In the Name of Allah, Most Gracious, Most Merciful
Etiquettes of the Prophet (Peace and Salutations be upon him) in Preparing the Body of the Deceased
There are 4 major actions to be observed when preparing the body of the deceased:
1) Washing the body
2) Shrouding the body
3) Janaza Prayer
Scholars agree that all 4 are Fard Kifiyah (Collective Obligation), and a right of the deceased. A right of the deceased means that, irrespective of the situation of the deceased, the person is entitled to these rights to be observed. If the deceased does not leave enough wealth or relatives to observe these actions, it is compulsory on the wider Muslim community to organize and pay for these rights.
The sunnah as Ibn Al-Qayyim has mentioned is to hasten the burial. Abu Hurayrah narrates that the Prophet (Peace and Salutations be upon him) said:
“Hasten with the Janaza. If it was a righteous person, then you are forwarding it to its bliss, and if it was other than that (not righteous), then you will remove this burden from your necks.” [Reported by al-Bukhari (volume 2, hadith 401) and Muslim (volume 2, hadith 2059)].
«أسرعوا بالجنازة، فإن تك صالحة فخير تقدمونها، وإن يك سوى ذلك، فشر تضعونه عن رقابكم» رواه البخاري ومسلم
The scholars disagree in the meaning of hastening. Some scholars state that it refers to the actual carrying of the deceased during the burial itself while others maintain that it means all of the rights which are to be carried out in preparing the body of the deceased.
Some scholars use as an example the death of the Prophet (Peace and Salutations be upon him) that the burial does not have to be hastened. The Prophet (Peace and Salutations be upon him) died on a Monday and was not buried until Tuesday night. However this was clearly due to a pressing need and was the exception to the norm. The Companions had to urgently agree and appoint a Khalifah (Leader) for the Muslims in the aftermath of the death of the Prophet (Peace and Salutations be upon him). The Muhajiroon and Ansaar met and finally agreed to appoint Abu Bakr as the Khalifah giving him their pledge of allegiance. As a side point it is critical that Muslims always have an Ameer (Leader) whether on a journey or as a wider community. It is therefore against the sunnah to delay the Janaza for secondary reasons such as accumulating more relatives or organising a grander burial.
When washing the body it is necessary to remove the clothing of the deceased. The awrah (private parts) of a man is from the navel to the knee so it is necessary to cover this part with some form of sheets while clothes are removed and the body is washed so as not to expose the private parts. A man be washed by another man or the female maharim (women who he cannot marry eg mother). There is some controversy over whether the spouse can wash each other because according to some scholars death immediately breaks the marriage contract. However the evidences are clear that the spouse can wash the body of the deceased such as when Abu Bakr instructed his wife Asmaa bint Umays to wash him if he died. The female should be covered from the knee to the shoulders and can be washed by other females or her husband. When deciding who should actually wash the body we should look to who has been appointed in the will. In the absence of this we should look to the order of priority as can be seen by the laws of inheritance. The exception is for a woman where it is preferable for the husband to wash her body.
Jewellery should be removed from the deceased during washing of the body. Also the minimum number of people possible should attend the washing of the deceased. This is to protect the dignity of the deceased. The deceased may still have discharges coming out of the body or worst still there may be some signs of sinfulness eg darkening of the face in a frightening manner. The person washing the body should be sensitive to the body and not damage the body in any way. The Prophet (Peace and Salutations be upon him) said:
Breaking the bones of the deceased is like breaking the bones of the living [Reported by Ahmed, Abu Dawud and Ibn Majah].
«كسر عظم الميت ككسره حيا» رواه احمد، ابو داود، ابن ماجه.
Sidr can be used with water to help perfume and clean the body. Um Atiiyah al-Ansari washed the body of the women of Medina. When one of the daughters of the Prophet (Peace and Salutations be upon him) died he visited her and instructed her:
Wash her thrice or five times or more, if you see it necessary, with water and sidr and then apply camphor or some camphor at the end; and when you finish, notify me [Reported by Saheeh al-Bukari (Volume 2, hadith 344) and Muslim].
«جاءت أم عطية رضي الله عنها، امرأة من الأنصار من اللاتي بايعن، قدمت البصرة، تبادر ابنا لها فلم تدركه، فحدثتنا قالت: دخل علينا رسول الله صلى الله عليه وسلم ونحن نغسل ابنته فقال: اغسلنها ثلاثا، أو خمسا، أو أكثر من ذلك إن رأيتن ذلك، بماء وسدر، واجعلن في الآخرة كافورا،فإذافرغتن فآذنني... » رواه البخارى
If sidr cannot be found then other cleaning products can be used. The Jurists state that cold water is preferable to prevent deterioration of the skin. The person washing the body should press on the stomach and use running water to ensure all impurities come out of the body. If needs be, cotton can be inserted in the back passage to prevent any further discharges. Water can be applied to the penis as a form of istinja. Also some jurists mention to trim the moustache and cut the nails of the deceased. Scholars disagree whether to cut the under-arm and pubic hair with some stating that it is one of the actions of the fitrah while others arguing that it is not obligatory and will lead to exposing of the private parts. In summary if the pubic hair is to be removed it should be done by the spouse. And Allah knows best.
The Prophet (Peace and Salutations be upon him) said to Um Atiyyah while she was washing the body of his deceased daughter:
Start the bath from the right side and from the parts which are washed in ablution [by Saheeh al-Bukhari (Volume 2, hadith 347)].
«...ابدؤوا بميامنها، ومواضع الوضوء منها...» صحيح البخارى
Hence the washing of the deceased should commence with the right side of the body and the parts which are washed in wudhu. Some scholars state that it is sufficient to take some water on the finger and rub the inner mouth of the deceased instead of pouring water inside the mouth as is done during wudhu. It is not necessary to put water inside the nostrils or ears as this will lead to deterioration of the body.
The Prophet (Peace and Salutations be upon him) ordered camphor used in the final wash as it will improve the smell of the body and may also help deter insects.