Conditions for washing the deceased...

Egypt's Dar Al-Ifta

Conditions for washing the deceased and the ruling for washing the body of a non-mahram woman


We reviewed request no. 2653 for the year 2004 which includes the following:

    What are the conditions concerning washing the body of a deceased? Is it permissible for a man to wash the body of a woman who is not his wife?


      A communal duty

Washing the body of a deceased is a communal duty [fard kifayah].[1] On the incidence of the pilgrim who fell from his camel and died, the Prophetsaid, "Wash him with water infused with lote tree leaves and shroud him in his clothes. Do not cover his head for Allah will send him on the Day of Resurrection chanting the talbiyya.[2] " [Muslim].
Manner of washing the deceased
- Force out the contents of the stomach.
-Wash the deceased with plain water.
- Remove any filth from the body.
- Make the intention for washing the deceased.
-Pour water over the entire body.
- Wash the deceased three times with soap and water or with scented water, starting with the right side of the body. The body may be washed an odd number of times greater than five, seven or more if necessary. It was reported that the Prophettold the women who came to wash his daughter Zaynab, "Wash her three, five, seven times or more if you think it is necessary" [Bukhari].
- After washing the deceased, scent the body with camphor and the like.
- It is recommended to place the deceased on an elevated object to facilitate washing and to cover his nakedness if he is an adult.
- It is recommended that the washer be trustworthy so that he can be relied upon not to reveal anything bad he might notice. The Prophetsaid: "Trustworthy persons must wash your dead" [Ibn Majah].
-The martyr who died while fighting the polytheists is not to be washed.
-A stillborn that showed signs of recognizable human formation may or may not be washed. The funeral prayer is not to be prayed for it.  
When the deceased is a male
The best suited to wash a male are those who have priority of praying over him. These include:
- The father.
- Paternal grandfather.
- Son.
- Grandson.
- Brother.
- Nephew.
- Paternal uncle.
- Paternal cousin.
It is permissible for a wife to wash her husband as attested to by the hadith narrated by 'A`isha (may Allah be pleased with her) who said that Abu Bakr (may Allah be pleased with him) instructed his wife Asma` bint 'Umays to wash him [after his death].
When the deceased is a female
Only women may wash a female. Those who have the priority to wash a woman are:
-The mother.
- Grandmother.
- Daughter.
- Granddaughter.
- Sister.
- Her other female relatives in their order of precedence based on the degree of proximity of kinship.
- Unrelated females.
 It is permissible for a husband to wash his wife. If she is unmarried and there are no females to wash her, then it is permissible for a non-mahram[3] male to perform tayammum[4] on her without directly touching her body. The permissibility of a man washing his deceased wife and vice versa is demonstrated in a report by 'A`isha (may Allah be pleased with her) who said, "One day, the Prophetreturned from a funeral at Al-Baqi' and found me suffering from a headache and saying, 'O my head!' Thereupon he said, 'No, O my head! O 'A`isha! There will be no harm if you pass away before me. I will wash and shroud you. Then I will pray over you and bury you' " [Reported by Ahmed and Ibn Majah]. The Prophet's words 'I will wash you' demonstrate the permissibility of a man washing the body of his deceased wife and, by analogy, a wife washing the body of her deceased husband.
 Allah the Almighty knows best.


[1]An act which, if undertaken by even a single person, its obligation is fulfilled and the sin and responsibility of its non-performance is lifted from the rest
[2]Invocations made during Hajj.
[3]Unmarriageable male.
[4]Dry ablution.
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