When a Muslim dies, it is the responsibility of his family or other Muslims within the local community to wash him according to the Islamic rites of washing the deceased. Usually at least three to four people will be involved in the process of ghusl (washing and shrouding).

Giving ghusl is a Fard Kifayah (communal obligation) which must be completed by some members of the community, otherwise, the whole community will be sinful.

The Prophet Muhammad (SAW) said:

“Whoever follows a Muslim’s funeral, out of faith and seeking to increase his account of good deeds, until he makes the funeral prayer for it will have a Qeeraat’s worth of reward. And he whoever follows it until it is buried, will get two Qeeraats” He was then asked what two Qeeraats were and he replied, “They are equivalent to two huge mountains; [the smaller of the two is like Mount Uhud].”(Narrated by Bukhari and Muslim)

Who should wash the body?

The persons who may wash the deceased should be:

  1. Adult Muslims who are honest and trustworthy persons
  2. Of the same gender as the deceased ie if the deceased is male, then ONLY males should wash him. For a young child, either males or females may do the ghusl. There is an exception for the husband who wishes to bathe his wife or vice versa.
  3. Knowledgeable of the Islamic way of washing the deceased and be able to carry out the ghusl
  4. Preferably in a state of wudhu (ablution)

Maintaining Dignity

When washing a body, whatever you see during the washing and shrouding process must not be discussed outside anywhere with anyone. Privacy must be maintained at all times.

Do not use water which is too cold or too hot water, rather it should be a moderate lukewarm temperature.

Process of Ghusl

  1. Gently untie the cloth covering the deceased from the head and feet
  2. Make sure the private parts of the deceased (awrah) remain covered and slowly remove clothing
  3. Gently raise the upper body (put your hand on the back of the person) and gently press the stomach 3 times – this will allow any waste to exit the body.
  4. Use gloves, new white cloth or a sponge to gently clean private parts while they are covered. Gently lift the legs so you have access to back and front. If you use a white cloth it will show you how much more washing may be required. You may need to clean the deceased once, twice enough times until the body is clean.
  5. After you have cleaned the private areas of the body, throw away the used cloth and gloves.
  6. Ensure respect is shown to the deceased and the same cloth or gloves are not used for the remaining parts of the body – to do so would be disrespecting the deceased and very unhygienic.
  7. Now perform full ghusl washing of the body.
    1. Gently clean the right hand gently passing water in-between fingers. Always start from the right side.
    2. Then do the same for the left hand up to the wrist.
    3. Wet some cotton wool and gently rub the mouth area.
    4. Using some wet cotton do the same to the nose, cleaning the inside of the nose.
    5. Now gently wash the face (like in wudu).
    6. Clean the right hand and arm. A person should lift the arm while another person gently washes it. Do the same for the left arm.
    7. Now clean the back of the head (Masa), neck, ear and top the head.
    8. Wash both feet including in between toes.
    9. Now wash entire body (water must go everywhere, including the private parts.
  8. Now you can use shower gel to wash the entire body and the family can assist.
  9. You can use berry leaves or similar fragrances. At the time of Prophet Muhammad (SAW), boiled berry leaves and Dor Sidhar (in luke warm water) was used.
  10. Remove soap from the entire body and ensure the back is clean.
  11. It is recommended to wash an odd number of times (1, 3, 5, 7) and clean as much as possible to ensure there are no impurities on the body.
  12. If available, apply crushed Camphor to the body as this has a pleasant fragrance and preserves the body. Put it in a tub of water, mix and then put it all over the body, especially in places of prostration (sajdah) – forehead, nose, hands, knees and legs.
  13. Change towel on body.
  14. Dry the body and gently dab body with cloth.

There are no sound narrations which mention the recitation of any specific supplications during the ghusl process.

If the body is decomposed or not intact due to being involved in an accident, review if it is possible to wash body with water. If not it is possible to do Tayammum. For such specific information or for other scenarios it’s important to clarify with your local Islamic scholar or Imam.