Question # 272: Asalaam Alleykum Warahmatullah Wabarkatuh.. what is the ruling of when there is no water and you have a dead body that needs washing, in preparation for burial?

Bismi-llahi r-raḥmani r-raḥīm,

Assalamu ‘laikum warahmatullahi wabarakatuh,

All praise and thanks are due to Allah (سبحانه و تعالى), and peace and blessings be upon His Messenger (صلى الله عليه و سلم).

Dear questioner,

First of all, we implore Allah (سبحانه و تعالى) to help us serve His cause and render our work for His sake.

Shorter Answer: If it is not possible to wash the deceased because of non-availability of water, then tayammum (dry ablution) should be performed, and if it is possible to wash some parts and not others, then only those parts should be washed, and tayammum should be performed for the rest, as is the case of the living. For the purpose of tayammum, any clean dusty sand could be used; firstly, the face should be wiped and then the same should be performed for both palm hands with new sand.

Long Answer: Allah (سبحانه و تعالى) has prescribed tayammum for purification from both major and minor impurity when there is no water available or when one is unable to use it, or when using it will cause harm. Ibn Qudamah (may Allah have mercy on him) said: “The one who has been crushed by a falling wall, the one who has been burned and the one who has drowned should be washed if possible; if there is the fear that washing may cause the body to disintegrate, then water should be poured over them without touching them. If there is the fear that water may cause the body to disintegrate, then they should not be washed, but tayammum should be done for them if possible, as in the case of a living person who may be harmed by water. If it is not possible to wash the deceased because there is no water available, then tayammum should be done, and if it is possible to wash some parts and not others, then those parts that can be washed should be washed, and tayammum should be done for the rest, as is the case of the living.” (al-Mughni) (Islamqa.info)

In one of his fatwa, Dr. Main Khalid Al-Qudah, Member of the Fatwa Committee of Assembly of Muslim Jurists in America said: “…If washing the deceased is really hard and unpractical…, or because of any preventive circumstances you could not wash the body, then tayammum should be applied in the same way you do it for yourself. Any clean dusty sand could be used for that. You need to wipe her face with some dusty sand in the first time, and then you do the same for her both palm hands with new sand in the second time…”  

Allahu A’lam (Allah (سبحانه و تعالى) knows best) and all Perfections belong to Allah, and all mistakes belong to me alone. May Allah (سبحانه و تعالى) forgive me, Ameen.

Wassalaam