Offering condolences to afflicted Muslims is highly commendable. Allah Messenger (saw) said: “whoever consoles his brother in an affliction (that befell him), Allah will clothe him with a great suit with which he will be delighted on the Day of Resurrection” [al Khatib.
When consoling a Muslim, one should show kindness, say good words, and remind him of the triviality of this life and the reward for being patient with Allah’s decree. The Prophet (saw) told one of his companions who lost his little son, “What would you like better – to enjoy your son during your life, or that tomorrow (hereafter) you would not reach a gate of Jannah but find that he has preceded you to open it for you?” The companion chose the latter and the Prophet told him; “that would be yours!” Someone enquired if it was for the companion alone or all of them and the Prophet told them; “Rather, it is for all of you” [an-Nasa’I, Ahmad]. When one of the Prophet’s daughters sent someone to him, while a child of hers was dying, the Prophet (saw) told who she sent to say salam to her and tell her; “To Allah belongs what He took, and to Him belongs what He gave. Everything is (recorded) with Him for an appointed term. So let her be patient and seek Allah’s reward (for her affliction)”[Bukhari,Muslim].
During condolence among most Muslims of today is an expectation to be fed by the bereaved family. You find some bitterly complaining that they did not eat a thing during the visit. Funerals have been witnessed where people struggle for food and disagree over the small size of meat they were given. An eye witness confessed how people fell over themselves for canned minerals and juices being distributed. The most surprising of it all was that, all the food many amassed was not for immediate consumption at the funeral, but were stored for take-away, others even stole raw food while cooking for the guests.
Turning the other side of the coin, eating during the funeral of the deceased while consoling them is not of the prophet’s practice! It is reported that the worst of foods is that eaten at the funeral. When the cousin of the Prophet, Ja’far died, the Prophet commanded; “Make food for Ja’far’s family, because a matter has occurred diverting them (from normal life)” [Abu Dawud, at-Tirmidhi].
This was the practice of the Prophet (saw); it served as a relief for the bereaved family. It would really be unjust to add to their burden of having lost someone, the burden to cater for guests on condolence visits. This is a painstaking occurrence, because, the number of days of condolence does not expire, until the pain fades naturally away from the hearts of the bereaved. According to Imam Ash-Shaafi’l; “I recommend for the deceased’s neighbors or relatives to make food for the deceased’s family that would suffice them during the day and night of death. That is a Sunnah and a thoughtful good act, and is the practice of generous people before and after us” [Al-Umm].
We pray to be removed from the worst of foods and give the best of foods to the distressed families.