Generally, there should be no delay in preparing the body, i.e. washing, shrouding, and burial of the deceased. This is indicated by the Prophets instruction, "Hasten the funeral rites."(Bukhari)
Rules Concerning Washing Fard Kifaayah (Collective Obligation): Washing the body prior to shrouding and the burial is obligatory, according to numerous recorded instructions given by the Prophet (sallallaahu alayhi wa sallam).
Males Wash Males: As a general rule, males should take the responsibility of washing males and females should wash females. The only exception to the rule is in the case of mahrams, such as of husband and wife, or small children.
The Most Knowledgeable: Those who take responsibility of washing the dead should be the most knowledgeable of the procedures,preferably from among the deceaseds immediate family members or relatives. Those with taqwa (fear of Allaah, piety) should be chosen in order to ensure proper treatment of the dead.
Ghusl (Islaamic Bath): Those who wash the dead are not required to be in a state of purity. Consequently menstruating women may perform the washing procedure. However,it is recommended (not obligatory)that those who wash the dead take an Islaamic bath( Ghusl) afterwards, based on the following hadeeth: The Prophet (sallalaadhu alayhi wa sallam) said, "Whoever washes the dead should take a ghusl, and whoever carries the corpse should make wudu." (Abu Dawud)
Method of Washing
The body should be laid out, stripped of its garments and its joints loosened, if possible. A cloth should be placed over the private parts, between the navel and the knees so that the washers do not look at the private part of the dead person. The stomach should be pressed gently to expel any remaining impurities. A rag or cloth should be used to wash the body and the washing should begin with the places on the right side of the body washed during wudu (ablution).
After completing the wudu, the womans hair should be undone if it was braided and the hair thoroughly washed. Then the rest of the body should be washed, turning the body on its side so as to complete the right side before washing the left. The body should be washed a minimum of three times and the water should have some cleaning agent in it, like soap or disinfectant. The final washing should have some perfume in it, such as camphor or the like. The body should then be dried and the hair combed out. In the case of women the hair should be plaited into three braids. Exceptions The Pilgrim: In the case of a person who dies in a state of ihraam,perfume should not be used in washing his or her body.
The Martyr: In the case of a martyr (shaheed), his or her body should not be washed at all but be buried as it is.
Shrouding the Dead:Shrouding the body is obligatory,based, on the commands of the Prophet (sallallaahu alayhi wa sallam) to do so. The body should be shrouded immediately after it is washed and dried.The shroud or its cost should be taken from the wealth left behind of the deceased if there is enough money to purchase garments which can cover all the body. The shroud should be sufficient to cover the whole body, if not, those preparing the body should supply a proper shroud. If the number of dead is great or the cloth used for shrouding is insufficient for all the bodies, more than one body may be wrapped in the same shroud at a time. The number of sheets used to wrap the body may be as few as one sheet. It could also be two sheets. The preferable number is generally considered to be three sheets, based on the fact that the Prophet (sallallaahu alayhi wa sallam) was shrouded in three.
There is no difference between the man and woman in the number of sheets used. The Prophet (sallallaahu alayhi wa sallam) did not specify a particular number for women and another for men, as is commonly held among muslims today. The preferable colour is white. It is also recommended that the cloth or at least one of the sheets be striped. It is recommended that the shroud be perfumed with incense thrice,except in the case of the muhrim, as previously indicated. Spending large sums of money on the shroud the way non-Muslims compete with each other in buying the most expensive coffins, is strictly forbidden in Islaam. The sheets should be ordinary cloth,preferably cotton and not synthetics, so that it decomposes quickly along with the body, and the number of sheets should not exceed three.
Aisha (RA)narrated: "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 (RA) 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, " hope I shall die sometime between this morning and tonight. Then he tooked 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 spus. He did not die till it was the night of Tuesday and was buried before the morning." (Bukhari)
Forbidden Actions by Those Present
1. Wailing: The Prophet strictly forbade wailing. screaming and hiring of mourners. Furthermore, he identified such practices as acts of kufr (disbelief), because they indicate displeasure with what Allaah has decreed. Moreover, the dead are harmed by peoples wailing. The Prophet (sallallahu alayhi wa sallam) said: "Verily the dead are punished in their graves by the wailing of their family over them." (Bukhari) The dead will suffer due to the wailing of relatives in two cases: (a) When the deceased requested wailing prior to his death. (b) If the deceased knew that it was the custom of his people and he did not request that they not do so over him.
2. Announcing Someones Death: It is forbidden to make a big affair about announcing anyones death. such as announcing on the television, radio or in the newspapers etc. If someone died, Hudhayfah ibn al-Yamaan used to say, "Do not proclaim his death to anyone. for fear that it may be a death announcement and I heard Allaahs Messenger forbid death announcement with my own two ears." (Tirmidhi) However, a calmly expressed general announcement is allowed, based on the Prophets practice.
3. Throwing Parties by the Family of the Deceased: This is not permissible in Islaam and does not pass as a befitting burial for the deceased. The obligation of preparing food is not placed on the family of the dead rather it is upon the relatives, friends and neighbours. This is what Allaahs Messenger (sallallahu alayhi wa sallam) indicated at the death of Jafar: He said: "Prepare food for the family of Jafar for there came upon them an incident which has engaged them." (Abu Dawud)
This article was culled from the publications of Deen Communication Limited