Pages from Yemeni Traditional Heritage [Archives:2001/48/Culture]
Sa’ad Sharif Taher
Al-mujabera is a symbol of social unity and one of the biggest social occasions representing this unity in the Yemeni community. Al-mujabera are the “condolences” during death ceremonies.
At home, when one dies, the body and the shroud will be washed according to Islamic rituals, sometimes by special people. Then, the coffin will be held on men’s shoulders until they reach the mosque, while a chorus praises God loudly: “Allah is the greatest” and “There is no God but Allah, and Mohammed is His messenger,” so that sorrow can be spread in the city or the village.
In the mosque, special prayers are performed on the coffin. Then, it is carried to the cemetery in the midst of recitations, such as praising God. The people holding the coffin switch by saying, “Sellim il ajr,” (let me be blessed like you). The answer is, “Ajerna wajerkum Allah,” (God may bless you and us).
In the cemetery, a grave is dug, only a few meters deep with a side pit where the body can lie. Afterwards, the pit is closed with stones and mud. During this operation, the undertaker recites the Azan. Then, the undertaker climbs up and every person throws three handfuls of dust to fill the grave, which is called “Al-Istijar” (begging blessing from God), while saying the following Qur’anic verse three times, “We’ve created you from it (the earth) and will send you back to it, then will bring you out of it again.” On the other side, a group of people recites the chapters Yasin and Tabarek of Qur’an. In addition, the last verses of Kehef, Saff, Badara and Ikhlas are recited three times. They conclude with the Fateha, and then prayers to the dead and all Muslims.
Consoling the relatives of the dead one is also performed, and women are also consoled at home by saying, “Addan Allah ajrekum wassam Allah qulubekum bil seber,” (May Allah bless you and help you to bear with it). Then, everyone goes back to the house of the dead one to have lunch, which is served by the villagers or neighbors, but the meat should be provided by the relatives of the deceased.
During the afternoon, people gather again in a big local hall to chew qat which is also offered by the relatives of the dead man/woman.
Any gathering for joyous or sad occasions goes with qat chewing. It binds people together. In other Arab countries, they praise God and the Prophet Mohammed in their prayers to the deceased and his relatives. Religious songs and recitations are done by a man called “fageeh” (the pious) or “saeedna” (our master), while attendants repeat lyrics and verses after him. Finally, they recite the Fateha silently and depart in the evening. This ceremony goes on for three days.
Note: on the first day, people recite surat yasin after evening prayers, and money (YR 4,000 to 10,000) is paid to the fageeh and others. Perfumes and incense are spread in the mosque by relatives.