Question: As a Muslim, can I light a candle on a grave in a Christian cemetery? I don't know if the candle is just a symbol or if it has some deeper religious meaning that could conflict with Islam.
When we search on Christian websites, we see several answers to the question “Why light a candle for the dead?”.
Some say it is just for remembrance of the dead, but some of them explain it in detail from a religious point of view. Below are two citations from those sites:
“What Does It Mean to Light a Memorial Candle for the Dead?
In Catholicism, lighting a candle is a way to strengthen a prayer. While you don’t need to light a candle when praying, it’s an old custom that goes back thousands of years. Jesus himself used the symbol of light to guide his followers, and lighting a candle brings followers closer to Christ. – https://www.joincake.com/blog/lighting-a-candle-for-someone-who-has-died/“
Another response on the internet showed us that lighting candles for the dead is contrary to Biblical teachings, too:
“Is it Biblical to Light Candles for the Dead?
The practice of lighting candles for the dead may or may not have religious connotations. Sometimes, after a tragedy, people hold candlelight vigils or leave lighted candles at the scene of a person’s death. In these contexts, the candles could simply be symbols of the brevity of life or pledges of the living to brighten a dark world. There is nothing wrong with lighting candles for such purposes. However, there are some churches that advise people to light candles for the dead, an action usually accompanied by prayers for the dead. This practice is clearly contrary to biblical teachings.
The Roman Catholic Church teaches that lighting candles for the dead in correlation with prayer prolongs and amplifies the prayer and memorializes the deceased. The teaching behind candles associated with praying for the dead is the Catholic doctrine of purgatory. The idea is that, after death, some people exist in a state of misery between heaven and hell; Catholics believe that the prayers of people on earth can improve the lot of those in purgatory and speed up their journey toward heaven. However, the doctrine of purgatory is not found in the Bible; rather, it is based on Roman Catholic tradition. – https://www.gotquestions.org/light-candles-dead.html“
When we see these answers, we can conclude the following:
Lighting a candle for the dead in church or in a cemetery is either a Catholic faith of following Christ or the Catholic faith of speeding up a dead person’s journey to heaven. They are against the teachings in the Quran, as well as the teachings in the Bible:
– Going to heaven-hell, or staying in purgatory (A’raf) is not to be decided in this world but after the judgment in the afterlife according to the Quran.
– No prayer can influence a dead person’s place because Verse 53:39 tells us “There is none for a person except that which he/she earns”.
When you light candles for the dead it could be a symbol of acknowledgment of such Catholic faith. Then, it wouldn’t be permissible in any way.
Even though its meaning for you is not as stated above, it would be a superstition or a meaningless (vain) act for a believing Muslim. The qualities of believers are explained in the Quran verse 23:3, saying that “they turn away from vain acts”. We also advise you to do so.