What does Islam say about washing the body of the dead person?

Shaykh Muhammad Salim Ghisa

In the name of Allah the most beneficent and Merciful.

There are some acts in Islam which are known as Fard e Kifaaya meaning it is a communal obligation. Therefore if no one from the Muslim community did this then all would be major sinners and if some did do this then all would be relieved of that duty. Washing, shrouding and praying (Janaza prayer) is a communal obligation for a deceased Muslim man or woman.

It is obligatory upon Muslim men to wash the deceased Muslim man and it is obligatory upon Muslim women to wash a deceased Muslim woman.

Islam recognises the sacredness of a Muslim’s body and therefore it must be treated with dignity and respect. The washing and shrouding is a tremendous virtuous and dignified task that all Muslims should strive for. When the deceased is a relative i.e. father, mother etc then they have a right to be washed by their own children.

However, due to the lack of knowledge and ignorance it is left to others from the community to do. Whilst the bathing will be accepted it is morally wrong for a family member to be absent during these times.

During the bathing process the body of the male and female must be covered so that their private part remain covered at all times by having a thick piece of cloth covering the navel to the knees for a man and from the chest to the knees for a woman.

When these parts need washing the bather must ensure that he has his or her hands wrapped in cloth and they would lift the material up and without looking underneath this they would wash the private parts etc.

If the bathing people saw something of the deceased that the deceased would have wanted to keep private such as a tattoo or mark etc then the bathing people must not tell others about it. If they see something which is praiseworthy such as ‘I saw light on the deceased’s face’ then they can tell others as this dignifies the deceased.

Simple steps to wash the body of the deceased:

1. Cover the body with a thick cloth from navel to the knees for men and below neck to the knees for women.
2. Tie a small strip of cloth to prevent the mouth from opening & put some cotton buds to block off the nostrils.
3. Wash the deceased's private parts with a piece of cloth wrapped round the bather’s hands.
4. Perform Wudhu on the deceased but no need to wash inside of nostrils and mouth.
5. Wash head hair.
6. Clean teeth and ears etc with cotton buds gently.
7. Wash right side of body then left side of body.
8. Sit the body up gently and wash back.
9. Gently press the stomach and see if any body waste comes out. If this happens wash
it away and wash the parts again but no need to perform Wudhu again.
10. Generally wash any parts of the body that may be dry.
11. Gently dry the body by using dry cloths. Then cover the body with a dry cloth as above and then remove wet cloth from underneath.

The body is now ready for shrouding.

Nowadays we have all become commercialised and choose to pay funeral directors for this task rather than take on the responsibility ourselves. This is wrong and we all must ensure that there are good people from amongst every community young and old, male and female who are prepared to take on this pious task. Otherwise as a community we will all suffer as we will all have to go through that process one day.

May Allah give us all the benefit from obtaining such knowledge.

Of Course Allah knows best