Fiqh As-Sunnah

Preparation for the Burial of the Dead:
The body of the deceased person must be prepared for burial, washed, and shrouded, and a funeral prayer must be offered for him. Then he should be buried.

Washing the Dead:
The majority of jurists are of the opinion that washing the body of a dead Muslim is a fard kifayah or a collective obligation. If some people attend to it, it is done on behalf of all, as commanded by Allah's Messenger, peace be upon him, and practiced by the Muslim community.

Who is to be Washed and Who is Not:
The body of a deceased Muslim, other than one killed in a battlefield by the infidels, should be washed.

Washing Severed Parts of a Body:
There is a difference of opinion among Muslim jurists concerning washing parts severed from a body. According to Ash-Shafi'i, Ahmad and Ibn Hazm these parts must be washed and shrouded, and funeral prayer should be offered for the departed soul.

Ash-Shafi'i said: "We were informed that a bird dropped a (human) hand in Makkah after the Battle of the Camel. The people identified it by a ring on one of its fingers (It was the hand of Abdul al-Rahman ibn 'Itab ibn Usayd (probably killed in the battle). It was washed and a (funeral) prayer was offered on it. This was witnessed by many Companions alive at the time. Ahmad said: Abu Ayub offered funeral prayer on a (severed) foot of a dead person, while 'Umar offered prayer on a dead man's bones.

Ibn Hazm said: "A funeral prayer may be offered on any organ found from a dead Muslim's body. It should be washed and shrouded, except when it is part of a martyr' s body." Ibn Hazm further remarks that offering prayer on any organ found from a Muslim's body is analogous to praying for the whole person of the deceased, namely, for body and soul.

Abu Hanifah and Malik say, however, that, "If more than half of a Muslim 's body is found, then it should be washed and funeral prayer be offered on it, but otherwise it should not be washed nor should any funeral prayer be offered on it.

A Martyr does not need to be Washed:
The body of a martyr, that is, a Muslim killed in a battle at the hands of disbelievers, may not be washed even though it is in a state of major ritual impurity. His body should be enshrouded in the clothes he wore when he died if they are good enough for the purpose. Otherwise some additional cloth may be used to enshroud his body according to the sunnah. The body of such a person should be buried in its blood-stained state. None of his blood should be washed off.

Ahmad reported: "The Prophet, peace be upon him, said: "Do not wash those who die as martyrs, for their every wound or drop of blood will exude a fragrance like musk on the Day of Judgement." The Prophet, peace be upon him, ordered the martyrs of the Battle of Uhud to be buried in their bloodstained clothes. They were not washed, nor any funeral prayer offered for them.

Ash-Shafi'i said: "Burying the martyrs without washing or offering funeral prayer on them may be explained by the fact that they shall meet Allah with their wounds exuding fragrance like musk. The honor bestowed on them by Allah frees them from the need for funeral prayers by others. Moreover it makes things easier for the surviving Muslims, who may have received injuries in battle and fear the enemy's attack, and may be concerned about the security of their families and their families' worries about them.

It is said that the wisdom behind not offering a funeral prayer on a martyr is that it is offered for a dead person, whereas a martyr is not dead but alive. Another reason may be that since prayer is a kind of intercession, the martyrs do not need it. In fact they will intercede for others.

The Martyrs whose Bodies must be Washed and for whom Funeral Prayer must be Performed:
Those who are not killed in a battle by disbelievers, though they may be regarded as martyrs in Islamic law, should be washed and funeral prayer said for them.

The bodies of such martyrs, during the Prophet's time, were washed. Later on Muslims, during the days of 'Umar, 'Uthman, and 'Ali, continued this practice (washing the bodies of such martyrs). We give below details about these martyrs.

Jabir ibn 'Utaik reported that Allah's Messenger said: "There are seven kinds of martyrs besides those killed in the cause of Allah:

1. a person who is killed in an epidemic,
2. a person who is drowned,
3. a person who has bed sores that cause fever and a bad cough resulting in his death,
4. a person who dies of a stomach disease,
5. a person who dies in a fire,
6. a person who dies under falling debris (in a disaster), and
7. a woman who dies during childbirth." Ahmad, Abu Daw'ud and Nasa'i report this hadith based on sound authority.
Abu Hurairah reported that Allah's Messenger, peace be upon him, asked: "Who do you consider to be a martyr?" They said: "O Allah's Prophet, he who is killed fighting for the cause of Allah." The Prophet, peace be upon him, said: "(If this is so) then very few in my community will be martyrs! " They asked: "Who else are they, O Allah's Messenger?" He said: "He who is killed fighting for Allah's cause is a martyr, he who dies in the cause of Allah is a martyr, he who dies in an epidemic is a martyr, he who dies from a stomach disease is a martyr, and the one who dies of drowning is (also) a martyr." This hadith is narrated by Muslim.

Sa'id ibn Zaid reported that the Prophet, peace be upon him, said: "He who is killed while guarding his property is a martyr, he who is killed while defending himself is a martyr, and he who is killed defending his religion is a martyr, and he who dies protecting his family is (also) a martyr." This hadith is narrated by Ahmad and Tirmidhi. The latter considers it a sound hadith.

A Disbeliever is not to be Washed:
It is not necessary for a Muslim to wash a disbeliever's body. Some scholars, however, consider it permissible. According to the Maliki and Hanbali schools, a Muslim may not wash a disbeliever' s body even if he is one of his near of kin. Similarly a Muslim is not permitted to shroud him or bury him unless it is feared that the body would decompose because of weather conditions, or that it would attract predatory beasts, etc. In such a case, he may be buried in a hole and covered with dust. This opinion is based on a tradition transmitted by Ahmad, Abu Daw'ud, Nasa'i and Al-Baihaqi on the authority of Ali who said: "I said to Allah's Messenger 'Your uncle, the old misguided man, has passed away. ' The Prophet, peace be upon him, said: 'Go and bury your father and do not do anything else until you return to me'." ' Ali said: "I did as he had told me and went back to him. The Prophet, peace be upon him, ordered me to take a bath, and then he prayed for me."

Ibn al-Mundhir says there is nothing specific reported from the Prophet, peace be upon him, about the procedure of washing the dead body.

Washing a Dead Body:
The entire body must be washed with water, at least once, regardless of whether the deceased is a male and needed a ritual bath, or a female who was menstruating at the time (of her death). It is recommended that the body be placed on an elevated surface i.e., a table or a board. It then should be stripped of clothes, but his 'awra (private parts) should be covered. (Ash-Shafi'i says that it is better to wash the body of the deceased wearing a shirt, if it is thin enough to let water reach the body. The Prophet, peace be upon him, was washed this way, but it was done only in his case. The common practice has been to cover the 'awra and wash the body) At the washing, only people whose presence is needed may stay.

The washer, male or female, must be a trustworthy and pious person who will not broadcast what he or she might see except what is good.

Ibn Majah reports that the Prophet, peace be upon him, said: "Trustworthy persons should wash your dead." A washer must utter his or her intention to wash the body of a specific person. Then he should begin by lightly pressing the stomach of the deceased so as to expel, if possible, any remnants from it, and then wash the body of all impurities. The washer should use a wash cloth or wrap his or her hand with it, because touching the private parts of the dead is haram (forbidden). Then he or she should wash the deceased as in wudu (ablution) for the salah (obligatory prayers). The Prophet, peace be upon him, is reported to have said: "Begin washing the dead by washing organs on the right, and those parts that are washed in ablution." This is in order to crystalize the mark of the believer's parts of the body always washed during wudu that will shine forth brightly on the Day of Judgement. Then beginning from its right side, the body should be washed with soap and water, three times. If soap is not available, then washing with ordinary water will suffice. If the washer feels that three washes are not enough to cleanse the body properly, then he may wash it five or seven times. According to a sahih hadith, the Prophet, peace be upon him, said: "Wash the dead body an odd number of times, that is, three, five, or seven, or more if you feel it is necessary." (Ibn Abd al-Barr observes: "I know about no one who recommended more than seven washes." Ahmad and Ibn al-Mundhir disliked to exceed beyond seven)

Ibn al-Mundhir said: "The Prophet instructed the female washers to wash the dead body more than seven times in case they felt it was necessary to do so, but it must be an odd number of times. If the deceased is a female, then her hair should be loosened, washed, redone, and placed behind her back. According to a hadith narrated by Umm 'Atiyyah the hair of the Prophet's daughter was done in three plaits. I asked: 'Did they loosen her hair and then redo them in three braids?' She said: 'Yes'." Muslim reports this in these words: "We braided her hair in three braids, on both sides and in front (of her)." In his Sahih, Ibn Hibban says: "They did so in compliance with the order of the Prophet: 'Do her hair in three plaits'."

After having washed the body, it should be dried with a clean cloth lest the shroud should get wet. Then some perfume should be applied to it. The Prophet, peace be upon him, said: "When you apply perfume (to the dead), apply it an odd number of times after washing it." This is reported by AlBaihaqi, Al-Hakim and Ibn Hibban, of whom the last two consider it a sound hadith.

Abu Wa'il said: "Ali had some musk, and he requested that it be applied to his body upon his death. This was of what was left from the perfume used on the body of the Prophet upon his death." The majority of scholars are of the opinion that clipping a deceased's finger nails, trimming his mustache, shaving the hair under his arms or from his private parts is makruh (disliked). Ibn Hazm, however, considers it permissible.

The scholars are agreed that the body of the deceased be rewashed if the stomach excrete something (i.e., urine or stool) after it had been washed and prior to being shrouded. They differ, however, whether in such a case the entire body should be rewashed. Some hold that the body must be washed again in such a case. Others are of the opinion that there is no need to wash the whole body again, while still others hold that at least wudu (ablution) must be repeated in such a case. Some others hold that in such a case the entire washing must be repeated.

The opinions of most scholars concerning washing of the dead are based on the hadith transmitted by the group on the authority of Umm 'Atiyyah who said: "The Prophet came to our house when his daughter died, and said: 'Wash her three times, five times, or more than that if you consider it necessary, with water and sidr (lotus tree leaves), and after the last wash apply some camphor to the body, and inform me after you have done so.' So when we finished washing we informed him. He gave us a cloth that he wore around his waist, and told us to wrap her in it as a first sheet of shroud."

The reason for using camphor, as mentioned by some scholars, is its pleasant smell, since burial is a time when angels are present. Besides, it is cool and has a soothing effect, especially when the body stiffens, and helps keep various insects away from the body, thus preventing its early decomposition. In case camphor is not available, any other substance that has these or some of these properties may be used instead.

Cleaning the Body by Tayammum When Water is Unavailable:
If there is no water to wash the dead body, then it may be cleaned with tayammum (ablution with dust), for Allah says in the Qur'an: "If you do not find water, then perform tayammum (ablution with dust)." And the Prophet said: "The entire earth has been made pure and a mosque for me." Similarly if it is feared that the body might deteriorate if it is washed, then it may be given a tayammum.

The same applies to a woman who passes away when there is no other woman around to wash her, or if a man dies and there are only women but no man to wash him. Abu Daw'ud in his collection of Marasil, and Al-Baihaqi on the authority of Makhul, report that the Prophet, peace be upon him, said: "If a woman dies while she is with men and there is no other woman with them, or if a man dies while with woman, and there is no other man there, then the body of the dead person may be given a tayammum instead of washing it and then it should be buried. They both will be regarded as ones who died when there was no water available to wash (and purify)."

The body of a woman shall be given tayammum by one of her mahrim consanguine relatives with his hand. If there is no consanguine relative present, then any other man can give her a tayammum by wrapping a piece of cloth around his hand. This is the opinion of Abu Hanifah and Ahmad. Malik and Ash-Shafi'i are of the view that "if a male relative of the deceased is available, then he should wash the body of the dead woman, for in matters of 'awrah ('Awrah (Arabic), those parts of a person's body which must be covered. A man must cover the front and back of his pubic region. There is disagreement about the navel, thighs, and knees. There is, however, no disagreement over what constitutes a woman's 'awrah. Her entire body is 'awrah and must be covered, except her hands and face) (nakedness of the private parts) and being alone with a woman, she is considered and treated in such a case as a male person for him.

In Al-Murawwa it is noted that Malik said: "I heard the scholars saying: 'If a woman dies and there is no other woman there to wash her, nor any male consanguine relative nor her husband who could undertake this responsibility, then she should be given a tayammum, wiping her face and hands with dry soil'." Malik said: "The same should be done in the case of a man who dies and there are only women around him." (Ibn Hazm holds that if a man dies while among women and there is no man around, or if a woman dies while among men with no other woman around, then the women may wash the body of the man and the men the body of the woman while covered in thick cloth. The water should be poured over the whole body without any physical contact. He is of the view that tayamm~m may not be given instead of a wash except when no water is available)

One Spouse Washing the Other:
The jurists are agreed on the permissibility of a wife washing the body of her dead husband. 'Aishah said: "Had I known then what I know now, I would not have allowed anyone, except his wives, to wash the body of the Prophet." This has been transmitted by Ahmad and Abu Daw'ud, and by al-Hakim, who considers it a sound hadith.

There is a difference of opinion, however, on the permissibility of the husband washing the body of his dead wife. The majority of scholars, nonetheless, consider it permissible, as is shown by a report, narrated by ad-Daraqutni and Al-Baihaqi, that Ali washed the body of Fatimah on her death. This is also supported by a hadith that the Prophet, peace be upon him, said to 'Aishah: "If you die before me, I will myself wash you and enshroud you." Ibn Majah records this hadith.

The Hanafi school holds that it is not permissible for a husband to wash his wife's dead body, and if there is no other woman available then he should give her tayammum. However, the above hadith prove the contrary of this view.

A Woman Washing a Boy:
Ibn al-Mundhir said: "All great scholars are agreed that a woman may wash the body of a young boy."

Click here for Fiqh As-Sunnah Page

© copyright Arabic Paper