individual who discovers a death would inform the rest
of the family in the house and elders then would inform
the wider relatives and friends who may be widely dispersed.
It is common to hear an obituary announcements in the
early morning on the radio about a loved one who has
passed away giving friends and relations the time and
Burials and funerals in Gambia (known locally as 'dech')
follow the Muslims practices and rituals as stated down
by Islamic Sharia. The corpse of the deceased is ritually
washed as a last, purifying ablution then perfumed.
This act is by custom supposed to be carried out by
someone of the same sex as the deceased person except
in the case of a child under 8.
The body is then wrapped in a white shroud and the dead
person's hands are crossed over their chest. A special
prayer called salat ul jenazah made over their
Custom dictates that the burial should takes place as
soon as possible preferably within 24 hours of death,
even if necessary in the evening time. Religious custom
as says that only men can make up the funeral procession
that accompanies the dead person to the cemetery. Prayers
are normally performed firstly in the local Mosque then
the body is taken to their local cemetery in a wooden
coffin or stretcher which will be re-used for the next
person. When the mourners reach the grave prayers are
said then the body is taken out of the coffin and placed
in the ground on his or her right side and facing the
direction of Mecca. Planks are laid usually at soil
level then leaves are placed in wide gaps and
over the planks. Finally the soil is pushed over by
relatives and not the grave diggers. Finally a
very simple marker is used to identify the grave as
elaborate grave stones are generally frowned upon as
it is believed the money saved can be put to better
use in the community.
After the body's internment the men return to the family
house to express their condolences (Jalé) and usually
contribute any amount of money (Sarahh) by placing it
on a sheet where the women related to the deceased would
be sitting. Koranic recitals are done in which the whole
of the Koran is read out by numbers of people.
This is sometimes followed by 3 days of mourning which
is followed by a 40 day charity. The fortieth day is
said to be the day their soul enters heaven and so more
prayer vigils are performed.
In the case of a widow she must remain indoors for her
mourning period of 4 months 10 days and should dress
very simply, not wear any jewellery or make-up. The
reason for this is to ensure that if she is pregnant
it will become obvious during this time and everyone
will know who the father is. If she is not then she
can re-marry. In the case of a widower he is expected
to at least keep a low social profile for the next few
Not all burial rites are strictly followed as laid down
in Sharia Law and it is often common to see variations
within the Muslim community in Gambia itself not to
mention the Muslim world at large.