Funerals among the Fulbe

The Fulbe believe that the days of all people are numbered at birth. They say that God has decreed five days for each person: the day of his birth, his circumcision, his marriage, the birth of his first child and his death. For them, death happens when the soul is called to leave the body.

After death, the body is washed. It will then be wrapped in a “kasange,” or clean burial cloth, then covered with material. Burial will follow as soon as possible, since there are no means of preserving the body. Even so, sometimes the body will be taken back to the family village so that the person is buried near his home. Every effort will be made to contact family members so that they can assist at the burial. There is no “viewing” and the family usually does not wait for late-comers.

The preferred time for burial is about 2:30 pm, or just following the early afternoon prayer. Male relatives and other men of the community will accompany the deceased to the mosque for this prayer. Then these men will take the body to the grave site which will have already been dug. The body will be placed in the grave facing east, towards Mecca. The lower hole is then covered with wood. Sticks and branches will cover this, then dirt will be heaped on top to cover the grave. All those present will either place branches or throw dirt on top in order to participate in the ceremony. A blessing is pronounced at the graveside before everyone disperses.

It is very important for them to have lots of people at the funeral to show God that the deceased was respected. They hope that this will add to the deceased’s merit when he stands before God on the Day of Judgement. After the body is buried and all the people go home, they believe that two angels appear to the deceased. The deceased is asked up to five questions. They are:

1. A Greeting question
2. What is your name?
3. Who created you? (or) Who owns you?
4. Who is your prophet?
5. What was your work on earth?

The deceased is expected to give certain answers. Question three is to be answered, “Allah” (God); question four is, “Mohammed”; question five is, “I was a reader of the Koran”. The answers to these questions are written down and will be revisited on the day of judgment. After the deceased has answered the questions, they are believed to go to a place called “Laakara” or “Saare Lajal” to await the judgment day.

On the seventh day after death, many believe that the stomach explodes and makes a noise that only babies, those who can not talk, and animals can hear. The body in the grave rots and it is generally believed that by the fortieth day after death, the skin has rotted away and the bones have fallen apart. On the fortieth day, the family will offer a sacrifice on behalf of the deceased, which is supposed to help procure God’s blessing upon him as well as upon those who take part in the sacrifice.