Should The Dead Be Eulogised?
In the African culture, the dead is accorded a lot of respect. Not only is everything done to ensure that the dead is given a befitting burial, there are also efforts to give the dead good reputation. It is not uncommon to see religious leaders and sympathisers eulogising the dead at funerals, even when everyone knows that the contrary was the case, when the person was on earth. While some attribute this to the saying that one should never kick a person that is down and out, others say it is a habit that has become customary. But is it good to praise someone that was clearly wicked just because it is the custom? Won’t this inadvertently encourage others to live as recklessly and carelessly as possible, knowing full well that they would be praised after their departure anyway? OMIKO AWA and PAUL ADUNWOKE write.
‘When Speaking Of The Dead, Be Honest; Speak The Truth’
(Moji Solanke, Media Representative of Christian Science Church in Nigeria)
The message of eulogy is for the living. It praises goodness, never evil; and goodness has its source in God. Spiritual man, made in God’s image and likeness, [Genesis 1:26], reflects God’s goodness in some measure, humanly. Concluding that a deceased person was irredeemably evil violates Jesus Christ’s injunction in Matthew 7:1, not to judge our fellowman.
Therefore, when an eulogy honestly magnifies the good done by an individual, it serves to remind the living of God’s undying goodness expressed by that individual, however hidden or small that goodness may have seemed during his earthly life. The Bible gives the highest eulogy for those who have passed on, “Blessed are the dead, which die in the Lord.” Revelation 14:13.
When speaking good of the dead, whatever is said must be heartfelt, honest and true. Humanity tends to measure goodness as a quantity. Christ Jesus’ parable of the vineyard labourers, who worked different hours, but earned the same pay (Matthew 20), shows that God’s way of determining goodness differs significantly from ours. If only one good thing can be said honestly about the dead, let it be said. It is Christ, not eulogy that ministers to the hearer, enabling the individuals to go forward to express more of their own goodness and spirituality.
‘Eulogising The Dead Involved In Vices Is Engaging In Deceit And Is Sinful’
(Dr. Adetona is the Deputy Chief Imam of Nawair-ud-Deen Society, Lagos.)
Islam does not encourage the eulogising of the dead for any reason. Only Allah should be eulogised, as only He knows who really is good. But to mention good deeds of a deceased is encouraged to make others follow the good example of the dead.
However, it must be noted that good or evil deeds live after the dead as testimonials after their demise. Islam holds the belief that every accurate mention of a deceased’s deed is acknowledged and recorded for or against the deceased by the angels. Eulogising a deceased that was involved in vices while on earth is engaging in deceit and that is not only condemnable, but is sinful on the part of an Imam.
The expectations from an Imam are to deliver sermons that will dissuade those still living from emulating the evil deeds of the deceased.
‘Do Not Eulogise The Dead, Say Things The Way They Are’
(Rev. Gabriel Agbo is of the Assemblies of God)
You do not need to eulogise the dead. Say things the way they are, so that the living can take corrections. When you say things that are not correct in this form, you are simply lying. And all liars will certainly go to hell. The Bible says that we must speak the truth at all times. Use the life of the dead, negative or positive to teach the living about the word and the will of God. Let them know that whatever a man sows, that he will reap after. It pays to do well.
‘It’s Done Out Of Fear Of The Unknown’
(Ukpebor Ogizien, the Adaze of Ewohimi Kingdom, Esan, is the President of Edo State Herbal Medicine Practitioners, Lagos.)
We need to always speak the truth at any funeral ceremony.
If a traditional man, for the fear of the people, speaks good of the dead, while he/she was evil, the gods will arise and kill the person immediately. This is the reason those who do not know what to say should just keep quiet. The deities/gods and goddesses are not as patient as the Almighty God, Who would give sinners plenty room to repent.
The deities act immediately, they do not have such patience. In fact, traditional people bury the dead based on what killed them. And if a man or woman does evil and dies, the community would ridicule their children based on what their father or mother had done.
However, some people believe that if they do not eulogise the dead, the latter would come to torment them or haunt them. These are all lies.
People eulogise the dead out of the fear of the unknown. But the dead has no power over the living. However, we should also understand that some people do this because they may have benefitted from such evil; so, it is a matter of what favours one or the other. A man may be evil to one person, but good to another. So, those speaking good of him/her may be doing so because they had at one time or other benefitted from the person, while he/she was alive.
‘It’s Good To Eulogise The Dead’
(Ojulari Surajudeen Ademola, Missioner and member governing board, Nasiru-llahi Fatir Society of Nigeria (NASFAT), Oshodi branch, Lagos.)
IT is good to eulogise the dead, but we should know that death is not evil because remembering that we will one day die will keep us in check.
When we eulogise the dead, it also serves as an opportunity for the living to check themselves and the life we live, to know if we are impacting on the society for good or bad. It would make us to reflect back and amend our ways.
Eulogising the dead is a continuous process in the life of the living. In fact, it includes remembrance and the various ceremonies we celebrate on behalf of the parted ones. We eulogise them by undertaking those celebrations because we are in a way telling people that while they were alive, they lived a good life and the clerics that we invite to perform the funeral rites always toe such line of thought. Islam encourages us to continue to remember the dead in prayer and also for us to live a life worthy of remembering after we might have passed on.