The London Muslim Covid-19 Task Force is made up of Muslim religious and organization leaders, and health professionals specializing in infectious diseases and supporting services. The Task Force met again to discuss the issue of what should be done in the current environment when a Brother or Sister passes away.
The Task Force is guided by the following principles in making these recommendations:
1) Medical advice is that community spread of the virus - without links to travel - is upon us in London;
2) People may have the virus and not show symptoms;
3) Water used in washing bodies may become contaminated with the virus and may transmit it to the volunteers who are washing the body;
4) Our volunteers who assist families after a death must be protected at all costs to avoid transmission - whether accidental or not.
5) The Islamic tradition is to comply with rules that protect people from danger or harm as per the juristic rule: “Don’t expose yourself to danger and don’t cause harm to others.”
Guidelines for Deceased/Ghusal
The Task Force states that it would be preferred that families use the services of a funeral home, under the advice/supervision of an Imam or Imam's delegate, as those homes have implemented specific procedures for handling bodies and for cleaning/disinfecting. To avoid the accidental transmission of Covid-19, bodies of deceased individuals shall not enter a Masjid unless there is confirmation that the deceased did not have Covid-19. Otherwise, the body should be taken directly to the cemetery for the Janaza, as per the previous Janaza Guidelines by the Covid-19 Task Force.
Otherwise, the following guidelines are recommended by the Task Force:
- If the deceased is confirmed to have died from Covid-19, then under these circumstances, the hospital may disinfect the body and put it into a body bag. That body bag will go straight to the cemetery for a Janaza at the grave as soon as possible. Gloves and masks are to be used in this process. There is justification for such a protocol in Islamic jurisprudence that a person who dies from an infectious disease does not need to be washed based upon the ruling on the juristic principle: “Necessities justify resorting to prohibited practices.”
- If it cannot be confirmed whether the deceased had Covid-19 or not, then the protocol to be followed is the same as #1. If the person died at home, the body must be handled with the appropriate precautions (mask, gloves, apron) and be taken directly to the cemetery for burial and Janaza. The area of death must be properly sanitized in accordance with government/health regulator instructions. (Health Canada has advised of the following products that can be used: https://www.canada.ca/en/health-canada/services/drugs-health-products/disinfectants/covid-19/list.html).
- If it is confirmed that a person did not have Covid-19, Ghusal can be performed, but still using personal protection equipment as a precaution.
The London Muslim Covid -19 Task Force will, Insha’Allah, provide training to volunteers who are currently identified as providing Ghusal, in the use of personal protection equipment, wherein protocols are to be strictly followed, particularly the removal of personal protection equipment where the greatest risk exists.
The Task Force understands that these guidelines represent a departure from current practices. However, we are facing an unprecedented world pandemic that has significantly altered all aspects of our daily lives. We have to be vigilant in protecting each other from widespread transmission of this virus. We are reminded that Prophet Muhammed (pbuh) advised a man who did not tie his camel because he said "I trust God" to "Tie your camel, then put your trust in God." Thus, we must understand that we have to take proper, evidence-based precautions not in spite of our faith, but because of our faith.
These guidelines will remain in force until medical authorities have new guidelines/recommendations for us.
Jazākoum Allāhu Khayran for your patience and understanding.