Q: What is the manner of performing Funeral Prayer?
A: The manner of performing Funeral Prayer is that the Imam (the one who leads congregational Prayer) begins by pronouncing Takbirat-ul-Ihram (saying: “Allahu Akbar [Allah is the Greatest]“) and seeking refuge with Allah from the accursed Satan. He then recites the Basmalah (saying, “Bismillah Al-Rahman, Al-Rahim [In the Name of Allah, the Most Gracious, the Most Merciful]“) and Al-Fatihah (the opening chapter of the Glorious Qur’an, Surah number I). It is desirable that he recites a short Surah after Al-Fatihah, such as Al-Ikhlas or Al-`Asr, or some Ayahs (Qur’anic verses). It was authentically related from the Prophet (peace be upon him) in the Hadith of Ibn `Abbas (may Allah be pleased with him and his father) which indicates this. Then, the Imam should pronounce the second Takbir (saying: “Allahu Akbar [Allah is the Greatest]“) and invoke Allah’s peace upon the Prophet(peace be upon him) in the same manner a person invokes Allah’s peace upon him in the final Tashahhud (a recitation in the sitting position in the second/ last unit of Prayer). The Imam pronounces the third Takbir and supplicates to Allah for the deceased with the well-known supplications (of the Prophet), being attentive to mentioning the correct gender and plural pronouns for multiple funerals. Finally, the Imam pronounces the fourth Takbir followed by a moment of silence and then recites Taslim (salutation of peace ending the Prayer) once to his right only.
As for the opening invocation, there is no harm in either saying it or not. Yet it is better to omit it in accordance with the statement of the Prophet (peace be upon him): Hasten the funeral proceedings…
A: The manner of performing Funeral Prayer was demonstrated by the Prophet (peace be upon him) and his Companions (may Allah be pleased with them) as follows: It begins with pronouncing Takbirat-ul-Ihram and seeking refuge with Allah from the accursed Satan. Then, the Imam recites the Basmalah and Al-Fatihah followed by a short Surah or some Ayahs. Then, he pronounces Takbir and invokes Allah’s peace upon the Prophet (peace be upon him) as one does at the end of the Prayer. Then, he pronounces a third Takbir and supplicates to Allah for the deceased.
The best is to say:
O Allah, forgive our living and our dead, those who are present among us and those who are absent, our young and our old, our males and our females. O Allah, whoever You decree to live, let him live in Islam and whoever You cause to die, cause him to die withIman (Faith). O Allah, forgive him and have mercy on him, keep him safe and sound and forgive him, honor the place where he settles and make his entrance wide; wash him with water, snow and hail, and cleanse him of sins as a white garment is cleansed of dirt. O Allah, give him a house better than his house and a family better than his family. O Allah, admit him to Paradise and protect him from the torment of the grave and the torment of Hell-fire; make his grave spacious and fill it with light. O Allah, do not deprive us of the reward and do not cause us to go astray after this.
All of this was recorded from the Prophet (peace be upon him). If you supplicate to Allah using other words, this is fine. For example, one may say, “O Allah, if he was a doer of good, then increase his good deeds; and if he was a wrongdoer, then forgive his bad deeds. O Allah, forgive him and give him the strength to say the right thing. Then, after a fourth Takbir there is a short pause ending with one Taslim to the right. This was narrated from the Prophet (peace be upon him).
It is an act of Sunnah (action following the teachings of the Prophet) that the Imam stands at the head of the body if the deceased is a male and by its middle if it is the body of a female as authentically reported from the Prophet (peace be upon him) in the Hadith of Anas and Samurah ibn Jundub (may Allah be pleased with them both). As for the opinion held by some scholars that it is prescribed in the Sunnah that the Imam stands at the chest of the body if the deceased is a male, this is a weak opinion that has no basis as far as we know. When performing Funeral Prayer, the dead body should be positioned facing the direction of the Qiblah (Ka`bah-direction faced in Prayer), because the Prophet (peace be upon him) said: It is the Qiblah (Ka`bah-direction faced in Prayer) of Muslims while living i.e. during Prayer and after death [in the grave]. May Allah grant us success.