Working with funerals and dead bodies during the COVID-19 pandemic has given Hammad Khan, the president of Manchester Central Mosque, an insight into the huge negative impact the pandemic had on the Muslim community.
“We had five rows of thirteen, and now there are only a handful left . That’s the volume of deaths that we’re having to deal with,” he told ITV News.
“I think it hits home more when you come in here, and every day you’re picking coffins out…It’s a loved one lost, another family grieving, and there are too many.”
Carrying out 40% more burials than the year before, the last 12 months have seen young people losing their lives to the coronavirus. This has put an unprecedented demand on the volunteers who step up to prepare the dead for burial, carrying out the bathing and shrouding of the deceased.
“I think last Friday I was at that point where I didn’t see how we could get through this week, we were so stretched. I had to ask for more people and 15 volunteers came at the drop of a hat”, said Hammad Khan.
“Words cannot express how grateful I am to them. It takes someone I think with a lot of bravery to come out and do anything 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.
Despite the ongoing restrictions, religious leaders, volunteer groups and funeral directors are still working to bring comfort to the living, and dignity to the dead.
“It’s not been easy for families coming in – some have lost more than one loved one in a very short time”, said Funeral Director Jane Dyer.
“Our message to anyone concerned about not being able to give a dignified send-off is please don’t worry about that. Yes it will be slightly different from what we would probably class as traditional, but there’s many different things that we can offer at the moment, things like live webcasts, a lot of people are putting visual tributes together.”
Currently, a team of 22 volunteers at Manchester Central Mosque are doing all efforts to honor the dead and help the families.
But their message to the living is this: follow the rules, take this seriously.
“Anybody that still has doubts that we are dealing with something very, very real – I would say please volunteer for a funeral service, don’t sit at home, come out and volunteer and do the work and see the impact,” the Mosque’s President said.
Islam has prescribed certain guidelines to deal with infectious disease outbreaks that affect a community, or even the entire world. COVID-19 is one such case in point.
Click here to read more about: What Are the Islamic Guidelines on Dealing with COVID-19?