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Ghusl: Ritual Bathing of the Dead Body

 The first step in the performance of the last rites for the dead is giving it the ritual bath. If it has been buried without being given a bath it must be exhumed from the grave and given bath. Once a person died by falling from the back of his camel. The Messenger of Allah (sallAllahu ‘alayhi wa sallam) ordered that he should be bathed with berry-leaves soaked water and his own cloth be made his kafan [shroud] (Al-Bukhari & Muslim).  The male dead will be given bath by males and female dead by the females. But a wife can give bath to her husband. Hadrat Ayesha (RadhiAllahu Anha) wished that if the past time were to come back the wives of the Prophet would bathe him (Abu Dawood). In the same way Hadrat Abu Bakr (RadhiAllahu Anhu) had willed that when dead he should be bathed by his wife. The same will had been made by Hadrat Abu Musa Ash’ari (RadhiAllahu Anhu) and Hadrat Jaber Bin Zaid (RadhiAllahu Anhu) that their dead bodies be bathed by their wives. Imam Ahmad Bin Hanbal says there is no difference of opinion about this. Similarly, a husband can bathe the dead body of his wife. Once the Messenger of Allah (sallAllahu ‘alayhi wa sallam) told Hadrat Ayesha (RadhiAllahu Anha) that if perchance you die before me I would myself bathe you and cover you in kafan [shrouds] (Ibn Majah). Even though this is permissible there is a difference of opinion about this. Only such a person should be selected to give a bath who is pious, trustworthy and aware of the rules of giving ritual bath. If such a person can be found from among the relatives of the deceased, this job should preferably be entrusted to him. The Messenger of Allah (sallAllahu ‘alayhi wa sallam) has directed that the dead be given a bath by the trustworthy only. The bather should take care to keep away his eyes from the secret parts of the deceased. If perchance he happens to see some defect or deformity in the body he should cover it up because it is his trust. A trustworthy believer covers up the defects of other believers. The Messenger of Allah (sallAllahu ‘alayhi wa sallam) said: Speak well of your dead and deter your tongues from discussing their weaknesses (Abu Dawood, Tirmizi, Hakim, Bihaqi).

The following directions should be followed while bathing a dead body:

  1. Only a Muslim needs to be given a ritual bath. A non-believer should not be bathed.
  2. The whole body should be washed thoroughly, provided that if because of some injury some parts are not in a position to be washed then it may be left out.
  3. A martyr has neither to be bathed, nor wrapped in a shroud (kafan) nor the funeral salat be performed for him (according to some jurists). However, since the Messenger of Allah (sallAllahu ‘alayhi wa sallam) had performed the funeral salat for the martyrs of Uhud afterwards, some scholars hold that the funeral salat be performed for the martyrs.
  4. A still born infant and the prematurely born infant will be bathed and wrapped in shroud but some jurists say that it is essential that they should have shown some sign of life.


The Manner of Bathing the Dead Body

As recommended by the Prophet (sallAllahu ‘alayhi wa sallam), the dead body should be bathed with water mixed with berry leaves.  Since it is meant to be a cleansing medium soap can also be used.   First, the dead body should be placed on some elevated place like a wooden plank.  Then it should be curtained from all four sides. Then its garments should be removed but the genitals should be covered. If there is any filth it must be cleansed first. The method is that the bather should wrap a piece of cloth around his left hand and then clean and rub the front and rear secret parts and wash them clean. Then he should administer the ritual wudhu [ablution] to him, except that instead of rinsing the mouth and the nose he will move a wet piece of cloth into them. After ablution is done his head should be washed then his beard. Then the right side of the body should be washed then the left.  Each side should be washed three times. The nose and secret apertures should be plugged with a piece of cotton to prevent secretion of any liquids during the process of bathing.


Takfeen: Wrapping the Body in Kafan or Shroud

The kafan or the shroud for the dead should be acquired out of his own property if he has left any. Failing it, it is the duty of his relatives to provide it; and failing them, it should be financed out of the Baitul Maal (charity fund) of the community. If there is no charity fund then it is the duty of the local community to arrange for the shroud. Provision of a shroud is an absolute requirement for an Islamic burial.

The Kafan (shroud) for males consists of three pieces of cloth and that of females of five pieces. However, if this is not affordable a single length cloth is permitted provided it covers up the whole body. The shroud of white cloth is preferable. It is necessary that it should be neat and clean. It is also desirable that the shroud be scented. However, if the deceased died while wearing Ihraam [mandatory attire for performance of Hajj] neither his shroud can be scented nor his head and feet can be covered. The shrouds should be of average quality. Use of very expensive or precious material is considered obnoxious. Likewise, silk is not permitted for shrouds of males. But shrouds of females can be made of silk.