Background Although the specific end-of-life needs of Black and Asian people have been discussed in some detail, relatively few Muslim communities have been involved in developing end-of-life services. Important religious imperatives for Muslims include not only having a funeral as soon as possible, but also avoiding cremation. Although it is customary for Muslim communities to spontaneously help with burial costs for the needy, there is increasing funeral poverty across the UK. Since burials are even more expensive than cremations, there are significant practical and financial pressures on dying Muslims and their families. Muslim community members in East London have therefore developed a Muslim Burial Fund.
Aims To ensure that needy Muslims are helped with the practicalities and financial costs of a respectful Muslim burial, as part of a holistic end of life service.
Methods The Muslim Burial Fund has responded to the specific requirements of needy dying or deceased individuals. Services offered have included: hospital and home visits; help with statutory declarations; help with Social Fund applications; helping fund, organise and attend funerals and burials; funeral prayers; and supporting family and friends. If necessary, a Rapid Response Team carries out 24/7 visits when a person is nearing death.
Results So far, 18 Muslims have been given free and personalised burial support. The initial focus has been on the neediest: those with no next of kin; those who have no Muslim family; and Muslims found dead by the police.
With increased experience and knowledge, the aim is to sustainably expand the service.
Conclusions The Burial Fund provides a simple act of kindness. By breaking the community taboo around discussing death, the service also promotes engagement with a local Muslim befriending and advocacy service for those nearing end-of-life.
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