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Covid-19 and performing ghusl on the deceased

Question:

What do the scholars and experts of shari’ah say regarding the ghusl (bathing), shrouding, praying the funeral prayer, and burial of those people who have passed away due to the coronavirus? Generally, patients who pass away at hospital are wrapped in a single body bag, however patients who pass away due to COVID-19 are wrapped in two. Families are strongly advised against bathing the deceased. If the family do decide to wash the deceased then this will be at their own risk as there is a high chance of the infection spreading if the body bag is opened, potentially resulting in further loss of life.

Answer:

In the light of information received from doctors and experts in the medical field, there is an extremely high risk of people being infected when they are near carriers of COVID-19 which can ultimately lead to one’s death.

The Holy Qur’an states:

  • “Do not kill yourselves, Allah treats you kindly.” (Al-Nisa:29)

  • “Do not cast yourselves into the jaws of destruction by your own hands, and do your best. Allah loves those who do good. (Al-Baqarah:195)

In these powerful verses, Allah ﷻ has explicitly prohibited us from engaging in any such activities which brings harm and danger to ourselves. Purposely putting yourself in a situation which could prove deadly will be going against these commands of Allah ﷻ.

Those who are tasked with washing the deceased will be exposing themselves to harm and danger if they come into contact with the deceased. For this reason, the body bag should not be opened, and the deceased will be buried as it was received from the hospital.

Similar precautions should be taken during the funeral and burial of the deceased. The body will not be bought home from the hospital and only a handful of people should perform the funeral prayer at the graveyard. After this the deceased will be buried. The Prophet ﷺ said, “If I order you to do something, then do if it as much as you can.” (Agreed Upon)

If there is a danger to people whilst performing the bathing, funeral, and burial of the deceased then considering the greater ‘objectives of shari’ah’, it is permissible to pray the funeral prayer and bury the deceased without performing the ghusl.

This is an issue of protecting the lives of those who have not been infected which is an obligation upon us all. Doctors and medical experts from around the world agree that the virus can still spread from a person who has passed away due to the disease. Therefore, their recommendations in how to treat the deceased will also be considered.

“All of the above is consistent with the high greater objectives of Islamic Law, as well as the valid legal evidence which are accepted in shari’ah. It is known that necessity permits that which prohibited.” (Dar al-Ifta Misriyya)

The person who passes away due to the corona virus is considered a martyr. Anyone who passes away due to an epidemic illness is honoured with the rank of a shahid in the shari’ah.

And Allah ﷻ knows the best

  • Dr Musharraf Hussain Al-Azhari – Chief Executive, British Fatwa Council
  • Mufti Qazi Hasan Raza – Director Al-Markaz Al-Islami, Bradford
  • Mufti Fayz Rasul – Director Fatwa Council, Bristol
  • Mawlana Munir Al-Hasan Rabbani – Imam, Scotland
  • Qari Muhammad Asim – Imam, Makkah Masjid, Leeds
  • Mufti Yaar Muhammad Qadri – Director, Jamia Al-Furqan, Birmingham
  • Dr Amjad Aziz Al-Azhari – Imam, Karima Institute, Nottingham
  • Dr Hafiz Muhammad Munir Al- Azhari – BFC
  • Qari Abdul Hayy Hashmi – Imam, Karima Masjid, Nottingham