The global pandemic called coronavirus has taken the lives of many people so far. Many people in general, are asking us for our opinion regarding bathing the deceased passing away from COVID-19 in the current situation. According to experts, scholars, medical practitioners and front line people offering the ghusl services (full-body ritual purification for any adult Muslim), the current guidance of the government, and consulting various fiqhi texts and current medical research, we hold the view that there is currently no governmental ban on offering ghusl nor there is an existing or highly probable justification of hardship (haraj muthaqqaq) to suspend ghusl for all deaths caused from coronavirus.
Hundreds and thousands of people are willing to volunteer for the NHS since its call last night and thousands of retired medical staff are returning to help the NHS. It means that people are still willing to volunteer and an overwhelming fear is not preventing skilled people from offering their help and services. In such circumstances, we urge Muslim funeral directors to continue the normal ritual bath as per the considerations set out below.
From a Hanafi Fiqh perspective, bathing a body and providing it with a shroud, which is an obligation on the living, must not be suspended in the current circumstances where:
- Muslims bathing the deceased can use protective gear.
- There is no high probability (dhann ghalib) that those offering the ghusl will severely fall ill or die.
- The bath does not physically deteriorate the body.
- There is no tag on the body preventing it being unsealed (in which case wiping over the plastic bag will suffice).
The mere possibilities are that:
- People won’t bathe the deceased out of fear.
- Those who bathe shall fall sick (without high probability)
It is not a valid and legal (shar’i) possibility, one that permits the suspension of the ghusl.
If one encounters the circumstance that bathing the deceased will:
1. Most likely physically deteriorate and damage the body; or
2. It will most likely cause severe illness to those present even with the protective gear on, then we can utilize the concession of suspending it and wipe (mas’h) over the body or the plastic covering on it instead. But those working in this field have confirmed that they do not encounter these circumstances.
Therefore, we strongly encourage brothers and sisters knowledgeable in practical aspects of ghusl to bravely step out of their homes wherever required, as long as they are healthy and fit, to bathe our deceased brothers and sisters in Iman just like retired NHS staff have returned to help the NHS and thousands have volunteered to support it despite the exposure to some risk.
Pointers for students of Hanafi fiqh and ulama: when the darar is bayyin to the deceased or the person bathing it, and not merely muhtamal, then we can utilize the concession. Ihtimal mahd aqli bila daleel is baatil urfan wa shar’an and rulings of fiqh are not based on it. Haraj mutahaqqaq is required to legitimize concessions and minimally dhann ghalib is required to establish it, which in our assessment of the current situation, is absent.
ADVICE FOR FAMILIES:
- Family members who made physical contact with the deceased and haven’t isolated for 14 days, please do not make it difficult for the funeral services and please stay at home and let them carry out their duty.
- Listen to the funeral directors and co-operate with them. They are trying to carry out a fardh.
ADVICE FOR FUNERAL DIRECTORS
- If there is no “Do not open tag” on the body, minimally two people can carry out the fardh of ghusl, one can run water over the body and the other can hold the body. In this way, you can reduce the amount of PPE per ghusl to ensure you have enough for the next one.
- Give minimal washing and rinse the body once to avoid longer contact.
- Utilize the precautionary measures and trust Allah Almighty and remember the noble duty you are carrying out in this current situation will not be empty of huge reward. Remember that in the NHS there was staff caring for this deceased person when you picked up the body. Did they back off from the deceased due to fear or did they assist it to its last breath? So, why would you back off when you are doing a religious duty?
Message From Shaykh Pir Saqib Shami, Shaykh Asrar Rashid, and Shaykh Monawwar Ateeq