KUALA LUMPUR, April 25 – Muslims are not encouraged to say, “rest in peace” to a non-Muslim upon the latter’s death. Malaysia Islamic Development Department (Jakim) director-general, Datuk Othman Mustapha said saying those words had implications on a Muslim’s faith if the real meaning was not understood, as saying “rest in peace” was a practice of non-Muslims that should not be followed by Muslims. “The words ‘rest in peace’ is usually uttered by the Christians, especially Catholics, since the 18th century. These words are also often inscribed on the grave stones of demised Christians. “The full version which originates from the Latin language goes, ‘May his soul and the souls of all the departed faithful by God’s mercy rest in peace’,” he said in a statement, here, Friday.
Othman was explaining the Fatwa Malaysia posting on his Facebook page on April 17 relating to the issue, which has caused dissatisfaction among certain quarters. He said the explanation was based on Islamic rulings and the advice given by the Fatwa Fellows following doubts and questions raised by the public, and it was not a fatwa (edict) issued by the National Fatwa Muzakarah Committee.
Othman said Islam forbade its followers to pray for mercy for non-Muslims, as contained in verse 13, Taubah Chapter of the Quran and also stated by Imam an-Nawawi in Kitab al-Majmu. However, he said, in a multiracial and multireligious society like Malaysia, Islam did not forbid its followers from expressing condolences to the family of a non-Muslim who passed away, or saying comforting words that had no religious implication such as, “I sympathise with what happened to you”. “This take on ‘rest in peace’ is not a fatwa but a guideline for Muslims based on Quranic verses,” he said.Othman also urged all quarters not to make this matter polemic as it was meant to guide and advise Muslims, and not at all intended to show disrespect to people of other religions.