Why UAE residents turn up in crowds for funerals of total strangers

Recently, thousands of residents attended the prayers for a Russian expat woman who died after converting to Islam two days before her demise

by

Waad Barakat

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Published: Wed 29 May 2024, 4:39 PM

Last updated: Wed 29 May 2024, 11:23 PM

Imagine attending someone's funeral without ever knowing them in your life. Be it compassion, doing the right deed, or humanity, many factors may drive a person to pay their respects towards a total stranger as the mortal chapter comes to an end. Such scenes took place on Monday, when thousands attended the prayers for Liodmila Shtshebynia.

Two days after converting to Islam, the Russian expat passed away on Monday afternoon. The news of her demise was announced by the Instagram account @Janaza_UAE, with a caption requesting residents of one thing. "She has no one, be her brothers and sons."


Among the thousands of people who attended her funeral was Fouzia A, a Bahraini expat, who has been a Dubai resident for two years. Speaking to Khaleej Times, she explained her motivation to answer the call, as it was the least she could do.

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"When I hear about someone passing away without family, my first reaction is that we have to be their family," she said, recounting Liodmila's funeral. "The mosque was packed — the women's section alone can hold up to 400 people, and it was full. My husband was with me, and he said people kept coming until she was buried."

A habit of compassion

For Fouzia, this wasn’t the first time she had attended the funeral of someone she didn’t know. "I don't keep count of how many funerals I've been to for people I don't know. I've made it a habit. Whenever I hear about one, I try to schedule my day around it and take part."

This act of compassion is not limited to just attending funerals for her. She has also been actively involved in helping people affected by the heavy rains that hit the UAE on April 16, by joining WhatsApp groups to coordinate relief efforts.

Muhammad Fariduddin, a 45-year-old Canadian expat living in Sharjah, missed the Russian expat's funeral. However, he was thankful he attended the funeral of Daria Kotsarenko, another Dubai resident. She passed away on March 30, after converting to Islam on May 25. Her sudden demise is believed to have been caused by a heart attack.

'Janaza Alerts'

For years, Muhammad has attended funerals of people he doesn't know. To keep track of upcoming funeral prayers, Farid is part of a WhatsApp group called 'Janaza Alerts' that notifies members of funeral events across the UAE. "In the group, we get alerts whenever a funeral takes place. We get details on the emirate, the specifically designated mosque and where the corpse will be washed."

Muhammad Fariduddin
Muhammad Fariduddin

He explained how this practice is deeply rooted in his Islamic faith and he has been doing it since he was young. "Whenever I get an opportunity, I go for people I know and people I do not know." Farid shared.

As per his faith, this also fulfils a vital Islamic obligation to other Muslims. “The right of a Muslim is that we have to attend their funeral,” he added.

The religious motivation behind this is simple: "We have a merciful religion. Attending a funeral is not just for the deceased, but also for you, as a Muslim," he stated. "Whoever attends the funeral prayer will receive the reward for one Qirat (recitation of the Holy Quran), which equals to one huge mountain of good deeds. And if you make it to the burial, you get two Qirats.”

Beyond the spiritual rewards, Farid also views this practice as a way to ensure others will pray for his forgiveness when he dies. “The good always comes back,” he said.

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