Shrouding the Body of the Deceased

Since 2012-12-21

In the Name of Allah, Most Gracious, Most Merciful


In the original text of Zad al-Maad there is very little discussion regarding the washing and shrouding of the deceased. The reason for this may be that the Prophet (Peace and Salutations be upon him) was not known to have himself washed or shrouded a body. And Allah knows best.

As discussed in the previous lesson, shrouding the body is a right of the deceased. Its ruling is Fard Kifiyah (Communal Obligation). If the deceased did not leave sufficient funds or relatives to pay for the arrangements, the obligation falls upon the Ameer (Leader) or the wider Muslim community.

Aisha narrates that:
The Prophet was shrouded in three pieces of cloth which were made of Suhul (a type of cotton), and neither a shirt nor a turban were used.[Saheeh al-Bukhari, volume 2, hadeeth 361].
«أن رسول الله صلى الله عليه وسلم كفن في ثلاثة أثواب بيض سحولية، ليس فيها قميص ولا عمامة» رواه البخاري

Also the word ‘thawb’ is used in some narrations. ‘thawb’ in this context does not mean the garment which we know today which has sleeves and collars.

It is important to have a general understanding of some of the words used to describe clothing in narrations or a person may misunderstand Fiqh rulings which relate to clothing.


Consider the following definitions:

Thawb – sheet which has not been tailored

Ihram – 2 unstitched sheets worn in Hajj
Izaar – lower garment for Ihram
Ridaa - upper garment for Ihram
Kulunsuwa – modern day word for a scul cap (not the Imaamah or Turban)

Imaamah – a Turban

Taylasan – head garment worn in Saudi Arabia (not the Imaamah or Turban)

Kamees – garment with 2 sleeves which may reach the ankles such as the modern day thawb, or be shorter such as is worn in the asian subcontinent.

Saraweel – trousers

Aba – cloak which is worn upon the shoulders with 2 holes for the arms to protrude through.

The Ihram is the closest garment to the garment worn by the Companions of the Prophet (Peace and Salutations be upon him). In modern times the closest garments to the attire of the Prophet (Peace and Salutations be upon him) is worn in the asian sub continent particularly in the frontier region where you will find people who wear an Imaamah, Kamees and a type of Izaar.

The sunnah is to shroud the body in 3 pieces of cloth. If this is not available then 1 will suffice. Saa’d narrated from his father:“Once a meal was brought to ‘Abdur-Rahman bin ‘Auf and he was fasting. He said, “Musa’b bin ‘Umayr was martyred and he was better than I and was shrouded in his Burd and when his head was covered with it, his legs became bare, and when his legs were covered his head got uncovered. Hamza was martyred and was better than I. Now the worldly wealth have been bestowed upon us (or said a similar thing). No doubt, I fear that the rewards of my deeds might have been given earlier in this world.” Then he started weeping and left his food.”[Saheeh Al-Bukhari, Volume 2, Haith 364].
«أن عبد الرحمن بن عوف أتي بطعام، وكان صائما، فقال: قتل مصعب ابن عمير وهو خير مني، كفن في بردة: إن غطي رأسه بدت رجلاه، وإن غطي رجلاه بدا رأسه، وأراه قال: وقتل حمزة وهو خير مني، ثم بسط لنا من الدنيا ما بسط، أو قال: أعطينا من الدنيا ما أعطينا، وقد خشينا أن تكون حسناتنا عجلت لنا، ثم جعل يبكي حتى ترك الطعام» رواه البخاري

The Companions Hamza bin Abdul Muttalib and Musab ibn Umayr were martyred in the battle of Uhud. Musab was very wealthy in Makkah before he accepted Islam and was known for his excuisite garments and exclusive scents, but when he died the Companions could not even find a piece of cloth large enough to cover his entire body. Hamzah who is the Syed (Leader) of the Martyrs in Paradise and the uncle of the Prophet (Peace and Salutations be upon him) also died and the Companions did not have a piece of cloth large enough to cover his body.
Khabaab ibn al-Arat narrates how he used to live in poverty but now his house contained 40,000 dirhams. When Abu Hurairah was apointed as an Ameer in Iraq he recalled the time when the Prophet (Peace and Salutations be upon him) was wandering in Medina late at night through extreme hunger. We should always remember the difficult times so we can appreciate the blessings Allah has given us. Not appreciating the blessings of Allah can be considered kufraan an-Ni’mah or Juhuwd an-Ni’mah (Denying the Blessings of Allah or Striving hard against the blessings of Allah).

Khabbah narrated that “In the aftermath of the Battle of Uhud they could not find any cloth with which to shroud Musab’s body, except his own garment. When they covered his head with it, his legs showed and when his legs were covered, his head was exposed. The Prophet (Peace and Salutations be upon him) said: Place the garment over his head and cover his feet and legs with the leaves of the Idhkhir (Rue) plant.” [Reported by Bukhari]
«منهم مصعب بن عمير، قتل يوم أحد، فلم نجد شيئا نكفنه فيه إلا نمرة، كنا إذا غطينا بها رأسه خرجت رجلاه، فإذا غطينا رجليه خرج رأسه، فأمرنا رسول الله صلى الله عليه وسلم أن نغطي رأسه بها، ونجعل على رجليه من إذخر»رواه البخاري

“Aisha said, “I went to Abu Bakr (during his fatal illness) and he asked me, ‘In how many garments was the Prophet shrouded?’ She replied, ‘In three Suhuliya pieces of white cloth of cotton, and there was neither a shirt nor a turban among them.’ Abu Bakr further asked her, ‘On which day did the Prophet die?’ She replied, ‘He died on Monday.’ He asked, ‘What is today?’ She replied, ‘Today is Monday.’ He added, ‘I hope I shall die sometime between this morning and tonight.’ Then he looked at a garment that he was wearing during his illness and it had some stains of saffron. Then he said, ‘Wash this garment of mine and add two more garments and shroud me in them.’ I said, ‘This is worn out.’ He said, ‘A living person has more right to wear new clothes than a dead one; the shroud is only for the body’s pus.’ He did not die till it was the night of Tuesday and was buried before the morning.””[Reported by Bukhari].
«دخلت على أبي بكر رضي الله عنه، فقال: في كم كفنتم النبي صلى الله عليه وسلم؟ قالت: في ثلاثة أثواب بيض سحولية، ليس فيها قميص ولا عمامة. وقال لها: في أي يوم توفي رسول الله صلى الله عليه وسلم؟ قالت: يوم الإثنين. قال: فأي يوم هذا؟ قالت: يوم الإثنين. قال: أرجو فيما بيني وبين الليل. فنظر إلى ثوب عليه كان يمرض فيه، به ردع من زعفران، فقال: اغسلوا ثوبي هذا، وزيدوا عليه ثوبين، فكفنوني فيها. قلت : إن هذا خلق؟ قال: إن الحي أحق بالجديد من الميت، إنما هو للمهلة. فلم يتوف حتى أمسى من ليلة الثلاثاء. ودفن قبل أن يصبح»رواه البخاري

He desired that if he died that day, he should be buried the same day.

From this incident we can see that the shrouds should be clean and of decent quality but not necessarily new. As ibn al-Qayim mentioned the Sunnah is to avoid extravagence. The exact method of shrouding is flexible but scholars have mentioned some guidelines. It is good to use Hunoot to fragrance the cotton and place it in the ears, nose and passages to ensure there is no discharge. An extra cloth should be placed around the private parts.

For the lady the sunnah is to use 5 pieces of cloth. The 3 mentioned and an additional upper and lower garment.

For a step by step animated guide to washing and shrouding the body refer to the flash movie entitled ‘washing and shrouding the deceased’:

It is a very sobering experience to wash the body of the deceased. The lifelessness of the boy is startling. It is very stiff and the mouth is often open and sometimes the eyes are open, although the sunnah is to try and close the eyes. Scholars state that a person should always do good deeds so the light of the good deeds are reflected in the person’s face when they die.
With regards to the issue of preparing the body of the Muhrim who dies during Hajj, Ibn Abbas narrated:

A man fell from his Mount and died while he was with the Prophet at ‘Arafat. The Prophet said, “Wash him with water and Sidr and shroud him in two pieces of cloth and neither perfume him nor cover his head, for he will be resurrected on the Day of Resurrection saying, ‘Labbaik’.[Saheeh al-Bukhari, Volume 2, hadith 358].
«بينما رجل واقف بعرفة، إذ وقع عن راحلته فوقصته، أو قال: فأوقصته، قال النبي صلى الله عليه وسلم: اغسلوه بماء وسدر، وكفنوه في ثوبين، ولا تحنطوه، ولا تخمروا رأسه، فإنه يبعث يوم القيامة ملبيا» رواه البخاري

With regards to the issue of preparing the body of the Martyr, Jabir narrates:

The Prophet said, “Bury them (i.e. martyrs) with their blood.” (that was) On the day of the Battle of Uhud. He did not have their bodies washed.[Saheeh al-Bukhari, Volume 2, hadith 431].
«ادفنوهم في دمائهم. يعني يوم أحد، ولم يغسلهم» رواه البخاري

Hence the martyrs are to be buried in their state and their bodies are not to be washed or shrouded, however scholars explain that the leather and metal from a Martyr should be removed leaving just his clothes.

Review Questions

The Prophet (Peace and Salutations be upon him) was shrouded in how many pieces of cloth?
a. 1
b. 3
c. 5

The Prophet (Peace and Salutations be upon him) was shrouded in a cloth made of Suhul. What is Suhul?
a. Type of silk
b. Type of wool
c. Type of cotton


Which of the following Companions were martyred at the Battle of Uhud but no piece of cloth long enough could be found to shroud their entire body?
a. Jabir ibn Abdullah
b. Hamza bin Abdul Mutalib
c. Musab ibn Umayr


Which of the following should not be done for the Muhrim (person in a state of Ihram) if he dies on Hajj?
a. Body to be washed
b. Head to be covered
c. Janaza Prayer


Which of the following should not be done for the Martyr?
a. Body to be washed
b. Janaza Prayer
c. Shrouded


1. b)
2. c)
3. b) & c)
4. b)
5. a) & c)

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