According to Uighur custom, whenever someone dies, their jaw must be immediately tied shut so as not allow their mouth to hang open. Friends, relatives and those close to the deceased are then informed and those who are able will journey to the deceased person’s family home to pay their condolences. When the body has been removed from the scene, a room is prepared to wash the body thoroughly. This task is performed by older people who specialized in such an activity. After washing the body clean, fragrances are applied, the body is wrapped in cotton cloth (without stitching) and the body is placed in a special cotton sack. The body is then placed onto a special carrier and transferred to the mosque. During this process a Muezzin is called to take part (a muezzin is a specialized religious leader in the local community).
All these processes are done by men for men and by women for women. After putting the body on the ‘body carrier,’ we wait until the nearest time for prayer to move the body to the mosque shortly before formal worship begins. A few minutes before the congregational prayers are read, the body is transferred to the mosque. This is because prayers for the dead are conducted immediately after the congregational prayer.
After congregational prayer, everybody gathers in front of the body to the deceased led by the local Imam (religious leader of the mosque). The body is then moved to a pre-prepared tomb followed by the relatives, family and friends of the deceased. Before the body is entombed, the Imam asks if anyone has borro
wed from or lent money to the deceased. Should this be true, it is the responsibility of the person’s family to settle any such outstanding scores. The Imam also asks if anyone gathered that any person with an outstanding grudge against the deceased to forgive the body, before it is entombed.
Two to three persons finally accompany the body into the grave
which is placed facing Mecca. Two of the body’s fore toes are also tied together. Whilst the body is being placed, friends and family gathered pray or do duwa. Some religious leaders may also continue to read the Koran during the process. Once the body is in the tomb, the hole is sealed and the sorrowful procession leaves the graveyard.
Making a tomb
Tombs can be divided inside and out. First a large square hole is dug, 1.5m wide by 1.5m long and 2m deep. On the bottom of one side of hole, a smaller pit is dug, 1.5m long, 8cm wide and 1m deep. After the body is placed within the smaller of the two holes, the entrance is sealed with bricks.
Uighurs use a couple of common grave styles. First is the Sham go (dome shaped), usually shared by a family of 4-5 people. Another is the single tomb in which only one person is buried. The latter tomb is usually long and very common. If we want to make the tome a Shao go (family tomb), we make a dome just above the main pit and an entrance along one side. If another person from the same family then passes away in the future, their body is placed along a different side of the main pit using the technique described above. If the tomb is for only one person, then both the larger and smaller holes are filled in, once the single body is placed and sealed.
People usually wear white, black or colourless clothes to a funeral. Men usually wear a white turban on their hat and white cotton clothes around their waist. Ladies wear special white scarves on their head and white cotton cloth around their waste. Though this is not Islamic this is known to be a left over custom from Buddhism and Shamanism