

Historically, aloe was used topically to heal wounds and for various skin conditions, and orally as a laxative. Today, in addition to these uses, aloe is used as a folk or traditional remedy for a variety of conditions, including diabetes, asthma, epilepsy, and osteoarthritis. It is also used topically for osteoarthritis, burns, sunburns, and psoriasis. Aloe vera gel can be found in hundreds of skin products, including lotions and sunblocks. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has approved Aloe vera as a natural food flavoring.

– – –

While Aloe vera is now produced commercially to meet industrial demands for the plant material, there are also many who grow the plant privately, encouraged by garden clubs and botanists and garden centers everywhere. The icangarden.com site is typical of many on the Internet today.

When the conquered Egyptians told Alexander the Great about a miracle plant that would heal his soldiers’ wounds, he decided he had to have it—and that’s why he invaded the island of Somalia, the home of aloe vera (pronounced a-lo veer-a). Cleopatra used aloe gel ointment to keep her skin soft, the Arabs used aloe on graves as a symbol of regeneration and resurrection, and you can use it to heal burns. If you don’t already have an aloe plant growing on your kitchen window sill, get one, and see for yourself the many different uses of this amazing plant.

Aloe is a succulent that belongs to the Lily family. It has fibrous roots and thick, fleshy leaves (varying from gray to bright green) with blunt teeth along the edges. If you peel off the green skin, you’ll find a jelly-like substance inside. It is this aloe gel, which is made up of a number of plant chemicals that possesses such remarkable healing properties.

The aloe is an African native, and from there made its way into many different cultures. Aloe is mentioned in the Papyrus Ebers, an Egyptian document of 1500 B.C. By the time of Jesus, the plant had traveled to the Mediterranean area, where it was used to treat wounds, burns, skin ailments, skin cancers, ulcers, hemorrhoids, hair loss, mouth and gum diseases, and even insomnia [sic]. Arab traders took aloe to India and China in the sixth century, but because the plant doesn’t survive freezing, it was much less used in Northern European medicines.

http://www.icangarden.com/document.cfm?task=viewdetail&itemid=1313&categoryid=74#ixzz2KFIPXmii

– – –

Garuda International Inc. is one of thousands of companies involved in the marketing of products that include extracts from Aloe vera plants. On its website, the company gives its own version of the history of the plant and its adoption in different world cultures.

History of Aloe
Aloe plants belong to the liliaceae family which contains over 200 genera. Aloe, with its different species composes 1/10th the size of the lily family. Aloeneae is the tribe of the liliaceae family to which the aloe genus belongs. According to different botanical sources, there are from 325 to 380 different species and varieties of Aloe. The oldest known picture of an Aloe plant is believed to have been shown in color in a manuscript prepared at Istanbul, Turkey. Records of ancient knowledge of the Egyptians about aloe vera is available to us through the everas papyrus which was written in the year 1552 B.C. and is kept now in the German University in Leipzig. Ancient records of the Egyptians, Arab, African, Asians and Americans have discussed the different uses and pathological cases in which Aloes were administered. Aloe was cultivated in Egypt thousands of years ago and was used by the people of the Mediterranean at least 400 years before Christ. Aloe is also mentioned in the Bible’s New Testament. The Arabs had taken Aloe vera plants to India and the Indian people called it savari, a name from which the name savila (Spanish for aloe vera) might have been derived. The Indians also named Aloe Ailwa from which the Greek word alon might have been derived. Aloe was also mentioned in ancient Chinese transcripts. It was employed medicinally for eczematous skin conditions in China and India under the name Luhui in China and Musabbar in India. The Greeks knew Aloe through the Indians. The Greek physician Peter Pedanius Dioscoriades wrote about Aloe in his medicinal plant collection materna medica. Aloe was first illustrated in the Codex Aniciae Julianae which was written around the year 512 A.D. by Dichotomous. Aloe was also mentioned in the writings of the Latin writer, Aurelius Celsus, who wrote a book about medicine and called it De Medicina, which appeared for the first time in the year 1378. Aurelius Celsus was a well-known writer in agriculture and medicine. In America, Aloe was mentioned in Columbus’ journals. The earliest record of using Aloe’s bitter material as a drug in America was 1697.

Aloe and world cultures
In Arabic, the Aloe plant is called sabbar, an Arabic word that means burden bearer. The Arabs used to sling Aloe plants on the doors of their homes, supposedly to prevent evil from entering. The plants will stay green and alive for extended periods of time and may even flower. Egyptians, who have a long relationship with Aloes, still grow the plants around graveyards to symbolize the patience which is to be exercised during the long suffering from losing the deceased person. The Gala, a hematic tribe who now lives in Ethiopia and Somalia in East Africa grow the plants around their graves and they believe that when the plants flower, the deceased has been admitted to heaven. Hindus in North India, practice the tradition of feeding their newborn children a little of Aloe mixed with honey in a golden spoon. It is normally administered by the father. It is supposed to help discharging the meconium. In 1893 there was a preparation from Aloe that was described in the Pharmacographia Indica. The preparation was described as follows: a mixture of worm wood, jatamesi, chiretta, cinnamon, cassia, herba schoenenthi, asarum and mastich to be boiled, then strained and mixed with the powered Aloe, and then a solution will be made and drank in the morning. The British Medical Association issued a couple of books called Secret Remedies, What They Cost and What They Contain, in 1909 through 1912. Many of the drugs that were mentioned contained Aloes. Some of these drugs were: Hugh’s Black Pills, Gloria Pills, Graziona Reducing Treatment, Mother Siegel’s Curative Syrup and Tablet-45. The Aloe content of these was used as the active agent in conjunction with a few other ingredients, such as rhubarb and seaweed.

From: http://www.garudaint.com/product.php?id=35

– – –

A lengthy discussion of the plant’s history can be found on the ‘Dr. Christopher’s Herbal Legacy’ site. The discussion of the plant and its history appears to be well documented at first glance (see footnotes below) however two of the oft-cited sites are no longer available so the tenacity of that information cannot be verified.

History of Aloe vera

http://www.herballegacy.com/Baldwin_History.html

The generations of past mention the healing methods of Aloe vera plants being handed down through the centuries by word of mouth.  We find that the use of Aloe vera appears throughout history with many testimonials of its medicinal values.  The earliest record of Aloe vera use comes from the Egyptians.  There are records of the Egyptians drawing pictures of Aloe vera plants on the walls of the temples. Many cultures such as the Egyptians would have even elevated the plant to a ‘god-like’ status. The healing properties of the Aloe vera were utilized for centuries earning the name “Plant of Immortality”. One of the common myths about the Aloes was that the two Egyptian queens, Nefertiti and Cleopatra used Aloe vera as part of their beauty treatments. However some sources refute these findings.1

The Mahometans of Egypt thought of Aloe vera as a religious symbol, and. they believed that the holy symbol hanging in the doorway would protect them from slanderous and evil influence.2  The Egyptians used the Aloe vera to make papyrus like scrolls as well as for treatment of tuberculosis.3  In ancient Egypt when a Pharaoh died, the funeral ceremony was by invitation only with a price tag included:  a pound of Aloes.  Egyptians used the odorous mixture of Aloe and myrrh for embalming and also placed it with the burial clothes.  A man’s wealth and esteem for the king were estimated by the number of pounds of Aloes he brought.4

 The aged people of Mesopotamia, a country located between the Tigris and Euphrates Rivers in present day Iraq used the Aloe vera to hold off the evil spirits from their residences.  During the Crusades, the Knights of Templar created a drink of palm wine, Aloe pulp and hemp, which was named ‘the Elixir of Jerusalem’ and they believed that it added years to their health and life.5

The island of Socotra which lies near the Horn of Africa, became known for its Aloe vera plantations as early as 500 BC.  The Aloe produced was used for trade to other countries such as Tibet, India and China.  Aristotle convinced Alexander the Great to overtake the Isle of Socotra for their Aloe supply containing aloin.6 The Hindu people thought that Aloe vera grew in the Garden of Eden and named it the ‘silent healer’.  The Chinese doctors of old thought that Aloe vera had therapeutic properties so they called it ‘harmonic remedy’.7  In China the juice of Aloes was used to wipe out all rashes. 8  The Russians called Aloe vera ‘the Elixir of Longevity’.  The native American Indians used Aloe for its emollient and rejuvenating powers. 9

 Aloe vera was grown and used by King Solomon (971-931 BC).  He highly valued its usage. In Psalm 45:8a it says,”All your garments are fragrant with myrrh and aloes and cassia.” Aloes were used on the occasion of a king’s wedding, maybe King Solomon’s wedding. He most likely grew his own Aloe vera.  In Song of Solomon 4:14b it says,”…myrrh and aloes, along with all the finest spices.”10 Aloes were esteemed high with the finest spices. The fleshy leaves contained aloin, a substance which, dissolved in water and added to myrrh, was used in Biblical times for their highly perfected art of embalming. 11  John 19: 38-40 says, “And after these things Joseph of Arimathea, being a disciple of Jesus, but a secret one, for the fear of the Jews, asked Pilate that he might take away the body of Jesus; and Pilate granted permission. He came therefore, and took away His body.  And Nicodemus came also, who had first come to Him by night; bringing a mixture of myrrh and aloes, about a hundred pounds weight.”12

Aloe vera had traveled to Persia and India by 600 BC. by Arab traders.  The Arabs called Aloe the ‘Desert Lily’ for its internal and external uses.  They discovered a way to separate the inner gel and the sap from the outer rind.  With their bare feet they crushed the leaves, then they put the pulp into the goatskin bags.  The bags were then set in the sun to dry and the Aloe would become a powder.13

Dioscorides gained most of his knowledge about Aloe vera from traveling with the Roman armies.  He first wrote of it in his ‘De Materia Medica’ in AD 41-68.  His commentary uses Aloe vera for boils, healing the foreskin, soothing dry itchy skin, ulcerated genitals, tonsils, gum and throat irritations, bruising, and to stop bleeding wounds.  Pliney the Elder, a physician from 23-79 AD, confirmed in his ‘Natural History’ the discoveries of Dioscorides. Some additional uses that Pliney found for Aloe vera included the healing of leprosy sores and it reduced perspiration as our first anti-perspirant.  Two thousand years ago Pliney and Dioscorides saw a difference in the quality of different Aloe vera plants and their processing before use. 14

Galen (AD 131-201), a physician to a Roman emperor, used Aloe vera as a healing agent.  Galen authored over 100 books on herbal and conventional medicine.  He gained his knowledge from doctoring the Roman gladiators.  Galen followed after the works of Hippocrates and Aristotle. 15

In the 7th century the Chinese Materia Medicas wrote of using the Aloe vera for sinusitis and other skin conditions. “In the 15th century, a time which heralded a massive explosion in exploration by the then leading maritime powers, namely, Spain, Portugal, Holland, France and Britain, it was the Jesuit priests of Spain who were instrumental in bringing Aloe vera back to the New World as they called it.”16 Many give the Spanish credit for bringing Aloe vera not only to the New World but passing it on to Central America, West Indies, California, Florida, and Texas.17

Early Spanish missions had padres that would dispense the healing aids. Some padres would carry an Aloe vera plant up to 50 miles to comfort the sick.  Aloes were always found in the mission’s yards. During Christopher Columbus’ second voyage to America in 1494, a letter was written by his doctor, Dr. Diego Alverez Chanca, said, “A species of Aloes we doctors use are growing in Hispaniola.”18  Christopher Columbus once said, “Four vegetables are indispensable for the well being of man:  Wheat, the grape, the olive, and aloe.  The first nourishes him, the second raises his spirit, the third brings him harmony, and the fourth cures him.”19

Aloe vera lost its potency for healing when it started being imported.  The pulp worked best when fresh.  This hindered Aloe vera’s reputation in the medical community.  Europe and North America’s medical profession quit using Aloe vera and replaced it with drugs.  The scientists determined that the oxidation process hindered the healing properties of Aloe vera.  It caused the plant to loose quality and effectiveness, gradually leading to its loss of popularity in areas where it is not grown.

In the 1950’s many processing techniques were tried but they failed because of over heating the Aloe can cause it to loose [sic] its medicinal value.  By the 1970’s there was a breakthrough in processing techniques and they successfully; stabilized the leaf gel by using natural ingredients and cold pressing.  They also found a way to separate the rind and aloin.  These new found processing techniques have created a new market for Aloe vera.21

Aloe sales currently supports a multi-billion dollar business world wide.  For thousands of years Aloe vera was part of myths and legends but today it plays a role to help improve health and nutrition.22  Some say that Aloe existed as a predecessor to cortisone on the island of Hawaii in Kona. The Hawiaan people would mash the leaves and stems of Aloe to make a poultice for arthritic conditions.  It was quite successful.23 “

Aloe vera maintains being the only thing known to heal atomic burns…the U.S. Government purchased the entire crop from a man in Texas…to make a salve for atomic burns.”24 The invention of the x-ray and atomic bomb brought Aloe vera back into popularity again as it protected against radiation burns. Aloe vera acted as an old natural remedy that is definitely superior to many synthetic drugs and could be called a modern miracle plants.25

WEBMASTERS NOTE:  Two of the main online references in this article (www.JoJaffa.com and http://www.AloeVeraHealer.com) are no longer valid URLs.

1 Barcroft, Alasdair, Aloe vera Healer, (www.JoJaffa.com, 1999),  http://www.AloeVeraHealer.com, Online: Chapter 3.

2 Greive, Mrs. M., A Modern Herbal, Volume 1, (New York: Dover Publications, Inc., 1971), p.26-29.

3 Baker, O.T., The Amazing Ancient to Modern Useful Plant Aloe vera: Amazing Plant of the Magic Valley, (Lemon Grove, CA: R .Prevost, 1975), p.13-16.

4 Brown, Sylva, The Amazing Ancient to Modern Useful Plant Aloe vera: Could it be the  Magical Ingredient for the Fountain of Youth?, (Lemon Grove, CA: R. Prevost, 1975), p.24-26.

5 Barcroft, Alasdair, Aloe vera Healer,(www.JoJaffa.com, 1999),  http://www.AloeVeraHealer.com, Online: Chapter 3.

6 Baker, O.T., The Amazing Ancient to Modern Useful Plant Aloe vera: Amazing Plant of the Magic Valley, (Lemon Grove, CA: R .Prevost, 1975), p.13-16.

7 Barcroft, Alasdair, Aloe vera Healer, (www.JoJaffa.com, 1999), http://www.AloeVeraHealer.com, Online: Chapter 3.

8 Safran, S., The Amazing Ancient to Modern Useful Plant Aloe vera: Aloe vera Ancient Key to Health and Beauty, (Lemon Grove, CA: R. Prevost, 1975), p.44-46.

9 Barcroft, Alasdair, Aloe vera Healer, (www.JoJaffa.com, 1999),

http://www.AloeVeraHealer.com, Online: Chapter 3.

10 New American Standard Bible, (MI: Zondervan Publishing, 2000), Song 4:14b.

11 Tenney, Merrill, Ed., Pictorial Bible Dictionary, (MI: Zondervan Publishing House, 1976), p.661.

12 New American Standard Bible, (MI: Zondervan Publishing, 2000), John 19:38-40.

13 Barcroft, Alasdair, Aloe vera Healer, (www.JoJaffa.com, 1999),  http://www.AloeVeraHealer.com, Online: Chapter 3.

14 Barcroft, Alasdair, Aloe vera Healer, (www.JoJaffa.com, 1999),

http://www.AloeVeraHealer.com, Online: Chapter 3.

15 Barcroft, Alasdair, Aloe vera Healer, (www.JoJaffa.com, 1999),

http://www.AloeVeraHealer.com, Online: Chapter 3.

16 Barcroft, Alasdair, Aloe vera Healer, (www.JoJaffa.com, 1999),

http://www.AloeVeraHealer.com, Online: Chapter 3.

17 Barcroft, Alasdair, Aloe vera Healer, (www.JoJaffa.com, 1999),

http://www.AloeVeraHealer.com, Online: Chapter 3.

18 Baker, O.T., The Amazing Ancient to Modern Useful Plant Aloe vera: Amazing Plant of the Magic Valley, (Lemon Grove, CA: R .Prevost, 1975), p.13-16.

19 Barcroft, Alasdair, Aloe vera Healer, (www.JoJaffa.com, 1999),

http://www.AloeVeraHealer.com, Online: Home site Quotation.

20 Barcroft, Alasdair, Aloe vera Healer, (www.JoJaffa.com, 1999),

http://www.AloeVeraHealer.com, Online: Chapter 3.

21 Barcroft, Alasdair, Aloe vera Healer, (www.JoJaffa.com, 1999),

http://www.AloeVeraHealer.com, Online: Chapter 3.

22 Barcroft, Alasdair, Aloe vera Healer, (www.JoJaffa.com, 1999),

http://www.AloeVeraHealer.com, Online: Chapter 3.

23 Safran, S., The Amazing Ancient to Modern Useful Plant Aloe vera: Aloe vera Ancient Key to Health and Beauty, (Lemon Grove, CA: R. Prevost, 1975), p.44-46.

24 Baker, O.T., The Amazing Ancient to Modern Useful Plant Aloe vera: Amazing Plant of the Magic Valley, (Lemon Grove, CA: R .Prevost, 1975), p.13-16.

25 Safran, S., The Amazing Ancient to Modern Useful Plant Aloe vera: Aloe vera Ancient Key to Health and Beauty, (Lemon Grove, CA: R. Prevost, 1975), p.44-46.

– – –

Aloe vera taxonomy and etymology

“The natural range of Aloe vera is unclear, as the species has been widely cultivated throughout the world. Naturalised stands of the species occur in the southern half of the Arabian peninsula, through North Africa (Morocco, Mauritania, Egypt) as well as Sudan and neighbouring countries, along with the Canary, Cape Verde, and Madeira Islands. This distribution is somewhat similar to the one of Euphorbia balsamifera, Pistacia atlantica, and a few others, suggesting that a dry sclerophyl forest once covered large areas, but has been dramatically reduced due to desertification in the Sahara, leaving these few patches isolated. Several closely related (or sometimes identical) species can be found on the two extreme sides of the Sahara: Dragon trees (Dracaena) and Aeonium being two of the most representative examples.

“The species was introduced to China and various parts of southern Europe in the 17th century. The species is widely naturalised elsewhere, occurring in temperate and tropical regions of Australia, Barbados, Belize, Nigeria, Paraguay and the United States. It has been suggested that the actual species’ distribution is the result of human cultivation.”

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Aloe_vera#Taxonomy_and_etymology

– – –

Folk medicine

“Early records of Aloe vera use appear in the Ebers Papyrus from 16th century BC, in both Dioscorides’ De Materia Medica and Pliny the Elder’s Natural History written in the mid-first century AD along with the Juliana Anicia Codex produced in 512 AD.” The species is used widely in the traditional herbal medicine of many countries.”

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Aloe_vera#Folk_medicine

– – –

For combating vampires

Apotropaics, i.e. objects intended to inhibit or ward off vampires (as well as other evil supernatural creatures), include garlic (confined mostly to European legends), sunlight, a branch of wild rose, the hawthorn plant, and all things sacred (e.g., holy water, a crucifix, a rosary) or an Aloe vera plant hung backwards behind the door or near it, in South American superstition. This weakness on the part of the vampire varies depending on the tale. In stories of other regions, other plants of holy or mystical properties sometimes have similar effects. In Eastern legends, vampiric creatures are often similarly warded by holy devices such as Shinto seals.

http://www.theunexplainedmysteries.com/vampires.html

 

– – –

Research for possible medical uses

Wound and lesion treatment

“Aloe vera may be effective in treatment of wounds. Evidence on the effects of its sap on wound healing, however, is limited and contradictory. Some studies, for example, show that Aloe vera promotes the rates of healing, while, in contrast, other studies show that wounds to which Aloe vera gel was applied were significantly slower to heal than those treated with conventional medical preparations. A 2007 review concluded that the cumulative evidence supports the use of Aloe vera for the healing of first to second degree burns. Topical application of Aloe vera may also be effective for genital herpes and psoriasis. However, it is not effective for the prevention of radiation-induced injuries. Gels from Aloe vera have been compared to those derived from other aloe species and with other plants belonging to the family Asphodelaceae. Bulbine frutescens, for example, is used widely for burns and a host of skin afflictions. Aloe vera extracts might have antibacterial and antifungal activities, which possibly could help treat minor skin infections, such as boils and benign skin cysts and may inhibit growth of fungi causing tinea. For bacteria, inner-leaf gel from Aloe vera was shown in one study to inhibit growth of Streptococcus and Shigella species in vitro. In contrast, Aloe vera extracts failed to show antibiotic properties against Xanthomonas species.

Skin protection and cancer

“Although anecdotally useful, Aloe vera has not been proven to offer protection for humans from sunburn, suntan, or other damage from the sun.

“However, the plant polysaccharides present in Aloe vera, although offering no direct protection against sunburn, may offer skin protection by specifically targeting pathways activated by UV radiation that can lead to non-melanoma skin cancer. UV radiation causes local depletion of antigen-presenting Langerhans cell (LCs), as well as systemic immunosuppression. In experiments in laboratory mice, polysaccharides preserved the number and morphology of immunosuppresive LCs and dendritic cells (DCs) in skin that was damaged by UV. These saccharides have also been seen to preserve delayed-type hypersensitivity and cutaneous contact hypersensitivity suppressed by acute UV radiation. Delayed-type hypersensitivity-protective saccharides extracted from A. vera also prevented the systemic suppression of T-cell-mediated immune responses and the production of keratinocyte-derived Interleukin 10 by UV-irradiated epidermal cells in mice. Compounds extracted from Aloe vera have been used as an immunostimulant that aids in fighting cancers in cats and dogs; however, this treatment has not been scientifically tested in humans.

 

Dental care

“In a double-blind clinical trial, both the group using an Aloe vera containing dentifrice and the group using a fluoridated dentifrice had a reduction of gingivitis and plaque, but no statistically significant difference was found between the two.

 

Diabetes and blood lipids

“There is preliminary evidence that Aloe vera extracts may be useful in the treatment of diabetes and elevated blood lipids in humans. These positive effects are thought to be due to the presence of compounds such as mannans, anthraquinones and lectins. Internal intake of Aloe vera has been linked in preliminary research with improved blood glucose levels in diabetics, although it has been suggested by the NTP that aloe may lower blood glucose levels. It has also been linked with lower blood lipids in hyperlipidaemic patients, but also with acute hepatitis (liver disease).”

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Aloe_vera#Research_for_possible_medical_uses

 

– – –

 

Aloe (Aloe vera) aka burn plant, medicine plant

“Feminine. Moon. Water.

“Protection, Luck. Guards against evil influences and prevents household accidents. Plant aloe on the graves of loved ones to promote a peaceful existence until the deceased is reborn. Use for success in the world. Prevents feelings of loneliness.”

http://www.earthwitchery.com/herbsa-g.html

– – –

Aloe vera: Plant of Immortality

This discussion is part of a paper (http://www.ijpsr.info/docs/IJPSR-10-01-01-02.pdf) by Sikarwar Mukesh. S., Patil M. B., Sharma Shalini, and Bhat Vishnu of the Department of Pharmacognosy and Phytochemistry, K.L.E’S  College of Pharmacy,  Ankola-581314, Uttar Kannada, Karnataka, India, and the Department of Dravyaguna, Dhanvantari Ayurvedic Medical College, Siddapur, Karnataka, India.

History

Aloe has played a significant medicinal role for thousands of years. Egyptians, Assyrians, and Mediterranean peoples used the dried latex primarily, but also the gel. In Egypt, aloe was called “the plant of immortality” and was given as an offering at the funerals of pharaohs and used in the baths of Egyptian queens Nefertiti and Cleopatra. According to the Roman scholar, Pliny, the plant was also used for embalming. Alexander the Great conquered Socotra Island, reportedly at the request of Aristotle, just to obtain aloe. In the first century C.E., the Greek physician Dioscorides used aloe for mouth infections, sores, wounds and as a purgative. In the10th century, aloe was used in England and during the 17th century, records show that the East India Company frequently purchased aloe from the king of Socotra. Today, Egyptians still hang an aloe plant over the door of a new house to provide a long and fruitful life for its occupants. In India the whole leaves, exudate, and fresh gel aloe are used as a cathartic, stomachic, emmenagogue, and anthelmintic. In China, Mexico, and the West Indies, it has become a common household remedy for a variety of uses. Until the 1930s in the U.S., the primary commercial use of aloe was the dried latex as a laxative.

 

– – –

 

Herbal Information Center and Vitamin Directory

This site (http://www.kcweb.com/herb/aloevera.htm) is typical of several as it maintains, without substantiation, that the plant extracts are acceptable to treat a long list of human ailments; only a sample of the material from the site is included here.

Aloe vera, native to the Africa continent, is also known as “lily of the desert”, the “plant of immortality”, and the “medicine plant”. The name was originated from the Arabic word alloeh, meaning “bitter”, because of the bitter liquid found in the leaves. Around 1500 B.C., the Egyptians were known to use the herbal plant for treating burns, infections and parasites.

There are over five hundred types of aloe growing around the world. Greeks, Arabs and Spaniards have all used the plant throughout history. African hunters still use the gel on their bodies to reduce perspiration and their scent.

Research since the 1930’s has shown that the plants gel has the ability to heal wounds, ulcers and burns by adding a protective coating on the affected areas which speeds up the healing rate.

Aloe vera is about 95% water. The rest contains active ingredients including essential oil, amino acids, minerals, vitamins, enzymes and glycoproteins. Herbalists have used it since the 1930’s as a staple treatment. Many liquid solutions are made, some adding the juice with other plants and herbs. The juice is comforting to digestive tract irritations, such as colitis and peptic ulcers.

– – –

Research papers cited

The following references from the site http://www.globalhealingcenter.com/natural-health/benefits-of-aloe-vera/ include several articles discussing research into the qualities of Aloe vera. None of the articles appear to draw any connection between the plant and any aspect of death, dying, interment, or rising from the dead.

References:

Foster M, Hunter D, Samman S. Evaluation of the Nutritional and Metabolic Effects of Aloe vera. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22593933

 

Dat AD, Poon F, Pham KB, Doust J. Aloe vera for treating acute and chronic wounds. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22336851

 

Takzare N, Hosseini MJ, Hasanzadeh G, Mortazavi H, Takzare A, Habibi P. Influence of Aloe vera gel on dermal wound healing process in rat. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19778236

 

Mendonça FA, Passarini Junior JR, Esquisatto MA, Mendonça JS, Franchini CC, Santos GM. Effects of the application of Aloe vera (L.) and microcurrent on the healing of wounds surgically induced in Wistar rats. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19377785

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22279374

 

Babaee N, Zabihi E, Mohseni S, Moghadamnia AA. Evaluation of the therapeutic effects of Aloe vera gel on minor recurrent aphthous stomatitis. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23162576

 

Ranade AN, Wankhede SS, Ranpise NS, Mundada MS. Development of Bilayer Floating Tablet of Amoxicillin and Aloe vera Gel Powder for Treatment of Gastric Ulcers. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23135966

 

Saito M, Tanaka M, Misawa E, Yamada M, Yamauchi K, Iwatsuki K. Aloe vera Gel Extract Attenuates Ethanol-Induced Hepatic Lipid Accumulation by Suppressing the Expression of Lipogenic Genes in Mice. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23132591

 

Moniruzzaman M, Rokeya B, Ahmed S, Bhowmik A, Khalil MI, Gan SH. In Vitro Antioxidant Effects of Aloe barbadensis Miller Extracts and the Potential Role of These Extracts as Antidiabetic and Antilipidemic Agents on Streptozotocin-Induced Type 2 Diabetic Model Rats. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/2311742

 

Lee S, Do SG, Kim SY, Kim J, Jin Y, Lee CH. Mass Spectrometry-Based Metabolite Profiling and Antioxidant Activity of Aloe vera ( Aloe barbadensis Miller) in Different Growth Stages. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23050594

 

Devaraj S, Yimam M, Brownell LA, Jialal I, Singh S, Jia Q. Effects of Aloe vera Supplementation in Subjects with Prediabetes/Metabolic Syndrome. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23035844

 

López-Jornet P, Camacho-Alonso F, Molino-Pagan D. Prospective, randomized, double-blind, clinical evaluation of Aloe vera Barbadensis, applied in combination with a tongue protector to treat burning mouth syndrome. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22957483

 

Beneke C, Viljoen A, Hamman J. In Vitro Drug Absorption Enhancement Effects of Aloe vera and Aloe ferox. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22896832

 

Ahmadi A. Potential prevention: Aloe vera mouthwash may reduce radiation-induced oral mucositis in head and neck cancer patients. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22855041

 

Site: http://www.globalhealingcenter.com/natural-health/benefits-of-aloe-vera/

– – –

Global Healing Center

The 2011 2nd edition of Herbal Medicine: Biomolecular and Clinical Aspects cites the extraordinarily long use of Aloe vera for its therapeutic benefits, both internal and external. Its use extends as far back as biblical times and was mentioned in the New Testament as an herb for embalming.

http://www.globalhealingcenter.com/natural-health/benefits-of-aloe-vera/

– – –

Equine In Motion

For centuries, Aloe Vera has been used by many different cultures. The ancient Greeks, the Romans, the Babylonians, Indians and the Chinese have all used Aloe Vera as a medicinal plant. Throughout the years, Aloe Vera (Aloinae) has been called many things: Potted Physician, Wand of Heaven, Wonder Plant, Heaven’s Blessing, and Plant of Life.

Botanists have identified at least 200-300 different types of Aloe Vera plants. Of all these types of Aloe, only five have demonstrated medical benefits: Aloe Barbadensis Miller, Aloe Perryi Baker, Aloe Ferox, Aloe Arborescens and Aloe Saponaria. Aloe Barbadensis Miller is the most widely used as well as the most potent. Indigenous to Africa, it is now grown all around the world specifically in warmer, drier climates.

Aloe Vera has the ability to provide essential nutrients, kill bacteria, viruses, fungi, yeasts and reduce inflammation. Dr. Atherton claims, “Tissues that die and are renewed rapidly such as the lining of the gut, which renews itself about every four days, and the skin every 21 to 28 days or so, need a rich and ready supply of building materials to produce and maintain healthy, efficient cells.” A proper diet supplemented with Aloe Vera is an effective way to get these essential nutrients. Aloe Vera can also reduce inflammation to injured tissue. Inflammation occurs when healthy tissue is injured and blood begins to clot around the tissue to repair the injured tissue. Aloe Vera is a natural anti-inflammatory that is much more delicate on the human body.

The benefits of Aloe Vera have long been tested throughout history. It is only in recent years that studies have scientifically proven many of the medicinal benefits of Aloe Vera. Perhaps the longer that scientist and botanists study the benefits of Aloe Vera, the more improvements it will create to human health and well-being.

Atherton, P. (1997). The Essential Aloe Vera. Newport Pagnell: Mill Enterprises.

http://www.equineinmotion.co.uk/About_Aloe.pdf

. . .

Aloe4HealthOonline

Aloe Vera goes by many names which have survived the 4000 or so years which this amazing medicinal herb has benefited mankind. For many centuries, civilisations around the world have used aloe vera for its health benefits It was used by both the ancient Chinese and Indian cultures. Greek and Roman physicians used it to great effect, and the Egyptian queens Nefertiti and Cleopatra also rated it highly as a beauty therapy.

Aloe Vera (or Aloe Barbadensis Miller) is a succulent plant concealing a pure inner Gel that has been used for centuries to benefit health and enhance beauty. To benefit from Aloe Vera, the Gel can be taken internally for its nutritional and immune balancing effect. It can also be combined with other ingredients to produce topical creams and lotions to nourish and improve the quality of the skin.

Aloe Vera contains over 75 known active ingredients (and probably many more). Also included are 19 of the 20 amino acids required by the human body and 7 of the 8 essential amino acids (that the body cannot make), as well as vitamins and minerals. The most nutritionally potent is the Aloe Barbadensis Miller – the only variety that we cultivate and use in our products. Our natural, patented stabilisation process allows our aloe to reach our consumers in its natural state. Forever Living was the first company to receive the prestigious International Aloe Science Council Seal of Approval for consistency and purity.

Aloe Vera has been used by many different cultures. The ancient Greeks, the Romans, the Babylonians, Indians and the Chinese have all used Aloe Vera as a medicinal plant. Throughout the years, Aloe Vera (Aloinae) has been called many things:  Potted Physician, Wand of Heaven, Wonder Plant, Heaven’s Blessing, and Plant of Life.

Botanists have identified at least 200-300 different types of Aloe Vera plants. Of all these types of Aloe, only five have demonstrated medical benefits: Aloe Barbadensis Miller, Aloe Perryi Baker, Aloe Ferox, Aloe Arborescens and Aloe Saponaria. Aloe Barbadensis Miller is the most widely used as well as the most potent. Indigenous to Africa, it is now grown all around the world specifically in warmer, drier climates.

The structures of most Aloe plants are very similar. Aloe grows to maturity in approximately four years, at which time the leaves begin to sprout. They taper to a point near the top of the plant, and the leaves have soft spines every few inches lining their silhouette. The Aloe Barbadensis Miller has about a 12-year life span.

http://www.aloe4healthonline.com/about/aloevera

 

 

 

Appendix H: Communities and associated cemeteries where Aloe vera observed

Subaitah

Subaitah

Figure 14: Wadi Subaitah on edge of Wadi Jizzi, Oman. [Google Earth edited Brien Holmes]

Graves Subaitah

Figure 15: Settlement and cultivated area on left, graves on terrace on opposite side of wadi bed. [Google Earth edited Brien Holmes] 

Wadi Khutwah communities

Khutwah Khabbayn Jazira

Figure 16: View of the three mountain oasis communities in close proximity to one another, each with cemeteries with Aloe vera planted on graves. [Google Earth edited Brien Holmes]

Khutwah

Khutwah graves

Figure 17: Khutwah (Oman) with cultivated area bottom left and graves several hundred meters upstream. [Google Earth edited Brien Holmes].

Jazira

jazira

Figure 18: Jazira (Oman) located upstream from Khutwah and Khabbayn is still without electricity, phone or other municipal services. [Google Earth edited Brien Holmes]

Jazira graves

Figure 19: Graves at Jazira (Oman) are located adjacent to the settlement area. [Google Earth edited Brien Holmes]

Khabbayn

Khabbayn graves

Figure 20: Khabbayn (Oman) is a large oasis with cemetery located south of the oasis and west of the new housing. [Google Earth edited Brien Holmes] 

Musah

Musah

Figure 21: Musah (Oman) is located several kilometers deep into the Hajar Mountains. [Google Earth edited Brien Holmes]

Musah graves

Figure 22: Cemetery at Musah (Oman) is located on a narrow ledge downstream from the oasis and above the access road and terraces. [Google Earth edited Brien Holmes] 

Aboul

Aboul

Figure 23: Aboul (Oman) features a small fort; the supply of fresh water has decreased significantly in the past few decades. [Google Earth edited Brien Holmes]

Aboul Graves

Figure 24: Older graves at Aboul (Oman) are clustered upstream from the oasis (oldest graves) and adjacent to the oasis but on the opposite side of the watercourse. [Google Earth edited Brien Holmes]

Sharam

Sharam

Figure 25: Sharam (Oman) once a large community that regulated caravan traffic in Wadi Sharam. [Google Earth edited Brien Holmes]

Sharam graves

Figure 26: Cemetery at Sharam (Oman) village is located several hundred meters inland (away from wadi and cultivated area) beyond abandoned structures. [Google Earth edited Brien Holmes]

A’Dahir

A'Dahir

Figure 27: A’Dahir (Oman), one of four communities in close proximity, has a separate source of water from wadi system southwest of the settlement. [Google Earth edited Brien Holmes]

A'Dahir graves

Figure 28: With one of the largest cemeteries in the area, A’DAhir (Oman) shows evidence of having been a large and successful settlement for hundreds, if not thousands, of years. [Google Earth edited Brien Holmes]

 

Appendix I: Authentic Step-by-Step Illustrated Janazah Guide

Compiled by Mohamed Ebrahim Siala

 

Acknowledgments

 

First all praise is due to Allah; we praise Allah and seek Allah’s help and forgiveness. Without Allah’s guidance and help nothing can be achieved.

 

Behind every endeavor there are some individuals who make it possible. This compilation is no exception. My sincere thanks and appreciation goes to all brothers and sisters of the Salman Al – Farisi Islamic Center.

 

To mention some of those who helped: Br. Sheik Aqeel Al – Maqtary, Br. Sheik Magdy Wardah, Br. Awad Elgarguri, Sr. Huda (Christine Dodge), Br. Mansour Al – Mutairi, Br. Ghassan Al – Soraihi, Br. Umar Gunderson, Br. Abdennour Moussaoui, Br Abdulsalam saif, Br Ali Al-Shomrani and many others.

 

They gave their time, and knowledge, time after time, to review, correct, draw, and add, they were always willing to offer their assistance.

 

I ask Allah to accept our efforts, overlook our shortcomings and cover us all with His Mercy in this world and in the hereafter.

 

 

 

 

 

[Note: The original text at http://www.missionislam.com/knowledge/janazahstepbystep.htm has been edited to correct punctuation and spelling errors along with typesetting inconsistencies. The graphics have been modified to enable Table of Figures formatting. The index table and other hyperlinks built into the web document have been removed. No changes have been made to the text. – BH]

 

Contents

Introduction. 80

  1. A) Death. 82

1) When a Muslim is at the point of death. 85

2) Just after death has been determined. 85

  1. B) Mourning the dead. 87
  2. C) Al-Ghusul (washing the dead Muslim) 88

Place of washing: 88

Steps of washing: 88

  1. D) Al-Kafan (shrouding the dead Muslim) 90

1) The Kafan of a male. 90

Steps of shrouding: 90

  1. The Kafan of a female. 91

Steps of shrouding: 91

  1. E) Salatul Janazah (the funeral) 94

Steps of Salatul Janazah. 95

  1. F) Following the Janazah. 99
  2. G) Al-Dafin (burial) 100

Steps of burial: 101

How to enter the body into the grave. 101

Important rules in the cemetery. 103

  1. H) Special cases. 105

1) Miscarried Fetus: 105

2) Children: 105

3) Martyr: 105

  1. I) Condolences. 106
  2. J) The Edda (waiting period) of Muslim widows (females) 107
  3. K) Rewards after death. 109
  4. L) Visiting the cemetery. 110
  5. M) References. 112

 

Table of Figures

 

Figure 1: Kafan of a male. 91

Figure 2: Kafan of a female. 93

Figure 3: Arrangement of men, women, and children at Salatul Janazal 96

Figure 4: Salatul Janazah for a Muslim female (left), Salatul Janazul for a Muslim male (right) 97

Figure 5: Types of graves:  Al Lahed (left) and Al Shaq (right) 100

Figure 6: How to place the body in the grave. 101

Figure 7: Looking into the grave. The deceased inside the grave laying on his right side and facing the Qiblah. 102

Introduction

In the name of Allah Most Merciful Most Gracious

All praise is due to Allah; we praise Allah and seek Allah’s help and forgiveness. And we seek refuge in Allah, Most High, from the evils of our own selves. Whomsoever has been guided by Allah, none can misguide him, and whomsoever is misguided, no one can guide him except Allah.

And I bear witness that there is no god worthy of being worshipped except Allah Al Mighty, alone, without partner or associate. I further bear witness that Muhammad (P.B.U.H) is his true worshipper and messenger, may Allah the exalted bestow His peace and blessings upon him.

Allah says in the Quran “O you who believe! Fear Allah as Allah should be feared, and die not except in a state of Islam.” (Quran 3:102).

“O mankind! Be grateful to your lord, Who created you from a single soul and from it created its mate, and from them both Allah created many men and women, and fear Allah through Whom you demand your mutual rights and do not cut relations of Kinship. Surely Allah is ever a watcher over you “(Quran 4:1).

“O you who believe! Keep your duty to Allah, and speak always the truth. Allah will direct you to do good deeds and will forgive you your sins. And whosoever obeys Allah and His messenger, he verily has got a great success.” (Quran 33:70-71).

Know then that the most truthful book is that of Allah (The Quran) and that the best guidance is that of the Prophet Muhammad (P.B.U.H.).

As Muslims, we all must submit to the will and commandments of Allah. Those commandments are in the Quran, the word of Allah, and in the Sunnah, the authentic teachings of Prophet Muhammad (P.B.U.H), and whatever his companions said or did of which he did not disapprove.

Allah in the Quran says: ” We have explained in detail in this Quran, for the benefit of Mankind, every kind of similitude “(Quran 18:54), “And we have sent down to you the Book explaining all things: a guide, a mercy, and glad tidings ” (Quran 16:89).

The Sunnah is the secondary source of Islamic law, it is the Prophet’s sayings, actions, and what his companions did to which he showed no objection. Allah in the Quran says that Prophet Muhammad (P.B.U.H) does not speak from himself, but is inspired by Allah: “Nor does he say ought of his own desire and wishes; it is just inspiration sent down to him.” (Quran 53: 3-5)

Muslims are ordered in the Quran to follow the Sunnah of the Prophet (P.B.U.H), this means to obey and practice the commands of the Prophet.

Allah in the Quran says: ” Whatever the Prophet ordered you to do, you should do, and whatever he forbids you, you should reject “(Quran 59: 7), ” The sayings of the faithful believers when they are called to Allah (His Words (the Quran) and His Messenger) to judge between them is only that they say: ” We hear and we obey,” And such are the successful. And whosoever obeys Allah and His Messenger fears Allah and keeps his duty (To Him), such! They are the successful ” (Quran 24: 51-52).

” But no, by your lord, they can have no (Real) faith, until they make you (Muhammad) a judge in all disputes between them, and find in their souls no resistance against your decisions, but accept them with the fullest conviction ” (Quran 4:65).

After the death of the Prophet, his companions gave sharp attention to preserving the Sunnah of the Prophet. Each one tried to find out what the Prophet did or said in certain situations, and then recorded it.

Later many scholars spent their lives investigating those who transmitted the Sunnah; they compiled the authentic Hadiths. Among these scholars are Imam Bukhari and Imam Muslim; both wrote books that contain only authentic Hadiths.

The Prophet Muhammad (P.B.U.H) in many authentic Hadiths showed us in great detail how and what to say and do in our everyday lives.

Allah’s last revelation states that Islam is the perfect religion: “Today I have perfected your religion for you, bestowed my favor upon you and chosen for you Islam as your religion “(Quran 5:3). Thus it is fitting for us as Muslims to follow the perfect guidance of Allah and His messenger through the Quran and the Sunnah.

But unfortunately, people listen to this and that, see the non-Muslim’s ways of doing things and then copy it and it becomes the norm. The Prophet Muhammad (P.B.U.H) predicted this by saying: “You would copy the same path as was done by those before you inch by inch and step by step so that if they had entered into the hole of a Dhab (a desert lizard) you will enter too.” They (The Prophet companions) asked him: “You mean Jews and Christians by your words ’Those before you’?” He said: “Who else (than those two religious groups)” (Bukhari and Muslim).

Some Muslims say: “In our country we do things this way and that way, so it must be the right way “, others say: “We think this way is much better than the other way.”

So as long as the tendency remains among the Muslims in taking blind bride in following their ancestry or tribal heritage or culture or nationality, and as long as Muslims are hardly bothered to learn and take their practices from the pure knowledge, the Quran and the authentic Sunnah, more confusion, and more divisions will continue to hammer the body of the Muslim Ummah.

The message of Islam covers all aspects of life, commanding all things that will benefit a person in this life and the hereafter.

This includes caring for this person when he dies by making dua’ for him, washing and shrouding his body, performing Salatul Janazah for him (where people pray and ask Allah to forgive him and have mercy on him), then putting him in the grave.

The caring extends to his family too, by comforting his relatives, sharing with them their sorrow, and offering them condolences, sympathy and support.

Hoping to fill the need for a simplified Janazah guide to all Muslims, I have followed the method described in the authentic Hadiths, explanatory step by step notes and several illustrated drawings.

I have also included an introduction on importance of following the Quran and the Sunnah of the Prophet Muhammad (P.B.U.H.), and an explanation of scholars’ ruling on issues which should be known by every Muslim.

 

A) Death

 

This topic is very important, as each and every one of us will experience it one day and that is: Death.

Almost every day we hear of the death of someone, yet most people ignore the fact that one day they will die too, they go on with their life as if nothing has happened feeling that their time has not yet come for them to die.

Allah says in the Quran: “Everyone shall taste death. And only on the day of resurrection shall you be paid your wages in full. And whoever is removed away from the fire and admitted to paradise, this person is indeed successful. The life of this world is only the enjoyment of deception.” (Quran 3:185) ”Every soul shall have the taste of death.” (Quran 29:57)

In an authentic Hadith Prophet Muhammad (P.B.U.H) said: “Remember the destroyer of pleasures-death, for not a day passes upon the grave except it says ‘I am the house of remoteness; I am the house of loneliness; I am the house of soil; I am the house of worms’” (Authentic-Thermithi).

The knowledge of the reality of death helps people understand it and prepare themselves for its coming.

Death is simply a transition state from one world to another, as birth is. No one knows when and where he will die or knows how.

In this respect Allah says in the Quran in Surat (chapter) Luqman: “Nor does anyone know what it is that he will earn tomorrow: Nor does anyone know in what land he is to die. Verily with Allah is full knowledge and Allah is acquainted with all things.” (Quran 31: 34)

Islam is the only religion that explains death in full detail, how it happens, and what Muslims should do before, during, and after the death of a Muslim.

Allah has assigned angels responsible for taking our souls out of our bodies. In the Quran Allah mentioned the Archangel name “Angel of Death”.

Allah says in the Quran: “Say The Angel of Death put in charge of you, will (duly) take your souls, then you shall be brought back to your Lord.” (Quran 32:11).

Death involves agony and hardship as mentioned in an authentic Hadith: “When Prophet Muhammad (P.B.U.H) was dying, he put his hands in a large cup of water which was close to him and wipe his face with it, saying: ‘O Allah help me over the hardship and agony of death.’” (Authentic-Termithi).

For the faithful believers Allah says in the Quran: “Those who have said ‘Our Lord is Allah’, and then have become upright, the angels will descend upon them saying ‘Do not fear nor be sad, but receive good news of the paradise which you have been promised. We are your protectors in this life and in the hereafter: therein you shall have all that you desire; therein you shall have all that you ask for.” (Quran 41:30-31)

Allah also says: “When the angels take the lives of the righteous, the angels say to them: ‘Salaamun Alikum, enter paradise, because of the good deeds that you used to do (during your life)’.” (Quran 6:32).

For the unbelievers, Allah says in the Quran: “If only you could see when the angels take the souls of those who disbelieved, striking their faces and their backs, and saying: ‘Taste the punishment of the fire. That is for what your own hands have put forth (of evil deeds)’.” (Quran 8:50-51)

Allah also says: “If you only could see when the transgressors are going through the agonies of death, and the angels stretching forth their hands saying ‘Deliver your souls; this day you shall be recompensed the torment of degradation because of what you use to utter against Allah other than the truth, and you used to reject Allah’s signs with disrespect’.” (Quran 6:93)

The grave is the first station of the stations of the hereafter. The Prophet Muhammad (P.B.U.H) said: “When the deceased is placed in his grave and when his friends depart and leave him, he hears their footsteps, then two angels will make him sit and ask him: What did you say about this man (Muhammad (P.B.U.H))? The Believer will say: I bear witness that he was the servant and Messenger of Allah.

They (the two Angels) will say to the deceased: Look to your place in Hell. Allah has substituted it with a place in paradise. They see it all together.

However, the unbeliever or the hypocrite, will be asked about Muhammad (P.B.U.H). He will say: ’I don’t know! I used to say what people used to say’. The two angels say to him: ‘How come you did not know and you did not read about him’. Then they beat him heavily with a metal hammer. This causes him to scream painfully and all his surroundings will hear him except human beings and Jinns.” (Bukhari and Muslim).

Another authentic Hadith narrated by Imam Ahmed states that the Prophet Muhammad (P.B.U.H) said two or three times: “Seek refuge in Allah from the punishment of the grave,’ then he said: ‘When a believer is about to leave this world, angels with bright faces like the sun come down to him from heaven with a shroud from the shrouds of paradise and some of the perfume of paradise and sit away from him as far as the eye can see.

Then the angel of death comes and sits at his head and says: ’O good soul, come out to forgiveness and acceptance from Allah.’ The soul then comes out gently as a drop flows from a water faucet and he seizes it.

Then the other angels take the soul from the angel of death and shroud it with the shroud from paradise, perfume with the perfume of paradise; its fragrance will be like that of the sweetest musk found on the face of the earth.

They then take the sweet-smelling soul up, and whenever they pass by a group of Angeles, they ask: ‘Who is this good soul?’ The angels, accompanying the soul, reply using the best of his names that people used to call him by during his life: ‘So and so, the son of so and so.’ When they reach the first heaven they request permission to enter, and the gates will open to them.

The same is done in the following heavens until they reach the seventh heaven, and Allah says: ‘Record the book of my slave in the highest place and take him back to earth, for I created mankind from it, into it they shall return, and from it shall be brought another time.’

The soul returns to the body, and two angels come to him, make him sit and ask him: ‘Who is your Lord?’ He replies: ‘My Lord is Allah. They ask: ‘What is your religion?’ and he replies: ‘My religion is Islam.’ They ask again: ‘Who is this man who was sent among you?’ He replies: ‘He is Allah’s messenger.’ They ask: ’What is your knowledge?’ He replies: ’I read the book of Allah, believed in it and declared it to be true.’

Then it will be said: ‘My slave has spoken the truth, so spread out carpets from paradise for him, cloth him from paradise, and open a gate for him into paradise.’

Then some of its joy and fragrance come to him, his grave is made spacious for him as far as he can see, a man with a glorious face, beautiful garments and sweet perfume comes to him and says: ’Rejoice in what pleases you for this is your day which you have been promised.’

He asks: ’Who are you, for your appearance brings goodness?’ The man replies: ’I am your good deeds.’ He then says: ‘O Allah, bring the hour, so that I may return to my family and property.’

But when a non-believer is about to leave this world, angels with ugly faces come down to him from heaven with a hard and rough cloth, and sit away from him as far as the eye can see.

Then the angel of death comes and sits at his head and says: ‘O wicked soul, come out to anger and displeasure from Allah.’ It then becomes dissipated in his body.

The angel draws it out violently as a spit is drawn out from moistened wool, and he seizes it; then the other angels take the soul and put it in that rough cloth which emits a very offensive bad stench like the worst smell found on the face of the earth.

They then take the foul-smelling soul up, and whenever they pass by a group of Angels, they ask: ‘Who is this wicked soul?’ The angels, accompanying the soul, reply using the worst of his names that people used to call him by during his life: ‘So and so, the son of so and so,’ when they reach the first heaven they request permission to enter and the gates will not open to them.

Then the Prophet Muhammad (P.B.U.H) recited this verse from the Quran: “The gates of the heaven will not be opened to them.” (Quran 7:40) The Prophet Muhammad (P.B.U.H) continued saying: ‘Allah then says: “Record his book in the lowest place,” and his soul falls down to earth.

Prophet Muhammad (P.B.U.H) then recited another verse from the Quran: “He who assigns partners with Allah is as if he had fallen down from heaven and been snatched up by birds, or made to fall by the wind in a place far distant.” (Quran 22:31)

The soul returns to the body, and two angels come to him, make him sit and ask him: ’Who is your Lord?’ He replies: ‘My Lord? Oh, I do not know.’ They ask: ‘What is your religion?’ and he replies: ‘My religion! Oh, I do not know.’

They ask again: ‘Who is this man who was sent among you?’ He replies: ‘Oh, I do not know’. Then it will be said: ‘He has lied, so spread out carpets from hellfire for him, and open a gate for him into hellfire.’

Then some of its heat and poison come to him, his grave is made so narrow for him so that his ribs are pressed together in it.

A man with a horrifying face, ugly garments and offensive odor comes to him and says: ‘Be grieved with what displeases you for this is your day which you have been promised.’ He asks: ‘Who are you, for your appearance brings evil?’ The man replies: ‘I am your wicked deeds.’ He then says: ‘O Allah, do not bring the hour.’ (Authentic-Ahmed).

All of this, and the day of judgment has not yet started. So I remind myself first and I remind you as my brothers and sisters to prepare for this day; prepare for it by truly and sincerely submitting to Allah, doing good deeds according to Allah’s commands in the Quran and the teachings of the Prophet.

Avoid all types of wrong and evil which Allah and the Prophet asked us to avoid, but do not delay or postpone since you do not know when death will come.

The following are simple step by step procedures for a Muslim funeral that explain what should be done Islamically when death occurs.

 

1) When a Muslim is at the point of death

Family members of the dying person and his most pious friends should be informed and should be present at his side to help him turn his thoughts to Allah, encourage him very gently to repent, remind him about all the good deeds that he did, about Allah’s mercy, and Allah’s forgiveness so that he may anticipate Allah’s mercy and Allah’s favors.

Allah in the Quran said: “And who despairs of the mercy of his Lord, but those who are misguided.” (Quran 15:56).

Prophet Muhammad (P.B.U.H) said: “Let no Muslim die except expecting and hoping the best from Allah.” (Muslim)

Those who are present near a dying Muslim should do the following:

  • They should be kind and patient;
  • They should never leave him alone;
  • They should give him hope, not allowing him to collapse out of pain or panic;
  • They should prompt him very gently (encouragement without insistence) every now and then to say the Shahada: “La ilaha ella Allah”, which means ‘There is no God but Allah,’ in a very kind and sincere manner as these may be his last words;
  • Abu-Saeed Al-Khuduri reported that Prophet Muhammad (P.B.U.H) said: ” Help Muslims who are dying to say: ‘ La ilaha ella Allah’ ” (Muslim); and
  • They should make Dua’ (supplicate) to Allah to help him go through situation easy, and forgive him.

Note:

There is no authentic proof of reading chapter (yasin) beside a dying Muslim.

There is no authentic proof of directing the dying Muslim to the Qiblah.

There is no Islamic teaching of putting the Quran under the head of a dying Muslim.

There is no Islamic teaching of asking junubs (those who did not take a shower after a sexual act), or menstruating women, to leave the room .

2) Just after death has been determined

When the person is confirmed dead, family members or those who are present should:

  • Close the eyes of the deceased;
  • Um Salma reported that: “When her husband died, Prophet Muhammad (P.B.U.H) closed his eyes.” (Muslim);
  • They should bind his lower jaw to his head so that it does not sag;
  • They should cover all his body completely with a clean sheet;
  • Aisha reported that: “Muslims covered the body of Prophet Muhammad (P.B.U.H.) when he died.” (Bukhari and Muslim);
  • They should make Dua’ (supplicate) to Allah to forgive him;
  • They should hasten to prepare the body for washing, shrouding and burial;
  • Prophet Muhammad (P.B.U.H) said: “You should hasten with his burial.” (Bukhari and Muslim); and
  • They should pay his debts from his money, or if there is not enough, then from any family member or any relative, this matter is important since the Prophet Muhammad (P.B.U.H) encouraged Muslims to pay the debts of the deceased.

Note:

There is no Islamic teaching of putting the Quran under the pillow of the deceased.

There is no Islamic teaching of asking junubs (those who did not take a shower after sexual act), or menstruating women to leave the room of the deceased.

There is no Islamic teaching of putting flowers, candles etc., in the deceased’s room.

 

B) Mourning the dead

 

Mourning over the dead is allowed in Islam, but there is a great difference between what is allowed Islamically and the practice of some Muslims at the present time.

Grief at the death of a beloved person is normal, and weeping for the dead is allowed in Islam. What is prohibited is to express grief by wailing (bewailing refers to mourning in a loud voice), shrieking, beating the chest and cheeks, tearing hair or clothes, breaking things or scratching faces or saying phrases that makes a Muslim lose faith.

All of this is totally prohibited, and the deceased may feel pain by these actions, Prophet Muhammad (P.B.U.H) said: “The deceased suffers when someone bewails loudly” (Bukhari and Muslim).

Prophet Muhammad (P.B.U.H) said: “Two things in people are Kufr (ignorance), one is to ridicule someone on his family genealogy, and the other is bewailing loudly the dead “(Muslim).

Prophet Muhammad (P.B.U.H) also said: ” I detest a woman who cries out very loudly, or shaves her hair, or tears her clothes when a beloved one dies ” (Bukhari & Muslim).

Prophet Muhammad (P.B.U.H) said:” He is not of us who beats his face, tears his clothes and bewails loudly when misfortune happens to him as was done before during the days of ignorance ” (Bukhari & Muslim).

Some people let their beard grow to show their sadness, then after several days they shave it. Others wear black clothes, or black ties. All of this has no basis in Islam..

It is a Muslim’s duty to advise gently those who do these things to stop doing so, since it is totally prohibited. No loss, however great, should lead a Muslim to sour his faith. They should however bear patiently and accept Allah’s destiny.

There is no objection to quiet weeping as Prophet Muhammad (P.B.U.H) did when his son died and said: ” It is a mercy that Allah made in the hearts of his servants” (Bukhari).

Relatives of a deceased Muslim may mourn him for three days only, but a widow may mourn her husband four months and ten days.

This is due to Hadith of Prophet Muhammad (P.B.U.H) who said: ” It is prohibited for a woman who believes in Allah and the day of judgment to mourn any dead person more than three days except her husband four months and ten days ” (Bukhari). This period is called the Edda (waiting period) which is prescribed by Allah in the Quran (2: 234).

 

 

C) Al-Ghusul (washing the dead Muslim)

 

When a Muslim dies, it is the responsibility of his family or other Muslims to wash him according to the Islamic rites of washing the deceased. Two or three persons may perform the washing.

The person(s) who may wash the deceased should:

Be a trustworthy, and honest adult Muslim(s).

Know the Islamic way of washing the dead and be able to carry out the washing.

Not make any comment on the body of the deceased.

Note:

If the deceased is a male, then ONLY males should wash him.

If the deceased is a female, then ONLY females should wash her.

For a married person, the spouse may perform the washing.

For a child, either males or females may do the washing.

 

Place of washing:

The deceased’s body should be washed in a clean, secluded, and private place where clean water and soap are available. Gloves or pieces of cloth are needed.

The body of the deceased should be washed with water and, if available, lotus leaves, or camphor (to be used in the final wash).

The washing should be done three or five, or any more odd number of times if necessary.

Steps of washing:

The body of the deceased should be placed on a table or alike, the deceased’s clothes should be removed, and the body should be covered with a sheet of cloth.

The head and the upper body should be raised slightly to insure the washing water with exudations from the body flows down and does not run back to the body.

The Aura (private parts) of the deceased should be covered with a piece of cloth (the aura of a male is from the belly button to the knee in the presence of males, for the female is the same in the presence of females).

The washer should start washing by saying:” Bismil-lah “,” In the name of Allah “.

The washer winds a piece of cloth around his hand, and with this he cleans away any impurities from the body using water. Then he should dispose of this piece.

The washer should take another piece of cloth around his hand, press lightly the stomach of the deceased so as so to expel, if possible, any remnants from it, and then wash the body of all impurities using water. Then he should dispose this piece of cloth.

The washer should take another piece of cloth around his hand (may use gloves), and wash the covered private parts, then dispose of this piece of cloth.

The washer should perform Wudu (ablution) on the deceased without inserting the water in the nose and in the mouth.

The washer should clean the body with water and soap (if available), starting from the head (hair, face and beard (men)), then the upper right side of the body then the left side, after that the lower right side then the lower left.

In the case of a female, her hair should be loosened, washed, combed, and be braided in three braids, and placed behind her back.

The washing should be done three times, or five times, or seven times, as needed, providing that after washing the head, wash the right side before the left, and the upper parts before the lower ones.

In the last wash, the washer may use camphor, or some perfume with the water.

After that the body should be dried with clean towel.

Then the body should be totally covered with a white sheet.

Get ready to start the shrouding.

Special Note: In case the deceased is a female in her menstrual period or have child birth bleeding, padding should be used to prevent blood from leaving the body.

Note:

It is recommended that those who performed the washing should take a bath .

It is recommended that those who performed the washing should make Wudu.

All of this is based on authentic Hadith that Um Atiyah narrated that: ” When the daughter of Prophet Muhammad (P.B.U.H) died, he instructed us:‘ Wash her three times, or more than that if you feel it is necessary, with water and sidr (good smelling leaves), and then after the last wash apply some camphor to the body , then loosen her hair, wash it, comb it, and make it in three braids laid behind her back ” (Bukhari & Muslim).

Note:

There is no Islamic teaching of reading the Quran during the Ghusul.

There is no Islamic teaching of making special dthiker (certain words to remember Allah) during the Ghusul.

 

 

D) Al-Kafan (shrouding the dead Muslim)

 

Shrouding should start Just after washing the body of the deceased. It is recommended to use white sheets from inexpensive material. Extravagance is not recommended in the Kafan (shroud).

Aisha relates that: “When the Prophet Muhammad (P.B.U.H) died, he was shrouded in three white sheets from Yemen.” (Bukhari & Muslim).

1) The Kafan of a male

The Kafan of a male should consist of three white winding sheets about 7 x 7 feet, clean and large enough to conceal the whole body, after having been perfumed with incense. Use 4 tie ropes, each 7 feet long (Figure 1).

The material of the sheet should not be silk, nor should any gold be used.

Steps of shrouding:

The winding sheets should be spread out one on the top of the other.

The deceased, covered with a sheet, is lifted and laid on his back on the winding sheets.

Some scent or perfume may be put on those parts of the body upon which one rests during prostration; that is, the forehead, nose, hands, knees, and feet.

If it is possible the deceased’s left hand should be placed on his chest, then put his right hand on the left hand like the way in the Salat (prayer).

The edge of the top sheet is folded over the deceased right side, then the other edge over his left side. Then the second sheet should be folded the same way. The third and the largest sheet should be treated the same way.

These sheets should be fastened with a piece of cloth (tie ropes), one above the head, another under the feet, and two around the body.

 

male kafan

Figure 29: Kafan of a male

 

2. The Kafan of a female

The Kafan of a female should consist of five white garments, (two winding sheet, a long loose sleeveless shirt (from shoulder to feet), a waist wrapper, and a head veil), these should be large enough to cover the whole body and may be perfumed with incense, a loin cloth may be used to bind the upper part of her legs, use 4 tie ropes, each one is 7 feet long (Figure 2).

Steps of shrouding:

The garments are spread out:

  • First:winding sheets (7 x 7 feet),
  • Second:the long loose sleeveless shirt (3 1/2 x 14 feet, with a hole in the middle line for the head),
  • Third: waist wrapper (6 feet x 3 1/2 feet ),
  • Fourthhead veil (a 4×4 square feet white sheet), and
  • Fifth: the loin cloth (12 inches wide x 4 feet long).

The deceased, covered with a sheet, is lifted and laid on her back on the shroud.

Some scent or perfume may be put on those parts of the body upon which one rests during prostration; that is, the forehead, nose, hands, knees, and feet.

The loin cloth is bound round her upper legs (acts like underwear).

The waist wrapper is tied in place.

Put on the sleeveless shirt (long to cover the body from the shoulder to the feet) .

Put the head veil.

The deceased’s left hand should be placed on her chest, then put her right hand on the left hand like the way in the Salat (prayer).

The edge of the top sheet is folded over the deceased right side, then the other edge over his left side. Then the second sheet should be folded the same way.

These sheets should be fastened with a piece of cloth (tie ropes), one above the head, another under the feet, and two around the body.

 

Note:

There is no Islamic teaching of writing anything on the shrouds.

 

female kafan

Figure 30: Kafan of a female.

E) Salatul Janazah (the funeral)

A divine service is held over the dead body of every Muslim, young or old, even of infants who have lived only a few minutes. When the soul leaves the body, preparations are made for bidding him the last farewell.

It is highly recommended that, after washing and shrouding the body of the deceased, the body not to be kept long, but rather taken quickly, prayed for, and then buried.

Salatul Janazah is required to be performed in congregation to request pardon for the deceased and all dead Muslims, and to wrap them all in Allah’s Mercy.

It is preferable that Salatul Janazah be performed outside the Mosque or the Musalla (prayer room), like in activity rooms or courtyards.

Salatul Janazah is a collective obligation. A Muslim should not hesitate to participate in it, whether or not the deceased or his relatives are known to him.

Prophet Muhammad (P.B.U.H) said: “If a Muslim dies and forty Muslims, who do not associate anything with Allah, join in the Salatul Janazah, Allah accepts their prayers for him.” (Muslim)

Salatul Janazah is said silently, except the Takbeer and Tassleem. All conditions for regular Salat are required in Salatul Janazah such as Tahara, Wudu, clean body and clothes, neeyah (intention), and facing the Qiblah.

There is a reward for attending Salatul Janazah for both the deceased and those who make the Salat according to the following Hadith.

Prophet Muhammad (P.B.U.H) said: “Whoever attends the Janazah until it is finished, will earn a Qirat, and who ever stays until the burial, will earn two Qirats. Someone asked: What does Qirat mean?, the Prophet answered: ‘It means rewards as big as great mountain.” (Bukhari and Muslim)

There are specific times when it is prohibited to perform Salatul Janazah, unless it becomes necessary, due to the condition of the body, to perform it quickly and then bury the body.

This is due to the Hadith of the Prophet (P.B.U.H.) who forbade us to pray, or bury our dead during these specified times (Muslim).

These prohibited times are:

From sunrise until the sun is fully risen,

At the zenith of the sun (the sun at meridian), until it passes the meridian,

From when the sun pales before sunset until it has set.

Steps of Salatul Janazah

It is preferable that Salatul Janazah be performed outside the Mosque / the Musalla.

All conditions for regular Salat are required in Salatul Janazah such as Tahara, Wudu, clean body and clothes, neeyah (intention), and facing the Qiblah.

Muslims should form a minimum of three lines facing the Qiblah. The one who leads the Salat is the leader or his deputy, or the deceased’s father.

If there is only one Muslim with the Imam, he should stand behind the Imam.

The body (bodies) should be placed in front of the person who leads the prayer.

In case there are more than one dead Muslim (males and females), then the female(s) should be placed in the first row(s) in the direction of the Qiblah, then the male(s) in the following row(s), then the Imam.

For example: If there are: a dead Muslim male, a female, a young girl, and a young boy, then behind the Qiblah, first place the body of the young girl, then the adult female, then the young boy, then the adult male, so the bodies are arranged in a way that females’ bodies are first, then the males (Figure 3).

 

arrangement

Figure 31: Arrangement of men, women, and children at Salatul Janazal.

 

positions

Figure 32: Salatul Janazah for a Muslim female (left), Salatul Janazah for a Muslim male (right).

The Imam should stand by the middle of a female body, and by the head for a male body, this is due to the Hadith in which Anas related that Prophet Muhammad (P.B.U.H.) leading Salatul Janazah for a dead male, the Prophet (P.B.U.H.) stood in front of the deceased head, and for a dead female, the Prophet (P.B.U.H.) stood in front of the middle of her body. (Authentic-Abu Dawood) In another Hadith Samura ben Jundub said when Prophet Muhammad (P.B.U.H) made Salatul Janazah for a dead Muslim female, he stood in front of her waist (Muslim) (see Figures 3, 4).

Behind the Imam, males stand in lines, then children, then females (Figures 3,4).

There are NO Rukuh, Sujud, Athan, or Eqama.

Having the appropriate neeyah (intention), raise your hands in the usual manner and say: Alla-who Akbar.

Fold your right hand over the left hand in the usual manner.

Recite the Fatiha silently.

Then say: Alla-who Akbar.

Then recite the Tashahood.

The Tashahood is: Allahumma sallee ala-Muhammad wa’ala alee Muhammad kama sallayta ala Ibrahim wa ala alee Ibrahim, wa barik ala Muhammad wa’ala alee Muhammad kama barakta ala Ibrahim wa ala alee Ibrahim, innaka hamidun Majeed.

This means: “O Allah! Grant peace to Muhammad and his family as you did to Ibrahim and his family. O Allah! Bless Muhammad and his family as you blessed Ibrahim and his family. Truly you are Most Glorious and Most Praiseworthy.”

Then say: Alla-who Akbar.

Then make dua’ (supplicate) for the deceased.

Then say: Alla-who Akbar.

Then make dua (supplicate) for all dead Muslims.

In the case of a dead baby or young child, make dua (supplicate) for his parents.

Then say: Assalamu alykum like you say in other Salats. Tasleem could be said only once.

Note:

Salatul Janazah for the one who died far away is allowed.

There is no Islamic teaching of putting the picture of the deceased or some of his clothes or flowers in front of or around the Kafan (shroud).

To use a coffin (box) is not allowed, unless there is necessity to use it, such as the body of the deceased is damaged, or for health reasons, or when the grave is wet and cannot be dried.

 

F) Following the Janazah

After Salatul Janazah, the deceased should be transferred to the Muslim cemetery. Prophet Muhammad (P.B.U.H) said:  Visit the sick and walk with the Janazah, it will remind you of the hereafter(Muslim).

It is recommended for those following the Janazah on foot to keep behind or either on the right or on the left of those who are carrying the body.

They should walk calmly, quietly, and not crowd or push others who are carrying the deceased.

Following the Janazah with incense or candles, mentioning Allah’s name loudly, weeping loudly or reading Quran, playing music, or carrying the body of the deceased on a military car, all are not allowed when escorting the body of the deceased.

The reward of Janazah prayer and following the Janazah until the burial is finished is explained in the following Hadith of Prophet Muhammad (P.B.U.H) who said: “Whoever attends the Janazah until it is finished, will earn a Qirat, and who ever stays until the burial, will earn two Qirats. Someone asked: What a Qirat means? The Prophet answered: ’It means rewards as big as a great mountain.” (Bukhari & Muslim)

 

G) Al-Dafin (burial)

Islam has a unique style of building graves and cemeteries that is characterized by humility, simplicity and economy in costs and that avoids glorifying the dead with elaborate monuments.

It is of great importance that a special cemetery be devoted exclusively for the use of Muslims. Muslims may not be buried in the cemeteries of non-Muslims, nor can non-Muslims be buried in a Muslim cemetery.

The deceased should be buried in the locality in which he lived. It is undesirable to take the body to the person’s own country or to another city.

In Muslim cemeteries, there are two types of graves:

Al-Shaqq: is to make a deep vertical hole in the ground.

Al-Lahed: is to make a deep vertical hole in the ground, then in the bottom make a side horizontal hole big enough to cover the whole body.

Both types are used, but it is preferable to use Al-Lahed if the land is solid (Figure 5).

 

types of graves

Figure 33: Types of graves: Al Lahed (left) and Al Shaq (right).

The burial should be done as soon as possible after death, but the following times should be avoided:

At night. From sunrise until the sun is fully risen. At the zenith of the sun (the sun at the meridian), until it passes the meridian.

When the sun pales before sunset until it has set.

During these times burying is prohibited unless there is an urgent necessityaccording to the Hadith of the Prophet Muhammad (P.B.U.H) that was narrated by. (Muslim)

 

Steps of burial:

A grave is dug deep enough to totally hide the body of the deceased.

The grave should be always perpendicular (horizontal) to the direction of Qiblah. Only men are allowed to attend the burial. All Muslims who are present should remember death, the hereafter, and that one day he too will be buried. They should keep quiet (no talking unless it is necessary).The deceased’s male relatives are expected to put the body in the grave, putting the body in the grave should be carried out only by Muslim men. A female is placed in her grave either by her husband, her sons, her father, her brothers, or her uncle.

The deceased’s body should be entered to the grave from the direction where his feet will be (from the rear of the grave) (Figure 7).

How to enter the body into the grave

 

enter

Figure 34: How to place the body in the grave.

 

Those who enter the body of the deceased in the grave should say: (Bismil llah wa ala millati rasulil llah), which means: “In the name of Allah and in the faith of the Messenger of Allah.”

The deceased’s body should rest on his right side, and should be close to the wall and supported so that the body will not fall back, the deceased’s face should be towards the Qiblah. (Figure 6, 7).

in the grave

Figure 35: Looking into the grave. The deceased inside the grave lying on his right side and facing the Qiblah.

 

Those who put the deceased in the grave should not have had sexual intercourse with their wives the night before.

According to the teachings of the Prophet Muhammad (P.B.U.H). Anas Ibn Malik related that: “During the burial of the daughter of Prophet Muhammad (P.B.U.H.), Prophet Muhammad (P.B.U.H) was sitting, tears coming out from eyes, he asked us: “Who did not have sexual intercourse with his wife last night?” Abu Talha answered: “I, Prophet Muhammad.” Then Prophet Muhammad (P.B.U.H) said to him: “You get down in the grave and lay her down.” (Bukhari)

They should undo the tie on the head and the feet.

They should put above the body a layer of wood or big stones, so that earth will not be put directly on the body when they fill the grave with earth.

After the body is totally coveredit is desirable to throw three handfuls of soil into the grave.

Then the grave should be filled up with sand.

It is allowable to put a mark on the grave or a stone to know the grave.

It is also Sunnah to make the grave convex from sand, according to the Hadith that was reported by Sofyan who said: “That I saw the grave of Prophet Muhammad (P.B.U.H.) is made convex [out of sand].” (Bukhari)

Just after the burial all Muslims, including the deceased’s relatives, may stay in the cemetery for a while and make dua’ (supplicate) for the deceased, since he is being questioned by the Angels.

Prophet Muhammad (P.B.U.H.) in an authentic Hadith said: “Make dua’ of Istighfar (supplicate for forgiveness) for your brother and request steadfastness for him because he is now being questioned. (Authentic-Abu Dawood)

Note:

There is no Islamic teaching of transferring the deceased to another country.

There is no Islamic teaching of revealing the face of the deceased after putting the body in the grave.

There is no Islamic teaching of shouting with special dthiker (certain words to remember Allah) before, during, and after burial.

There is no Islamic teaching of reading the Quran in the cemetery.

There is no Islamic teaching of putting flowers, food, water, or money around the grave that will benefit the deceased.

There is no Islamic teaching of putting anything in, on or around the grave that will benefit the deceased.

There is no Islamic teaching of slaughtering an animal during or after burial.

There is no Islamic teaching of staying in a state of sadness for one year.

There is no Islamic teaching that the relatives of the deceased should wear black clothes.

There is no Islamic teaching that planting flowers on, or around the grave will benefit the deceased.

Important rules in the cemetery

It is prohibited to step over, lean, or sit on a grave.

Abu Hurrairah relates that the Prophet (P.B.U.H.) said: “It is better for a person to sit on burning coal by which his clothes may catch fire and the heat thereof may touch his skin, rather than that he sits on a grave. (Muslim)

It is prohibited to build any form of construction on the grave, or decorate the grave.

From the authentic traditions, it is clear that to erect domes over graves or build mausoleums or Mosques on graves is strictly forbidden. Prophet Muhammad (P.B.U.H) said: Do not build Mosques in the graveyard.  (Muslim)

Ali ibn abi Taleb reported that: “Prophet Muhammad (P.B.U.H.) instructed him to destroy all statues, and not to leave a grave raised high without leveling it with the ground, (Muslim) which means no construction on the grave.

It is prohibited to plaster the grave, whitewash the grave, or use cooked stones.

Jabir relates that the Prophet (P.B.U.H.) has forbidden that a grave should be made strong (of bricks and plaster), or durable or one should sit over it or the same should have a construction over it. (Muslim)

Jabir also reported: “Prophet Muhammad forbade the whitewashing of a grave, sitting on it, or erecting any type of structure on it. (Muslim)

It is prohibited to pray facing towards the graves.

Abu Martad al-Ghanawi reported that Prophet Muhammad (P.B.U.H.) said: Do not pray facing towards the graves. (Muslim)

Women are forbidden from attending the burial.

This is according to the authentic Hadith of Um-Atiyah who reported that we were forbidden to accompany funeral processions. (Bukhari and Muslim)

It is prohibited to slaughter animals around the grave.

Arranging a mourning gathering on the day of death, or on the third day after death, or on the seventh, or on the twentieth day, or on the fortieth day, or on the anniversary of the death, all are abominable and heretical practices which people have introduced.

These practices have no basis whatsoever in the Quran, in the Sunnah of the Prophet, or in the practices of the early Muslims, may Allah the Exalted have mercy upon them. Some of these practices are done by some Muslims in different countries, but that does not make it the Islamic way.

It is prohibited to cremate the body of dead Muslim, even if the deceased requested it before his death.

It is prohibited to put candles on the grave. Prophet Muhammad (P.B.U.H.) said in an authentic Hadith: “Curse those who light lamps on graves. (Authentic-Ahmed)

It is also disliked (Makruh) to pray in the cemetery (Bukhari).

Performing autopsy on a dead Muslim is totally prohibited, unless it is requested by court order.

H) Special cases

1) Miscarried Fetus:

If the fetus is less than four months old (mother was pregnant for less than four months), then the fetus may not be washed; the fetus should be wrapped in a piece of white cloth and buried. Then there is no Salatul Janazah for this fetus.

If the fetus is more than four months old (mother was pregnant for more than four months), then the fetus may be washed, shrouded (using one or two winding sheets to cover the whole body), and then Muslims have the choice whether to perform Salatul Janazah or not.

 

2) Children:

  1. A) Before reaching the age of puberty,a child may be washed by males or females. Shrouding a child for females use a shirt and two winding sheets and for males two or three winding sheets may be used.
  2. B) For those children who reached the age of puberty, they should be dealt with as an adult (female child like female adult, and male child like male adult), but then Salatul Janazah be performed.

 

3) Martyr:

The body of a Martyr should not be washed, nor be shrouded but buried with the same clothes that people found him with.

The strongest opinion of Muslim scholars is not to offer Salatul Janazah for martyrs since Prophet Muhammad (P.B.U.H) did not offer it for the martyrs of the battle of Uhud.

 

I) Condolences

It is a Muslim’s duty to offer condolences, comfort, and sympathy to the family and the relatives of the deceased. This strengthens the relationships within the Muslim community.

When offering condolences, words should be chosen carefully and said gently to convey sympathy and to encourage the family and the relatives of the deceased to accept Allah’s will and to help them to get back to their normal life.

Condolences may be offered to the family and to the relatives of the deceased before, during or after burial for up to three days, but it may be offered even at later time if someone did not hear about it or he was far away.

It is recommended to leave after offering condolences to give the family time to take care of their other affairs, assistance may be offered for anything the family may need, and one may stay to help, if asked.

Some families hold gatherings for three days or more, and hire people to recite Quran loudly. While the Quran is recited, others eat, drink or talk, disregarding the rules of listening to the Quran, and inflicting the family with high expenses.

It is Sunnah that friends, neighbors and relatives prepare food for the family of the deceased, for the loss of the loved one occupies the family’s whole attention.

 

J) The Edda (waiting period) of Muslim widows (females)

Upon hearing the news of the death of her husband, a Muslim wife should be steadfast and patient. Prophet Muhammad (P.B.U.H) said: “Patience (endurance) is to be present from the first shock.” (Muslim)

Prophet Muhammad (P.B.U.H) said: “Allah says: I have no better reward than Paradise for a believer servant of Mine who is patient and resigned when I take away one of his/her beloved, one among those he/she most cherishes in the world.” (Bukhari)

She should accept all that Allah plans for her and her family with sincerity and patience, as Prophet Muhammad (P.B.U.H) said: “When a person suffers from some calamity and supplicates: ‘Inna lil-la-he wa inna ilay he ra je oon,’ ‘to Allah we belong and to Allah shall we return,’ O Allah make good the loss in this calamity, and grant me something good, Allah then compensates him/her for the loss, and give a better substitute.” (Muslim)

It is prohibited to express grief by wailing, shrieking, beating the chest or cheeks, tearing hair or clothes, or saying phrases that makes a Muslim lose faith.

Um Atiyyah reports: “The Messenger of Allah made us pledge that we will not wail over the dead.” (Bukhari & Muslim)

Prophet Muhammad (P.B.U.H) said: “I detest a woman who cries out very loudly, or shaves her hair, or tears her clothes when a beloved one dies.” (Bukhari & Muslim)

She may cry, as the Prophet did when his son died. He said: “The eyes are shedding tears and the heart is grieved, and we will not say except what pleases our Lord.” (Bukhari)

Allah in the Quran prescribed the Edda (waiting period) for those wives whose husbands die: “And those of you who die and leave wives behind them, they (the wives) shall wait for four months and ten days .” (Quran 2:234)

Prophet Muhammad (P.B.U.H) said in an authentic Hadith: “It is prohibited for a woman who believes in Allah and the day of judgment to mourn a dead person more than three days except her husband, in which case it is four months and ten days. (Bukhari)

Edda is prescribed for widows in order to mourn the death of their husbands, observe their memory, fulfill any obligations toward them, and to see if the widow is pregnant or not.

In the following authentic Hadith, Prophet Muhammad (P.B.U.H) explains the way that she should conduct herself during this time.

Um Atiyyah reported that the Messenger of Allah said: A woman should not mourn for any deceased person for more than three days, except in the case of her husband’s death, which she may mourn for a period of four months and ten days. Such a woman in mourning is not to wear any fancy, bright clothes, but only plain clothes, not use any adornment or make-up, nor use perfume, nor die her hands or feet with Henna. (Bukhari and Muslim)

If the widow is pregnant, then her waiting period ends when she delivers her baby, according to Allah’s command in the Quran: “And for those who are pregnant, their Edda is until they deliver.” (Quran 65:4)

DURATION OF EDDA

PREGNANT

NOT PREGNANT

Until delivery

Four Months and Ten Days

So a widow during the Edda should:

  • Stay in her home, and only leave when it is necessary.
  • Sleep in her home.
  • Not wear fancy, bright clothes.
  • Not wear jewelry.
  • Not use makeup including eyeliners (kohol).
  • Not use perfume.

This time is not to deprive herself from lawful things, or to suffer more than a human could bear. It is time to remember all the memories of her husband, make Dua’ for him, think about herself, and plan for the future.

 

K) Rewards after death

While the life span of a Muslim is short, and deeds and actions stop after death, a Muslim may continue to earn rewards for certain things even after his death.

Good deeds, such as perpetual charity, are the ones that follow him a Muslim (get the rewards), even while the person is in the grave, such deeds like: useful knowledge, a good child that prays for him, a Mosque that he built, teaching Quran to another person, a house he built for public use, a water fountain or a river that he rented and made it free for people, or a charity that he gave during his life while he was in good health; all are rewardable even after death.

In this respect the Prophet (P.B.U.H) said: “After the death of a person his actions stop, except three things that he leaves behind: First continuous charity, Second a knowledge from which some benefit may be obtained, Third a virtuous son who makes Dua’ (pray, supplicate) on his behalf.” (Muslim)

Charity will benefit the deceased, as the following Hadiths show: “A man came to the Prophet (P.B.U.H) and asked him: My father died leaving wealth but no will, would he be pardoned if a charity is given on his behalf?” The Prophet (P.B.U.H) answered: “Yes.(Muslim)

Another Hadith: “A man came to the Prophet (P.B.U.H) and asked him: My mother has died without making up for missed days of fasting in the month of Ramadan, can I fast for her?” The Prophet (P.B.U.H) said to him: “Would you pay her debt if she owed someone?” The man said: “Yes.” Then the Prophet (P.B.U.H) said: “Then Allah is more deserving of payment in settlement of his debt.” (Bukhari and Muslim)

Ibn Abbas reported that: A woman came to the Prophet (P.B.U.H) and said: My mother had vowed to perform Hajj (pilgrimage), but she died before she could fulfill her vow, should I do it on her behalf?” The Prophet (P.B.U.H) said to him: “Yes perform Hajj on her behalf. Would you not pay the debt of your mother if she had owed someone? Fulfill it. Allah is more deserving of receiving payment for what is due to Allah.” ” (Bukhari and Muslim)

So from the previous authentic Hadiths there are generally three things that benefit the dead:

1) Charity; continuous charity; and

2) A knowledge left by the deceased from which some benefit may be obtained; and

3) A virtuous son or daughter who makes Dua’ (pray, supplicate) on the deceased’s behalf, or perform duties that the deceased did not do during his lifetime such as fasting missed days or Hajj, or pay his debts.

People put flowers, candles, food, perfume, on the grave all of this will not benefit the deceased.

L) Visiting the cemetery

In the beginning of Islam, Prophet Muhammad (P.B.U.H.) advised Muslim males not to visit the cemeteries, but after that he the Prophet (P.B.U.H.) gave them the permission to visit the cemetery to remind them of the hereafter.

This is based on the Hadith of the Prophet (P.B.U.H.): “I advised you not to visit the cemetery, but from now you may visit the cemetery, it will remind you of the hereafter.(Muslim)

All scholars have no dispute about the point that it is prohibited for Muslim females to frequently visit the cemetery. This is due to the authentic Hadith of the Prophet Muhammad (P.B.U.H.) who said: “May Allah curse the women who are frequently visiting the cemetery. (Authentic, Termithi)

But if the visit is not frequent , most scholars say it is Makrouh (hated action), while other scholars say it is permissible for Muslim females to visit the cemetery provided that the visit is not frequent and it is for the sole purpose of remembering death and hereafter.

When Muslim females visit the cemetery, they should wear proper clothes, no make-up or perfume, they should not cry loudly or say words of discontent or behave unIslamically .

The purpose of visiting the cemetery is to remember the fact that everyone is going to die and that we must prepare for the day of judgment.

Visiting the cemetery benefits the dead too, since the visitors will make dua’ (supplicate) for the dead to forgive his sins and have mercy on him.

Note:

There is no Islamic teaching of visiting the grave after three days, or seven days, or twenty days, or forty days.

There is no Islamic teaching of visiting the grave of the parents every Friday.

There is no Islamic teaching of visiting the grave any special days such as Eid days, Ashura day, or Ramadan.

There is no Islamic teaching of reading the Quran during the visit to the cemetery.

There is no Islamic teaching of wiping hands over the grave, or kissing the grave.

This is only a quick look at this final journey. A mature person before taking any trip should prepare all that is needed to have a safe journey, and since no one knows when this journey will start, then it becomes logical to get ready right away.

Prophet Muhammad (P.B.U.H.) said in an authentic Hadith “Be in this world as a traveler or stranger.” (Bukhari)

Allah says in the Quran: “Everyone shall taste death. And only one the day of resurrection shall you be paid your wages in full. And whoever is removed away from the fire and admitted to the paradise, indeed this person attained success, and this life is only enjoyment of deception.” (Quran 29:57).

Finally one famous poet said: “When you are born, you were crying while other people were very happy, so make sure that when you die, you will be very happy, while others cry.”

 

M) References

The Holy Quran, English translation of the meaning of the Quran, Saudi Arabia.

Interpretation of the Meaning of the Noble Quran in the English language, Saudi Arabia .

Sahih Al-Bukhari, Muhammad Muhsin Khan, Beirut, Lebanon.

Sahih Muslim, Abdul Hamid Siddiqi, Lahore , Pakistan.

Riyadh-Us-Saleheen, Imam An-Nawawi, S.M.Madani Abbasi, Saudi Arabia.

Fiqh Us-Sunnah, As-Sayyid Sabiq, Saudi Arabia.

Ahkam Al-Janahiz, M.Naser Al-Deen Al-Albani, Jordan .

Funeral Regulations in Islam, Muslim World League, Saudi Arabia.

Al-Moghni, Ibn Qudama, Saudi Arabia.

 

This document was placed without the publisher’s permission.

Appendix J: Religious Rites

[from the website http://cyberspacei.com/jesusi/inlight/religion/rites/Death.htm%5D

 

[N.B. hyperlinks embedded in the original document have been removed; visit the site to take advantage of hyperlinks in the original document]

 

 

 

Religion

 

 

RELIGIOUS RITES

 

4 THE CONCEPT AND FORMS OF RITUAL

4.10 Death Rites and Customs

4.10.1 RELEVANT CONCEPTS AND DOCTRINES

4.10.1.1 Life and death.

4.10.1.2 Human substance and nature.

4.10.1.3 Forms of survival.

4.10.1.4 The ultimate destiny of the dead.

4.10.2 PATTERNS OF MYTH AND SYMBOL

4.10.2.1 Geography of the afterlife.

4.10.2.2 Means of approach to the afterworld.

4.10.2.3 Forms of final determination.

4.10.3 DEATH AND FUNERARY RITES AND CUSTOMS

4.10.3.1 Before and at death.

4.10.3.2 Modes of preparation of the corpse and attendant rites.

4.10.3.3 Modes of disposal of the corpse and attendant rites.

4.10.3.4 Post-funerary rites and customs.

4.10.4 CULTS AND MEMORIALS OF THE DEAD

4.10.4.1 Commemorative rites and services.

4.10.4.2 Cult of the dead.

4.10.5 PSYCHOLOGICAL AND SOCIOLOGICAL ASPECTS OF DEATH

4.10.6 MODERN NOTIONS OF DEATH

4.10.6.1 Continuation of traditional responses.

4.10.6.2 Avowed secular inattention and unconcern.

4.10.6.3 Rites and customs among secular materialists.

Throughout history and in every human society, the disposal of the dead has been given special significance. The practice was originally motivated not by hygienic considerations but by ideas entertained by primitive peoples concerning human nature and destiny. This conclusion is clearly evident from the fact that the disposal of the dead from the earliest times was of a ritual kind. Paleolithic peoples, such as the Neanderthals and later groups, not only buried their dead but provided them with food, weapons, and other equipment, thereby implying a belief that the dead still needed such things in the grave. This very significant practice can be traced back to great antiquity, possibly to about 50,000 BC. (see also primitive religion, Paleolithic Period)

The ritual burial of the dead, which is thus attested from the very dawn of human culture and which has been practiced in most parts of the world, stems from an instinctive inability or refusal on the part of man to accept death as the definitive end of human life. Despite the horrifying evidence of the physical decomposition caused by death, the belief has persisted that something of the individual person survives the experience of dying. In contrast, the idea of personal extinction through death is a sophisticated concept that was unknown until the 6th century BC, when it appeared in the metaphysical thought of Indian Buddhism; it did not find expression in the ancient Mediterranean world before its exposition by the Greek philosopher Epicurus (341-270 BC). (see also afterlife)

The belief that human beings survive death in some form has profoundly influenced the thoughts, emotions, and actions of mankind. The belief occurs in all religions, past and present, and decisively conditions their evaluations of man and his place in the universe. Mortuary rituals and funerary customs reflect these evaluations; they represent also the practical measures taken to assist the dead to achieve their destiny and sometimes to save the living from the dreaded molestation of those whom death had transformed into a different state of being.

4.10.1 Relevant Concepts and Doctrines

4.10.1.1 Life and death.

The evidence of Paleolithic burials shows that already, in that remote age, various ideas were held about death and the state of the dead. The provision of food, ornaments, and tools in the graves implies a general belief that the dead continued to exist, with the same needs as in this life. Other customs, however, indicate the currency of a variety of notions about postmortem existence, particularly about the potentialities and destiny of the dead. Thus, the presence of red ochre in some burials suggests the practice of contagious magic: the corpse had possibly been stained with the colour of blood in order to revitalize it. The fact that in Paleolithic burials the skeleton has often been found lying on its side in a crouched position has been interpreted by some prehistorians as evidence of belief in rebirth, in that the posture of the corpse imitated the position of the child in the womb. In some crouched burials, however, there is reason for suspecting a more sinister motive; for the limbs are sometimes so tightly flexed that the bodies must have been bound in that position before rigor mortis set in. Such treatment of the corpse was doubtless prompted by fear of the dead, for similar customs have been found among later peoples. Preventive action of this kind has a further significance, for it implies a belief that the dead might be malevolent and had power to harm the living. (see also resurrection, spirit)

That death was sometimes regarded as transforming those who experienced it into a state of being balefully different from that of those living in this world is evident in later mortuary rites and customs. Indeed, the proper performance of funerary rites was deemed essential by many peoples, to enable the dead to depart to the place and condition to which they properly belonged. Failure to expedite their departure could have dangerous consequences. Many ancient Mesopotamian divinatory texts reveal a belief that disease and other misfortunes could be caused by dead persons deprived of proper burial. The fate of the unburied dead finds expression in Greek and Roman literature. The idea that the dead had to cross some barrier that divided the land of the living from that of the dead also occurs in many religions: the Greeks and Romans believed that the dead were ferried across an infernal river, the Acheron or Styx, by a demonic boatman called Charon, for whose payment a coin was placed in the mouth of the deceased; in Zoroastrianism the dead cross the Bridge of the Requiter (Cinvato Paratu); bridges figure also in Muslim and Scandinavian eschatologies (speculations concerning the end of the world and the afterlife)–the Sirat bridge and the bridge over the Gjöll River (Gjallarbrú) — and Christian folklore knew of a Brig o’ Dread, or Brig o’ Death. (see also Mesopotamian religion, Greek religion, Roman religion, Christianity)

It is significant that in few religions has death been regarded as a natural event. Instead, it has generally been viewed as resulting from the attack of some demonic power or death god: in Etruscan sepulchral art a fearsome being called Charun strikes the deathblow, and medieval Christian art depicted the skeletal figure of Death with a dart. In many mythologies death is represented as resulting from some primordial mischance. According to Christian theology, death entered the world through the original sin committed by Adam and Eve, the progenitors of mankind.

4.10.1.2 Human substance and nature.

The conception of death in most religions is closely related to the particular view held about the constitution of human nature. Two major traditions of interpretation have provided the basic assumptions of religious eschatologies and have often found expression in mortuary rituals and funerary practice. The more primitive of these interpretations has been based on an integralistic evaluation of human nature. Thus, the individual person has been conceived as a psychophysical organism, of which both the material and the nonmaterial constituents are essential in order to maintain a properly integrated personal existence. From such an evaluation it has followed that death is the fatal shattering of personal existence. Although some constituent element of the living person has been deemed to survive this disintegration, it has not been regarded as conserving the essential self or personality. The consequences of this estimate of human nature can be seen in the eschatologies of many religions. The ancient Mesopotamians, Hebrews, and Greeks, for example, thought that after death only a shadowy wraith descended to the realm of the dead, where it existed miserably in dust and darkness. Such a conception of man, in turn, has meant that, where the possibility of an effective afterlife has been envisaged, as in ancient Egyptian religion, Judaism, Zoroastrianism, Christianity, and Islam, the idea of a reconstitution or resurrection of the body has also been involved; for it has been deemed essential to restore the psychophysical complex of personality. In Egypt, most notably, provision was made for the eventual reconstitution in an elaborate mortuary ritual which included the mummification of the corpse to preserve it from disintegration.

The alternative view of human nature may be termed dualistic. It conceives of the individual person as comprising an inner essential self or soul, which is nonmaterial, and a physical body. In many religions based on this view of human nature, the soul is regarded as being essentially immortal and as existing before the body was formed. Its incarnation in the body is interpreted as a penalty incurred for some primordial sin or error. At death the soul leaves the body, and its subsequent fate is determined by the manner in which it has fulfilled what the particular religion concerned has prescribed for the achievement of salvation. This view of human nature and destiny finds most notable expression in Hinduism and, in a subtly qualified sense, in Buddhism; it was also taught in such mystical cults and philosophies of the Greco-Roman world as Orphism (an ancient Greek mystical movement with a significant emphasis on death), Gnosticism (an early system of thought that viewed spirit as good and matter as evil), Hermeticism (a Hellenistic esoteric, occultic movement), and Manichaeism (a system of thought founded by Mani in ancient Iran). (see also human body)

4.10.1.3 Forms of survival.

The conception of human nature held in any religion has, accordingly, determined the manner or mode in which postmortem survival has been envisaged. Where the body has been regarded as an essential constituent of personal existence, belief in a significant afterlife has inevitably entailed the idea of the reconstitution of the decomposed corpse and its resurrection to life. In turn, a dualistic conception of human nature, which regards the soul as intrinsically nonmaterial and immortal, envisages postmortem life in terms of the disembodied existence of the soul. This dualistic conception, in many religions, has also involved the idea of rebirth or reincarnation. In Hinduism, Buddhism, and Orphism this idea has inspired a cyclical view of the time process and produced esoteric explanations of how the soul becomes reborn into a physical body, whether human or animal.

4.10.1.4 The ultimate destiny of the dead.

Belief in postmortem survival has been productive also of a variety of images concerning the destiny of the dead. This imagery is closely related to the conception of man that is held in each religion. Thus, the magical resuscitation of the dead in ancient Egypt was designed to enable them to live forever in their well-furnished tombs; according to Christian and Islamic belief, God will ultimately raise the dead with their physical bodies and assess their merits for eternal bliss in heaven or everlasting torment in hell; the Buddhist concept of Nirvana (Enlightenment) is achieved only when the individual has eradicated all desire for existence in the empirical world. (see also Last Judgment)

4.10.2 Patterns of Myth and Symbol

4.10.2.1 Geography of the afterlife.

Inhumation naturally prompted the idea that the dead lived beneath the ground. The mortuary cults of many peoples indicate that the dead were imagined as actually residing in their tombs and able to receive the offerings of food and drink made to them; e.g., some graves in ancient Crete and Ugarit (Ras Shamra) were equipped with pottery conduits, from the surface, for libations. Often, however, the grave has been thought of as an entrance to a vast, subterranean abode of the dead. In some religions this underworld has been conceived as an immense pit or cavern, dark and grim (e.g., the Mesopotamian kur-nu-gi-a [“land of no return”], the Hebrew Sheol, the Greek Hades, and the Scandinavian Hel). Sometimes it is ruled by an awful monarch, such as the Mesopotamian god Nergal or the Greek god Hades, or Pluto, or the Yama of Hindu and Buddhist eschatology. According to the view of man’s nature and destiny held in a particular religion, this underworld may be a gloomy, joyless place where the shades of all the dead merely survive, or it may be pictured as a place of awful torments where the damned suffer for their misdeeds. In those religions in which the underworld has been conceived as a place of postmortem retribution, the idea of a separate abode of the blessed dead became necessary. Such an abode has various locations. In most religions it is imagined as being in the sky or in a divine realm beyond the sky (e.g., in Christianity, Gnosticism, Hinduism, and Buddhism); sometimes it has been conceived as the “Isles of the Blessed” (e.g., in Greek and Celtic mythology) or as a beautiful garden or paradise, such as the al-firdaws of Islam. Christian eschatology, which came to conceive of both an immediate judgment and a final judgment, developed the idea of a purgatory, where the dead expiated their venial sins in readiness for the final judgment. Although the dead suffered there in a disembodied state, because their bodies would not be resurrected until the last day, the purifying flames of purgatory were usually regarded as burning in a physical sense, as Dante’s Purgatorio vividly shows. The idea of a postmortem purgatory had been adumbrated in the 1st and 2nd centuries BC in Jewish apocalyptic literature (I Enoch 22:9-13). The ten hells of Chinese Buddhist eschatology may be considered as purgatories, for in them the dead expiated their sins before being incarnated once more in this world. (see also heaven)

4.10.2.2 Means of approach to the afterworld.

The idea that the dead had to make a journey to the otherworld, to which they belonged, finds expression in many religions. The oldest evidence occurs in the Egyptian Pyramid Texts (c. 2375-c. 2200 BC). The journey is conceived under various images. The dead pharaoh flies up to heaven to join the sun-god Re, in his solar boat, on his unceasing voyage across the sky, or he joins the circumpolar stars, known as the “Imperishable Ones,” or he ascends a ladder to join the gods in heaven. Later Egyptian funerary texts depict the way to the next world as beset by awful perils: fearsome monsters, lakes of fire, gates that cannot be passed except by the use of magical formulas, and a sinister ferryman whose evil intent must be thwarted by magic. The idea of crossing water en route to the otherworld, which first appears in Egyptian eschatology, occurs in the eschatological topography of other religions, as was noted above. Many mythologies describe journeys to the underworld; they invariably reflect the fear felt for the grim experience that was believed to await the dead. Ancient Mesopotamian literature records the visit of the goddess Ishtar to the realm of the dead, the way to which was barred by gates. At each gate the goddess was deprived of some article of her attire, so that she was naked when she finally came before Ereshkigal, the queen of the underworld. It is possible that this successive stripping of the celestial goddess was meant to symbolize the stripping away of the attributes of life that the dead experienced as they descended into the “land of no return.” An 8th-century Japanese text, the Koji-ki tells of the first contact with death experienced by the primordial pair, Izanagi and Izanami. When his wife died, Izanagi descended to Yomi, the underworld of darkness, to bring her back. His request was granted by the gods of Yomi, on condition that he did not look at her in the underworld. Impatiently he struck a light and was horrified to see her as a decomposed corpse. He fled in terror and disgust. Blocking the entrance to Yomi with a great rock, he then sought desperately to purify himself from the contagion of death.

Such myths doubtless reflect an instinctive feeling that death works an awful change in those who experience it. The dead cease to belong to the world of the living and become uncanny and dangerous: hence, their departure to the world of the dead must be expedited. To assist that grim journey, various aids have been provided. Thus, on some Egyptian coffins of the 11th dynasty, a plan of the “Two Ways” to the underworld was painted, and from the New Kingdom period (c. 1567-1085 BC), copies of the Book of the Dead, containing spells for dealing with perils encountered en route, were placed in the tombs. Orphic communities in southern Italy and Crete provided their dead with directions about the next world by inscribing them on gold laminae deposited in the graves. Advice about dying was given to medieval Christians in a book entitled Ars moriendi (“The Art of Dying”) and to Tibetan Buddhists in the Bardo Thödol (“Book of the Dead”). Chinese Buddhists were informed in popular prints of what to expect as they passed after death through the ten hells to their next incarnation. More practical equipment for the journey to the next world was provided for the Greek and Roman dead: in addition to the money to pay Charon for their passage across the Styx, they were provided with honey cakes for Cerberus, the fearsome dog that guarded the entrance to Hades.

4.10.2.3 Forms of final determination.

Those religions that have taught the possibility of a happy afterlife have also devised forms of postmortem testing of merit for eternal bliss. Ancient Egypt has the distinction of conceiving of a judgment of the dead of an essentially moral kind. This conception finds graphic expression in the vignettes that illustrate the Book of the Dead. The heart of the deceased is represented as being weighed against the symbol of Maat (Truth) in the presence of Osiris, the god of the dead. A monster named Am-mut (Eater of the Dead) awaits an adverse verdict. The judgment of the dead as conceived in other religions (e.g., Christianity, Islam, Zoroastrianism, Orphism) is basically a test of orthodoxy or ritual status, although moral qualities were included to varying degrees. The Last Judgment, as presented in Jewish apocalyptic literature, was essentially a vindication of Israel against its Gentile oppressors. Religions that held no promise of a significant afterlife (e.g., those of ancient Mesopotamia and classical Greece) had no place for a judgment of the dead. (see also Ma’at)

 

4.10.3 Death and Funerary Rites and Customs

4.10.3.1 Before and at death.

The process of dying and the moment of death have been regarded as occasions of the gravest crisis in many religions. The dying must be especially prepared for the awful experience. In China, for example, the head of a dying person was shaved, his body was washed and his nails pared, and he was placed in a sitting position to facilitate the exit of the soul. After the death, relatives and friends called the soul to return, possibly to make certain whether its departure from the body was definitive. Muslim custom decrees that the dying be placed facing the holy city of Mecca. In Catholic Christianity, great care is devoted to preparing for a “good death.” The dying person makes his last confession to a priest and receives absolution; then he is anointed with consecrated oil: the rite is known as “anointing of the sick” (formerly called extreme unction). According to medieval Christian belief, the last moments of life were the most critical, for demons lurked about the deathbed ready to seize the unprepared soul as it emerged with the last breath. (see also Chinese religion, Islam)

4.10.3.2 Modes of preparation of the corpse and attendant rites.

After death, it has been the universal custom to prepare the corpse for final disposal. Generally, this preparation has included its washing and dressing in special garments and sometimes its public exposure. In some religions this preparation is accompanied by rites designed to protect the deceased from demonic attack; sometimes the purpose of the rites has been to guard the living from the contagion of death or the malice of the dead; for it has often been believed that the soul continues to remain about the body until burial or cremation. The most elaborate known preparation of the dead took place in ancient Egypt. Because the Egyptians believed that the body was essential for a proper afterlife, a complex process of ritual embalmment was established. This process was intended not only to preserve the corpse from physical disintegration but also to reanimate it. The rites were based upon the belief that, because the dead body of the god Osiris had been preserved from decomposition and raised to life again by the gods, the magical assimilation of a dead person to Osiris and the ritual enacting of what the gods had done would achieve a similar miracle of resurrection. One of the most significant of these ritual transactions was the “opening of the mouth,” which was designed to restore to the mummified body its ability to see, breathe, and take nourishment. (see also mummy)

Mummification in cruder forms has been practiced elsewhere (notably in Peru), but not with the same complex motives as in Egypt. The preparation of the corpse has also frequently included the placing on or in it of magical amulets; these were variously intended to protect or vitalize the corpse. Evidence found in tombs of the Shang dynasty (c. 1766-c. 1122 BC) suggests that the Chinese placed life-prolonging substances, such as jade, in the orifices of the corpse. Crosses or crucifixes are frequently placed upon the Christian dead, and sometimes in the Middle Ages the consecrated bread of the Eucharist (the Lord’s Supper) was buried with the body. It has also been a Christian custom to furnish a dead priest with a chalice and paten, the instruments of his sacerdotal office.

4.10.3.3 Modes of disposal of the corpse and attendant rites.

The form of the disposal of the dead most generally used throughout the world in both the past and present has been burial in the ground. The practice of inhumation (burial) started in the Paleolithic era, doubtless as the most natural and simplest way of disposal. Whether it was then prompted by any esoteric motive, such as the return to the womb of Mother Earth, as has been suggested, cannot be proved. Among some later peoples, who have believed that primordial man was formed out of earth, it may have been deemed appropriate that the dead should be buried–the idea found classical expression in the divine pronouncement to Adam, recorded in Genesis 3:19: “You are dust, and to dust you shall return.” There is evidence that in ancient Crete the dead were believed to serve a great goddess, who was the source of fertility and life in the world above and who nourished and protected the dead in the earth beneath.

The mode of burial has varied greatly. Sometimes the body has been laid directly in the earth, with or without clothes and funerary equipment. It may be placed in either an extended or crouched position: the latter posture seems to have been more usual in prehistoric burials. Sometimes evidence of a traditional orientation of the corpse in the grave can be distinguished, which may relate to the direction in which the land of the dead was thought to lie. The use of coffins of various substances dates from the early 3rd millennium BC in Sumer and Egypt. Intended probably at first to protect and add dignity to the corpse, coffins became important adjuncts in the mortuary rituals of many religions. Their ritual use is most notable in ancient Egypt, where the mummies of important persons were often enclosed in several human-shaped coffins and then deposited in large, rectangular wooden coffins or stone sarcophagi. The interiors and exteriors of these coffins were used for the inscription of magical texts and symbols. Sarcophagi, elaborately carved with mythological scenes of mortuary significance, became fashionable among the wealthier classes of Greco-Roman society. Similar sarcophagi, carved with Christian scenes, came into use among Christians in the 4th and 5th centuries and afford rich iconographic evidence of the contemporary Christian attitude to death.

In the ancient Near East, the construction of stone tombs began in the 3rd millennium BC and inaugurated a tradition of funerary architecture that has produced such diverse monuments as the pyramids of Egypt, the Taj Mahal, and the mausoleum of Lenin in Red Square, Moscow. The tomb was originally intended to house and protect the dead. In Egypt it was furnished to meet the needs of its magically resuscitated inmate, sometimes even to the provision of toilet facilities. Among many peoples, the belief that the dead actually dwelt in their tombs has caused the tombs of certain holy persons to become shrines, which thousands visit to seek for miracles of healing or to earn religious merit; notable examples of such centres of pilgrimage are the tombs of St. Peter in Rome, of Muhammad at Medinah, and, in ancient times, the tomb of Imhotep at Saqqarah, in Egypt. (see also resurrection)

The disposal of the corpse has been, universally, a ritual occasion of varying degrees of complexity and religious concern. Basically, the funeral consists of conveying the deceased from his home to the place of burial or cremation. This act of transportation has generally been made into a procession of mourners who lament the deceased, and it has often afforded an opportunity of advertising his wealth, status, or achievements. Many depictions of ancient Egyptian funerary processions graphically portray the basic pattern: the embalmed body of the deceased is borne on an ornate sledge, on which sit two mourning women. A priest precedes the bier, pouring libations and burning incense. In the cortege are groups of male mourners and lamenting women, and servants carry the funerary furniture, which indicates the wealth of the dead man. Ancient Roman funerary processions were notable for the parade of ancestors’ death masks. In Islamic countries, friends carry the corpse on an open bier, generally followed by women relatives, lamenting with disheveled hair, and hired mourners. After a service in the mosque, the body is interred with its right side toward Mecca. In Hinduism the funeral procession is made to the place of cremation. It is preceded by a man carrying a firebrand kindled at the domestic hearth; a goat is sometimes sacrificed en route, and the mourners circumambulate the corpse, which is carried on a bier. Cremation is a ritual act, governed by careful prescriptions. The widow crouches by the pyre, on which in ancient times she sometimes died. After cremation, the remains are gathered and often deposited in sacred rivers. (see also Roman religion)

Christian funerary ritual reached its fullest development in medieval Catholicism and was closely related to doctrinal belief, especially that concerning purgatory. Hence, the funerary ceremonies were invested with a sombre character that found visible expression in the use of black vestments and candles of unbleached wax and the solemn tolling of the church bell. The rites consisted of five distinctive episodes. The corpse was carried (in a coffin if one could be afforded) to the church in a doleful cortege of clergy and mourners, with the intoning of psalms and the purificatory use of incense. The coffin was deposited in the church and covered with a black pall, and the Office of the Dead was recited or sung, with the constant repetition of the petition: “Eternal rest grant unto him, O Lord, and let perpetual light shine upon him.” Next, requiem mass was said or sung, with the sacrifice offered for the repose of the soul of the deceased. After the mass followed the “Absolution” of the dead person, in which the coffin was solemnly perfumed with incense and sprinkled with holy water. The corpse was then carried to consecrated ground and buried, while appropriate prayers were recited by the officiating priest. Changes in these rites, including the use of white vestments and the recitation of prayers emphasizing the notions of hope and joy, were introduced into the Catholic liturgy only following the second Vatican Council (1962-65). (see also Roman Catholicism)

In some societies the burial of the dead has been accompanied by human sacrifice, with the intention either to propitiate the spirit of the deceased or to provide him with companions or servants in the next world. A classic instance of such propitiatory sacrifice occurs in Homer’s Iliad (xxiii:175-177): 12 young Trojans were slaughtered and burned on the funeral pyre of the Greek hero Patroclus. The royal graves excavated at the Sumerian city of Ur, dating c. 2700 BC, revealed that retinues of servants and soldiers had been buried with their royal masters. Evidence of a similar Chinese practice has been found in Shang-dynasty graves (12th to 11th centuries BC) at An-yang. In ancient Egypt models of servants, placed in tombs, were designed to be magically animated to serve their masters in the afterlife. A particular type of these models, known as an ushabti (“answerer”), was inscribed with chapter VI of the Book of the Dead, commanding it to answer for the deceased owner if he were required to do service in the next world. (see also ushabti figure)

The custom has also existed among some peoples of dismembering the body for burial or subsequently disinterring the bones for storage in some form. There is Paleolithic evidence of a cult of skulls, which suggests that the rest of the body was not ritually buried. The Egyptians removed the viscera, which were preserved separately in four canopic jars. The Romans observed the curious rite of the os resectum: after cremation a severed finger joint was buried, probably as a symbol of an earlier custom of inhumation. In medieval Europe the heart and sometimes the intestines of important persons were buried in separate places: e.g., the body of William the Conqueror was buried in St. Étienne at Caen, but his heart was left to Rouen Cathedral and his entrails for interment in the church of Chalus. To be noted also is the Zoroastrian and Parsi custom of exposing corpses on dakhmas (“towers of silence”) to be devoured by birds of prey, thus to avoid polluting earth or air by burial or cremation. (see also Zoroastrianism)

The alternative use of inhumation or cremation for the disposal of the corpse cannot be interpreted as generally denoting a difference of view about the fate of the dead. In India, cremation was indeed connected with the fire god Agni, but cremation does not necessarily indicate that the soul was thus freed to ascend to the sky. Burial has been the more general practice, whether the abode of the dead be located under the earth or in the heavens. (see also Hinduism)

4.10.3.4 Post-funerary rites and customs.

Funerary rites do not usually terminate with the disposal of the corpse either by burial or cremation. Post-funerary ceremonies and customs may continue for varying periods; they have generally had two not necessarily mutually exclusive motives: to mourn the dead and to purify the mourners. The mourning of the dead, especially by near relatives, has taken many forms. The wearing of old or colourless dress, either black or white, the shaving of the hair or letting it grow long and unkempt, and abstention from amusements have all been common practice. The meaning of such action seems evident: grief felt for the loss of a dear relative or friend naturally expresses itself in forms of self-denial. But the purpose may sometimes have been intended to divert the ill humour of the dead from those who still enjoyed life in this world.

The purification of mourners has been the other powerful motive in much post-funerary action. Death being regarded as baleful, all who came in contact with it were contaminated thereby. Consequently, among many peoples, various forms of purification have been prescribed, chiefly bathing and fumigation. Parsis are especially intent also on cleansing the room in which the death occurred and all articles that had contact with the dead body. (see also purification rite)

In some post-funerary rituals, dancing and athletic contests have had a place. The dancing seems to have been inspired by various but generally obscure motives. There is some evidence that Egyptian mortuary dances were intended to generate a vitalizing potency that would benefit the dead. Dances among other peoples suggest the purpose of warding off the (evil) spirits of the dead. Funeral games would seem to have been, in essence, prophylactic assertions of vitalizing energy in the presence of death. It has been suggested that the funeral games of the Etruscans, which involved the shedding of blood, had also a sacrificial significance. (see also sacred dance)

Another widespread funerary custom has been the funeral banquet, which might be held in the presence of the corpse before burial or in the tomb-chapel (in ancient Rome) or on the return of the mourners to the home of the deceased. The purpose behind these meals is not clear, but they seem originally to have been of a ritual character. Two curious instances of mortuary eating may be mentioned in this connection. There was an old Welsh custom of “sin eating”: food and drink were handed across the corpse to a man who undertook thereby to ingest the sins of the deceased. In Bavaria, Leichennudeln, or “corpse cakes,” were placed upon the dead body before baking. By consuming these cakes, the kinsmen were supposed to absorb the virtues and abilities of their deceased relatives. (see also feast)

A remarkable post-funerary custom has been observed in Islam; it is known as the Chastisement of the Tomb. It is believed that, on the night following the burial, two angels, Munkar and Nakir, enter the tomb. They question the deceased about his faith. If his answers are correct, the angels open a door in the side of the tomb for him to pass to repose in paradise. If the deceased fails his grisly interrogation, he is terribly beaten by the angels, and his torment continues until the end of the world and the final judgment. In preparation for this awful examination the roof of the tomb is constructed to enable the deceased to sit up; and, immediately after burial, a man known as a fiqi(or faqih) is employed to instruct the dead in the right answers. (see also Last Judgment, death rite)

4.10.4 Cults and Memorials of the Dead

4.10.4.1 Commemorative rites and services.

The attitude of the living toward the dead has also been conditioned by the particular belief held about the human nature and destiny. Where death is regarded as the virtual extinction of the personality, the dead should logically have no more importance beyond that which their memory might stir in those who knew them. Even in the negative eschatologies of ancient Mesopotamia and Greece, however, the dead were thought of as still existent and capable of malevolent action if food offerings were not made to them. In those religions that have envisaged a more positive afterlife, the tendance of the dead has been developed in varying ways. In Egypt, it led to the building and endowment of mortuary temples or chapels, in which portrait images preserved the memory of the dead and offerings of food and drink were regularly made. In China, an elaborate ancestor cult flourished. The ancestral shrine contained tablets, inscribed with the names of ancestors, which were revered and before which offerings were made. The number of tablets displayed in the shrine was determined by the social status of the family. When the tablet of a newly deceased member was added to the collection, the oldest tablet was deposited in a chest containing still older ones: offerings to the remoter ancestors were made collectively at longer intervals. In India, three generations of deceased ancestors are venerated at the monthly shraddha festival, at which mortuary offerings were made. (see also Mesopotamian religion, ancestor worship, Hinduism)

The Christian cult of the dead found early expression in the catacombs, where mural paintings and inscriptions record the names of those buried there and the hopes of eternal peace and felicity that inspired them. Special chapels were made where the bodies of martyrs were entombed, and the anniversaries of their martyrdoms were commemorated by the celebration of the Eucharist (the Lord’s Supper). The development of cults of martyrs and other saints in the medieval church centred on the veneration of their relics, which were often divided among several churches. The introduction of the doctrine of purgatory profoundly affected the postmortem care devoted to the ordinary dead. It was believed that the offering of the sacrifice of the mass could alleviate the sufferings of departed souls in purgatory. Consequently, the celebration of masses for the dead proliferated, and wealthy Christians endowed monasteries or chantry chapels where masses were said regularly for the repose of their own souls or those of their relatives. Prayers for the well-being of the dead have an important place in Mahayana Buddhism, and so-called “masses for the dead” were celebrated by Chinese Buddhists, influenced originally perhaps by the practice of the Nestorian Christians, who entered China in the 7th century AD. (see also Buddhism)

In many religions, in addition to private cults of the dead, periodic commemorations of the dead have been kept. The oldest of the Hindu sacred texts, the Rigveda (Rgveda), records the practice of the ancient Aryan invaders of India. The sacred beverage called somawas set out on “the sacred grass,” and the ancestors were invited to ascend from their subterranean abode to partake of it and to bless their pious descendants. A similar ceremony, called the Anthesteria, was held in ancient Athens. On the day concerned, the souls of the dead (keres) were believed to leave their tombs and revisit their former homes, where food was prepared for them. At sundown they were solemnly dismissed to the underworld with the formula: “out, keres, the Anthesteria is ended.” Buddhist China kept a Feast of Wandering Souls each year, designed to help unfortunate souls suffering in the next world. The Christian All Souls’ Day, on November 2, which follows directly after All Saints’ Day, commemorates all the ordinary dead: requiem masses are celebrated for their repose, and in many Catholic countries relatives visit the graves and place lighted candles on them. After World War I the public commemoration of the fallen was instituted on November 11, the day of the armistice in 1918, in many of the countries concerned: the memory of the dead was solemnly recalled in a two-minute silence during the ceremony. The body of an unknown soldier, killed in the fighting, was also buried in the capital cities of many countries and has become the accepted focus of national reverence and devotion. (see also Veterans Day)

4.10.4.2 Cult of the dead.

Among many peoples it has been the custom to preserve the memory of the dead by images of them placed upon their graves or tombs, usually with some accompanying inscription recording their names and often their achievements. This sepulchral iconography began in Egypt, the portrait statue of King Djoser (second king of the 3rd dynasty [c. 2686-c. 2613 BC]), found in the serdab (worship chamber; from the Arabic word for cellar) of the Step Pyramid being the oldest known example. The Egyptian images, however, had a magical purpose: they not only recorded the features of the deceased but also provided a locus for his kathe mysterious entity that constituted an essential element of the personality. The sculptured gravestones of classical Athens deserve special notice, for they are among the noblest products of funerary art. They are expressive of a restrained grief for those who had departed to the virtual extinction of Hades. The deceased are often shown performing some familiar act for the last time. The inscriptions are very brief and usually record only the name and parentage; sometimes the word farewell is added. Etruscan mortuary art is characterized by the effigy of the deceased, sometimes with his wife, represented as reclining on the cover of the funerary casket. These images are obviously careful portraits, but whether they had some magical use as substitute bodies or are only commemorative is unknown. Roman funerary images seem to have been essentially commemorative, as were those of Palmyra. (see also Roman religion)

Christianity has provided the richest legacy of funerary monuments. In the catacomb art of the 4th and 5th centuries, the deceased was sometimes depicted on the plaster covering of the niche in which his body was laid. From the early Middle Ages onward, the more affluent dead were represented in sculptured effigy or engraved in outline on stone or brass. In this tomb iconography, they are shown in a variety of postures: lying, kneeling, seated, standing, and sometimes on horseback. They are generally presented in the dress appropriate to their office or social standing: kings wear crowns, knights their armour; bishops are in copes and mitres and ladies in the fashionable attire of the day. This iconography is patently commemorative of the appearance in life, the achievements, and the status of the persons concerned. In the later Middle Ages, however, there was a remarkable innovation in this funerary art, which was designed to emphasize the horror and degradation of death. In what are known as memento mori tombs, below the effigies of the deceased as they were in life, there were placed effigies of their naked decaying corpses or skeletons. Such tomb sculpture reflected a contemporary obsession with the corruption of death.

4.10.5 Psychological and Sociological Aspects of Death

The Paleolithic burials reveal that the pattern of man’s reaction to the fact and phenomena of death has been set from the dawn of culture. Unlike the other animals, man has been unable to ignore the mysterious cessation of activity and lapse of consciousness that cause his body to decay and befall members of his own kind. Death has, accordingly, constituted a problem for man, and he has felt impelled to take special action to cope with it. The pattern of his reaction has been twofold: confronted with the deaths of his companions, he has recognized an obligation to attend to their needs as he has conceived them, believing that they continued to exist in some form, either in the grave or in an underworld to which the grave gave access. But man’s concern with death has not been confined to his tendance of the dead; for in the deaths of his fellows he has seen a presage of his own demise. This anticipation on the part of the living of the experience of dying has been a factor of immense psychological and social import. It is essentially a human characteristic; it stems from a consciousness of time, of which the immense cultural significance is only now beginning to be properly evaluated. (see also Paleolithic Period)

Awareness of time in its three categories of past, present, and future has decisively contributed to man’s success in the struggle for existence. For it has enabled him to draw upon past experience in the present to anticipate future needs. Thus, from the making of the first stone tools to the complex structure of his modern technological civilization, man has sought by planning to render himself economically secure and to improve the standard of his living. But his time consciousness, which has made this immense achievement possible, is an ambivalent endowment. For, although it has enabled man to win economic security, it has also made him acutely aware of his own mortality and the inevitability of his own demise. Hence, his anticipation of death presents him with a profound emotional challenge, unknown to other species. The repercussions of this challenge can be traced in almost every aspect of his social and cultural life; but it is in his religions that man’s reaction to death finds its most significant expression. All religion is concerned with postmortem security–with linking mortal man to an eternal realm–whether it be achieved by ritual magic, divine assistance, or mystic enlightenment.

4.10.6 Modern Notions of Death

4.10.6.1 Continuation of traditional responses.

Religious rites and customs continue to be practiced, because of conservatism, long after the ideas and beliefs that originally inspired them may be forgotten or abandoned. This is particularly true with regard to rites and customs pertaining to death. It is difficult to assess to what extent in the more sophisticated societies of the modern world the traditional eschatologies are still effectively held. Although a general skepticism obviously manifests itself toward the medieval imagery of death and judgment, of purgatory, heaven, and hell, modern modes of thinking have not lessened the mystery of death and its impact on the emotions. Indeed, in modern society, where expectation of life has been prolonged and standards of living raised, the negation of death is probably felt more keenly and also more hopelessly than in any other age.

 

4.10.6.2 Avowed secular inattention and unconcern.

The reaction to death most apparent today among those having no effective religious faith is that of seeking to treat it as a disagreeable happening that must be dealt with as quickly and unobtrusively as possible. Funerals are no longer elaborately organized, mourning attire is rarely worn, and graveyards are landscaped, thus discreetly removing the earlier memorials of death. The increasing use of cremation facilitates this disposition to reduce the social intrusion of death and banish the traditional grave as a reminder of human mortality.

4.10.6.3 Rites and customs among secular materialists.

It is significant, however, that, even where secularist principles are consciously professed, the dead are rarely disposed of without some semblance of ceremony. A deeply rooted feeling prompts most people to treat a dead human body with a respect that is not felt for a dead animal. It is significant that Communists make pilgrimages to the graves of Lenin and Marx; and, in the modern State of Israel, great effort is being made to record in the shrine of Yad va-Shem the names of those who died in the persecution of the Jews in Germany during the Nazi regime of Adolf Hitler in the 1930s and ’40s and, if possible, to bring their ashes there. In America, morticians strive to preserve the features of the dead as did the embalmers of ancient Egypt, though for somewhat different motives. Finally, as further evidence of modern preoccupation with death, it may be noted that, in Western society, Spiritualism witnesses to a widespread desire to have communication with the dead, and recently, in England, there has even been a recrudescence of necromancy. (S.G.F.B.)


Appendix K: Photographs of graves with Aloe vera

 

 

subaitnah_32

Figure 36: A single clump of Aloe vera on this grave at Subaitah (Oman). [Brien Holmes]

 

 

subaitnah_35

Figure 37: What appears to be two circles of Aloe vera plants on this grave at Subaitah (Oman). [Brien Holmes]

 

subaitnah_34

Figure 38: Clumps of Aloe vera at each end of this grave at Subaitah (Oman). [Brien Holmes]

subaitnah_37

Figure 40: This is perhaps the largest circle of Aloe vera plants with remains of dead plants inside the circle. This is one of the graves at Subaitah (Oman). [Brien Holmes]

subaitnah_50

Figure 41: Clusters of Aloe vera plants at either end of this grave at Subaitah (Oman). [Brien Holmes]

subaitnah_47

Figure 42: Only grave at Subaitah (Oman) with prominent stones in the middle of the grave suggesting the deceased may be female. [Brien Holmes]

 

subaitnah_49

Figure 43: Close up of a circle of Aloe vera plants on a grave at Subaitah (Oman). [Brien Holmes]

subaitnah_51.jpg

Figure 44: Another Subaitah (Oman) grave with clusters of Aloe vera plants at both ends. [Brien Holmes]

 

subaitnah_53

Figure 45: Perhaps the largest population of Aloe vera plants on any of the graves at Subaitah (Oman). [Brien Holmes]

 

Cheryl grave Al Sa'franna

Figure 46: A single Aloe vera plant on this grave in the community of Al Sa’franna (Oman). [Photo courtesy of Cheryl Dance]


Appendix L: Other plants associated with immortality and special powers

 

The following is a sample of claims on the Internet of plants with special powers.

 

Gynostemma pentaphyllum

The plant is best known for its use as an herbal medicine. Jiaogulan is most often consumed as a tisane (herbal tea), and is also available as an alcohol extract and in capsule or pill form.[8] It has not seen widespread use in traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) because it grows far from central China where TCM evolved; consequently, it was not included in the standard pharmacopoeia of the TCM system. Until recently it was a locally-known herb used primarily in mountainous regions of southern China and in northern Vietnam. It is described by the local inhabitants as the “immortality herb”, because people within Guizhou Province, where jiaogulan tisanes are consumed regularly, are said have a history of unusual longevity.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gynostemma_pentaphyllum

. . .

Amanita Muscaria

p13

4. Amanita Muscaria

Legendary Herb of Immortality

The ancient Indo-Europeans called the Amanita Muscaria mushroom “Maga”

(The Great Gift) and so great was this Gift that its fame and name echoes down the ages as the root of our modern word Magic. The “Magus” or “Magi” (Great Gift bearers) used this truly wondrous great Gift of Nature; that healed their bodies of sickness and inspired their minds with wisdom and poetry, and they praised it in story and song, even worshiping the Gift as a God, it being the only source of an incredible magic.

http://www.ambrosiasociety.org/files/herbofimmortality.pdf

– – –

Sage

Dear Health Conscious Reader,

You probably know sage as a cooking spice. But it’s too good just to keep in your kitchen and break out only for your Thanksgiving turkey.

Your ancient ancestors prized sage. They thought people who drank sage tea never got old.

They called sage the “herb of immortality.”

In ancient Rome, if you wanted to pick sage you had to have a ceremony. The ancient Aztecs also revered it, and used the leaves to make face paint that marked rank in their society.

Sage can have an incredible influence on your health. Not only can it make breathing problems and headaches go away very quickly, but it has a mental effect.

It tends to be calming and somehow clarifying. You get a mental focus.

If you don’t believe it, just get some sage and try it. You break up sage and breathe it in, and right away you feel like you just woke up from a dream, or you just finished meditating. I feel like I went to the beach and just came back.

It seems to relieve you of whatever is bothering you. Sage is remarkable in that way. And you know, that’s what the Indians used it for. They used it to clarify the mind.

Sage gets its scientific name salvia from the Latin word “salvare,” which means save, or rescue. There are different kinds of sage – almost 900 different types. But the ones used for healing and wellness are garden sage (salvia officinalis) and Spanish sage (salvia lavandulaefolia).

http://www.alsearsmd.com/the-herb-of-immortality/

– – –

Jiaogulan Tea, The Herb of Immortality

It regulates blood fat, lowers cholesterol level, helps to build immunity, delays the aging process, prevents cells from turning cancerous and prevents arteriosclerosis.

Scientific research studies in China have shown that Jiaogulan (Jiao Gu Lan) decreases cholesterol by improving the liver’s ability to send sugar and carbohydrates to the muscles for conversion to energy instead of turning the sugar into triglycerides which the body stores as fat.

Quantity

It lowers LDL’s (bad cholesterol) while raising HDL’s (good cholesterol). It improves fat metabolism, reduces blood fat levels and depresses lipid peroxide and fat sediment in the blood vessels.

While it is great for rectifying high cholesterol and obesity problems, it can also improve and strengthen the digestion, allowing an underweight person to increase absorption of nutrients and gain weight in the form of lean muscle mass.This regulatory effect on bodily functions is the hallmark of an adaptogen.

This is all-natural healthy, herbal, product from the plant Jiaogulan.

Jiaogulan prevents cells from turning cancerous and also inhibits the growth of tumors already formed by stimulating the body’s immune system cells. Cancer patients given Jiaogulan show marked improvement in white blood cell count antibody levels, and raised T and B lymphocyte levels.

Jiaogulan is one of the best broad-spectrum adaptogenic herbs known, containing polysaccharides, amino acids, vitamins, minerals, flavones, saponins and many essential trace elements. Very safe for long-term use. Highly effective in reducing the side-effects of radiation and chemotherapy by boosting the immune system.

Athletes use Jiaogulan to enhance their performance because it enhances the heart pumping function, improving contraction of the heart muscle. The most pronounced benefits are increased endurance during strong physical activity, and more rapid recovery afterwards.

Jiaogulan contains 84 beneficial saponins – three times more than ginseng, yet it has no side-effects. Due to its significantly higher quantity of beneficial saponins, it has been widely studied and used worldwide, including for patients recovering from exposure to ultraviolet, beta and gamma-rays. It also dramatically reduces cholesterol levels, normalizes blood pressure, protects the heart, and increases fat metabolism.

Over 300 scientific research findings back up nearly every claim for Jiaogulan (also known as Gynostemma pentaphyllum). Jiaogulan is a superb immune-enhancer and antioxidant for all ages.

[1] Arabic text from the original article appears in indecipherable text though the likely word can sometimes be deduced by context.

http://herbs4cure.com/jiaogulan%20tea.htm

Advertisements
This entry was posted in Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s