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A Look at The Muslim’s Burial

As Muslims we pride ourselves in belonging to a belief system that speaks on all aspects of our lives. From the etiquette of dealing with a newborn to the rulings on different types of transactions. One part of this all-encompassing system is how to deal with the body of a person who passes on from this life. Muslims are required to wash the body of a deceased Muslim after their passing and this may be something most of us are never exposed to, right up until one of our loved ones pass away.Therefore, it is a good idea to familiarize one's self before it falls on our shoulders unexpectedly.

Additionally, washing the bodies of the deceased is a great service to your community and a sobering activity for your own spiritual state. It is one of the few times one can see death so up close and the Prophet s. encouraged us to remember death often. It helps us to keep the end goal in mind, which is to leave this world in a state of submission to Allah, pleasing to him and pleased with Him.

b2ap3_large_islamic_burial-2 A Look at The Muslim’s Burial - Blog

​How to wash the body of a deceased Muslim:

Somethings To Note

1.Washing is a communal obligation and if someone is doing it, then no one is sinful for it not being done

2.Who is allowed to wash?

   ~You are allowed to stipulate who should wash your body when you pass

     ~But generally 1-3 people from the same sex should wash the body of the deceased

3.When should it be done?
   ~As soon as is possible. Rules and regulations aside, it is best to wash and bury the body of the deceased sooner rather than later.

4.One must be gentle and respectful with the body of the deceased
   ~Hadith of Aisha reported in Abu Dawood (3207): Breaking the bones of a dead person is just like breaking his bones while he was alive

Before You Begin

1.Where is it done?

   ~There are Muslim funeral homes with the appropriate facilities, but generally speaking it should be a small room where it would be acceptable

2.Special care should be taken to not expose the awrah of the deceased

   ~One or two people should hold a towel over the awrah of the deceased while the remaining people undresses the deceased

   ~A disposable towel should always be placed over the area from the navel to the knee.

3.Wear thick gloves or something appropriate to cover your hands

   ~First this is to avoid touching waste

   ~Second this is so you feel as little of the body as it would be strange

Handling the Body 

1.A cloth or band should be used to 'tie' the mouth

   ~This is to hold the mouth closed and keep from anything getting inside

   ~It should be tied softly, so as not to leave a mark after untying

2.The joints should be loosened by rotating them gently a few times. Care should be taken not to expose the awrah or apply excessive force. 

The Washing

1. First, the body should be sat up and the stomach pressed gently a few times to force any of the remaining waste from the stomach and intestines.

2.Then the private parts should be washed as thoroughly as possible without being rough with the body of the deceased

   ~One person can hold the towel in place while the other uses the appropriate tools, like a hand held bidet, to spray and wipe the privates thoroughly but gently.

3.Next, the wudhu should be performed on the deceased, like one would normally perform the wudhu

   ~Each part can be washed once or 3 times. If there is something on the body that requires more cleaning, it can be cleaned more than 3 times.

   ~Exception for performing the wudhu is to not rinse the nose or mouth like one would normally do while performing wudhu

4.After the wudhu, the rest of the body should be washed with some sort of gentle soap, starting with the right side.

   ~Again, it is preferable to wash the body an odd number of times.

   ~The last time the body is washed it can be scented, as per the sunnah.

     ~Camphor was used in the past because it would leave a nice scent and repel insects from eating the body for some time, delaying the inevitable decay

   ~If some filth comes out of the deceased during the washing you may redo the washing or just wash the area where it came from

     ~Recognize that the deceased body will not be as clean or purified of dirt and filth as one would normally aim for while living.

The Grooming

1.If the nails are overgrown, they should be cut, gently. And for the male an overgrown mustache should be trimmed or shaved, carefully.

   ~The skin of the deceased is less pliable than the living so shaving or handling roughly can tear the skin. If the mustache or nails are not overgrown then they should be left alone

2.The hair of the male can be left uncombed because the hair and skin of the scalp is brittle. For the female, you gently tie or braid the hair

   ~Hadith of Umm Atiyyah in Sahih Bukhari (345): We braided Zaynab's hair in 3 braids and made them fall at her back.

3.It is recommended to take a shower, ghusl, after washing the body of the deceased

The Shrouding

1.The man is shrouded with 3 pieces of plain cloth the woman is shrouded in 5 pieces of plain cloth if the resources permit

   ~It is strongly recommended to use white cloth

   ~There is no need and it is generally discouraged to use fancy or extravagant cloth

2.Before beginning to wrap the shrouding, some cloth should be used to wrap the private orifices of the deceased

   ~Imagine the wrapping of a sumo wrestler, but not as intricate

3.You should begin wrapping the shroud from the right and after the first cloth is wrapped, the disposable towel covering the awrah of the deceased should be removed

   ~Recognize that the awrah might become exposed at times during the whole process, but the utmost effort should be made to keep it covered to protect the privacy of the deceased. And one should never tell others what they saw of the deceased body, especially from the awrah

4.After all 3 or 5 layers are wrapped, twist the ends together at the top of the head and the feet, and loosely tie a piece of cloth or rope around the middle to hold the shroud in place. 

I hope that this has been a clarifying look at what happens with the body of a deceased Muslim. The whole process may seem so removed from the spiritual reality that the deceased person's soul has moved on from this world and their reckoning has already begun. This is the same sentiment when sometimes we see the earthly and somewhat messy process of a burial at the cemetery. This is a fitting analogy of the nature of this life. Whatever occurs in this 'world' will be tainted and weighed down by its imperfect character. All good in this life will have some imperfection in it. The bad we may experience in this life is not all encompassing. And all of it is temporary.

May Allah grant us a good ending in this life and raise us in the ranks of the righteous on the Day of Accounting.

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