Death, funeral and burial during Coronavirus

About 25% of those who died in the UK from Coronavirus are Muslims. At this moment, the UK parliament is considering a law which will cremate all dead bodies. With Germany allowing gatherings of only two people and Italy not allowing any funerals to take place, Muslim families, Masjids, and funeral homes are wondering about our options.

For a Muslim, the thought of being cremated is absolutely horrible. But when the translator of the Quran Dr. T. B. Irving passed away, by the time I arrived for his funeral prayers, there was nothing left of him but a small pot of his ashes. I still decided to collect a handful of Muslims and led his funeral prayers. May Allah give the best place to this great scholar.

Life and death is absolutely in the hands of God Almighty as He has reminded us throughout the Quran. He, however, has also warned us not to put ourselves in a deadly situation. So in the absence of a vaccine, enough tests, and a cure, do heed the call of scientists who are begging us to maintain physical distance from each other, and to wash our hands regularly. Also add to this regimen Dua to God Almighty to save us from this pandemic.

But we must always be prepared to submit to God’s will.

  • So seek forgiveness from people you have harmed
  • Seek forgiveness from God Almighty for your sins
  • Pray for a healthy, productive, and longer life
  • Pray for His guidance for ourselves and our neighbors 
  • Pray that our leaders make the right decisions to save lives
  • Resolve to follow all safety directions
  • Develop your will
  • Discuss eventual plans for your funeral which is guaranteed to happen to all human beings, now or later

I have revised my will and shared it with my family. Have you done that?

Sound Vision has a whole manual about Muslim funerals. However, in a fast-changing pandemic situation, some parts of it may or may not apply, depending what your state will allow or not allow.

Recommendations for Funerals

Based on the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) we have developed the following recommendations. If the situation worsens, the CDC might change its recommendations, so please keep checking their website for funerals.

Taking care of the deceased body:

  • Do not kiss or touch the body which has died from COVID-19
  • Those who wash the bodies of people who died from this virus must wear personal protective equipment (PPE), such as disposable gowns, face shields or goggles, disposable nitrile gloves and facemasks. Please note that protective equipment is in extremely short supply for physicians who are busy saving lives
  • After the preparation of the body, a thorough cleaning should be conducted in accordance with the manufacturer’s instructions for all cleaning and disinfection products (e.g., concentration, application method and contact time, etc.). Products with EPA-approved emerging viral pathogens are expected to be effective against COVID-19, based on data for harder to kill viruses
  • After removal of the personal protective equipment (PPE), perform hand hygiene by washing hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. Soap and water must be used if the hands are visibly soiled. Hand sanitizers will not be enough.

Funeral Prayers

  • Limit funeral prayers to immediate family. This may differ state-to-state based on what gathering size it allows. Currently the federal government is asking all gatherings to be limited to ten persons. Southern California has limited funerals to 10 people only. The government may not allow any gathering if the situation worsens. If it is allowed, the immediate family must stay six feet apart during funeral prayers as well as at the burial
  • Given the high level of emotion at funerals, and the resulting need for comfort through hugs and other close contact, they pose a risk. In Georgia a funeral resulted in spreading the virus, which killed three more people
  • If funerals are allowed, livestream the funeral if possible, so that the loved ones can participate virtually
  • So far, science has not established any known risk associated with being in the same room as the body of someone who has died from COVID-19

We must prepare well to protect ourselves. Love of the deceased must not allow us to risk the living. Saving life is the first purpose of Sharia. And saving one life is like saving the whole humanity. 

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