The persons who wash the dead are not comprehensively aware of how to wash and cleanse the dead according to Shari`ah

(Part No. 7; Page No. 380)  Fatwa no. 20739 All praise be to Allah Alone, and peace and blessings be upon the Last of the Prophets.The Permanent Committee for Scholarly Research and Ifta' has reviewed letter no. 93035 dated 15/06/1419 A.H. Submitted to His Eminence the Grand Mufty by His Eminence the President of the Committee for the Propagation of Virtue and the Prevention of Vice (CPVPV). The letter has been referred to the Permanent Committee by the Secretariat General of the Council of Senior Scholars under no. 3746 on 17/06/1419 A.H. The letter contains questions directed to the Presidency of CPVPV regarding preparing the dead for burial.The questioner says: I have noted some matters contradictory to Shari`ah (Islamic Law) in some areas [regarding the washing and burial of the dead] and such matters maybe found also in the rest of the country. These are:1- The persons who wash the dead are not comprehensively aware of how to wash, cleanse, and shroud the dead according to Shari`ah. Rather, they do this hastily to the extent that they start and finish the process of washing and preparing the dead person for burial between the Adhan (call to Prayer) and the Iqamah (call to start the Prayer), this is almost a period of only ten minutes.2- During the funeral procession, the people loudly say some Adhkar (Remembrances and invocations) like: (Part No. 7; Page No. 381) Allahu Akbar (Allah is the Greatest); Everlasting is Allah; and Everyone shall taste death. Etc.3- The dead person is placed in the grave as follows:- The grave is made of bitumen (road surfacing material) in the form of crevice from 20-30 cm deep.- The dead is situated on their right hand side; and, then cement slats are put directly on the corpse to cover the grave.4- The head and face of a dead person who has been known for their piety are sometimes left uncovered after shrouding to enable the people to get a look at them as a way of showing reverence and respect.5- After placing the dead in the grave, a person reminds the dead saying: "O so- and - so, when you are asked about your Lord, say: 'My Lord is Allah'", etc.; I have drawn their attention twice to this being wrong.6- There is indifference as to whether the coffin is carried according to the direction of the procession with the head of the deceased heading toward the Masjid, or vice versa.So, please, Your Eminence, give us your legal opinion on these points so that we can circulate this matter to benefit people.

After the (Permanent) Committee studied the questions in hand, they answered as follows: First, the Sunnah (action following the teachings of the Prophet, peace be upon him) is to wash and prepare the deceased for burial quickly; so if it is possible to wash the corpse (Part No. 7; Page No. 382) according to Shari`ah within the period mentioned in the question, there is nothing wrong with this. But if quickness will result in not washing and preparing the deceased for burial in the Shar`y (Islamically lawful) way, this will be unlawful. The washer is to be honest in their job; so they are not permitted to show negligence in any part of it. The Islamically prescribed manner of washing the dead is that the washer has the intention of washing the dead and says "Bismillah Al-Rahman, Al-Rahim [In the Name of Allah, the Most Gracious, the Most Merciful]" when starting washing, wraps their hand with a wash cloth, washes the deceased's private parts without directly touching them with bare hands, washes the limbs which are washed in Wudu' (ablution) and then washes the head. If the deceased is a man, it is desirable to wash his beard with water and sidr (lote tree/ lotus jujube) or other cleaners such as soap and ushnan (a plant used as a cleaner of good smell). Also trim his moustache and clip his nails if they are long. Then the washer pours water on the deceased's right side and then on the left side. The corpse is to be washed in this way thrice. If three washes are not enough to cleanse the body properly, the washer may wash the corpse five or seven times. The washer is to consider washing as long as the case may need, not according to the washer own desire or quickness. Accordingly, if the corpse is washed properly by washing it once or twice like with living people, this is sufficient. But it is desirable to wash the dead thrice and that washing be stopped at an odd number of times. If three times are not enough, the corpse may be washed five or seven times. This is because the Prophet (peace be upon him) was authentically reported to have said to the female washers on washing (Part No. 7; Page No. 383) his daughter: Wash her three, five or more times with water and Sidr and sprinkle camphor on her at the end. (Related by Al Bukhari and Muslim, and the above wording is of Al-Bukhari) If the deceased is a female, her hair should be braided in three plaits [after having loosened and washed it] and placed behind her back. It is desirable to apply perfume to the dead under the arm-pits, between the thighs and the limbs which they place on the ground on prostrating. Applying perfume to the whole body is also good. After washing the male corpse, the corpse is to be shrouded into three pieces of cloth, not including a shirt or turban. The dead is to be inserted into the shroud, then perfume is to be applied between the body and the shroud. But if he is shrouded into a shirt, Izar (garment worn below the waist) and a wrap or in one wrap only, this will be sufficient. The female corpse is to be shrouded into five pieces of cloth, Dir` (a long shirt covering to the feet), Khimar (veil covering to the waist), Izar, and two wraps. One wrap will also suffice in this respect.If the washer and the person shrouding a dead person have done as said above or have done only what suffices in this regard within the period of time mentioned in the question, there is no problem with this. But the washer who prepares a deceased person for burial should do their job in the best way, (Part No. 7; Page No. 384) not concentrating only on what is obligatory in this regard. They are also prohibited to neglect what is obligatory on washing and shrouding the dead. Rather, they are to apply also what is most desirable in this respect. The washer ought to be trustworthy. This is indicated by what has been reported on the authority of `Abdullah ibn `Umar (may Allah be pleased with him and his father) who said: Only trustworthy persons should wash your dead. This is because untrustworthy persons are not trusted regarding washing the dead in the right way and may disclose bad things they might have seen regarding the corpse. Second, raising the voice with Tahlil (saying: "La ilaha illa Allah [There is no god except Allah]") and Dhikr (Remembrance of Allah) during the funeral procession is an abhorrent Bid`ah (innovation in religion) that has no grounds in the religion. The guidance of the Prophet (peace be upon him) in this regard is that the funeral procession produces no voice of Tahlil, reciting Qur'an, etc. Nor did he (peace be upon him) instruct his Sahabah (Companions of the Prophet) to do so. Rather, he (peace be upon him) forbade wailing and carrying fire while walking in the funeral procession. The Shaykh of Islam Ibn Taymiyyah (may Allah be merciful to him) said: "It is not desirable to raise voices during funeral processions neither with recitation (of the Qur'an) nor with Dhikr etc. This is the legal opinion of the Four Imams (Abu Hanifah, Malik, Al-Shafi`y, and Ahmad) and the transmitted reports on the authority of the Salaf (righteous predecessors) from the Companions and Tabi`un (Followers, the generation after the Companions of the Prophet). I know no person who has contradicted this opinion." Ibn Taymiyyah (may Allah be merciful to him) also said: "The knowledgeable scholars of Hadith and Athar (narrations from the Companions) agree that this [raising voices with Qur'an and Dhikr] (Part No. 7; Page No. 385) has not been followed in the preferred generations."So the people who carry the deceased to their grave and the procession following are to abide by the Sunnah of the Prophet (peace be upon him) and his Companions (may Allah be pleased with them). They are to follow the funeral in submission to Allah and remembrance of death and what follows after it, without innovating things in the religion that contradict what Allah and His Messenger (peace be upon him) have legislated. Third, the Sunnah is to make Lahd (a crevice on the side of a grave facing the direction faced for Prayer) that is to be closed with mud bricks as did the Companions with the grave of the Prophet (peace be upon him). This tradition is followed by the Muslims from the era of the Companions (may Allah be pleased with them) and the Salaf who follow them up until today. As for the Shaq (a rectangular hole in the bottom of a grave in which the body is buried), it is Makruh (disliked), as the Prophet (peace be upon him) was reported to have said: The Lahd is for us and the Shaq is for others. (Related by Abu Dawud, Al-Nasa'y, and Al-Tirmidhy) But if it is not possible to make Lahd because of the nature of the land, it is lawful to make Shaq, as Allah (Glorified be He) says: Allâh burdens not a person beyond his scope. And: ...and He has not laid upon you in religion any hardship It is also desirable that the grave be wide and deep (Part No. 7; Page No. 386) as much as equal to the height of the deceased, as the Prophet (peace be upon him) said: Dig graves, make them wide and deep. (Related by Abu Dawud in his Sunan (Hadith compilations classified by jurisprudential themes) The Prophet (peace be upon him) did not specify a certain depth for that purpose, but there is flexibility concerning it, Praise be to Allah. On digging a grave, it is to be taken into account that it is deepened to the extent that prevents the stench of the corpse from fouling the atmosphere, and to save it from being eaten by beasts, etc.Accordingly, building graves of bitumen that is mixed with cement and closing them with cement slats contradicts the Sunnah. It is preferable to close the grave with mud bricks, based on the above, but if it is necessary to make Shaq due to the nature of the land, this is permissible.As for making the grave of bitumen 20-30 cm in depth and covering the same with cement slats, which results in the people touching the corpse and pressing it, this is unlawful and it contradicts the Sunnah as referred to above. Besides, this involves disregard and disrespect of the deceased, while the inviolability of the human being after death is as the same as during their life. Also, digging the grave with such depth does not properly bury the corpse, nor protect it against floods or disclosure of the body. Forth, the Sunnah is to cover the whole corpse of the human being after finishing their washing and shrouding, owing to the statement authentically reported to have been said by `Aishah (may Allah be pleased with her): When the Messenger of Allah (peace be upon him) died, he was covered with a Hibra Burd (green square decorated garment). (Part No. 7; Page No. 387) (Related by Imam Ahmad, Al-Bukhari, and Muslim) This was observed by the Companions (may Allah be pleased with them), based on what was followed during the lifetime of the Prophet (peace be upon him). This is indicated by the Hadith of `Aishah (may Allah be pleased with her), the wife of the Prophet (peace be upon him) about the death of the Prophet (peace be upon him): Abu Bakr (may Allah be pleased with him) came riding his horse from his dwelling place in Al-Sunnah. He got down from it, entered the Mosque and did not speak with anybody till he came to me (`Aishah, may Allah be pleased with her), [meaning her dwelling place] and went direct to the Prophet, who was covered with Hibra Burd. Abu Bakr uncovered his face. He knelt down and kissed him and then started weeping and said, "My father and my mother be sacrificed for you, O Prophet of Allah, Allah will not combine two deaths on you. You have died the death which was written for you. (Related by Al-Bukhari) Uncovering the face of the Prophet after his death while he was still at his dwelling place before the funeral Prayer had commenced indicates the lawfulness of covering the whole body of the dead person and concealing their corpse from the people. Al-Nawawy said in Sharh (Sahih) Muslim: "Covering the dead person is agreed upon consensually by scholars. The wisdom behind this is to conceal the dead body and screen their form that has been changed by death from the looking eyes."Accordingly, uncovering the face of the dead person for a period of time to enable the people to look at the deceased as a way of showing reverence and respect, as mentioned in the question, is a Bid`ah that has no grounds in the religion and contradicts what has been consensually agreed upon (Part No. 7; Page No. 388) by the Muslim (scholars). This may also lead to the forbidden exceeding of limits with regards to the dead person's rights or may lead to disclosing their faults if they are seen in a bad form after death. But if the family of the deceased desire to uncover the face of the deceased before or after washing the corpse to kiss or see them for a short while that does not result in delaying preparing the deceased for burial, there is no problem. This is on the condition that the deceased is not seen or kissed by an unmarriageable person of him or her. This is indicated by the above Hadith narrated on the authority of `Aishah and the Hadith of Jabir ibn `Abdullah (may Allah be pleased with him): When my father was martyred, I lifted the sheet from his face and wept and the Prophet did not forbid me. (Related by Imam Ahmad in his Musnad [Hadith compilation]; Al-Bukhari who ranked it as Hadith Mu`allaq [a Hadith missing link in the chain of narration, reported directly from the Prophet], Muslim, Al-Nasa'y, Al-Bayhaqy, Ibn Hibban, and other scholars of Hadith) `Aishah (may Allah be pleased with her) said: The Prophet (peace be upon him) kissed `Uthman ibn Mazh`un when he died; until I saw tears coming down his cheeks. (Related by Imam Ahmad in his Musnad (vol. 6, p. 56), Abu Dawud, Al-Tirmidhy, and Ibn Majah) Fifth, It is authentically proved according to the Sunnah of the Prophet (peace be upon him) that after burying the dead and closing their grave that the people ask Allah to forgive them and grant them steadfastness. This is indicated by the Hadith reported by `Uthman ibn `Affan (may Allah be pleased with him): The Prophet (peace be upon him), (Part No. 7; Page No. 389) after finishing the burial of a dead person, used to stand by their grave and say: Ask Allah to forgive your brother and grant them steadfastness, as they are now questioned. After finishing the supplication, seeking forgiveness for the deceased person and asking Allah to grant them steadfastness, the people leave. This is what is lawful and proved according to the Sunnah of the Prophet (peace be upon him). As for reminding the dead saying: "O so- and - so, when you are asked about your Lord, say: 'My Lord is Allah'", etc., and reminding them to say Shahadah (Testimony of Faith) after burial, this has no grounds in the religion. It was not done by the Prophet (peace be upon him) or his Companions (may Allah be pleased with them). Ibn Al-Qayyim (may Allah be merciful to him) said: "The Messenger of Allah (peace be upon him) would not recite (Qur'an) by graves, nor would he remind the dead to say 'la ilah illa Allah'. The Hadith related about reminding the dead person to say specific words is not authentic." Mentioning the good things and piety signs seen on a person after their death without exaggerating about their state and without saying this at a certain time or place is permissible. This is so that the people know about the deceased, supplicate to Allah and seek forgiveness for them and follow their examples with regards to good deeds. But this should not be done as a tradition to be followed on a person's death by standing by their grave to mention their good deeds and traits for the reasons mentioned above. In addition to this, exceeding limits in regards to the dead being taken as a source of blessing by the ignorant and lay-people, this may bring about un-praiseworthy consequences. Sixth, as far as we know there is nothing related in Shari`ah regarding carrying the coffin according to the direction of the procession with the head of the deceased heading toward the Masjid, so there is flexibility about this matter. (Part No. 7; Page No. 390) What is easier in this regards to those who carry the coffin is given priority, whether to enter the Masjid with the head or the feet of the corpse directed toward the Masjid. Both directions are permissible so no person is to be criticized or blamed for choosing either direction.May Allah grant us success. May peace and blessings be upon our Prophet Muhammad, his family, and Companions.