Losing someone to death is a terrible experience for families trying to cope with grief.
At the time of COVID-19, with tens of people dying every day, fear of infection has forced Muslim families to bury their loved ones without washing their bodies.
Failing to carry out this Islamic ritual really complicates the matter, subjecting families to trauma and guilt.
“Not only did these families lose someone, they felt they couldn’t get closure as they were unable to go through the correct Islamic processes before burial,” Jusna Begum told The Guardian.
“We couldn’t wash the bodies at all so the deceased were being buried in the clothes that they went into hospital in. They came to us in a black body bag and left in that same bag without it ever being opened. Hundreds of bodies were buried like this.”
Islam calls for respecting human beings whether alive or dead.
A Muslim’s dead body should be immediately taken to a mortuary for washing and preparation.
Two or three adult Muslims should wash the body and then put on the shroud (kafan). Before the burial, Muslims should perform a funeral prayer.
The burial should be done as soon as possible. It is makruh (reprehensible) to delay the burial of the dead.
Dealing with the Grief
Begum, who is also the director of a domestic violence charity in east London, helped wash the bodies of some of the Muslim victims of the Grenfell Tower fire three years ago.
“It is a way of the family putting them to rest. It gives them those last moments with them, but coronavirus denied many families this. They never got to say goodbye properly,” she said.
Begum herself has recently lost her mother-in-law to coronavirus.
“There will be lasting trauma. People have talked to me about having anxiety attacks because their relatives weren’t buried properly. There is so much guilt associated with it.
“Even though [there is] absolutely nothing they could have done, this disease has made people feel totally helpless and that will have a lasting effect.”